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Dismiss Cyclists At Your Own Peril: The Jackson Huang Lesson

Bike advocates are furious over what they consider city officials' dismissive response to a local teen.

Late last month, Florence Nightingale Middle School Student Jackson Huang , requesting that bike lanes called for in Cypress Park through the city's five-year Bicycle Plan be implemented as soon as possible. 

Reyes responded to Huang's letter about a week later, urging Huang to be patient as he waited for the lanes to be installed in Lincoln Heights.

The lanes Huang wrote about would be located on Cypress Avenue and Avenue 28, both of which happen to be located in Cypress Park.

That was the first of what local cycling activists consider to be a pair of "dismissive" responses to Huang.

Comments made by LADOT Spokesman Bruce Gillman about Huang's Letter in L.A. Streets Blog have prompted the strongest reaction.

“While these projects don’t yet have a date for implementation, Cypress Ave. and Ave. 28 are both in the five year implementation plan as Bicycle Friendly Streets, which does not preclude us from implementing bike lanes if bike lanes make the most sense for these streets,” Gillman said (we'll have more on that quote later).

The distinction between bicycle-friendly streets and bike lanes—and Gillman's suggestion that both Cypress Avenue and Avenue 28 were designated as the latter, not the former—caused bike blogger/activist/organizer Joe Linton to go, in the words of owner Josef Bray-Ali, "nuclear."

From Linton's Blog Post on L.A. Eco-Village:

LADOT’s Bruce Gillman is wrong.

LADOT has a history of lying when it comes to devising ways to block implementation of bike projects: Reseda Blvd, bike plan mileage planned, bike lane mileage implemented, etc. Some folks may say it’s maybe not deliberate lying, it’s just inattention to detail or error or incompetence or who-knows-what… but L.A. bicyclists know it’s a pattern. When the DOT makes an assertion about why they can’t do bike stuff, don’t take their assertion at face value. And when a department repeatedly makes false statements, well that’s lying in my book.

As Linton alludes to in his post, both streets are designated as "Priority 2 Future Bike Lanes," not "Bicycle Friendly Streets."

This means they should at some point in the next five years get freshly painted lanes that provide a safe space for riders.

Were Cypress Avenue and Avenue 28 designated as "Bicycle Friendly Streets," they would get no lanes. Such streets have already been designed for cyclists and pedestrians and experience little motor-vehicle traffic. Cypress Avenue and Avenue 28 don't meet those criteria, Linton writes. 

So what was Gillman talking about in his comments to Streets Blog?

Patch contacted Gillman, who responded with this:

"While these projects don't yet have a date for implementation, Cypress Ave. and Ave. 28 are both in the five year implementation plan as Bicycle Friendly Streets, which does not preclude us from implementing bike lanes if bike lanes make the most sense for these streets. We thank the Nightingale Middle School students for their enthusiasm and we are happy to work with the Council Office to help prioritize these projects for early implementation."

If you're scoring at home, that's the same exact comment that was given to L.A. Streets Blog about the bike lanes last week, before Linton wrote his post. 

Pressed for more detail, Gillman directed us to Bike Program Coordinator Nathan Baird, who explained that he had given the original comments to Streets Blog, had answered from memory, and made a mistake. 

"These are Future Bike Lanes. I answered from memory last time and did so incorrectly. It was a busy week last week. Their implementation status remains the same: We don't yet have a date for implementation. Though, we are happy work with the Council Office to help prioritize these projects for early implementation," Baird said.

Baird and company no doubt had their hands full last week with the impending closure of 10-miles of roadway for L.A.'s fourth CICLAVIA event—which has been heralded here and elsewhere as an overwhelming success.

However, given the recent spate of accidents in Los Angeles, and the general sense among riders that city government still isn't totally committed to making the city a safe place to ride, Linton's frustration make sense. Add in the fact that the comments were directed toward a civic-minded 13-year-old--who was actually correct--and you've got the recipe for an explosion.

