LA Bike Plan to go before Planning Commission

The 2010 Bicycle Plan staff report and related documents for the City Planning Commission (CPC) meeting are now available on the LA Bike Plan project website (http://www.labikeplan.org).

The Staff Report which accompanies the plan states specifically that the anti-mountain bike lobby were  more vocal in their opposition, and nothing in the plan changes the status quo regarding mountain biking being off limits in Los Angeles City parks. The only change to the plan in Chapter 3, section 3.3 (Bicycling in City Parks) is the removal of the word “Unfortunately.”  That pretty much sums it up. It isn’t even considered unfortunate that kids, adults, families, disadvantaged youths, and those seeking alternatives to riding bicycles on the street within the City of Los Angeles, all lose out in this Plan.

Here is the pertinent excerpt from the staff recommendation letter to the planning commission:

4. Mountain Bikes/Off Road

The appropriateness of including policies about mountain or off-road bicycling within the Bicycle Plan, which is a chapter of the Transportation Element, has been long disputed by some constituents. The concerns stem back to the adoption of the existing Bicycle Plan in 1996 which included specific policies to study the feasibility of developing mountain bicycle trails elsewhere within the City park system.

Despite mediated meetings with stakeholders (mountain bicyclists, hikers, and equestrians) during the development of this Plan, to discuss options and potential solutions, no consensus was reached. Mountain bicyclists continue to advocate for increased access to off-road park facilities, and hikers, environmentalists, and the equestrian community continue to articulate concerns about risk of accidents on shared use facilities and the potential for environmental damage to ecosystems.

In testimony and written materials submitted at the public hearings, several persons expressed concern about the impact of allowing bicycles on equestrian trails. Additionally, some commenters took exception to the “tone” of the text and the policies relating to off-road bicycling and multi-use trails. The language and policies as originally written gave some members of the public the impression that mountain bicycling would be allowed in City parks and that the Plan was undermining the Department of Recreation and Parks’ authority over bicycles in City parks.

Although the organizations and members of the public who have spoken and written against allowing bicycle on trails have been more vocal in their oppositions, a fair number of comments supported expanding the use of mountain bicycles on trails.

Proposed Changes:

The Department has reviewed the text relating to mountain bicycling and has made adjustments to clarify the intent of Objective 3.3 (see Appendix A). The City will continue to gather data on the issue and will not look to repeal the Department of Recreation and Parks’ authority over bicycles within City parks. Furthermore, none of the policies or programs within Objective 3.3 call for the expansion of bicycle mountain access beyond where it permitted today (Mandeville Canyon Park). Additionally, the policies contained in the 1996 Bicycle Plan explicitly state that the City will embark on allowing access in certain City parks have not been carried over into this Plan.

CORBA, in our official comments on the current revision of the plan, presented arguments refuting almost every aspect of this portion of the recommendation letter. The one thing that remains irrefutable is that the anti-mountain biking lobby were more vocal in their opposition. Nearly one thousand supporters of off-road cycling wrote to the City after the initial draft of the Plan was released in 2009. Clearly this wasn’t enough, though it represents but a small minority of off-road cycling enthusiasts in the City of Los Angeles.

The City Planning Commission Meeting on the 2010 Bicycle Plan (Case No. CPC-2009-871-GPA and ENV-2009-2650-MND) will take place on Thursday, November 4, 2010, after 8:30 AM at City Hall, Room 1010, 200 N. Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012. The CPC agenda will be available after Thursday, October 28 on the Department of City Planning website (http://cityplanning.lacity.org).

The Planning Commission will be making their recommendations regarding the plan to the various planning committees in late November. Sometime in December the City Council is scheduled vote to adopt or reject the plan.

It continues to be in our best interest as off-road cyclists to remain engaged and to attend any and all public meetings and hearings. This is, after all,  just a planning document. The City’s past record with following their plans has been abysmal, and though nothing was gained for us in this plan, nothing has really been taken away. We didn’t have  trail access in City Parks before it. We need to remain engaged with the City Council, the Mayor’s office and the Department of Recreation and Parks as the decisions that affect us, irrespective of the plan, come from them. Encouragingly, the Mayor himself has expressed his support of allowing bicycles on City Park trails.

Other aspects of the Plan for on-street cycling have been well-received by the bicycling community. Again, the City’s ability to execute is what counts. The proof is in the pudding, as they say.

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