Are You Bike-Friendly? CD 13 Candidate Mitch O’Farrell Responds

February 21, 2013 at 6:16 pm | Posted in Bike News, Resources | 10 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 13 candidate Mitch O’Farrell.

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).

Learning to ride a bike at age 5 by myself, no training wheels, no one helping me and I had never been on any bike before. I hadn’t started school yet but my older sister had. So I picked up her bike while she was at school (it was way oversized for my tiny body), and I just spent the time on a wonderful, sunny day during the Spring time in Oklahoma learning to ride that bike. When I had it down, I ran into the house so my mom could come outside for me to demonstrate. I will never forget her encouragement and delight and I remember having a wide eyed grin, experiencing pure joy. I have ridden bikes ever since.

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?

I want LA to become known for biking in the way Berlin, Germany is. We need to dream big and the Mobility Element must envision a day when tens of thousands of people across the city utilize a comprehensive biking system that moves cyclists more safely across the city.

(What role do you see bicycling playing in the City’s transportation system, if any?) Obviously, a big, big role.

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?

Great question. Yes! There is the proverbial “low hanging fruit.” We have the resources to create Sharrow lanes across the city – right now. I am baffled as to why this has not yet been done and I will make sure we begin in the 13th. The LA bicycle Master Plan was created over years of volunteer input from people who know how to make Los Angeles bike friendly. The experts have spoken and it is now our job to begin implementation as soon as we possibly can. Of course this will require additional outreach in the neighborhoods where new lanes will go, but I have experience at bringing people together to make positive change happen and I will be an active leader on this issue in the 13th and in the city. The city and the county will have to work closely together, identify additional resources for areas where engineering is involved that require public funds.

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?

I mentioned Sharrow’s above and will get them going on a regular basis until they are on every street that calls for them.

(Are there any specific projects in the Plan you would prioritize?) Fletcher Drive needs Sharrow lanes, as does Virgil, Hoover, Bellevue, Brunswick, San Fernando Road, Chevy Chase Drive, Glendale Boulevard, Franklin, Fountain, Temple, Melrose, 3rd, Normandie, and dedicated bike lanes on portions of Glendale, Beverly, Elysian Park Drive, Stadium Way, and Riverside Drive. I am sure I am leaving many out but this is a reasonable start. I will dissect the plan and develop a comprehensive approach to prioritize elements of the plan in the District, that get people moving on bikes as soon as possible. Bicycling is part of my comprehensive Transportation strategy plan for the District; available on my website under the “Plan” link. As I mentioned above, we don’t just start laying down pavement markings. To do this right and not have a rebellion from people who drive but feel threatened by bicyclists, will take some heavy lifting from my office but I have done that for 10 years and know this is part of the process.

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?

Bike racks everywhere! There are some really great programs for this but the city tends to over think it. I am a bicyclist. I can hook my bike on almost anything and be just fine! Also, we need to promote bike culture in Los Angeles as we roll out the lanes. We need to take a look at incentives for new and existing businesses to build biking in to their business model and need a permit.

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?

1. Change the culture so law enforcement takes this seriously! While on staff I dealt with a few of these and know firsthand the laissez faire attitude, at times, from investigative officers when this has happened. The LAPD needs to formalize an administrative review process for all hit and run crimes and I would love to work with the bicycle community and the Chief on developing this so it actually becomes citywide policy. That would let people know we take this issue seriously.

2. We need to make our pedestrian experience much safer in the city. I have worked on several streetscape master plans and found funding for them too. These are great devices to calm traffic and make walking safer. Creating more of these will be a hallmark of my time in office. I’ll throw in here that Headphones are another culprit. I see people walking and biking all the time, wearing them. It is dangerous!

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?

The reduction plan, rolled out during the summer of 2011 was haphazard and Northeast Los Angeles in particular, took the brunt of the losses for the rest of the city. For example: Nearly 25% of the cuts affected 7 fire stations (all NE area) out of 106 stations city-wide. This makes our hillside neighborhoods from El Sereno to Silver Lake and every hillside in between more prone to a slower response time and these are all “high fire danger” zones. But this obviously affects our EMT’s too.

1. I will insist on a re-evaluation of the plan and make sure no neighborhoods are left more vulnerable than others.
2. I will work to make sure we get empirical date based on fact and not politics, so we have a real picture of response times.
3. Get the budget under control and go back to full deployment.

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?

I do not support it. There are times to raise property taxes and times when they shouldn’t be raised. This plan was hastily crafted and voters are generally in no mood to raise taxes at the moment unless the proposal is well crafted, fair, and believable. I do like the idea of EVERYONE paying a share of this but we passed measure R and voters need to see tangible evidence the additional taxes they pay are resulting in projects in the ground. There is well earned cynicism out there. Having said that, we need a long term funding plan to repair or broken infrastructure without relying only on the state each year with the various gas taxes that depending on what the legislature or federal government decides, can only be used for certain, specified types of streets; alley’s, major artery’s, secondary hi-ways, collector streets, etc. I was public works deputy for ten years in the 13th and there is never enough money to repair everything so we are losing ground as more streets fall into disrepair than we can keep up with. I would support and will help craft a ballot measure that is fair, community driven, and comprehensive enough to actually help repair our crumbling infrastructure AND I will advocate strongly for federal help from our Congressional delegation.

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, I relish the idea! As a Council Staffer for ten years in the Office of Eric Garcetti, I actually rode my bike from Glassell Park to Hollywood on a somewhat regular basis. It took only a few minutes longer to get there but it is an enjoyable little trek! So, I will be the elected official guy who rides his bike to work; not only on “leave your car at home day,” but at least on a regular basis, and hopefully setting a good example. It’s such good exercise and is fun, except during heat waves.

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?

Yes, but no matter how safe we make our streets for bicycling, us bike riders will always need to be very careful. There are streets I avoid for sure. I really don’t like riding downhill on the Hyperion Bridge for example! But – there’s almost nowhere I wouldn’t bike in the city. That does not mean I expect everyday people to be the same. Clearly, we need to implement many of the improvements discussed in this questionnaire because people need to feel safe and secure in our city.

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