Are You Bike-Friendly? Kevin James Responds

February 6, 2013 at 8:30 pm | Posted in Bike News, LACBC Events | 2 Comments
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Photo: Andrew Wong, WYTe Studios

LACBC asked each of the candidates running for mayor of the City of Los Angeles to respond to our questionnaire.  We hope our members will find the candidates’ answers insightful into how each candidate proposes to make our streets safe, balanced, and livable.  Responses are posted in the order they were received.

1. Please share a memory involving a bicycle that has had a lasting effect on you (whether or not you were the one on the bicycle).

A close friend told me about a close friend of his – Doug Caldwell.  Doug was truly a rocket scientist.  He designed the cameras for the space shuttle.  He was working with LADWP to try to set standards for new homes that would usher in a new era in energy efficiency.  My friend told me that Doug Caldwell was killed while riding a bicycle on August 20, 2010.  Doug’s story reminds me that bike safety isn’t just a policy, it’s about real people.  Background: http://bikinginla.wordpress.com/2010/12/06/details-on-the-august-death-of-cyclist-and-scientist-doug-caldwell-driver-walks-with-no-ticket-or-charges/

2. Just a few months ago, Los Angeles was honored as Bronze-level Bicycle-Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists. Do you believe the city should pursue a Silver-level designation, and if so, what steps would you take in the first year of your term to move LA up to the Silver level?

Improved engineering to offer more options for bicycle users of all ages and abilities; education for bicyclists and motorists on how to share the road. Whenever possible, install more bike lanes and bike paths.  My City Hall opponents have taken hundreds of millions of dollars from special revenue funds that could have been used to achieve these goals.  (They raided these funds to pay for employee raises that the city cannot afford to pay).  A key example is the Special Parking Revenue Fund intended to relieve parking pressures around the city by building parking structures that would have cleared right lanes of parked cars — right lanes that could have been used for bike lanes.  There are also some innovative ideas that might be implemented to reduce the danger to cyclists from drivers getting out of parked cars (adding a warning light to parking meters to warn cyclists when a car has recently pulled in).

3. The Mayor controls four votes on the Metro Board of Directors, which makes transportation funding decisions for the entire county.  In LA County people walking and bicycling make up nearly 20% of all trips and 39% of roadway fatalities, yet these modes only receive 1% of transportation funding.  What steps would you take to rectify this inequity?  

The steps I will take to address this issue for bicycling are addressed throughout this questionnaire.  For pedestrians, we need to focus on sidewalk, curb and gutter repairs. The City wants to burden homeowners with the cost of sidewalk repairs and to shoulder homeowners with liabilities resulting from damaged sidewalks. I will make sure that homeowners are not burdened with the added responsibility of repairing the city’s sidewalks outside of their homes. There are, however, some homeowners and business owners that are willing to share in the cost of sidewalk repair voluntarily. For those people, the city should make permitting for such repairs as easy as possible. We should also utilize the benefits of the 50/50 plan for those people who voluntarily want to benefit from the plan.

I would also put a stop to the raiding by city officials of the special revenue funds that are used for improvements and maintenance of our infrastructure.

In making street and sidewalk repairs a priority, we must prioritize a plan for long-term fiscal solvency for the City, including collection of a portion of the City’s more than $500 million in non-tax receivables, millions more in tax collections, and other available funding sources that have been ignored by the mismanagement of current City leadership. Furthermore, new technologies enable us to do more in this area with less money. Two technologies that are particularly promising are “full depth reclamation” and “pervious concrete.” Full depth reclamation is simply the recycling of roads in place – it is a proven cost saving method of road repair. The City of Santa Ana was recently able to rehabilitate 80 miles of asphalt streets over 3 years at about half the cost by using full depth reclamation compared to the traditional methods of removal and replacement.  Pervious  concrete is simply concrete that allows water and air to pass through it – it reduces stormwater runoff and recharges the underground water supply. There are also plastic sidewalk technologies available now that assist in the prevention of tree trunk “heaving” that causes so much of the sidewalk damage we experience today.

4. The Department of City Planning is in the process of updating the City’s Mobility Element for the first time in decades.  What policies would you prioritize for inclusion in the Mobility Element?  What role do you see bicycling playing in the City’s transportation system, if any?

Accelerated street repair and sidewalk repair.  Improved planning of public transportation projects. Improved connectivity.  Acceleration of the city’s bike plan.  And increased light synchronization, additional left-hand turn signals and right-hand turn signals for more free-flowing traffic on our surface streets.

5. In 2011, the City Council unanimously adopted the Bicycle Plan proposing a comprehensive 1,600-mile bikeway network across the City.  What steps would you take to ensure implementation of Bicycle Plan projects continues during your administration?  How many miles of new bicycle facilities will you commit to implementing each year?

The current bike plan calls for 200 miles every five years.  Given current budget constraints, meeting that goal itself will be a challenge and accelerating it even more so. That said, with a long-term financial solvency plan in place (which I am the only candidate in the field willing to obtain through real pension and salary reform in City Hall), I will be able to make acceleration a priority.

