Saturday, April 10, 2010

why the Backbone Bikeway Network isn't the greatest thing ever

I am simultaneously inspired and troubled by the hubbub regarding the Backbone Bikeway Network (BBN). It’s inspiring to see so many bicyclists working together for an ambitious unified citywide vision. On the other hand, some of the supporting rhetoric troubles me because it is packed with extremely simplified reactive viewpoints that are oblivious to the very large and very blatant barriers to progress for bicycling in Los Angeles.

One troubling component within support of the BBN is an almost total disregard for history. Some of the most outspoken bicyclists in our community don’t recognize that the City of Los Angeles already did this. Transportation planners looked at maps and marked off a loose grid of bikeways on arterials in the 70’s, which eventually trickled down into the 96-02 plan.

Unfortunately, almost none of these facilities have ever been implemented beyond bike route designation. Although critique of the New Draft Bike Plan lamented that it was worse than the 96-02 plan, no one addressed the old plan’s failure. And this is precisely—predictably—where a network that resembles it (like the BBN) will also fail. City officials, residents, and business owners, are not willing to trade arterial curb-parking, travel lanes, peak-hour parking restrictions, even travel lane width, for bike lanes or sharrows.

Another troubling aspect of BBN support is found in the repeated slogan: “Secondary roads are for secondary road-users.” This is a delightfully catchy phrase, and while I practice vehicular cycling (read: I assert my right to the road as an equal to drivers), I don’t think anyone can deny the benefits of a bicycle network on non-arterial streets.

First, a non-arterial network is easier to implement. Residential and collector streets are a less contested space. LADOT leadership is not concerned about losing throughput on them. And residents are constantly telling planners how they want slower traffic on their streets. This is the opposite of how Angelinos and LADOT feel about arterials.

Second, non-arterial roads are safer for bicycling, which means they are more popular for a very important target population: non-bicyclists. It may not be popular to think of non-bicyclists when imagining the future of bicycling in Los Angeles. In fact, promotion for the BBN prided itself as being “made by bicyclists for bicyclists.” I’m glad bicyclist are duly motivated to work towards improving their environment, but the shortsightedness of the “all about us” attitude is counterproductive. Bicycling is growing in popularity (Wal-Mart is selling track frames!), but bicycling as a transportation mode undeniably remains a marginalized activity in Southern California. It is imperative that we convince more non-bicyclists to try commuting or running errands on a bike. A non-arterial network will do that. A strictly arterial one will not. Don’t get me wrong; I love riding on arterials. Riding a bike on 4th Street is qualitatively different from cruising Hollywood Boulevard. But a collector bikeway network is bound to yield more converts than a head-on contentious struggle over major roadways that currently lacks popular support.

Most importantly, although riding on secondary streets is not the same as riding on arterials, people who characterize it as inferior are wrong. A simple glance at the design guidelines in the New Draft Bike Plan reveals physical solutions that prioritize secondary streets for bicyclists, de-prioritizing them for auto-traffic. We don’t have to subscribe to the auto-oriented hierarchy of roads (i.e. freeway-highway-arterial-collector-residential). We are bicyclists! We are free! We can invent our own system. We can embrace the solutions that turn collector streets into bike boulevards and create a new world for ourselves, rather than futilely struggling to be part of one that is hostile to us.

Possibly the most egregious part of BBN support comes with the claim that it represents a “plan with a backbone.” Planning is more than drawing lines on a map. In a city like Los Angeles, it entails a mind-numbingly awesome amount of research and work, collaborating with various government branches and assessing the needs of myriad communities. Creating a plan that incorporates all competing interests takes time, effort and energy—not to mention risk of public shaming, which has happened plenty within the zany LA bicycle world. It isn’t easy to hash out specific solutions and details in a room with other people who disagree with you. It is much easier to insulate oneself in a room where everyone agrees with you, and it is even easier to mistake that insulation as strength.

There are two potential problems here. One small and one large.

