Are You Bike-Friendly? CD 11 Candidate Odysseus Bostick Responds

February 25, 2013 at 1:48 pm | Posted in Bike News, Resources | 2 Comments
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LACBC asked each of the candidates running for City Council 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 by Council District, in the order they were received. Here are responses from CD 11 candidate Odysseus Bostick.

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).

I’ll offer two: a positive and negative one.

Growing up in rural area of Florida, I could really relate to the oddball feeling portrayed by the main character in Breaking Away. Being a cyclist in the rural south was challenging, to put it mildly. I know many of the people reading this might have gone to the southern portion of FL for a recent CNU conference, but my cycling was focused on growing up in the panhandle and living in Gainesville while I attended college.

People are fairly cruel and I’ve been chased down by trucks many times, had bricks and bottles thrown at me, but there was a moment in Tallahassee when I was pedaling through some fairly dangerous traffic when someone flew by and hit me with a Big Gulp. I threw my bike down and ran alongside the road to keep up while I whipped out my pencil and paper to write their names down.

I rode home and called the DMV, but they exhibited absolutely no interest in the issue, nor did they offer any process for me to pursue. They said that I could come into the DMV, request the address where the vehicle was registered, and go there myself to “talk” to the owner.

I hung up the phone with a lot of disappointment. Government shouldn’t put the onus on regular people to hash out solutions to their problems when the problem emanates from what was an obvious threat to my personal safety. That is the role of government: to keep the peace. But, with cycling, it felt like I had to go out and fight, probably literally fight, for my legal rights. That’s wrong.

My second memory is of taking my (then) 2 year old to the Ciclavia that stretched through Echo Park to Macarthur through downtown…etc… Sabine was on the back of the bike and had never done such a thing.  I couldn’t accurately describe the emotions she exhibited for you now. Let’s just say that her perspective was shaped that day in a lovely way.

2. 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?

On transportation planning, I believe we frequently fail to incorporate the organic planning people have created through thousands of trips they take every day. Planners see the big ideas with rail projects and massive investments of infrastructure, but the really important and ultimately most successful planning is rooted in acknowledging the organic routes that have developed for people.

It’s the difference between plopping down a sidewalk that matches the conventional wisdom of sidewalk placement and going down to the area to see if there are places where people are cutting across open space and mapping that as the best place for a sidewalk. It’s the difference between mathematically plotting out a network of bicycle lanes and going to speak directly with moms to find out where most of their short trips are on any given day, working with them to determine safety needs, and focusing on facilitating the movement of people to places they need to get to and would feel comfortable riding a bike to.

Because a major priority in designing the very necessary “small” connectors like sidewalks and bicycle paths should be in making it easier for regular people to move freely within their neighborhood on foot or bike so we can start replacing short car trips with something that alleviates traffic on the neighborhood level.

3. Just a few months ago, Los Angeles was honored as a 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?

We should pursue Gold, Palladium, Platinum, or even Onyx level designation because the need to find better ways of moving people through our neighborhoods will never really end, simply because we find our needs change as new generations come into adulthood. Technology changes our transportation needs and innovations in our transportation options should always be looked at so that we, as a city, are timely in our efforts.

My first term, not year, would be dedicated to working directly with women to assess what they need to feel safer on a bike, where they would feel comfortable riding a bike to, and what routes they might see as acceptable to make those trips.

Directing this process to women is the only way we will create a culture of cycling in Los Angeles.

4. 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 in your district?  Are there any specific projects in the Plan you would prioritize?

The north-south “highway” from Brentwood south would be a major priority. Another priority is working closely with our neighborhood elementary schools to develop Safe Routes to School. As mentioned in a previous question, I would also reach out to mothers to identify missed opportunities in the plan to provide families with routes to places they feel reasonably secure biking to in their community.

A major focus would also be to increase bicycle parking in commercial zones.

5. Studies have shown that people on bicycles spend more per month in local business districts than those arriving by other modes.  What steps would you take to ensure that local businesses in your district are able to benefit from better access by bicyclists?

More access to bicycle parking. Replacing 1-5% of parking in neighborhood commercial zones with bike corrals would help.

6. 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?

On a fundamental level, LAPD needs to prioritize all hit and runs involving a cyclist/pedestrian regardless of whether the victim dies. We also need to increase the bike unit in the LAPD up to 300 officers per day. I believe it hovers somewhere around 250 at this time. Increasing the bike unit patrol numbers will provide additional law enforcement “eyes” on the ground to better understand the dynamics of cycling in Los Angeles while providing additional insight into the day to day battle for safety we endure.

7. 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?

We need to stabilize our pension costs in public safety and negotiate for lower payouts. They currently retire with 90% of their salary after age 50. That’s unsustainable. We need to adjust that downward to the 78-80% range. We also need to cap the city’s contribution at 15% and require that employees cover the gap that yearly investment returns to do not cover to ensure that their pensions are fully funded.

Doing that will allow our city to begin hiring firefighters again, something that has been prohibited for 6 years now.

8. 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?

At this time, I don’t support any revenue increases until the city completes negotiations with the public safety unions to create sustainable pension plans. Any increase in revenue for any reason before those negotiations are complete will remove the pressure to solve this structural problem.

It’s a shame that we are in this state at this time. It’s actually a very good time to float a bond for infrastructure improvements. Interest rates are at historic lows and the Fed’s monetary policies have created pent-up inflation that will begin to take effect within a decade. In other words, money is cheap right now and that money will be even cheaper when inflation begins to rise because of the massive stimulus plan our federal government has pursued this past 5 years.

But political will to fix pension plans in Los Angeles will not survive an increase in revenue. We will end up paying more for the same while those increases in revenue will be used to “feign” progress in our structural deficit. In my opinion.

9. LACBC has formed Neighborhood Bike Ambassador groups in each part of the City to work with local businesses, neighborhood councils, homeowner associations and other stakeholders on bicycle issues. Will you commit to meeting with the local Ambassador group in your district on a regular and ongoing basis? Would you be willing to lead a regularly scheduled bike ride with your constituents?

Yes. Gladly.

10. 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?

I feel safe on the neighborhood level, but not on the city-wide level. We need more protected bike lanes on “highways” to facilitate more neighborhood-to-neighborhood commuting.

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