LA Councilman’s Hostility Toward Complete Streets Sounds Familiar

Cedillo's diagonal parkingNortheast Los Angeles neighborhoods can seem a long way from Beverly Hills, but a scrum over bicycle lanes there suggests that we have at least one thing in common: elected officials standing in the way of a worthy safe-streets effort. Our City Council may block bicycle lanes on Santa Monica Boulevard. In Highland Park, LA councilman Gil Cedillo is tanking a plan to make Figueroa (that community’s main street) ‘complete.’ Where we differ: silence greets our Council’s opposition; in NELA Cedillo has stirred a revolt among bike advocates.

The Highland Park story may sound familiar to those of us who advocate for bicycle lanes on tomorrow’s Santa Monica Boulevard in Beverly Hills: much-needed improvements that would make a street safe for non-motor travelers simply hits the chopping block when elected representatives decide to buck city policy, wave aside community sentiment, and fly in the face of common sense just to put the brakes on the installation of bicycle lanes.

In Highland Park, Cedillo single-handedly shut down ‘complete street‘ improvements for North Figueroa Street, even though that project is included in the city’s bike plan (2011) year-one implementation program. A thousand people participated in the drafting of that plan; bike advocates have weighed in on implementation priorities; and riders have repeatedly turned out to public meetings to support bicycle lanes on busy Figueroa. But Cedillo says he knows best how to serve his constituents.

Or does he? Gil Cedillo stated his support for the Figueroa Street project when he was running for LA City Council, only to turn his back once in office. The about-face on this much-heralded ‘Figueroa for All’ (Fig4All) project sparked heated debate about politics trumping public safety.  Consequently, a vocal contingent of transportation advocates has turned up the heat on ‘Road Kill Gill’ (as he’s known on twitter). There’s even a website dedicated to reviving the moribund Fig4All project.

Fig4All Is Worth the Fight

‘Figueroa for All’ would remake North Figueroa as part of a broader basket of complete street improvements (40 miles of them overall) that are already earmarked for implementation in year one under the city’s bike plan. The project is described succinctly in the environmental impact report:

From the SR-110 ramps to Pasadena Avenue, though the existing lane configuration could be retained with bare minimum widths to allow for bike lanes, the proposed project would remove one southbound lane to allow for buffered bike lanes. From Pasadena Avenue to York Boulevard, the two southbound lanes would be reduced to a single southbound lane, still allowing for buffered bike lanes. From York Boulevard to Colorado Boulevard, both northbound and southbound lanes would be reduced from two to one, allowing for standard bike lanes. – Figueroa Streetscape Project Draft EIR (emphasis added)

A planned ‘road diet’ right though the heart of Highland Park between Pasadena and York would reduce the number of travel lanes on Figueroa to calm traffic and provide sufficient room for bicycle lanes on this regional corridor. (Some segments would even include ‘buffered’ lanes to provide an additional safety margin for riders.) For pedestrians, enhancements like curb extensions would shorten crosswalks on this busy street too.

Highland Park zero vehicles mapIndeed there is good reason to remake Figueroa for the safety of riders and pedestrians. Households in the community are less-likely to own a car. Household income is lower than more advantaged neighborhoods in the city, making auto ownership a luxury; and a higher incidence of immigrant households also depresses ownership. But as important, the community has been well-served by rail: Highland Park sits aside the Gold Line (just off Figueroa on Marmion Way) and long before that was a stop on the Pacific Electric.

But to be a walker in Highland Park is to understand that Cedillo’s pedestrian constituents are poorly-served by faded crosswalks, which put us in harm’s way as drivers speed through town on the way to Downtown. The prevailing speed makes this corridor a good candidate for bike lanes too. But there is another reason to make Figueroa safe for cycling: there is an influx of younger folks and they are less likely to drive than generations before them.

The changing nature of mobility and demand for transportation alternatives are reflected in the city’s bike plan. It puts the emphasis on safe multimodal mobility:Great Streets bike network table

A ‘Figueroa for All’ would seem to be a win for everyone then. Upgraded intersections and calmer traffic would make it safer for pedestrians; bicycle lanes would be safer for riders and less-stressful for drivers; and for business owners in commercially-depressed Highland Park, any uplift in transom traffic generated by local shoppers arriving via bicycle, say, could only help bootstrap the nascent commercial revival.

And it would benefit brick-and-mortar shops like the Flying Pigeon (“beautiful bikes for everyday life”). Owner Josef Bray-Ali champions the project, and not only because his shop may pick up some new business; a ‘complete Figueroa would be good for greater Northeast Los Angeles.

‘Road Kill Gil’ says he has a vision for Figueroa, and it primarily entails the installation of four blocks of angled parking in downtown Highland Park (his proposal is skewered in the illustration at the top). But that won’t make travel safe or calm traffic; nor will it spark a small-business renaissance. Instead it looks to an auto-centric past and takes Los Angeles in the wrong direction (according to the city’s stated mobility priorities).

