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How Strong is the Opposition to Bike Lanes—and Where is it Coming From?

The resistance so far appears to be much less than a movement.

This past Monday, Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council members began receiving e-mails opposing the Department of Transportation’s plans to install bicycle lanes on Colorado Boulevard.

Each of the e-mails was copied to the same number of city officials, including the mayor and City Council members José Huizar, Eric Garcetti and Tom LaBonge. The e-mails were curious in one other respect: Each one had an identical form-letter text.

‘Save the Lanes’—For Cars

Late Tuesday, the ERNC received 12 e-mails opposing bike lanes, each with the same subject header: “SAVE THE LANES! Keep NELA Traffic Moving!” Eleven of the e-mails had a single, scanned and hand-signed form letter attached from workers at Century 21 Arroyo Seco at 5810 York Blvd., ERNC Vice President David Greene said, adding that the vast majority of the feedback the ERNC has got so far supports bike lanes.

The 12th e-mail had nine scanned and hand-signed form letters attached (see PDF). Eight of the form letters were from individuals who listed the address of a single building in Highland Park—5330 N. Figueroa St.—while one letter carried a York Boulevard address. Each of the e-mails read:

I’m disappointed to hear that L.A. is considering removing our auto lanes for bike lanes. I urge you to save the Auto lanes on Colorado and North Figueroa and replace the ones removed last October from York Boulevard.

At a recent HHPNC meeting, D.O.T. bike lane planning staff tipped their hand admitting that they secretly fear huge congestion problems when they said they cant do a temporary lane block off demonstration because, “… irate drivers will just get out of their cars and move the traffic cones.” They know how bad it will be, and how mad drivers will be.

Secondly, in the draft EIR for the bike plan, they [sic] only anticipated delays at three intersections along North Figueroa were studied. When planning staff were alerted to the omission of the Cold Line crossing as well as the intersections of North Figueroa and Meridian, both of which are well-known traffic bottlenecks, they displayed a classic “deer in the headlights look.” They knew of the potential for huge delays and either was [sic] negligent in their study or purposely omitted these intersections along with AVE. 43, 52 and 57, all well known for their rush hour congestion. Also, Colorado is often called upon as the ONLY alternate when the 134 freeway is blocked.

Our boulevards in Northeast L.A. are old and narrow and cannot afford to loose [sic] any auto lanes to the exclusive use of bicycle lanes. Our commuter time and traffic stress should not be ballooned by less than 1% of minority commuters who often are ill-mannered and traffic scofflaws.

Galco’s Connection

Further, each of the e-mails was sent from an e-mail address (customerservice@sodapopstop.com) associated with Galco’s Soda Pop Stop on York Boulevard. The signature on the first e-mail was particularly eye-catching. Clearly legible, it read: Adam Bray-Ali.

Not only is “Bray-Ali” an uncommon name, but anyone plugged into the bicycling world of Northeast L.A. immediately knows just who Adam Bray-Ali is: The older brother of Josef Bray-Ali, co-founder of The Flying Pigeon, a bicycle shop on Figueroa Street.

To see Bray-Ali’s signature on what is supposed to be an anti-bike petition is to instantly conclude that the signature might be a forgery. After all, the Bray-Ali brothers are to local bicycling what Muhammad Ali was once to world boxing.

So when Patch called Adam Bray-Ali, it was a surprise—initially not a very pleasant one—to learn that the signature was indeed his. (Even his brother Josef was surprised. "I just can't see this will have any net effect other than to further divide people on the issue," Josef said of the efforts of anti-bike lanes proponents to reverse the city's plans to create bike lanes on Colorado and Figueroa as part of the Los Angeles Master Bike Plan.)

It turned out, however, that Adam had signed the petition at the request of John Nese, the owner of Galco’s, who is a staunch opponent of removing traffic lanes for bike lanes. “I signed the petition not because I strongly believe in it but because it’s supported by an individual whom I admire,” Adam told Patch Friday.

“I think bike lanes in general are going to be an exceptional asset to the neighborhood,” Adam said, adding: “But my views are much more nuanced than those of the typical supporter of bike lanes.”

When Patch called Nese on Friday, he denied having any knowledge of Adam’s signature on the petition. “If you say Adam Bray-Ali signed it, you know more than I do,” he said.

Nese did confirm, however, that the form-letter petitions to city and neighborhood council officials were sent from his store’s e-mail address. But he denied he had any hand in directly e-mailing them.