The smaller problem is that the plan ends up being another toothless document that doesn’t change anything for any bicyclists. Informed sources tell me that the BBN is now guiding the LA City Planning Department’s unilateral (re)development of the LA Bike Plan. I am told that the collector network—that’s code for bike boulevard grid—that was originally proposed has largely been abandoned upon suggestion of BBN-supporters. The document’s ineffectual status is almost guaranteed if collaboration between City Planning and LADOT has dissolved since LADOT has the ultimate say in what happens on the street. “Infeasible” became a dirty word for LA bicyclists, but the people that developed that stance haven’t gone anywhere, and a BBN-guided plan isn’t going to change their response. This is the small problem because I already bike. So, if things don’t change, it’ll be a grave unfortunate missed opportunity, but I’ll be okay.

The larger problem is that bicyclists have set themselves up to be further-identified as an extreme alternative community. We are a subculture for now, and all subcultures experience an inherent resistance to mainstreaming, but unlike some historically empowering notions of “other,” progress for bicycling requires recruitment and normalization. The goal should be to encourage people who don’t ride a bike to try it with us, to ultimately embrace our vision. The Backbone Bikeway Network is a glorious vision, but it won’t encourage anyone to join us, especially the people we need most.


Manushkin said...

Can I give an amen to this? There was so much hype to this network, because there's nothing else out there, but it's the anti-anecdote to getting more people on bikes, and for cyclists to truly be safe, amidst BRT's and heavy bus traffic on arterials... I thought it was very exclusive, since it only panders to a lot of (white) male cyclists, and not to female cyclists, families, and low-income, immigrant cyclists who ride on the sidewalk because they can't even obtain health insurance.

Hopefully, the LA City plan will get better and people will realize that the backbone network had little vision or professionalism and ultimately, doesn't do that much for cyclists.

jericho1ne said...

I really wanted to respond to Adrian's article, but I'm so shocked by Allison's comment, that I have to dissect that first.
"because there's nothing else out there"

Yes, this you are pretty much right about, everyone else involved in bike advocacy is too soft to call upon a HUGE change in the right direction. Every cyclist in LA wants to see something like the Backbone succeed, but some of us may be too afraid to say so because of our existing liasons.

"low-income, immigrant cyclists who ride on the sidewalk because they can't even obtain health insurance"

I'm sure you had good intentions with that comment, but you lumped too many issues into one phrase. The perceived safety of sidewalk riding is questionable, we all know this. Sidewalk riders choose the sidwalk because that's where they feel most comfortable. It's that simple. There's plenty of vehicular cyclists that don't have health insurance, and may also be low-income or unemployed.

I'm just curious, What about me, the "middle-income immigrant cyclist who does have health insurance"? What's my stereotype? I used to ride on the sidewalk when I first got to LA because I didn't know any better, and I got hit by a car. Now I know better. The sidewalk is not appropriate for my riding style. Health insurance or lackthereof doesn't make us invincible, I pray that I don't get into another accident.

"the backbone network had little vision or professionalism"
It is visionary, that is undeniable. By professionalism, do you mean we didn't get paid to do it? Is it because we didn't have a fatherly figure in a suit pat us all on the back at the end of each of our meetings? Did other social activist groups in the 1960's have "professionalism"? The LA Bike Working group is entirely comprised of folks who've volunteered their time, passionately organized public input meetings, drew up maps and went through sessions of iterative feedback, and posted our results online for even more public comment. Okay, so maybe we're not as professional as you'd want us to be, but I think our enthusiasm, determination, and sense of urgency are unquestionable.

"it only panders to a lot of (white) male cyclists"
Wow. This one is my favorite. It makes about as much sense as Michelle Mowery's comment about why cycling is so popular in Portland compared to LA. Is there a specific text that you can refer to that says current and future Backbone Network cyclists will be ticketed for being non-white and non-male?

"Hopefully, the LA City plan will get better"
Hope is good, action is better. I used to hope for the same thing when I went to my first LADOT Bike Plan input meetings. I had stars in my eyes... Then a year or two passed, nothing changed from an infrastructural standpoint, and an epidecmic of violent hit and runs started.