Other reasons to oppose Cedillo’s plan: parking is the least of Highland Park’s economic challenges; and the plan runs counter to Metro’s complete streets policy, which provides money for multimodal mobility improvements. It is ironic that Cedillo wants Metro funding to implement his proposal. For Fig4All supporters, Metro grant money for ‘Road Kill Gill’ is bitter icing on a shit cake.

Look over at the Figueroa for All blog for a detailed chronology of Cedillo’s disappointments, as well as a peek inside the bureaucratic mechanism that should not allow him to single-handedly tank a worthy “shovel-ready project.” (< Remember that term? We don’t hear it too much anymore.)

Social Media Battle Heats Up!

Cedillo’s opponents have aligned against him and taken to social media to make their case. And he’s making it easy: in order to deflect attention away from his opposition to complete streets plan for Figueroa (improvements already paid for, by the way) Cedillo has staged his own ‘public participation theater’ this past summer. But he’s fooling nobody: the town hall ostensibly held to gather community input for Figueroa was instead baldly used by Cedillo to heap praise on himself and his staff.

Angry cyclists decried Cedillo’s cynical move, and leading the charge was Flying Pigeon bike shop’s owner, Josef Bray-Ali.  He has assembled a posse to support a ‘complete’ Figueroa and to support candidates who say they prioritize street safety.

Cedillo December flyerStung by the persistent criticism, Cedillo doubled down and organized several more public forums earlier this month, again to ostensibly gather public input (this time with a sharpened focus on safety). But project proponents weren’t convinced: it was just more ‘participation theater,’ they say.

Next, Cedillo upped his anti-bike rhetoric at a mid-December City Council meeting. There the city was going to rubber stamp an application for Metro grant funds (including Cedillo’s diagonal parking scheme). But Fig4All supporters and the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition together alerted the cycling community:

Cedillo is now asking the full City Council to sign off on his incomplete street and spend City staff resources applying for funding for a project that will be out of date before the ink is dry on the application. We ask you to write the City Council requesting that they uphold the integrity of citywide plans and refuse to include North Figueroa in the City’s funding application unless it includes a complete street.

They spoke out in City Council and via social media ridiculed Cedillo’s proposal:

Cedillo How to sell it tweetFigueroa diagonal parking tweet

But Cedillo told City Council that he would not be “bullied” by those whom he labeled “the 1%” – presumably referring to the small share of trips made by bicycle (which understates the increasing popularity of cycling in his precinct). Cedillo’s remarks triggered even more vitriol:

Figueroa one percenter tweet

Of course the City Council deferred to Cedillo and rubber-stamped the Metro grant application.

Figueroa City Council tweet

Now Fig4All proponents pivot toward Metro and argue that the agency should not fund Cedillo’s auto-centric parking scheme with the county’s multimodal dollars. In the meantime, Cedillo’s Highland Park constituents wait for safety improvements but are practically held hostage to this elected official’s intransigence.

Cedillo purgatory tweet

Why Mention Fig4All on a Site Focused on Beverly Hills?

Front and center here is a clash of visions between advocates for ‘complete streets’ and those who call for a return to auto-centric policies – the kind that prize diagonal parking (with its attendant blind spots), say, over bicycle lanes. And the forces working against complete streets and bicycle lanes in Highland Park are active here in Beverly Hills too: they’re opposing bicycle lanes for Santa Monica Boulevard.

But that’s the tip of the iceberg: Beverly Hills has not even begun to plan for a multmodal future. While Los Angeles has been making significant strides, our policymakers ensure that our city still relies on a Bicycle Master Plan from 1977. Though our Sustainable City Plan (2009) and the General Plan circulation element (2010) say the right things about mobility and encouraging cycling, City Council simply hasn’t heeded that policy guidance.

We can change. In conjunction with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, we’re supporting a plan to include bicycle lanes on Santa Monica Boulevard because it’s the safe choice. We hope you will sign our petition and call City Council at 310-285-1013 to remind councilmembers that they need not follow Cedillo’s bad example.Beverly Hills Greenway logo

14 thoughts on “LA Councilman’s Hostility Toward Complete Streets Sounds Familiar

  1. I support Mr Cedillo 100% Bike lanes on Figueroa are a bad idea. It will create a traffic nightmare much like has been created on Colorado Blvd in Eagle Rock. What a mess with bike lanes that never, let me say again, never have bicyclist’s in them. Only a traffic nightmare inf ront of the Eagle Rock Plaza.
    Keep up the good work Gil Cedillo! You have my vote!

  2. I’ve traveled across the US many times and have seen many miles of lanes with nobody using them. But we’ve paved them because people need to get from here to there, town to town, work to home. And DOTs uniformly stripe them (to the same standards) because we want people to arrive safely.
    Bicycle lanes are like any traffic control in that regard, and they’re federally- and state-approved according to standards for the same reason: safety. And we’re including them more often on key corridors because we want to offer people a choice of modes, and regardless of mode we want them to arrive safely.
    Looking forward, developments like Eagle Rock Plaza will have to take it into account; that’s why planners (and policymakers) focus on safe ingress and egress. At the project level, the emphasis has to be on safety. If a shopping center, say, can’t work on a busy corridor used by two-wheeled travelers, then it’s appropriate to rezone it for some other use…. not simply say ‘no bikes.’