"What is really frustrating to me is that LADOT’s official spokesperson Bruce Gillman, under color of authority, is basically saying that this NMS student got his request wrong… when Gillman himself got it wrong," Linton writes in his post. "Gillman is abusing his official power as LADOT’s spokesperson to belittle a 13-year-old. That’s so screwed-up that it gets me inarticulate."

Actually, Joe, we think you made yourself abundantly clear.

The city has made some commendable progress in the last year in responding to the pleas of local cyclists. York Boulevard's and

And Baird seems like an entirely competent and committed individual, as well. He's an Occidental College graduate with bike advocacy bona-fides; it's his job to implement this immense and complex bike plan.

If there's a lesson for Baird and other city staff to be learned here, it's that in 2012, even the appearance of a dismissive attitude toward cyclists—especially a civic minded 13-year-old who understands the details of the bike plan—will be met with a "nuclear" response.

Keith Malone April 20, 2012 at 07:55 PM
It's interesting that both Baird and Linton are Occidental alumni (as am I).
Kathy April 21, 2012 at 12:12 AM
All bikers are bonkers........
MJ April 21, 2012 at 01:21 PM
Wow Kathy, aren't you a self-entitled gas guzzling road hog? Oh no wait, that would be your car, which middle school students can't drive yet, nor why would they want to when they can walk or bike? Heaven forbid our children and citizens get exercise.
Susan R April 21, 2012 at 02:40 PM
MJ, I don't think that having to drive 60 miles a day or more to get to work and back and having to make other trips to makes you a guzzling road hog. People have to work. You can not exactly bicycle 60 miles or more a day. People's do not get to pick where they work. They must go where the work is. And, it is not easy to get work today in this economy. Good for those that do get a job next to where they live but they are few.
Susan R April 21, 2012 at 08:26 PM
I totally agree that small market trips could be made by walking or bicycling. Cypress Park does not have markets. The only one is Big Saver that doesn't carry much. You have to drive to Smart & Final or Ralphs or Food4Less. And, Food4Less is a little distance and uphill all the way. So, really Cypress Pak residents have to drive to the market and any decent restaurants too. Only decent market around is Smart and Final in Lincoln Heights, Ralphs on Fletcher Dr, and Vons in Eagle Rock. You have to drive to all of them.
Susan R April 22, 2012 at 12:12 AM
I appreciate your efforts. But some have families that have to carry heavy loads that could not be carried on a bicycle. Probly fewer trips would be better. I think its great your a bicyclist and I support your efforts.
Susan R April 23, 2012 at 02:39 PM
Yvette, I totally agree. Respect for the road is a 2 way street. Motorist and bicyclist need to obey the rules of the road. Bicyclist need to move to the side to allow a motorist to pass, especially where there is only one car behind them. Motorist need to keep a safe distance from bicyclist. Let's keep everyone safe on the road. Share the road.
Yvette Aguirre April 23, 2012 at 02:56 PM
Severin- It's nice that you are able to ride everywhere you need to on a bicycle. When you go to the grocery store, how many people are you shopping for? I shop for 6. I fill the cart. There is no way to carry all of that home on a bicycle. Additionally, I rarely get in my car from home to go to the store, just to come back home again. I usually make trips to the store on my way home from somewhere else, like after work. It's best to make your trips out and about all at once to save on time and gas. I respect people who use bikes for transportation, but they do not, unfortunately, always respect motorists nor the rules of the road. When I encounter a cyclist on the road, I slow down and struggle to pass safely without getting too close to them while not hitting the car to the left of me. Finally, I pass...and can be on my way...but then I come to a red light or stop sign...obey the law and stop...only for the cyclist to come flying past me...disregarding common courtesy and rules of the road. Then I have to work my way past him again. This scenario repeats itself daily. I rarely see a bike come to a slow roll, let alone a complete stop, as they are required to. This is, in my eyes, where the frustration from motorists comes from. If you want respect on the road, give respect on the road.
Matt Baume April 23, 2012 at 05:32 PM
