Northeast L.A. Bike Lane Meeting Draws Complaints

By Jacqueline Garcia, EGP Staff Writer

Hundreds of people attended a community meeting in Northeast Los Angeles last week to weigh in on the different options being considered for bike lanes on North Figueroa between Avenue 22 in Cypress Park and Avenue 60 in Highland Park. Thirty minutes into the meeting, people began to walk out, complaining it was a “waste of their time.”

The June 12 meeting, hosted by Councilman Gil Cedillo at Franklin High School in Highland Park, was a follow up to a meeting in May, which according to several first-hand reports dissolved into outright hostility between pro-bike lane and anti-bike lane participants. Both meetings were billed as opportunities for the community to provide feedback on the Los Angeles Department of Transit’s (LADOT) proposals for improving bike safety along North Figueroa.

Attendees at a second community meeting to discuss a proposal for bike lanes in Northeast L.A., grow frustrated as time goes by without the topic being discussed. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia )

Attendees at a second community meeting to discuss a proposal for bike lanes in Northeast L.A., grow frustrated as time goes by without the topic being discussed. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia )

In 2010, Los Angeles approved a citywide plan to increase the number of dedicated bike lanes in the city as a way to create safer cycling opportunities and to encourage more residents to use this form of transportation in their daily commutes.

The plan highlighted several priority areas, including Northeast L.A. The original proposed route ran along North Figueroa from San Fernando Road to York Boulevard, but has since been cut by more than 2 miles. It includes four possible alternatives, including one that calls for removing one of two southbound traffic lanes — referred to as a road diet — which appears to be drawing the most heated responses on both sides of the issue.

Lea este artículo en Español: Participantes Dicen Reunión Sobre Plan de Bicicletas Fue una ‘Táctica de Obstrucción’

Prior to his election last year, Cedillo expressed support for the road diet plan but since taking office has opted to hold more community meetings on the proposal, saying people who travel the corridor and businesses along the route have expressed concern that reducing lanes for cars will cause traffic tie-ups and increase emergency response times.

But supporters of alternatives to physically separate cyclists from cars and trucks, say slowing traffic by 45 seconds is not too much to ask if it prevents injuries to cyclists and saves lives.

 

“We are advocating for bike lanes on NorthFig because it is part of the master plan that the city already approved,” Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition member Alek Bartrosouf told EGP before the meeting. “There are a lot of cyclists supporting this movement, we have like 1,500 petitions signed online and about the same amount on paper,” he added.

However, the biggest controversy at last week’s meeting was not the proposed street changes, but the meeting format which included a lengthy lecture by CD-1 Special Projects Deputy Sharon Lowe on how participants should behave, Cedillo introducing and thanking friends and staff for their support and discussing several topics unrelated to the bike lanes, and Nat Gale of the mayor’s office speaking on the Great Streets Initiative that includes North Figueroa between Avenue 50 and Avenue 60.

Responding to the raucous May meeting, Lowe warned attendees to be civil and to refrain from clapping, cheering or making any other disruptive noises, or risk being ejected.

Some of the restless participants turned to social media to air their frustration: “It is now 45 min since this community meeting was scheduled to start and it is just Cedillo talking about himself,” tweeted HLP90042.

“If I had a 20 person staff and a $2 million budget, I sure wouldn’t have treated public so disrespectfully,” tweeted Flying Pigeon LA, a bike shop in Cypress Park whose owner Joseph Bray-Ali is an ardent supporter of bike lanes.

Dozens of people walked out early, telling EGP they felt “disrespected” and were unhappy Cedillo chose to “filibuster’ the meeting rather than listen to their feedback.

However, Cedillo’s communications deputy, Fredy Ceja, told EGP via email that the councilman “took the time he felt he needed to connect with the audience” and to address concerns raised during the May meeting. “The councilman felt the meeting was a success” because it addressed the current plan and other alternatives to address public safety on Figueroa, Ceja said.

“We are pleased with the outcome, it was an improvement over the first meeting,” Ceja added.

In his 15 years attending hundreds of community meetings, Bray-Ali said he has “never seen something this ridiculous and insulting … And that not clapping, if we are together as a group they cannot enforce that. Whether you are opposing or in favor, think of all the man hours that have been squandered” here, he said.

When discussion did finally turn to the bike lanes, LADOT representative Tim Fremeaux explained that residents were being asked to vote on one of the four options under consideration:

Audio problems, however, made it hard for many in the audience to hear parts of the presentation, including the question and answer period, adding to the frustration and both proponents and opponents yelling at the presenters that they couldn’t hear anything. “Bare with us,” LADOT’s Michelle Mowery pleaded with the audience.

But not everyone left upset last Thursday. “What Councilmember Cedillo heard loud and clear in May is that safety is a huge issue on the street and that was reflected in [this] presentation,” Erick Bruins told EGP.

“At the end of the day, no one is going to remember one or two poorly run outreach meetings,” Bruins said.

“At this point, Cedillo has all the information he needs to make a decision.”

Moving forward, LADOT and the council office will select one of the alternatives, with the plan being to begin construction sometime in July.

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Twitter @jackieguzman

jgarcia@egpnews.com

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June 19, 2014  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

Comments

6 Responses to “Northeast L.A. Bike Lane Meeting Draws Complaints”

  1. Participantes Dicen Reunión Sobre Plan de Bicicletas Fue una ‘Táctica de Obstrucción’ : Eastern Group Publications on June 19th, 2014 1:02 pm

    […] Read this article in English: Northeast L.A. Bike Lane Meeting Draws Complaints […]

  2. Morning Links: A shameful plea for money, bike corrals hit contested streets and the worst bike injury ever | BikinginLA on June 20th, 2014 12:16 am

    […] on last week’s waste of two hours Councilmember Gil Cedillo’s vanity session public meeting to discuss the proposed North Figueroa road diet and bike […]

  3. kelly thompson on June 20th, 2014 2:22 pm

    This meeting succeeded in insulting, and enraging both bike supporters as well as those opposed. It was the closest I’ve felt to the opposition since 2009. Nothing was accomplished and there was no connection with the audience.

    I urge Mr. Cedillo to again return to his progressive platform and support safer streets for all, cyclists included.

  4. Today’s Headlines | Streetsblog Los Angeles on June 20th, 2014 5:15 pm

    […] Cedillo’s N. Figueroa Bike Lane Meeting Draws Complaints (EGP News) […]

  5. eddie on June 21st, 2014 7:39 am

    More Bike Lanes Please Mr. Cedillo. Buffered will slow traffic so car-commuters will see our community and will save lives.

  6. Susan R on June 23rd, 2014 10:56 pm

    The first meeting at Nightingale Middle School the community came out strongly against the removal of car lanes. The traffic congestion on North Fig is extremely bad from Avenue 43 to Avenue 22. There is no way around it. Taking a car lane away will make the situation much, much worse.

    And, taking away parking on the street from Cypress Ave to Avenue 22 would also be a HUGE mistake. Those few blocks with the few businesses that Cypress Park has will really suffer. There will be ABSOLUTELY no where to park. The few small businesses will really suffer.

    No removal of car lanes. No removal of parking spaces.

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