DWP & LaBonge To Festival of Lights Cyclists: LOSERS!

I’ve been stewing over this since reading it in yesterday’s L.A. Times. Between the latter part of November and the end of December every year the DWP’s Festival of Lights shines in Griffith Park in all its kitschy kooky glory. And every year the traffic congestion and emissions spew resulting from people clogging neighboring streets and freeways waiting for upwards of an hour or more in their idling vehicles to crawl along the mile-long exhibit of illumination drives everyone in the area crazy.

Flash backward with me a bit. Were bikes welcome for the first eight or so years? Oh hell nah: those blasted contraptions and the freaks that ride them had been categorically banned for the cyclists own safety. Never mind that Crystal Springs Drive where the fest happens is a public street with a striped bike lane that cyclists have every right to traverse, and never mind that the flow of traffic past the lights moves at a glacial pace than that of, say, Sepulveda Boulevard up through West LA where bikes and cars must also co-exist; the bastard authorities were clear in their unlawful enforcement: No Bikes Allowed!

It was finally in 2004 when some pesky cycling advocates wrote WTF letters to the DWP and the Parks & Recreation Dept. pointing out that — DUH! — prohibiting cyclists from accessing a public street is unlawful and/or fucking fascist. And then a funny thing happened: the DWP and the Park & Recs said ya know, you’re right!

But instead of opening things up to us two-wheelers there was still the smooth-brained belief that bikes and cars can’t coexist — even when the cars are relegated to traveling at sub 5 mph speeds — and so some dimrod came up with an alternative: For one night and one night only instead of bikes being banned and cars allowed, they’d reverse that order. And since that was better than nothing the first bike night was born and was at best a modest success, drawing perhaps 50 cyclists, including me.

Even if it failed to draw big numbers, it proved to be an awesome and unique way to experience the sights and sounds of the fest’s scenery. Then in 2005 and again last year bike-loving Councilman Tom LaBonge grabbed the reigns and promoted it a bit and its popularity grew. And each year at some sort of makeshift podium LaBonge and some DWP suit step up to the mic and say something blowy and showy about working hard to bring more bike nights to the festival next year! This is inevitably and enthusiastically greeted with whoops and hollers and hearty rounds of applause.

And inevitably nothing changes the next year.

Well for 2007, in response to increasing calls of bullshit in regards to the decidedly anti-green gridlock created each night by the season-long event, the DWP and LaBonge have gotten together and come up with an additional five non-car nights. Yay? Nay. See the trouble is they’re pedestrian-only nights. So while cars aren’t allowed — which is good — neither are bikes, which is crap.

Cyclists still have their single, solitary token two hours to roll through the light show — November 19, from 6-8 p.m. (and if I may add: that early date is about as holiday festive as a kick in the ass). Then it’s walkers who’ll rule from November 21-25. From then to the end of 2007 it’s carscarscarscarscarscars.

But here’s the rub see: pedestrians are allowed during bike night and every car night. Anyone wishing to do so can park in the L.A. Zoo lot to the north or down near the carousel and playground at the south end, and walk the length and back along the dirt path between the street and the golf course.

So my point is why in aaaaaaaall of LaBonge’s pro-bike positioning and alleged awareness of increasing the access bikes have to the event didn’t he think to make those five pedestrian-only nights available to cyclists, too? Because he’s first and foremost a short-attention-span pa-lee-tee-shun who’s seemingly sincere appreciation of bicycling as an alternate transit method gets buried below the shuck and jive on the surface.

Of course I sent his office an email basically taking him to task for such an oversight, but if it’s like any of the past emails I’ve sent him it’ll get routed to some sub-basement droneflack — if not his spam folder.

UPDATED (8:00 a.m.): There’s a fair number of folks who chose to boycott riding in the fest’s bike night because of the baseless discrimination the event’s administrators and our politicians continue to show cyclists. I can understand those who don’t, but I think it’s counter-productive — which is why, even though it’s an annual source of frustration for me, I make it a point to be a part of the increasing numbers of cyclists who participate each year (plus, like I said before: it’s a fun thing to do). The more the merrier and eventually the more nights will become available to us.