“We made our ‘thing’ available to whoever wanted to send it [the petitions] out,” he said before hanging up the phone.

Boulevard Sentinel Connection

The e-mailed petitions all had a “Bcc” (Blind Carbon Copy) line to an e-mail address that read: Boulevardsentinel@gmail.com, presumably the e-mail contact for the Boulevard Sentinel newspaper published and edited by Eagle Rock native Tom Topping. 

Topping is noted for his opposition to bike lanes. The April print issue of his newspaper, for example, has a poll on whether readers favor or oppose retaining vehicular traffic lanes.

“Auto traffic lanes have been removed on York Boulevard to make way for bicycle lanes” the poll starts out by saying. “Plans to do the same on Colorado Boulevard and North Figueroa are in progress. Did anyone ask you what you thought?”

In the online version of the Boulevard Sentinel, Topping gives the latest results from his evidently NELA-wide poll: Of the 568 votes or signed petitions received, 565 respondents favor auto lanes, as opposed to bike lanes—“about double the number the Eagle Rock Association recently bragged about collecting. (They claimed victory for “281 respondents” HA!).”

What Topping's poll results don’t say is that, TERA did not commission any poll on bike lanes. Rather, it was the “Take Back the Boulevard” initiative regarding Colorado Boulevard that did. (TERA president Bob Gotham is chair of the TBTB steering committee, which might have been the source of the confusion.) Further, of the roughly 280 responses that favored bike lanes in the TBTB poll, some 80 percent were from people who self-identified as Eagle Rock residents, while about 5 percent were from people who said they work but don't live in Eagle Rock, said Jeff Jacobberger, a Take Back the Boulevard consultant.

“It is not clear to me how Mr. Topping has been able to identify which respondents oppose bike lanes on Colorado vs. Figueroa, as he didn’t ask that question,” Jacobberger pointed out. “In my experience, it would highly unusual for any significant number of respondents to ‘write in’ responses distinguishing between the two streets.”

Besides, said Jacobberger, the Boulevard Sentinel is conducting a classic “push” poll, in which respondents are presented with “biased information” before being asked their opinion.

“Mr. Topping states that the plans for bike lanes on Colorado Boulevard are the ‘same’ as the existing configuration of York,” Jacobberger said, alluding to a crucial difference between the two boulevards: York has one through travel lane in each direction, while the plans for Colorado call for maintaining at least two travel lanes, plus right-and left-turn pockets, along all but the narrowest portions of Colorado.

“I am unable to find an accurate description of the Colorado bike lane proposal in the Boulevard Sentinel,” Jacobberger said. “How many people say they are opposed to bike lanes on Colorado because they think—inaccurately—that Colorado will be reduced to one lane in each direction?”

Patch called the Boulevard Sentinel for a comment and is awaiting a response.

Correction: The initial version of this article quoted Adam Bray-Ali as saying in an interview with Patch that he manages the property on 5330 N. Figueroa St., which John Nese owns. According to Bray-Ali, he does not manage the property on 5330 N. Figueroa St., where his office is based, and Nese does not own that building. Further, says Bray-Ali, he does not manage any properties for Nese, although some of his friends do, and he has known Nese for 15-plus years.

Correction Update: The above article made an incorrect assertion that Galco’s owner John Nese owns the property on 5330 N. Figueroa St. He does not own that property—nor any other that readers might infer from reading this story. Further, this is to reiterate that Adam Bray-Ali does not work with—or for—John Nese. Finally, John Nese wishes to clarify two points: First, he is not against bike lanes, as the article might have implied. He is, in fact, in favor of keeping auto lanes. And second, John Nese wishes to state that he did not sign up anybody for the petitions referred to in the article. In his words, he simply “dropped the petitions off.”