The city has never even come close to meeting the bikeway miles set
forth in any of its three (3) bike plans. In 1977, the city only built 230 of the goal of 600
miles. The 1996 plan had a goal of 673 miles but only achieved 104 miles. The 2010 plan
 has a goal of expanding from the existing 334 miles to 1,684 miles over a 35 year period.
 Yet, the more people that ride bikes in LA, the fewer cars that motorists that are not
able to ride bikes have to deal with. That means traffic moves more rapidly through the
 city, and there are more parking places available for the motorists that are driving their cars. The benefits of becoming a bike- friendly city are numerous. For local businesses, economic benefits come from cyclists parking near their shops. For neighborhoods and businesses, roads are safer as there will be fewer car-to- car accidents, and we will see safer communities because people on bikes are not separated by the walls of their car, car windows, and car radios enabling them to notice burglars, thieves, vandals and other local criminals that plague a community – cyclists serve as a form of community patrol whether they intend to or not.

Once Angelenos that are not bicyclists recognize the benefits they receive from more people in L.A. using bicycles to get around, the easier it will be to grow public support of acceleration of the city’s bike plan.

Disappointment surrounding LA’s transportation options generally, and the implementation of the city’s bike plan specifically, is understandable. Yet even with such frustration among Angelenos, our City leaders have failed to deliver efficient and effective transit. In order to turn the corner, we must turn to new leadership. The days of poor planning, shady bidding, irresponsible outreach, failed implementation, cost overruns, construction delays, and the lack of a common sense approach to smart transit must end – and will end with my administration.

6. Leading cities for bicycling, such as New York and Chicago, are implementing protected bicycle lanes (a.k.a. cycletracks) to encourage “interested but concerned” people to ride a bike.  During your administration, will you direct LADOT to implement such innovative bicycle facilities to incentivize more Angelenos to take up bicycling?

This is something that could have already been started if my city hall insider opponents had not raided hundreds of millions of dollars from the Special Parking Revenue Fund. When funding is in place, this is something the LADOT should begin.   We must also be careful that we don’t remove parking spaces that are critical for small businesses to survive (which is what the parking fund would have insured).  We also need to make sure that over-capacity roadways are not unnecessarily burdened.  My instructions to LADOT will include outreach to each community to make sure each stakeholder group’s needs are included in these improvement plans.

7. The LA Weekly recently wrote a feature story documenting that almost half of traffic collisions in the City of LA are hit-and-runs, according to LAPD records.  Many victims of these traffic crimes are people walking and bicycling.  What steps would you take to reduce the rate of hit-and-run and ensure perpetrators are prosecuted?

The first thing we must do is improve street safety to prevent these hit-and-run accidents in the first place.   This goal demands that we work to better separate pedestrian, bike and vehicular traffic.  As a former prosecutor, I will work with the District Attorney’s office and City Attorney’s office to establish a hit-and-run task force to explore and implement new technologies in the prosecution of hit-and-run crimes and will explore increasing the penalties for hit-and-run convictions.  The public’s knowledge of increased penalties for hit-and-run convictions will provide added incentives for drivers to stop when an accident has occurred rather than making the mistake of running from the scene.

8. In the event of a collision, the survival of those injured could depend on a prompt emergency response, yet it’s recently been disclosed that response times for the Los Angeles Fire Department frequently exceed national standards. What would you do to address budget and staffing cutbacks affecting the LAFD to ensure a faster response for all those who need emergency assistance?

Public safety is a critical city service and top priority.  LAFD needs a top-down review and restoration of its budget.  The failure of current elected officials to recognize the problem disqualifies them from holding higher office.  They were told in 2002 that response times were in the 40% range.  They did nothing, and allowed the reporting flaws to go unnoticed and failed to follow up.  In fact, when the response time went up from 40% to 86% without additional resources, not one of my opponents questioned the clearly-erroneous increase.

We must replace the current dispatch system with modern technology.  We need GPS systems in our fire trucks.  And, I will require that the LAFD be transparent about what the real response times are. Finally, one of the biggest factors in reducing response times is reducing traffic congestion, which interferes with emergency vehicles’ ability to reach residents in need.

9. CicLAvia has transformed how Angelenos view bicycling and walking in their City.  Will you commit to ensuring that CicLAvia continues to receive adequate City support to ensure its future as the largest open street event in the country?  

Yes.

10. A recent proposal has been floated to assess all property owners to bring streets into a state of good repair.  Do you support the proposed bond measure, and do you believe any changes should be made to the proposal to serve all those who travel on city streets, including pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users?

As you know, the proposed bond measure has been abandoned, at least temporarily. Property owners should not bear the entire burden of the failures of our elected officials.  Further, we can’t make L.A. any more hostile to business or more expensive to its residents.  Increased taxation will restrict growth and only exacerbate the city’s financial problems.  The money for repair of our streets, sidewalks, gutters and curbs will only be available if the next mayor stands up to special interests that are draining the city’s resources.  I am the only candidate willing to stand up to those special interests.

11. Will you commit to meeting with bicyclists or their representatives on a regular and ongoing basis? Would you be willing to lead a regularly scheduled bike ride with your constituents?

Yes, as many members of the bike community already know from my years of covering their issues on my radio show, my commitment to making LA a more bike friendly city will continue throughout my years as Mayor.

12. Would you presently feel safe riding a bike in Los Angeles, and if not, what would it take to make you feel comfortable on our city streets?

Where dedicated bike lanes exist, I feel safer.  Some of our bike paths force bike riders into traffic and force traffic across bike paths to make turns.  There are some innovative steps that can be taken to improve bike safety, especially from the hazard of driver-side doors opening unexpectedly where bike riders ride next to on-street parking.  Unfortunately, my city hall insider opponents have raided existing revenue funds that could have been used to accelerate the city’s bike plan and increase safety for everyone involved.

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