Maybe one day, when you're tired of your life being threatened on the streets you're entitled to ride on, or when you or someone you care about is involved in a hit-and-run, you'll move from HOPE to ACTION.

adrian L said...

you are right that insurance does not make bicyclists invincible. i ride on the road and pay for my own health insurance, but i am similarly scared every time i ride certain streets, especially when i take the lane. but be fair. alison didn't say that being insured made bicyclists invincible. her point is undeniably plausible--people from low income communities without health insurance might be more cautious and avoid what they perceive as risky behavior.

now, it's true that sidewalk riding isn't as safe as riding on the road. but your own experience is telling. when you started, you rode on the sidewalk. i believe fearful sidewalk-riders and non-bicyclists are much more likely to transition to riding upon a comprehensive non-arterial system than immediately jumping onto two or three-lane arterials with 35mph traffic and curbside parking.

i'm new to the back and forth of blogosphere comments; one thing i'm learning is that comments are often opportunistically misconstrued by other people's responses. in this instance, alison mentioned "hope," and you chose to interpret it as her lack of action, or her acceptance of a life-threatening lifestyle. alison is an action-oriented activist. having hope doesn't preclude her from taking action. on the contrary, it's a prerequisite. we shouldn't chastise people for expressing hope.

my post addressed the claims that the BBN "has a backbone," but here you've continued to claim that "everyone else involved in bike advocacy is too soft..." the Bicycle Working Group's passionate, enthusiasm, urgent, determined vision brings me joy, but i don't think it's prioritization of the BBN is strategic; making demands without considering the consequences is the easy path. developing a strategy that anticipates the behavior of a largely bike-adverse city is the good hard fight.

ubrayj02 said...

There is a reason that the BBN closely resembles the maps of the 1970's and the 1996/2002 plan: this is what will actually make LA bike friendly!

Past failures were political in nature, and this map and the process that went into it are worth more than the actual map itself.

When the other plan were rolled out, did they garner this much public attention from the media, the general public, and the political elite of L.A.? No, they did not.

Your critique misses the point of the Bike Working Groups efforts - as much political as it is a planning or design effort.

"City officials, residents, and business owners, are not willing to trade arterial curb-parking, travel lanes, peak-hour parking restrictions, even travel lane width, for bike lanes or sharrows."

This is not true. If it were true, efforts such as the BBN are political tools to reverse that opinion - and these efforts are working.

Regardless of your ideas of what is practical and what isn't practical for bicyclists to ask for, secondary arterials are not streets that bicyclists use. The MTA's 2002 Enhanced Public Outreach Project found that, in LA County, bicyclists predominantly use the same arterial roads in commercial districts that motorists use, regardless of facilities or not. These streets are typically unsafe for bicyclists, but they take the few that do ride where they need to go in the smallest amount of time.

As to the "ease" of creating a bike network, your critique fails again. If nothing else a backbone bike network on arterial surface streets is exceedingly cheap and easy implement. Paint and rubber bollard are what we're talking about in most instances. The entire network can be built out for less than $10 million. For a government with a general fund over $9 billion, that is chump change.

The BBN is a political tool as much as it is a "planning" document. Your critique is one of a long string of defeatist house slave arguments I've heard in countless meetings with bicyclists in L.A. I've noticed that most of the people who present these arguments view politics warily, and are fearful of a field they know little about. There are those of us in the community that DO know our way around the political realm (at least a little bit), and along with the efforts of writers, artists, designers, planners, engineers, and regular citizens, have collectively moved bicycling to the forefront of public consciousness in L.A.

Your essay presents no solution for truly remaking L.A. into a better city for bikes. I dare you to come up with one and see if it doesn't fit the BBN.

Eric Bruins said...

Adrian's critique of the BBN expressed in words what my gut reaction was. I love the network's vision, passion, and its designer's dedication to advocacy. I think it's clear that critiques of the BBN are not directed at the advocates, but at the actual document and concept.

As a bicyclist I feel very comfortable battling traffic on the arterials pretty much any time of day. I've had plenty of close calls with drivers who don't respect my mode of transportation, but that doesn't keep me off the road. When I think about bike planning, I have to realize that it's not about me or anyone else who currently rides. The ultimate challenge of bike planning (which is different than bike advocacy) is planning for non-bicyclists who would otherwise ride.