Hart Fisher May 06, 2013 at 12:21 AM
You got it Billy. No one on the bike issues is dealing with the truth, none of this is about bikes. It's about the $55,000 per mile that's going to be spent on putting in the bike lanes that the city council folks want their piece of and their cronies lined up for the easy city contract. They want to put in 1600 miles into the LA county area & it's all about the money to do it. It's federal $$$ and the self centered parasites who want it have no care about what happens to the neighborhood. You should see the twists they make in their logic when you suggest a safer route for their lanes that do not include paint on the ground. It's funny, yet it's not. Keep up the great logic Billy Biker. Follow the money.
Billy Biker May 06, 2013 at 03:18 AM
BOB G imagine this, You are driving west on Colorado, approaching, lets say Argus. The light is green and you are going to turn right, that is UP Argus. THere is a buffered bike lane along the road with cars parked all along. Now imagine there is a 12 year old riding his bike in the buffered bike lanes, hidden byhidn the row of parked cars, so you dont see him. And the 12 year old cannot see your blinker for turning right, up Argus,. That stretch of Colorado has a downhill slant, and that 12 year old is going at a decent clip, maybe 20 mph. You go past the last car, and begin to cut over to make your right turn, and out from behind the parked cars, here comes that 12 year old, in the lane he is supposed to be safe in. If you cant see the recipe for disaster that this is then there is no rational debate to be had here. If ANY pro bike lane advocate cannot see this very simple recipe for disaster then what is the use of even debating the subject. This is not just some irrational description of a oen in a million chance happening. And the same goes for an adult riding that bike too, but the adult will probably ge going even faster than the kid. Just out of curiostiy, how many of you bike lane supporters are goint to attend this kids funeral?
Billy Biker May 06, 2013 at 04:14 AM
Hart, Have you also noticed all the comparisons to Glendaly and Pasadena. How well the businesses on Colorado are doing with only two lanes? But have you also noticed how they NEVER mention the FACT that there are NO BIKE LANES in Pasadena or Glendale. All of thei business succcess, and NO BIKE LANES. I now agree with ALL the bike lane supporters, we should be just like Glendale and Pasadena, and have NO BIKE LANES on Colorado Bl. What does make those areas successful is AMPLE PARKING FOR AUTOMOBILES. Thats how you get people from outside of town to come here to spend money. How may bikers are going to come from out of town to spend money here? LOL virtually ZERO. How many more would come if they had someplace to park,,,,well lets use the bike lane advocate argument, lets try it an see. LOL Of course we did try it and can see what has happened, York is a joke and the city is now looking into how to address the SAFEY problems that have arisen on the side streets to York, as S. Martinez provided a link for on another thread. Thank you S., for those links regarding the increased SAFETY PROBLEMS the bike lanes on York have casused, it was very helpful. Although you keep repeating that York is safer, I wish you would point out everytime you repeat that line, you would also repeat the part about the INCREASE IN SAFETY PROBLEMS that you provided the link for on the other thread. York might be safer, but the surrounding reidential streets are NOT!!
Billy Biker May 06, 2013 at 04:25 AM
And as S. Martinez has pointed out, the city is looking into fixing the SAFETY PROBLEMS caused by the bike lanes on York, but the money to fix these SAFETY RPOBLEMS caused by the bike lanes cannot come out of the bike lane, set aside money. The SAFETY FIXING money must come from the general fund, so there is no plan to currently fix the SAFETY ISSUES in the residential neighborhoods directly adjacent to the bike lane. Hart, cant you just see them all now,,,how do we address the SAFETY ISSUES that the city has already identified are directly related to the bike lanes? How can we justify causing a residential neighborhood, with tons of kids being less safe in order to maintain a bike lane on a street where even today more people ride on the sidewalk. How can we fustify letting this street remain as UNSAFE as we have made it, while calling for more lanes that will have the same effect on the neighboring streets. And the city is not only calling Meridian less safe, but also Strathern, just north of Meridian. Again, thank you S. Martinez for prividing the lind from the city detailing the increase of SAFETY PROBLEMS on these residential streets, full of kids, many of whom walk to school during the peak times when the SAFETY of these streets has been compromised most, as a direct result of the York Bl., bike lanes.
Jimmy Iaei May 07, 2013 at 12:18 AM
This is really about the caretaker mentality. These hipsters and other trendies want their version of life to prevail regardless of who it affects. The future where everyone rides bikes, recycles, doesn't use plastic bags, doesn't eat red meat, works at home, cares for abandoned pit bulls in their back yard, and other things they think make for their own quality of life. No strip malls, no billboards, no parking, no smoking (except pot), no 7-11's, no auto repair shops, turn the streets into parks kind of mentality. Because they are so smart it impossible for them to visualize anyone not seeing the light of truth and disagreeing. They forget that everything has a consequence and what makes better for some is not better for all. They forget that some people have jobs, like their cars, and don't have time to take tools one at a time to the jobsite on a bike. Does everyone of these bike lane advocates actually live and commute on a bike? And if they do where are they?

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