  3. This is a very biased story. Councilmember Cedillo listened to the community. The community did not want a car lane taken away. The car traffic on North Figueroa is bumper to bumper in the mornings trying to get to freeways. It is only a 2 lane street on each side of the street. Going to a one lane street would make getting to the freeway impossible. It is already almost impossible to get to freeways with 2 lanes.

    The bike community does not understand that people need to get to work. Most people work long distances. And, the community has no good supermarkets and/or services so driving to get to those places is a MUST. There are no other options but to drive.

    Going to a one lane street would mean sitting in traffic longer. That pollutes our air even more and wastes more time getting to work.

  4. I am for bike lanes like most people are. But I am against removal of car lanes!!
    Councilmember Gil Cedillo has my vote.

  5. “I am for bike lanes like most people are. But I am against removal of car lanes!!”

    That’s like saying “I am for gay marriage as long as it doesn’t undermine the institution of marriage between a man and a woman”
    “I am for more minorities going to college & getting jobs in the government as long as they don’t displace any whites”
    etc etc
    Not to mention that bike lanes don’t displace cars.

  6. Thank you for the support. We here in Northeast LA that want bike lanes of Fig are the majority. After many meetings with Cedillo’s office there was always an overwhelming show of support by the community for these lanes. So please don’t believe any claims that “safe streets” as stated in the “City’s master plan” is not supported by the majority of his constituents because it is. That includes safe use of streets cyclists, pedestrians and yes even drivers.

  7. The replies above asserting that the bike lanes “are never used”, that traffic has been made worse, that “the community doesn’t want bike lanes” all have one thing in common: they are all false!

    Show us your data to back up your assertions! You have none, and further Cedillo has never relied on actual bike lane usage numbers, never worried himself with traffic impacts, never really cared about what an honest poll of constituents would reveal about support for bike lanes.

    How can I make this assertion? Because Cedillo’s proposed to make traffic WORSE with diagonal parking. He’s proposed to make the number of crashes go up with diagonal parking. He’s held one meeting between Thanksgiving and Christmas attended by 40 people for his diagonal parking scheme at which not a single person asked or even mentioned this road treatment and then went ahead and submitted grant applications for it.

    So do your homework. People do use the bike lanes in increasing numbers. Traffic has not slowed down due to bike lanes. A slim majority of residents support safer streets with bike lanes and pedestrian amenities.

  8. Cedillo’s sham outreach over Figueroa this fall demonstrated that as long as he has your vote, he doesn’t need your two cents about bike lanes, street safety or anything else. And the way he blathered on in that preposterous summer town hall make me believe that as long as he has your ear for his self-praise, he don’t even need your stinkin’ vote!

  9. Marino, you owe me an apology. You are downright calling me a racist bigot. I take offense by your words. Why do you mention gay marriage or minorities in the middle of the topic of bike lanes?? What do those things have to do with bike lanes?

  10. There were several community meetings held by Councilmember Gil Cedillo. The community made it very clear they did NOT want removal of car lanes.

    The community meeting held recently was not about bike lanes or car lanes. It was more about how to make the streets more safely to walk and commute.

  11. “I am for improving safety for other, more vulnerable road users… as long as the car-only status quo is not interrupted!”

    Who cares if the bike lanes are used? Yeah, that’d be great, but the biggest benefit of road diets is the overall improved safety. If we could trust drivers to obey all laws and drive like sane people, we wouldn’t need or want a road diet. But people react to the environment they are provided and when Fig looks like a race-track, it is little surprise they treat it as such. Yes, slowing down is good.

  12. Bike lanes are great whether they are used or not. But car lanes should not be removed because of traffic problems.

  13. When there’s fewer of something, it can operate more efficiently. The whole reason why people are capable of speeding on Fig today is because the volumes are far below the engineered capacity. In other words the free flowing traffic, while it is a perk enjoyed by motorists, is a product of a system that isn’t working very effectively. “car lanes” should be removed if it means it results in a safer street. At end of day we are being asked to make a choice in what we prioritize more, speed or safety. Removing a lane means we care more about safety than speed and doing nothing means we care more about speed than safety.

  14. I agree. Highland Park like many other Los Angeles neighborhoods (not to mention DTLA) is way off its commercial peak earlier in the 20th century. Historically, road engineers were obligated to ‘improve’ a street to boost capacity in order to accommodate increasing flow of motor traffic, but there was no mechanism to respond to decreasing demand. We’re entering an era when policymakers are focusing on multimodal options rather than simply prioritize automobility, and engineers have more tools at their disposal to ensure safe travel for all road users. Figueroa, like many of our arterials, however, still reflects the old era.
    Cedillo is so disappointing not only because he’s sand in the gears as we move beyond auto-centric planning; but because his less-advantaged constituents will wait longer for streets safe for cycling and walking. Yet wealthier neighborhoods demand safe streets & expanded multimodal options improvements today, and they get them. Look at Santa Monica and West Hollywood. Next up: Culver City, Glendale, Burbank and SG Valley enclaves too.

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