The easiest way for me to think about bike planning is to talk to my girlfriend. As a newbie bicyclist she's learning the ropes. (We went to the Bikerowave for the first time last week and had a blast.) She'll ride with me anywhere I take her, but doesn't feel comfortable by herself outside of designated facilities. My goal as a planner is to design a system that she can use to suit her riding. She's not looking to ride clear across the city to Santa Monica. She's looking to run her errands by bike within her 5-mile range.

Prioritizing bikes on arterials is great for me and everyone else who currently rides. But for those that don't, the Bicycle-Friendly-Streets contemplated by the much maligned draft plan are what will encourage new riders. It's not an either-or situation. We can and should include both in the next iteration of the plan. But if advocates view bike boulevards and collector networks as only gnawing on leftovers, then we really are missing an opportunity.

Long term, getting people on bikes anywhere is a best-bet for political support for any arterial network.

adrian L said...

I don't deny that realization of the BBN would be a great thing, or that it would make LA bike friendly. My point is that past failures will be repeated if we simply do the same thing. Despite a change in political atmosphere, much of the leadership has remained the same. For example, John Fisher, the Assistant General Manager of the LADOT was working at LADOT in 1977. He is still there today, and he's not going anywhere. As an entrenched city employee, in many ways, he has more power than the Mayoral Appointee.

I am not saying that the process around development of the BBN wasn't useful. It's clear that for its participants, they felt liberated and empowered. Nothing could be better. I'm also glad that the effort is drawing media attention. However, my critique is not about the BWG efforts. I have to perpetually remind people: keep up the good work! My critique is about the outcome of these efforts and a potential strategic blunder.

So far, I have still not received real evidence to disprove my suggestion that city officials, residents and business owners are not willing to trade arterial curb-parking, travel lanes, peak-hour parking restriction, and travel lane width, for bike lanes or sharrows. Councilmen in office, TODAY, have previously given lip service to the needs of bicyclists, only to about-face as soon as their constituents or relevant agencies speak against it.

In citing the documented behavior of current cyclists, you have missed the point of my critique. In order to grow and nurture our community, we have to consider how non-bicyclists perceive the road, not people who are already bicycling.

You are right that paint and rubber are cheap. But my use of the word "ease" described how Angelinos and people in decision-making positions feel hostile to relinquishing space on high-speed arterials, while they feel the complete opposite when it comes to secondary streets.

I've seen you use the phrase "house slave" before, and it's actually really offensive. Please stop calling people that. It's more offensive than the fact that you think I view politics warily or that I am fearful and ignorant. I am none of these things. I feel like my post proves that I embrace political consideration, and I love, not fear, a field that I know a lot about. In fact, I am a writer, artist, designer, planner and regular citizen, just like you. Let's keep our comments on the ideas at hand and not on what we think about other people.

I'm pretty sure I presented a solution: incorporate the bike boulevard grid into the plan.

ubrayj02 said...

Your "solution" of integrating a system of side streets into a bike plan has already been done, and is not precluded by the Backbone Bikeway Network.

As to the example with one's girlfriend (from a previous comment) let's get this clear: the BBN proposes Class I and Class II bike facilities (and traffic calming, etc) on LA's surface streets. These are the facilities that you have stated your girlfreinds' preference for.

This is not an issue of arterial vs. nonarterial. Research has shown that cyclists use arterials for the same reasons that motorist do. They use them in larger numbers, they use them in more varied conditions. Arterials are where cyclists predominantly use the road.

The Backbone Bike Network is a plan to make the place that cyclists ride most safer for cyclists (and other road users). So, this is not some zero sum game. Local networks are not going to push out arterial bikeways. There is, despite all the bullshit and lies the LADOT spits about the budget being cut, ample funding for at-grade bicycle facilities from dedicated funding sources that are non-General Fund.

About John Fisher, and others at the LADOT - why let these guys dictate the conversation? Who is working for whom? If this public employee is not interested in improving the city he or she works for, that employee is the problem - not the citizens calling for improvements.

About the "house slave" comment, I stand by it, as that is just what these sorts of arguments boil down to. Massa' isn't going to give you bike facilities if you don't fight for them. Going along to get along, making quiet progress, and trying to be friendly and chummy with the staff and politicians in L.A. has not, and does not, lead to the changes we all want in the way the city plans and designs its streets.