No, cyclists do not need to move to the side. It's not safe for bikes to constantly veer in and out of traffic, and the law allows cyclists to take the full lane if the lane is not wide enough for a bike and a car to travel side by side. Cars are free to change lanes to pass. CVC 21202 (a)(3) http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d11/vc21202.htm
Chris Loos April 23, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Cyclists depend on their momentum. It takes a huge amount of effort to get a bike moving again compared to effort it takes to keep the bike moving. Stopping at every stop sign frankly makes biking infeasible as a mode of transportation. This is why many states have implemented "Idaho stop" laws. Try riding a bike sometime to get somewhere (as opposed to just riding for leisure) and you'll understand the cyclists viewpoint. It's a lot different than being in a car, where the engine is doing all that work to get the vehicle moving for you.
Yvette Aguirre April 23, 2012 at 08:34 PM
Momentum is not a term that is foreign to me. I understand this full well, Chris. Unfortunately, there are laws that cannot and should not be changed because they are in place for everyone's safety. All stop signs and stop lights must be respected by each individual on the road. The difficulty a stop might cause you does not exempt you from following the law.
Yvette Aguirre April 24, 2012 at 12:21 AM
I'm amazed that you're amazed that I object to cyclists running red lights. It's dangerous and illegal. I do not condone illegal behavior of motorists causing danger to cyclists either. And I wasn't defending myself, I was answering your question about why someone would waste gas on a grocery trip. In any case, I believe in a cyclist's right to safely use the roads. We need a solution, because what we have now is not working. Those "in charge" need to listen and not dismiss concerns of the public for whom they work.
Chris Loos April 24, 2012 at 12:50 AM
http://www.treehugger.com/bikes/why-cyclists-blow-through-stop-signs-its-physics.html "Take a simple stop sign. For a car driver, a stop sign is a minor inconvenience, merely requiring the driver to shift his foot from gas pedal to brake, perhaps change gears, and, of course, slow down. While car drivers simply sigh at the delay, bicyclists have a whole lot more at stake when they reach a stop sign. Bicyclists can work only so hard. The average rider is unlikely to produce more than 100 watts of propulsion power, or about what it takes to power a reading lamp. At 100 watts, the average cyclist can travel about 12.5 miles per hour on the level. With only 100 watts’ worth (compared to 100,000 watts generated by a 150-hp car engine), bicyclists must husband their power. Accelerating from stops is strenuous, particularly since most cyclists feel a compulsion to regain their former speed quickly. They also have to pedal hard to get the bike moving forward fast enough to avoid falling down. For example, on a street with a stop sign every 300 feet, calculations predict that the average speed of a 150-pound rider putting out 100 watts of power will diminish by about forty percent. If the bicyclist wants to maintain her average speed of 12.5 mph while still coming to a complete stop at each sign, she has to increase her output power to almost 500 watts. This is well beyond the ability of all but the most fit cyclists."
Susan R April 24, 2012 at 04:20 AM
Chris, when you work full time and have a family there is little to no time available for anything. Grocery store trips must be done as quickly as possible because after work there is very little time left for shopping, cooking and anything else. I do agree with you that it is difficult for bicyclist to stop a bicycle at stop or red lights. I understand why do not stop and as long as you can do it safely that is fine with me. But I too am concerned with safety. If you run a stop sign or red light and a motorist hits you accidently their auto insurance will NOT pay for your medical bills because the accident is your fault. So, make sure if you do not stop that the street is ABSOLUTELY clear from traffic. Be Safe.
Susan R April 24, 2012 at 04:49 AM
Chris, I love your web site. I found a lot of information about noise, which is my issue. http://www.treehugger.com/search/?cx=017401606067716418337%3Abtpggki1yw8&cof=FORID%3A11&q=noise&sa=Search Now let's see those that do not want to admit that noise is a factor in everyday life say something bad or mean about the articles and the website you support.
Susan R April 24, 2012 at 04:55 AM
I love this link too. http://www.treehugger.com/clean-technology/in-us-cutting-carbon-and-noise-pollution-go-hand-in-hand.html

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