What interested me in particular during last Tuesday's meeting was a little sequence that occurred while one of the city's environmental consultants was describing the parameters that trigger CEQA reviews and occasionally necessitate an Environmental Impact Report. (CEQA is the Californa Environmental Quality Act.)
Among these parameters are Level of Service changes--what occurs when, say, a bike path takes away a motor vehicle lane, or motor vehicle parking, and the road czan no longer accommodate as many cars.
It is assumed that only cars carry passengers about the city, and that the number of cars being driven will never drop. Mode switching to transit or bicycling is never counted. Replacing one car parking space with a corral that can hold twelve bicycles does not increase customer parking in a commercial zone.
Such are the assumptions.
At one point I asked why we couldn't refer to data from other cities that have installed bike lanes and bike corrals and gathered data that shows these assumptions to be, in fact, wrong.
The answer (which I've heard before) is that "Los Angeles is different from" San Francisco, or Toronto, or Groningen, or even congested New York (where pedestrianisation and bike lanes have improved safety, boosted retail receipts, and even in most cases improved the flow of motor traffic!).
Well, it's not that different, but they keep telling us it is, as an excuse not to look at truly pertinent data that would require them to think outside the business-as-usual box.
A little while later, the same (very nice, by the way) consultant and the DOT's engineers were talking about the Synchros program and the algorithm it uses to predict Level of Service changes. So I raised my hand again (okay, I butted in as usual) and asked, oh-so-sweetly, where the data had been gathered that the algorithm used to make these predictions.
"Oh, it came from nineteen Midwestern towns...."
And so I asked again, "And how are these nineteen Midwestern towns any more similar to Los Angeles than Toronto?"
The answer, of course, was that they were not.
And that is the sort of thing we're up against here in Los Angeles. And probably in your city too.
Now to be fair, LADOT and Planning are in the process of slowly moving over to calculations based on Multi-Modal Level of Service, which will include throughput generated by bicycles and transit as well as cars, and thus provide more realistic predictions.
But they haven't done so yet. And I wonder how many other outdated, inadequate, or simply biased assumptions are built into the complex calculations city departments use to justify building--or not building!--bicycle infrastructure.
Go to your local planning meetings, my friends. And ask the right questions!
You won't fix these things right away, but you've got to start sometime.