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Los Angeles Bike Summit Leaves Many Bicyclists Skeptical But Hopeful

Roselle Chen |
August 16, 2010 | 8:58 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

(Roselle Chen)
(Roselle Chen)
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa held the first-ever bike summit in Los Angeles Monday in response to a bicycle accident last month after which he needed eight screws to repair his shattered right elbow.

Villaraigosa talked about bike safety, bicyclist rights and heard questions and comments from a packed room of more than 100 people; many representing bike advocacy groups. The Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) went through a list of things the city needed to improve for the safety of bicyclists.

“I don’t think there are many people in this room that would disagree that the brains of a person over the age of 18 are just as valuable to a person under the age of 18,” said Jay Slater, vice chairperson of BAC.

He added that the helmet law should be expanded to include not just minors, but also adults over 18.

The mayor agreed to a chorus of boos.

“I don’t need to be popular here,” said Villaraigosa. “I am here today because I was wearing a helmet.”

Villaraigosa’s accident occurred after a cab driver suddenly pulled out from his parking spot into a bike lane and caused the mayor to fall from his bike.

Villaraigosa visited Copenhagen in December and was impressed with the city’s integrated bike system. He said he hopes to adopt a similar system in L.A. and fold it into the transportation system.

“When you were in Copenhagen, were they wearing helmets?” said Don Ward, an L.A. cyclist. “No they weren’t, because the streets are safe out there.”

The death of a pregnant bicyclist in Gardena Friday and the injury of many bicyclists over the years due to hit-and-run drivers prompted the BAC to ask the mayor to be more stringent in implementing bicyclists’ rights.

“A better job means a properly trained police force that protects and respects the rights of cyclists,” said Glenn Bailey, chair of BAC. “A better job means that vehicular hit-and-runs will be fully investigated and prosecuted for the crimes that they are.”

Some of the topics discussed and agreed upon by the speakers and the mayor were getting a 3-foot passing law into legislation; creating 40 more bikeways each year for five years; paving 1,633 miles of bike lanes and routes out of the city’s existing 7,200 miles of public passageways; allocating 10 percent of the local return funding from Measure R funds (a half-cent city sales tax that alleviates traffic and finances transportation projects) to L.A.’s bike network estimated to be about $19 million over five years; putting bike racks on all city buses and putting out more public service announcements to educate the public about bike safety.

“We want to change the culture where cars dominate the road and don’t look out for the bicyclists,” said Villaraigosa.

Another talking point among bicyclists was for the city to fix its numerous potholes. The mayor was aware of the problem but said that although he agreed the potholes were a major problem, they would be delayed in fixing.

“Until this fiscal year I was filling about three times the potholes of my predecessors,” said Villaraigosa. “That’s going to slow down with our budget cuts.”

A few bicycle advocates were skeptical of the new bike implementation plan, since a 1996 plan was approved by the L.A. City Council but barely any of the proposals were carried forward.

“Unfortunately if we look back at the 1996 bicycle plan, none of the proposals have ever happened,” said Slater. “The new bicycle plan is going to come around and we’ll debate it, but unless we do something with it, unless we find the dollars to act on it, we are wasting our time.”

To reach staff reporter Roselle Chen, click here.

Follow her on Twitter: @roselleUSC.



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