Outright protest, hell raising, threats of electoral attacks, negative publicity, and invective have worked wonders in the past few years. They are the only strategies that our elite understand in this town, and they work. Count the votes on the council - we need 8 out of 15 to vote for measures that favor our ideas. We're damn close to that now. Regular meetings with the LAPD and the office of the mayor - those weren't gained through happy fun talk of making bike facilities on side streets.

adrian L said...

The BBN doesn't preclude a non-arterial network, but like I said in my original post, BBN-supporters have suggested largely abandoning it. BikesideLA confirmed this when Alex wrote, "It is true what Adrian says...a neighborhood non-arterial network has been deprecated in the working draft of the bike plan in favor of a Citywide Network which is on arterials."

Research has also shown that new bicyclists are more likely to ride on less busy streets. And it is NEW BICYCLISTS that we need.

Everyone agrees with you that public employees supporting a damgerous status quo are a problem. But, there is an overstatement as to the public support for bicycling. There's a figure floating out there that claims, "400,000 Los Angeles voters are bicycle riders." I still haven't seen the methodology of this estimate. But it smacks of hyperbole.

In no way, at all, do I think you should discontinue outright protest, hell raising, threats of electoral attacks, and negative publicity. This is great essential organizing. But this does not preclude a movement with sound strategy, and the prioritization of the BBN above all else is not strategic.

Seriously Josef, I really appreciate your input as an informed individual. But using the term "house slave" is blatantly offensive. American Slavery is the wrong metaphor to use in describing the plight of bicyclists in Los Angeles. Bicyclists were not kidnapped from another country, tortured, raped, and subjected to an institutional system which left their descendants disenfranchised for generations to this very day. It is wrong of you to exploit that history, and if you call anyone a "house slave" on my wall again, I will remove your post. Fair warning.

Anonymous said...

I'll leave it to others to argue the political expediency and effectiveness of various tactics. But simply in terms of whether the focus should be on arterials or non-arterials, I have to come down on the side of putting infrastructure where it "should" be for users and not second guessing where it will trick new users into trying cycling. The fact is that transportation cyclists use arterials. Focusing on building infrastructure on non-arterials doesn't serve them well. The trade off that it will attract more new users who perceive it as safer seems well intentioned, but flawed. It resembles saying that we should put facilities on sidewalks because those are perceived as safer by beginning cyclists. Maybe that's facetious, but the logic is it where people perceive it to be safer instead of building it where actual users would use it.

I think most agree that the goal is to get more people on bikes. Hiding cyclists on secondary streets won't do as much to normalize the view of bikes as transportation as putting them on arterials will. When large volumes of cars deal with cyclists every day, biking will get safer and huge numbers of non-cyclists will begin to view riding as a safe, normal option. Just like beginning drivers, beginning cyclists will test out their legs on side streets first. But as soon as they get comfortable, they're going to want bike infrastructure that goes where they go.

Beyond that argument, I also worry that putting bike lanes on side streets will just create lots of empty bike lanes. This will reinforce the car lobbiest arguments that "no one will use them anyway".

Finally, on the term "house slave". It's a convenient short hand for those who put getting along with the powers that be and 'working within the system' above instigating change. But it's also a term with a huge amount of history and one who's derogatory implications tend to overwhelm any constructive meaning. It has its place and there are times it is warranted. And I don't think using it automatically equates whatever the subject is with slavery. But I would say that it will primarily be viewed as an insult rather than a meaningful critique of one's tactics, strategy, etc. So use with care.

ubrayj02 said...

Reason's why the BBN matters:

The process by which it has been created is open, public, and subject to change through constructive input by bicyclists and other community members. This stands in contrast to the government sponsored plan, which has passed through round after round of behind-closed-door "consulting", few public meetings, and a short-sighted and expensive process.

The BBN is also the focal point for the hopes and dreams of those working on much smaller issues in their neighborhoods. It is a macro-level goal that joins the disparate interests of many cyclists across the region. It calls out for a capital construction phase. It is, like the Cyclists Bill of Rights, a symbol created by the community for the community.

