The Westside Cities Councils of Governments just convened its bi-monthly board meeting in Culver City. On the agenda of interest to cyclists was a bike sharing program and the COG’s ‘gap closure’ program (for which public comment just closed). Both were informational rather than action items. More broadly, the COG in this meeting embarked on an abbreviated visioning process to better define its role generally and to identify priority actions specifically. Here’s our recap.
For the uninitiated, a council of governments (COG) is regional council of dues-paying member local governments organized to “extend the leverage of its member agencies at the State and Federal level for the benefit of the region.” According to the National Association of Regional Councils (the “national voice for regionalism”), about 90% of the nation’s counties, cities, townships, and towns in the US are served by a regional council.
Our Westside COG counts as members Beverly Hills, Culver City, Santa Monica and West Hollywood, as well as the western districts of City of Los Angeles (5 and 11) and part of Los Angeles County (districts 3, 2 and 4). It is one of about ten in the greater Southern California area. Our COG’s mission says that it “provides a forum for discussion and communication” about legislation that affects member governments and the sub-region. Our COG is smaller than other COGs in the region, and less active too, focusing on moving information rather than specific programs or initiatives.
This past Fall, the COG livened up a bit and as part of a somewhat more ambitious agenda, decided to undertake a self-assessment. Today’s visioning exercise is an outcome of that renewed vigor. (Not to overstate the case…)
First the Bike Stuff
The COG board discussed bike sharing and the gap closure. The bike share program discussion came out of a Santa Monica grant award (for 2016). The discussion is timely as Santa Monica expects that money from the grant might be available earlier, but a challenge remains with regard to implementation: standardization is key for a Westside-wide program, but individual cities differ in how they regulate advertising (a means of program support). Culver City and West Hollywood regulate street advertising less stringently, while Santa Monica and Beverly Hills (for example) take a more restrictive approach. Bike sharing typically doesn’t occur across a patchwork of local jurisdictions but instead under the authority of a larger city.
Similar programs from a variety of vendors have found a place in Miami Beach, Chicago, Boulder, and Portland. American cities are moving ahead too, like New York, Long Beach, and Chicago. European capitals (most notably Paris) have also brought bikes to city streets. But like so many other good initiatives in Southern California, this one could founder on the bugaboo of the Los Angeles area: political fragmentation. It can stymie the best of intentions, and bringing bike sharing to the Westside requires a coordinated approach. Is COG the body to do it?
Indeed, ccoming together on a set of standards and a single vendor (for example) is a tough row to hoe for bike share supporters and city staff. Culver City planner (and COG alternate) John Rivera suggested that cities work together to outline a request for proposals (RFP) to identify “opportunities for interconnectivity” across cities (and County areas too, of course) and set some “agreeable parameters” prior to individual local governments taking up the ad-regulation issue. The next step would be to to identify vendors and estimate costs. (See the staff report for more information.)
We’re in the very early stage yet, but this Westside-wide approach is promising; it might even suggest a forte for the COG. A Westside effort might even pull a recalcitrant Beverly Hills along (if there is enough grant money sweetener, that is).A Westside effort might even pull a recalcitrant Beverly Hills along (if there is enough grant money to sweeten the pot, that is).
The Safety and Awareness Program (can’t we find a catchier title?) is farther along. Following on several meetings with the bike community and back-room staff work, a month of online comment (somewhat underwhelming at 14 participants) provided the fig leaf of participation to make the effort a “strong statement of inter-jurisdictional support” (per Maria Rychlicki, COG executive director).
On the table are infrastructure/facilities improvements to close five corridor ‘gaps':
- Expo Light Rail Bike Path/Bikeway (from La Brea Ave. to the Santa Monica Beach/Pier);
- Santa Monica Blvd./Ohio Street/Broadway (from La Brea Ave. to Ocean Ave.);
- San Vicente Blvd. (from Sunset Blvd. to La Brea Ave.);
- Barrington Ave./McLaughlin Ave./Slauson Ave. (from Sunset Blvd. to Ballona Creek Bike Path); and,
- Beverly Dr./Beverwil Dr./Duquesne Ave./Jefferson Blvd./Overland Ave.(from San Vicente Blvd. to Westfield/Culver City Transit Center).
“Adoption of the Corridors would also be a strong statement of inter-jurisdictional support for grant applications and will help guide independent efforts by Cities to improve the connectivity and quality of the regional bike network.”
So it seems that we’re off an running with the Westside COG’s blessing, including the ongoing effort to use GIS mapping to coordinate facilities across COG jurisdictions. Stay tuned for Metro’s Spring map update. We should see these bike facilities newly included, at least according to the January COG staff report. The COG board then moved on to its visioning exercise….