This past Thursday, bike advocates met in Culver City for the <a href=”http://www.westsidecities.org/”>Westside Cities Council of Governments</a> (COG) second sub-regional bike planning meeting. This meeting focused on closing the gaps. The COG came prepared with a Westside map that for the first time synthesized the various proposed routes identified in member cities’ bike plans and (as important!) mapped them in one uniform color.(Recall that the first meeting back in March was convened to communicate with the cycling community and to bring COG staff up to speed on our priorities. That was a productive meeting that outlined a broad agenda to close gaps in planned Westside bike improvements and to identify opportunities for policy coordination across COG member cities.)
Advocates came prepared with a deep knowledge of local conditions and, after introductions and remarks, set about transferring their mental maps onto paper. One priority of the meeting was to identify actionable steps to close the most significant gaps. At the top of that list for most advocates was the continuation of bike lanes on Santa Monica Boulevard between Century City and West Hollywood. That ‘black hole’ in the infrastructure, as it is known, clearly is the bane of many crosstown cyclists.
From there we worked outward, noting first the practicality of a north/south connection from Beverly Hills to Culver City (and its coming Expo line station); north/south routes to connect San Vicente Blvd. (in Brentwood) to Mar Vista and Westchester beyond; and key east/west routes that would tiptoe around the challenges of installing lanes on Wilshire, Olympic, and Pico Boulevards.
The latter challenges occasioned a conversation (to be continued) about combination bike/mass transit infrastructure, such as combo lanes, where eliminating a car or bus travel lane is impractical. Talk abut heavy lifts!
The collective enthusiasm and goodwill on display illustrated how sub-regional planning finally offers some relief from on-the-ground skirmishes (at the municipal level) that have produced gains in the planning process yet frustration as planning yields to implementation. The current discord over the pace of implementation in City of Los Angeles, for example, is exhibit A. The lesson is that energy invested to gain a satisfactory bike plan must be summoned again to hold policymakers to their promise of improvements.
This COG sub-regional effort suggests no relief from the pitched battles, but it does offer some hope that bike advocates can in the future 1) point to some extra-local benchmarks when arguing the local cases; 2) perhaps achieve a measure of coordination across jurisdictions concerning cyclist and motorist responsibilities for road safety; and, not least 3) take some comfort that policymakers can work toward a coherent cycling safety and improvements agenda.
The latter may one day put an end to the proverbial ‘black holes’ such as bike lanes that disappear with little warning only to reappear in the next, more bike-friendly city.
The next step in the COG effort will be a follow-on meeting to identify other opportunities for sub-regional coordination. Keep your eye on the meeting calendar for the next COG meeting upcoming on May 19th. And keep your eye on this space for updates on the sub-regional coordinating effort.