Politicians respect the power of a group that shows this degree of coordination, and media outlets respect groups that make interesting stories.

A system of side street bike facilities definitely needs to be implemented on a community by community basis, but the LA Bike Plan process that proposed this system is totally dysfunctional. There has never been large-scale buy-in to the Bike Plan because of incompetence or willful obstruction by those working on it. What politician is afraid of not implementing this plan? If I were in office, the LA Bike Plan would be very ignorable, the Bike Working Group and other advocates not so much.

adrian L said...

i am not advocating against arterial facilities. i am simply saying that facilities on secondary streets are the low-hanging fruit. i felt my writing was detailed, but i will once again explain the logic regarding why a bike boulevard grid should be considered. 1) build something where there is less resistance from the general public and decision-makers 2) build something where it will attract new bicyclists. i am sure i will have to repeat this again, but i am not advocating for one system INSTEAD of the other. i am merely suggesting that one part of the system will be easier to create, and will yield positive benefits, that supporters of another part of the system are devaluing.

encouraging bicyclists to ride on secondary streets is not the same as "hiding them." this is the false interpretation i also discussed in the post. otherwise, you are entirely correct: normalization will occur when huge numbers of non-cyclists begin to test their legs on side streets first. that is exactly what prioritization of a BBN and failure to develop a non-arterial network inhibits (and that also describes the current state of the draft plan).

good points. the BBN matters, especially because of its process. other things matter too--like a thorough, easy to implement non-arterial network that encourages more people to join our community.

i would also be careful to claim that the BBN is wholly something born out of the entire bicycling community with the entire bicycling community's support. this raises a very interesting topic that i hope we (as a community) further examine. who is or isn't in the bicycling community, and who gets or doesn't get to speak on behalf of our entire community?

ubrayj02 said...

Both of your points are weak, based not on data but perhaps your own personal experience or perception of the politics of transportation planning.

1) build something where there is less resistance from the general public and decision-makers

There is resistance to bike lanes and facilities when? By whom? Where does this unitary body of bike haters come from? When has LA taken a chance, spent the piddling sum required, and built a small bike lane at the expense of auto throughput and capacity? I'm not saying that we're up against nothing, but there are some very persuasive arguments that work (and are working) to change minds all over L.A. Small businesses, people worried about air pollution, traffic safety, kids being able to safely walk to school, the elderly, transit users - bicycle advocates have a lot of natural allies. Our opponents are not nearly as unified nor as effective as the combined efforts of the groups now coming together to re-make L.A.'s streets.

2) build something where it will attract new bicyclists.

I will direct your attention to Alta Planning and Design's "Bridging the Gaps: How the Quality and Quantity of a Connected Bikeway Network Correlates with Increasing Bicycle Use" (google it to download a copy), wherein a connected network of bikeways on arterial surface streets has been shown to increase that numbers of people using bicycles to get around town.

The costs to build the BBN are piddling. The effects are well understood (I've given you one documented case of such a system working, but there are many).

Your claim that the BBN is politically infeasible, or potentially damaging to the cause of cycling, does not align with reality in city hall, nor in numerous neighborhood councils, nor in the media coverage of bicycle issues.

ubrayj02 said...

The US Department of Transportation established that about 25% of Americans aged 16+ ride bikes. For the city of Los Angeles that means 300,000 – 400,000 cyclists among those who are registered to vote.

adrian L said...

Regardless of how contested you believe arterials are. It is undeniable that secondary streets are less contested. I have already explained this in paragraph five of my post.

If you need a specific example of how LADOT has prioritized arterial throughput over bicycling facilities, consider peak-hour parking restrictions. These are created to increase auto-traffic along arterials during rush hours. Since the curb lane alternates between a parking lane and a travel lane throughout the day, bikeway designs that are based on a fixed-distance to the curb, like sharrows and bike lanes, are not permitted.

It is no mystery that more facilities will result in more riders, and it seems like I really cannot impress this upon you enough: "I want there to be more arterial bikeways; the BBN is a great vision." However, none of this detracts from the truth that a secondary street network is more feasible and also more likely to encourage riders.

