By Aaron Blevins, 10/25/2012
Less than one month after reports suggested that Los Angeles drivers kill cyclists and pedestrians at rates higher than their national counterparts, the city has been named a “Bicycle Friendly Community” by the League of American Bicyclists.
With a handful of cyclists present, City Councilman Ed Reyes, 1st District, accepted the bronze designation on behalf of the city. The league’s president, Andy Clarke, said the city has progressed in making its streets safer for cyclists.
“I never thought I’d see the day where we could designate Los Angeles as a ‘Bicycle Friendly Community’,” Clarke said. “The silver and gold designations are well within your reach.”
The designation will be publicized via two signs posted along bikeways in Los Angeles. While the award won’t come with any other incentives, the city’s deputy mayor for energy and the environment, Romel Pascual, said it represents a culture change in the city.
“It wasn’t too long ago when people would laugh when you said you cycle in Los Angeles,” he said, adding that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is pushing to add 1,600 more bike lanes on city streets. “How can you not cycle in Los Angeles?”
Jay Slater, chair of the Los Angeles Bicycle Advocacy Committee, praised Reyes and City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, 11th District, for their efforts to improve cycling in Los Angeles. He referenced the city’s newest bike lane on Motor Avenue, saying it was a “real pleasure” to have access to a new bike lane with new pavement.
“We’re giving cyclists in the city a place to ride,” Slater said. “We’re just going to keep pushing this and making it happen.”
Los Angeles has made “remarkable progress” in promoting cycling, said Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition planning and policy director Eric Bruins. He said the city was named an honorable mention in the “Bicycle Friendly Community” program last year, and with events like CicLAvia, the efforts to promote cycling should continue to gain momentum.
“Angelenos want to ride their bikes,” Bruins said.
He added that cycling is a healthy mode of transportation that could help reduce the congestion on city streets. Bruins said one-half of all trips in Los Angeles County are less than three miles, and if the county could persuade a sliver of those drivers to ride a bike instead, it would reduce congestion and pollution. He praised the county’s public transportation options for complementing those efforts.
“This is what a robust transportation system looks like,” Bruins said.
He was not overly concerned about the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute study, which stated that bicyclists account for almost 3 percent of all Los Angeles traffic fatalities. That was compared to 1.7 percent nationally.
“It doesn’t tell us how many people are out walking and biking to begin with,” Bruins said, adding that 20 percent of all trips in L.A. County are walking and biking. “So, we have really high rates, which explains how people are getting injured doing it.”
Reyes said the city could add more striping and raise more awareness to promote bicycle safety. He said “basic human nature” in Los Angeles needs to change, though state leaders could assist with safety measures.
“I think you’ll see a shift in the mindset of the Legislature,” Reyes said.
He said that, with the high price of gas, the city may see a culture change regarding the automobile.
“People are tired of commuting three, four hours just to get home,” Reyes added.
Bruins said more cycling programs are on the way for the city and county, including a network of bike lanes. That sentiment was echoed by Los Angeles Department of Transportation general manager Jaime de la Vega.
“We’re committed to doing more next year,” de la Vega said. “So, see you then.”