Tuesday was a great day for cyclists in Mar Vista and the rest of Los Angeles.
The 2010 Los Angeles Bicycle Plan passed the City Council unanimously with a vote of 12-0. Although many people worked to make our city more bike friendly, a lot of credit goes to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Last summer on Venice Boulevard, a taxi turned in front of the mayor, causing him to brake suddenly and fall from his bike. He shattered his elbow and hurt his head, but he got a wake-up call. He pushed for the bike policy changes incorporated into the plan that he’s expected to sign March 2.
Over the next 35 years, the city intends to expand the current number of bike lanes in L.A. from 378 miles to 1,680 miles of backbone, neighborhood and green paths. The plan will add 200 miles every five years. Funding is coming from 10 percent of the sales tax money raised from Measure R, the 2008 surcharge for transportation projects.
The plan is very comprehensive. It’s designed to help wean us off our dependency on cars by making L.A. more receptive to cyclists. Even simply putting bike logos on the streets increases the respect cyclists get from drivers because there is a visual reminder to share the road.
I would still like to see the Washington Boulevard bike lane extended to Culver City as well as a lane or bike-friendly logos on Pacific Avenue. Venice Boulevard will remain our major east-west bike route but Lincoln Boulevard will now be added as a north-south bike corridor.
Mar Vista's councilman, Bill Rosendahl, is chairman of the city’s Transportation Committee. His fellow councilmembers gave him credit for pushing the bike plan along.
“If you want to tweak things, let me know. It’s a work in progress,” Rosendahl said during the deliberations in council chambers. He also urged passsage of a bill in California, backed by the City of L.A. and the California Bicycle Coalition, that would mandate that motorists give cyclists three feet of clearance when they pass a bike. "We came a long way from where we were," he said.
At 146 pages long, the L.A. Bike Plan makes for some detailed reading. There are a number of commonsense suggestions, such as making public transportation easier to access for cyclists by increasing the bike rack space on buses from 2 to 3 and putting bike racks at bus stops. The program also recognizes that roads need to be upgraded to smoother surfaces, a long overdue acknowledgment for those of us who have bone-jarring rides.
I encourage people to go to two wheels when possible. We average less than 35 days of rain a year. During our coldest days we can get by with cycling in a sweat suit.
As gas prices continue to soar, commuting by cycling is nearly free, yet according to the L.A. Bike Plan, less than one percent of L.A. commuters do so by bike. I bike far more than I drive – I used one tank of gas for the entire month of February.
Finally, as our growing obesity epidemic threatens to overwhelm our health system, keep in mind how healthy cycling is. I bike nearly every day, a commitment that puts me in the top 5 percent of heart health for my age and gender.
It’s great to see a government plan like this one that can positively impact life in the city.