LACBC Focuses on the Data

Jen Karmels presents
Jen Karmels presents her research on LOS reform efforts.

We dropped by LACBC headquarters Downtown last night for some state-of-the-art local research into bike-related transportation issues. Three presentations from UCLA graduate planning students gave us much to think about, and they reminded us of the work that yet has to be done if we are to successfully validate the positive effects of cycling to policymakers.

The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition has undertaken many initiatives in the past few years. In the policy arena, this nonprofit has supported efforts to create better bike plans across City of Los Angeles Glendale, Culver City, South Bay, and the county too. It also rides herd on important efforts like the county-wide bicycle count in November (Better Bike volunteers!) and coordinates with LA County Department of Health Services on that department’s important PLACE Grant initiative (which funded the Glendale Safe & Healthy Streets program and the new Culver City bike plan). [More from LACBC on the Safe & Health Streets initiative.]

On the advocacy front, LACBC has created a Spanish language outreach & advocacy program called City of Lights to bring pro-bike education and infrastructure to under-recognized Southland communities. And not least it supports LACBC local chapters (like Better Bike) with organizing and analysis assistance. Events like tonight’s found several local affiliates attending because it’s crucial that we all are cognizant of the leading edge of data-driven bike advocacy.

After a ride up to Silver Lake to meet with Bike Talk’s Nicholas Reichert, and then a detour into central Glendale, it was back southbound on San Fernando Road and the LA River Bike path to Downtown. What a lovely day to ride the path. Here’s a taste:

LA River pathApproaching Downtown via Cornfields ParkApproaching Downtown via North Spring presented  another lovely vista. Here we’re aside Cornfields State Park, which came within an angel’s breath of becoming yet another warehouse. You simply can’t beat the mid-summer light and the haze and breeze so characteristic of the Los Angeles area. Coming through Lincoln Heights into north Downtown is also such a reminder of the long history of the area. On to the research!

The Researchers

Presenting tonight was Cullen McCormick, who discussed the research challenges of quantifying the economic effects of a road diet and new bike lanes on half of York Boulevard. The Economic Impacts of a Road Diet found that positive effects weren’t measurable (yet). But like all valuable research, even an inconclusive finding is an opportunity to pose broader questions, and those in attendance did just that. What’s the best data to measure ‘impact’? How did the economic downturn affect the findings? Do we simply need network efforts (like more bike lanes that connect to York) in order to really see the positive effects?

Cullen pointed out that a positive finding was no negative effects from rearranging the vehicular traffic flow, and we can use that locally with policymakers. For Better Bike, we wondered whether at this point qualitative data like shopkeeper and consumer interviews might be enough to raise the profile of road diets and bike lanes. Gauging the economic effects on York Boulevard will likely be a much longer-term prospect.