County Bike Plan Goes to Planning Commission; Demand a Better Plan!November 10, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Posted in Bike News, Get Involved, Uncategorized | 9 Comments
Tags: LA County Bike Plan, LA County DPW, LA County Planning Commission
Less than a month ago the LA County Department of Public Works released the ‘final’ draft of the LA County Bike Plan, which focuses on the unincorporated communities in LA County. This coming Wednesday, November 16th the LA County Bike Plan will head to the Planning Commission – while this plan does provide 816 miles of new bikeways for the many unincorporated communities in LA County, the majority are bike routes (458). We feel the plan still needs a number of improvements, including more miles of bike lanes and bike boulevards (also referred to as bicycle friendly streets) before any action should be taken on it.
This is the first update to the County’s existing bike plan in over 30 years and should provide a real vision and commitment to greatly increasing the safety of our unincorporated communities’ roadways and encourage more folks to bicycle to school, work, transit, their daily needs, or for fun over the next 20 to 30 years. If realized, the implementation of the plan should link residential neighborhoods, schools, business districts, transit hubs and the unincorporated communities to neighboring incorporated community and would have a significant impact on the region’s air quality, public health and safety of the county. However, the latest draft does not go far enough to create this network. We recommend the following:
Investment in Safer Infrastructure
The Plan should provide more bike boulevards and bike lanes and further enhance many of the proposed bike routes. The success of the County’s plan in increasing bike modal share will largely depend on its ability to make County residents who do not cycle now comfortable riding a bike on city streets, especially women, children and the elderly. Unfortunately the current draft fails to make use of the types of infrastructure that experience in other cities has shown are needed to convince these segments of the population that cycling is a safe and viable transportation option. While we appreciate that the County does not want to implement treatments that are still be piloted by other jurisdictions, we feel there is still more that could be done that is well within what is currently stipulated by the state.
For example, about 270 of the 816 miles proposed in the plan involve paving shoulders or widening roadways to install a Class III Bike Route, a road treatment that does little to encourage cycling among these groups, particularly on streets with average road speeds above 30mph. This does not make sense. If the County is prepared to incur the expense of intensive road construction, it should at least convert these miles to buffered bike lanes. The added cost of paint is negligible in comparison to the cost of road widening, but the facility’s quality and perceived safety would be dramatically improved. We especially recommend treatments like this in the Antelope Valley where travel speeds on local roads are posted at 50mph and people regularly travel faster than what is posted.
Additionally, the County Department of Public Health recently released the “Model Design Manual for Living Streets” and is in the process of adopting a “Healthy Design Ordinance” elements of both of these intiatives should be reflected in the County Bike Plan. Specifically the Plan should adopt the lane width standards set out by the Model Design Manual for Living Streets. Instead of uniformly applying Caltrans Highway Design Manual standards across a County so diverse in density, urban form, and local need, the County Manual provides more flexible standards which better reflect local uses. On streets with design speeds below 35 mph, 10’ lanes are standard, with widths up to 11’ considered if heavy bus or truck traffic is present. On streets with higher design speeds, the Manual is silent, permitting DPW to continue to utilize Caltrans highway design standards where prudent. Recognizing that drivers adjust to narrower lanes by reducing their speed, the County Manual emphasizes that “desired speed” should guide lane width determinations. In addition to desired traffic speed, we strongly request that the County give due consideration to bicycle traffic volumes and history of collisions involving bicycles. Finally, to the extent the County will seek of guidance from the Caltrans Highways Design Manual, it should document exceptions to 11’ and 12’ lane standards as provided for in Chapter 21 of the Caltrans Project Development Procedures Manual.
Equitable and Rational Prioritization of Projects
In order to make best use of limited resources over time, projects should be prioritized in a manner that develops infrastructure in communities with the greatest need from a public health, safety, and transportation justice standpoint. The current project prioritization grading scale should be amended so that it scores safety (based on local collision data) higher, awards points to projects serving low-income, transit-dependent communities as was done in the recently adopted City of LA Bike Plan; and grants preference to projects in communities with the highest obesity rates. By awarding more points in these areas, the County can ensure that the roll-out of its plan over the next few decades will positively impact the unincorporated communities in greatest need of safer streets for cycling first.
Clear, Ambitious and Easily Measurable Goals
Clear and measurable goals need to be set so that the public and policymakers have a clear track of the success of the plan. Therefore there needs to be a mode share goal beyond the first five years of the plan and it should be an ambitious one. We suggest a 10% bicycle mode share by 2032 for all trips, as well as an intermediate goal such as a 5% mode share by 2022.
We are encouraging everyone to write to the Regional Planning Commission by Monday November 14th so that all letters are in by the Wednesday November 16th. A template letter can be found here, we encourage you to personalize it and add your own thoughts, especially if there are roadways you feel would make ideal bicycle boulevards. We also encourage people to attend the public hearing Wednesday, November 16th and speak out for a better LA County Bike Plan.
LA County Planning Commission
Where: Hall of Records – Room 150
320 West Temple Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
When: Wednesday, Nov 16th – 9am