To take a national statistic about something as vague as "ride bikes" and apply it to the voting population of a city that is internationally notorious for its sprawl and car-centricity is possibly the most wishful dreamy statistical derivation I have ever witnessed. It's almost beautiful in its whimsy. I hope we really get 400K cyclists all voting together someday, but if this is your proof, then you must admit that we are far far away.

It saddens me that you can't seem to find enough love in your heart to embrace both a network on secondary streets and the BBN. If you did, I feel like you'd be able to rationally compare each one for their merits. I do not understand your dogged resistance to the obviously nutritional low-hanging fruit.

Peter said...

adrian l - are you serious with the holier-than-thou 'house slave' nonsense?

get over yourself. you're no better than anybody else.

if you think you're too good for criticism, then stop blogging, close your comments down, and stop reading what other people have to say about your whack opinions --it's simple, really.

your 'house slave' histrionics has nothing to do with the incredible ignorance displayed in this post, which is presumably written by you? who knows, and who cares - it makes exactly zero sense, and is more offensive than any 'house slave' comment.

house slave? for real? you're gonna act all offended? i have the feeling that you need to be offended.

newsflash -- people are actually suffering while you are busy being offended -- busy speechifying and lecturing us like we don't live in America -- who do you think you are?

i have an idea, though - how about stop being like too many other 'advocates' and try to, you know, actually advocate for a change?


adrian L said...

i don't want this discussion to descend into name-calling. almost all these comments have been enlightening. i welcome them all, supportive or critical.

you've misinterpreted my "acting" offended as a sign that i don't know people are suffering. first, i wasn't acting; i was truly offended. second, i don't know why you think being offended and having knowledge of suffering are mutually exclusive. that is not logical. taking offense is a natural response to understanding suffering.

from now on, i will remove posts that use or discuss the term "house slave." by allowing it, i feel i only perpetuate this offensive tangent, and that only works in detriment to this forum.

david said...

great contribution to the dialog peter.

mjkat said...

*shakes her head* wow. so much angst and ego... adrian, write some more controversial entries about biking. it's fun reading the comments. it's like you wrote five entries in one entry. a series. k, now that i said i'm going to follow your blog you have to read mine. i think i have like 4 followers.

e.n said...


I agree with you that it is important to establish a bicycle network for less-experienced riders, and I understand the professional pressure you are under to balance politics with your profession.

That said, my friends are getting crippled and killed on the streets of LA because drivers either don't expect or don't believe that they should be riding on the streets.

We can save lives with paint today, so why aren't we? Why take a gradual approach? Why not fight to save the lives of the people who are already riding down Wilshire Blvd every day? I understand what you're saying, but I heartily disagree.

For the sake of my friend Louis who was crippled by a hit-and-run driver, or his friend Jorge who was killed by a street racer, and for every one of us, and even for yourself--before one of those cars that frightens you comes a little bit closer and ends your life--grow a pair, and fight for a piece of road for us.

Fight for our lives, and fight for the lives of tomorrows cyclists. If you get some awesome street improvements on 8th and 4th street, that's wonderful, but until we make it CLEAR to every motorists that cyclists have a RIGHT to a share of the road, you will be a part of the system that allows them to die.


And to respond to your argument that business owners WANT faster arterial traffic, I would have to respectfully disagree. Do you seriously believe that anyone would prefer to sit outside a restaurant that's located next to a freeway over a slower thoroughfare?

As a small business owner, allow me to be the first among many to tell you "you're wrong."

adrian L said...

i'm glad you recognize that less experienced riders would enjoy a network on secondary streets. i'm not sure what you mean by "professional pressure." the arguments i post here come from my heart and my head. there are no hidden strings or agendas.

some of my bicycling friends and colleagues have similarly been hospitalized by drivers, unable to ride following surgeries. my writing has repeatedly been misinterpreted as if i were advocating against arterial facilities or for their injury. that is NOT what i am saying.

