Westside Cities COG recap 9/15

Westside Cog logoHere’s an update fresh from the Westside Cities Council of Governments meeting at the Skirball yesterday. The short story is that the COG board approved moving $5,000 from its promo budget to fund an intern to manage the bike coordination initiative.The challenge now is to find an intern knowledgeable enough to honcho the thing, and to make that $5,000 stretch though the fiscal year (ending in June).The initiative is guided by the COG’s ad-hoc bike coordination committee, which includes Beverly Hills Transportation division deputy Aaron Kunz and two other COG delegates. COG executive staffer Maria Rychlicki handles administration. The committee last met with advocates back in May, and has shaped the COG’s initiative without further input. The ad-hoc last met on September 14th – a meeting not open to the public and not noticed on the COG meetings page.

What we do know about the program then is outlined in the Bike coordination staff report 2011-9-15 [pdf]. It includes development of education and training programs; posting of online safety tips & resources (and perhaps generating a template for city sites); mapping bike improvements across the Westside and integrating existing facilities into mobility maps, most likely Metro’s bike map [pdf]; and continuing to identify gaps where infrastructure or facilities is needed.

Currently there are no specific deliverables identified and no timetable established, so much will hinge on finding an intern. While a mobility coordinator or transportation policy expert would help shape the effort, it looks like we’re marching with the army we’ll have (and don’t even have yet). The COG board has indicated its general backing for the effort. Moreover, COG delegates like Bill Rosendahl (Los Angeles) and Kevin McKeown (Santa Monica) have stepped forward to clearly voice support in the past, while our own Beverly Hills representatives remain quiet.

The challenge for bike advocates and active transportation supporters will be to hold the COG to results. It seems like the COG may have underestimated the administrative support and expertise needed to craft a coherent program. The $5,000 approved by the COG is less than the cost of administrative support for the executive director ($6,000), for example, and about equal to meeting & postage costs for the COG ($5,000 combined). It’s difficult to imagine supporting a robust sub-regional bike coordination initiative on $5,000, but it does buy some really nice meeting buffets.

Traffic & Parking Commission Meeting

Ron Durgin at Traffic & Parking Aug. 4th, 2011Better Bike was in the house for last Thursday’s Traffic & Parking Commission meeting. Joining us were members Ron Durgin (of Sustainable Streets) and Aviv Kleinman, the latter a promising, motivated new member clearly interested in bringing change to Beverly Hills transportation.

Ron spoke about the need to get bike facilities and education on the front burner; he should know, he’s a professional in both areas. Aviv is a recent graduate of Beverly Hills High School with an interest in robotics and politics. (No jokes please!) He lamented the lack of safe travel for students who would bike to school. That is a new focus area for Better Bike, which is trying to bring Beverly Hills United’s attention to Safe Routes to School principles as part of their facility master plan process.

Bike advocates received a chilly if polite reception, however, even though we congratulated the Commission on the one-year anniversary of their Ad-Hoc Bike Plan Update Committee. Maybe it was because we circulated an open letter to Commissioners, reminding them that in the past year there has been no substantive improvement in conditions or safety for cyclists? Golden Triangle rack with decalOr because we highlighted the only two signs of progress – a map of Golden Triangle bike rack locations and a decal applied to each – as unsatisfactory, not least because the map is inaccurate and the decals insignificant? At the meeting we provided our own, new and improved map (below).

Better Bike Golden Triangle bike rack mapWe noted to Commissioners that we’ve developed our own improved map for the bike community. In an earlier meeting, we even offered to make and post a bike rack map – free to the city – so that their $100,000/yr transportation planner could get on to more substantive bike-friendly projects. (We weren’t taken up on that offer, but map inaccuracies begged our own improved version.)

With only a brisk, “Thank you for coming” on offer from the Commission Chair, Mr. Levine, where does this leave bike advocates? It suggests that the Traffic & Transportation Commission may have been the suggested venue for raising our concerns, but not the most productive venue.

It might be that the political arena is where we need to focus next. With an election coming up year after next for three BH City Council members, we may need a better understanding of the political lay of the land so that bike advocates and alternative transportation supporters can be better prepared the next time candidates ask voters to go to the polls. It only takes a hundred or two hundred votes to swing an election in BH, folks.

Then there’s that other opportunity: BH United.We addressed this earlier. Talk about worth the effort: with City Hall moving at a snail’s pace, BH Unified’s pot of Measure E money (totaling $334,000,000!) means that safe transit for kids on bikes might be realizable well before the Traffic & Transportation Commission even thinks about getting around to embarking on a city bike plan update. Better Bike attends their Facilities Advisory Committee meetings and otherwise tries to keep the issue on the front burner.  And we do have tacit supporters over there on Lasky Drive. (Stay tuned!)

Update on the Ad-Hoc Commmittee

Beverly Hills logoCatching up with Aaron Kunz at BH Transportation brought us somewhat up-to-date on the next steps for the Traffic & Transportation’s Commission’s ad-hoc bike planning committee. This body was formed by three Commissioners last August to explore the next steps for fleshing out our city’s bare-bones bike plan (5 pages + old maps adopted in January 2010). Readers will recall that the Committee has only met twice and both times in closed session. There have been no posted agendas or minutes.* So we’re left making telephone calls to find out when the ad-hoc committee will meet next and what it will do. Continue reading

Westside COG – No Heat, No Light!

Westside Cog logoFew folks know that there is a Westside Council of Governments (COG), much less that it plays a role in coordinating and communicating policy. I’m pretty confident that many are aware that this venue brings together council members from Los Angeles, Culver City, West Hollywood, Santa Monica, and of course Beverly Hills on a bi-monthly basis. I’m confident because at the last subcommittee meeting I attended, and now at the most recent COG board, there were ZERO stakeholders in the house.

Why the cold shoulder? The Westside COG scopes the big issues facing these cities. Indeed a look at the recent agenda suggests that homelessness, energy, sustainability, and transportation — all important regional issues – are on the COG agenda. These are the very same issues that have climbed to the top of the state and federal agendas too (not coincidentally). Continue reading

Highlights from our 9/19 Better Bike Meeting

Better Bike BB shieldSunday we held our third meeting. We talked quite a bit about how to reach the city folks about taking our ideas forward concerning bike lanes on SM Blvd. It seems like a two-prong strategy might be appropriate: continue to refine our SM Blvd. ideas while advocating for doable improvements like racks and so forth are not so high profile. Continue reading