Bike Wars: L.A. Neighborhood Councils Could Get Some Say In Bike Issues
Damien Newton of LA Streetsblog has an interesting piece about a potential conflict between bike activists and neighborhood councils, though it may wind up in peace, love and harmony.
Councilman Greig Smith
Backstory: City Councilman Greig Smith, who represents district 12 in the Valley, has offered a motion forcing the L.A. Department of Transportation to get input and final approval from the relevant neighborhood council when putting in new bike amenities, e.g., bike lanes. To Newton at Streetsblog, this seemed like it was setting up a conflict between bike activists and neighborhood councils, and would ultimately be viewed by the cyclists as a backdoor way to prevent new bike lanes -- a hostile power grab by autos in the never-ending conflict with cyclists. But maybe not.
According to Newton, some of this started when Wilbur Avenue went from four lanes to two because drivers were going too fast. With the extra room, LADOT put in bike lanes. Smith didn't like it. So his idea: No bike lanes unless the locals give the OK.
This seems a bit unfair, on its face. As Newton writes:
Why does Smith single out bicycling for a need for greater community outreach when LADOT has an abysmal reputation for public outreach when it comes to any of their "road improvements?"
But some bike activists are welcoming the move as an opportunity to work with neighborhood councils. Stephen Box, who's active in the neighborhood council movement and on cycling issues and is a candidate for City Council in district 4, said cycling activists should embrace outreach to neighborhood councils and then broaden the Smith proposal to give neighborhood councils authority to deal with all kinds of LADOT issues aside from just bikes:
Now is the time to force the LADOT to own cut-through traffic, engineered conflict, neighborhoods under siege, kids (who) can't walk to school, increasing speed limits, traffic fatalities, and all of the dark side.
Perhaps there's a larger political point here. Perhaps we're at a moment in L.A. history when old conflicts -- like drivers vs. bikers, or urban L.A. vs. suburban L.A. -- are suddenly less important than the really relevant conflict of the moment: the entrenched forces at City Hall vs. everybody else. As one City Hall insider acknowledged, "There's a sense people have out there that people on the inside," referring to certain public employees, developers, lobbyists and elected officials. "have a different deal than people on the outside," meaning the rest of us.