let me spell this out yet again: i want us to fight. i want us to win and make LA a place for bicycling. but i want us to not blind ourselves to the golden opportunities we have available to us, which i think a large number of BBN supporters are doing. rhetoric like "grow a pair," or the notion that a system will "allow people to die," suggests that building a cohesive network on secondary streets is a sign of weakness. that's wrong. see paragraphs 7 and 8 in the post.

you're correct. small business owners aren't all about faster traffic. some of them (thankfully not you) are all about curbside parking, which is one of the trade-offs for bike lanes. the other is travel lanes, where the LADOT reigns supreme. again, bicycle lanes face two obstacles: small businesses like curbside parking; the LADOT likes travel lanes. it's convenient to ignore these complexities when dreaming big. and dream big we should, but our strategy has to wake up and incorporate reality. if you take a measured look at the situation, you'll see, like many others have told me, i'm right.

e.n said...

here's what im saying: you suggest that we proceed first with bike lanes on residential street before establishing the "backbone network." it's my contention that if you over-emphasize marginal streets, that anti-cycling groups will argue that because of these alternatives, it would be unreasonable to make on-street improvements on major streets.

if the city goes for all the "low hanging fruit" (such as 8th st.) then there will be no political will left to have sharrows painted on streets like wilshire and olympic!

if you look at what the city of Davis did with their bike planning, you'll see they followed a similar philosophy: early advocates created a system of bike lanes that covered almost every street. in subsequent years, planning was redirected towards projects for children and novice cyclists, such as the greenway.

we need a transportation backbone that reinforces to drivers that bicycles have a right to the road. every road. that will have the greatest impact on the greatest number of people, and it will show cyclist of all stripes that the city supports us.

i was a novice cyclist once, and i found my way in los angeles backstreets just fine. what i needed was protection for those times that i HAD to ride on dangerous main streets.

the low hanging fruit will still be there when we're done.

adrian L said...

you make good points, but your logic is disordered. more interestingly, it seems like you should talk to some of the other BBN supporters because collectively you bring up contradictory arguments.

first, you worry that having facilities on side streets will provide ammo for "anti-cycling groups" (your term). on the contrary, facilities on non-arterials are likely to grow our community. as you model in your own experience, you started riding on side streets, and now you ride on arterials. after we have more people riding on side streets, they will join us in the fight for arterials. a collector bike network will predictably build our political will, not diminish it.

the order of these steps is important. if we neglect development of a non-arterial network, i believe it may be harder for the bicycling community to overcome peoples' resistance to bicycling. in fact, i believe a head-on all-out battle royale showdown for the fate of los angeles arterials, will do much to encourage bike-haters, especially because inertia for not-bicycling is so rooted in personal taste and social norms, which are cultural battles, swayed by headlines and posturing.

second, LA and Davis are completely incomparable cities, but if LA had greenways like Davis, you can be sure that more Angelinos would be riding in no time, and way more people would be demanding arterial bikeways following that.

lastly, i am thoroughly confused by the various contradictory arguments and bits of support coming out of the BBN propaganda machine. since I think the BBN is a great idea, i hope we can develop an integrated concept for a) what it is and b) what the obstacles are that we need to overcome towards implementing it.

a) some uninformed people think that the BBN is a grade-separated bike freeway, like a highway for bikes. other supporters have told me it could be cycletracks. even other supporters have said it could be bike lanes and sharrows, and the most nebulous descriptions advocate for "complete streets" and "reprioritized streets for bikeways," which may include physlcal changes but may simply be re-timed traffic lights. undoubtedly, the unspecific nature of the BBN makes it easier to defend since a concept is more defensible than a set of specific detailed designs. if BBN supporters can't mash through the details, that's fine, but then its supporting rhetoric shouldn't posture it as a thoughtfully constructed planning. it isn't, and it shouldn't be guiding the current draft plan.

b) when i raised the issue of potential opponents and proposed a recalibration of efforts to examine and include more implementable bicycling improvements, some BBN supporters claimed "these groups don't exist." but here, e.n., you've identified "anti-cycling groups," suggesting that you believe there are enemies. these rhetorical discrepancies should be resolved before we proceed in heralding the BBN as a flawless jewel.

at the very least, i am glad that you see a collector bikeway network as low-hanging fruit. now, all we need to do is embrace it as an obvious next step.