Moving Los Angeles

On the fiftieth anniversary of the Watts Riots, this piece is dedicated to the memory of those senselessly killed following the arrest and beating of an African American by the highway patrol. Though we have many miles to travel until this is a truly just city for all, we are a very different place than we were back then.

Shifting gears...

I should have known it was going to be a great week in Los Angeles. It all started on Sunday when CicLAvia, the much loved L.A. institution that has only existed for five years, kicked things off with another great open streets public space lovefest running from Culver City to Venice and the Pacific. Whoever could have imagined that an event that temporarily takes back miles of Los Angeles streets for biking, walking and skating for all ages, would play such a pivotal role in demonstrating a superior vision for something as ordinary as asphalt? With just fourteen events under its belt, CicLAvia is now the largest happening of its kind in the U.S., a model of the goodness that flows when a city closes the streets to car traffic and opens them up to everyone.

How could anyone but the Grinch not love a miles-long playground that connects the too often siloed rainbow of Angelenos on car-free streets?

And now, CicLAvia seems to have set the tone for an historic L.A. City Council vote. By a 12-2 tally, the full Council today approved Mobility Plan 2035, the first revision of L.A.'s guidance for our streets since 1999. It seems as if only Councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Paul Koretz, the lonely NO votes, didn't get the memo that Los Angeles has moved on from the days when only the driver of a car was entitled to ply the streets of our fair city.

Of course Mr. Cedillo and Mr. Koretz have their allies, an ever shrinking handful of city residents who seem to be living in the distant past. Which begs the question, what is motivating these otherwise thoughtful electeds to side with an obsolete vision of Los Angeles that defies common sense?

After the vote, someone named Laura Lake of the curiously named group, Fix the City, was quoted in the L.A. Times saying, "We want to see real transportation reform, but this isn't it. This is aspirations and slogans, not transportation planning."

Huh?

Let's dissect this illogic. Even the name, Fix the City, bears the insignia of the PR-for-hire types who brought us the unforgettable, but yet to be Oscar-nominated, No Subway Under Beverly Hills High School.

As the L.A. Times explains, "Mobility Plan 2035 is billed as a major shift in the way the city approaches the use of its public streets, putting a new emphasis on road safety and offering more alternatives to driving. And it seeks to take the fatality rate from traffic collisions to zero within that period."

Fix the City and the ten to twenty other people in the city who oppose L.A.'s mobility plan can put lipstick on their pig but at the end of the day, their opposition is still a pig.

And it is the NOs, not the champions of the Mobility Plan including Councilman Mike Bonin and the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, who are putting up roadblocks to a Los Angeles that recognizes that every bike rider, pedestrian and transit rider is one less car on the road.

Opposing bike lanes on critical arteries serving an economic engine for southern California like UCLA, one of the five largest employers in the County, is nothing short of foolhardy and an affront to all Angelenos.

Have they no shame? Promising to sue the city to reverse the overdue decision to embrace transit, biking and walking as an alternative to the private car?

With the Council's strong clear vote today, we indeed have something to celebrate. And, as California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom predicted about marriage equality back in 2008, it's going to happen whether the NIMBYs like it or not.

Changes in the way we think about mobility is continuing to happen in Los Angeles because the old models of moving people around the region are severely limited and are not doing the trick for a growing number of us.

Next month the Council will give Councilmembers Cedillo, Koretz and the other members of the Council a chance to carve out critical parts of the network of bike lanes including Westwood Blvd and Central Avenue. They may try, but we are both strong and know where we are going.

To emasculate the bike lane networks the way large swaths of Wilshire Blvd were taken out of the bus rapid transit (BRT) plan would do a disservice to us all. Let's not let that happen.

Yours in transit,
Joel