politics


Thanks to Illuminate LA’s posting of a complete audio recording of the landmark City Council Transportation Committee’s bike-themed meeting last Friday, I was able to catch up on all that transpired. While it sounds as if forward progress is being made on the whole there was also a share of bureaucratic laterals launched in the form of 60-day continuances to investigate and produce feasibility studies on various topics.

It’s a seemingly never-ending process that’s a necessary aspect of government, but it’s one that rarely fails to wear me out.

Speaking of wearing me out, I was particularly miffed by the LADOT’s Michelle Mowry when commenting on the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights (CBOR) created by members of the Bike Writers Collective, and already endorsed by several neighborhood councils.

Here’s a transcription of what Mowry first had to say about the document (which I might add the representative city attorney’s office present at the meeting demeaned as “a rather long laundry list of matters”):

“All the rights included in the twelve items listed in the Bicyclists’ [sic] Bill of Rights are protected in some way, shape or form already. Some of them are federally protected. Some are state protected.”

Now I know Mowry is a proponent of cycling. I know in her otherwise bureaucratic heart she wants cycling issues in Los Angeles addressed and advanced. But I can’t help but take issue with her first comment that essentially dismisses the rights as being redundant because of certain existing protections. The thing is, her waving of uncited federal and state statutes in such a “been there, done that” way, not only misses the point of the CBOR, it belittles what I believe the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights hopes to achieve.

Mowry may understand there’s legal repetition in the words, but what she isn’t getting is that it’s more than being about the vowels and consonants. It’s about the need in this bike-unfriendly place to assert our rights and have them recognized in a document that is as affirmative as it is symbolic.

It’s not that I don’t care that the United States or California constitutions — or the Ten Commandments for that matter —  might have my rights as a cylist covered under some overarching umbrella. It’s that I care more and can be greater vested in action that can be taken on a local level and that will have a direct impact on an increase of awareness and safety on the streets where I ride.

Susan left the house about 6:40 a.m. to head over to the polling place and get near the front of any line forming. I finished up morning chores and got a move on about 6:55, finding Susan about 10 back in a line of at least 25 that cheered when a polling place worker came out and enthusiastically announced “The polling place is open!”

Inside, the same young man expressed his excitement at how many people were here so early. And indeed, in my history of voting I’m pretty sure I’ve never had to wait in a line of more than four or five people — and never outside.

When we walked out a few minutes later I counted 30 people queued up.

Awesome.

So this morning I’m reading that our long national West Hollywood nightmare is over. Apparently the Orange Grove Avenue homeowners who, under the guise of Halloween decorations and the protection of the First Amendment, costumed a mannequin to represent Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin that they then hung by the neck from their roof, have finally caved in to pressure from neighbors and elected officials and cut her down.

Was it a tasteless display lacking in all propriety? Absolutely.

Did I think it needed to be taken down? Well, I’m certainly not sorry to see it gone as it stood — er, hung — but had the people responsible been a little less angry and a little more creative, not only would Palin still be aloft, but she would never ever ever have garnered the overblown exposure and outcry.

It would have been a simple compromise really — especially since part of the installation includes another mannequin representing John McCain emerging out of a fake-flame engulfed chimney above her. Just remove the noose and fashion the rope as strings dangling from a crosspiece in McCain’s hands down to Palin’s arms. And voila: a political statement of puppet and puppetmaster, with none of the deplorable implications of violence and death. I guarantee you no one but the neighbors and passers-by would have known about it. FTW.

The other day I saw a bumper sticker that read “08 Obama” and it got me to mulling a variational combining the two elements that stayed in my mind until I finally got it out of my gray matter this morning and spent some time goofing a bit in Photoshop instead of doing my mornin’ chores (click for biggerness):

The Memorial Day weekend was rolling strong and steady. Dodger game Friday. Errands and “Indiana Jones” Saturday. Then Sunday Susan and I rose early to drive out the 5 to the 126 all the way out to San Buenaventura to explore the town a bit and ride bikes along the awesome Ventura River Trail and back. I’m not one to rave about fastfood burgers but on the drive back home we stopped at Burger King and I couldn’t get enough of their new Angus Steakburger. Yumma.

We got back around 4 p.m. and a couple hours later I punched eight-year-old bruises watching Recount on HBO and yesterday was pretty much a bust in that I put out the flag and then was pretty much grumbling and grousing around the house rather than out on my bike riding out to Los Angeles National Cemetery and back as planned.

I managed to be somewhat productive. I got laundry done. I patched a flat on my mountain bike. I broke up and green-binned the quartet of fallen palm fronds that for whatever reason the gardeners didn’t touch. I cleaned up my singlespeeder — I even carved out a patch to plant the sunflower seeds I received last week as part of the Great Sunflower Project. Heck I also managed a late-inning sweep up of the backyard before Susan grilled us up a fine pair of porterhouses and we enjoyed Richard Widmark, Thelma Ritter and Jean Peters (and a young Richard Kiley!) in the highly recommendable 1953 Sam Fuller noir classic Pickup On South Street.

So it’s not like I just sat on my hands in some sort of paralyzed state as the World’s Angriest and Past-Dwelling Democrat, but the movie definitely took the wind out of my sails bringing back some bad memories on yesterday’s Memorial Day.

Maybe not, but this cyclist makes some noise about it.

My friend Stephen Box, tireless cyclist and cycling advocate and founder of the Bike Writers Collective (BWC), attended what he related the next day on the LAist blog to be something of a contentious March 18 meeting of the L.A. Transportation Committee regarding Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s motion to close a Ballona Creek Bikeway access gate at Culver Drive west of Sawtelle. Rosendahl put in the request in response to residents’ complaints that it made their adjacent neighborhood more vulnerable to crime.

When BWC member Eric Richardson brought the proprosal to the collective’s attention the day before the meeting, its members including myself, were decidedly put out by what we considered to be a short-sighted and ineffective solution that will remove the bikeway from its community far more than it will reduce crime. At the same time it was also understood that one gate is something of a little battle to pick. But as one gate’s closure can lead to another and another, I took immediate action the evening of March 17 to scope out the section of bikeway in question, with an eye towards identifying the various access points available and distances in between them.

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Entering the bikeway eastbound at the entrance from Inglewood Avenue the first somewhat discreet access I found was a third of a mile away at Coolidge Avenue pictured below, where Culver Slauson Park is located. I then traveled under the 405 Freeway overpass to the gate Rosendahl wants closed at the meeting of Culver Drive and Purdue Avenue.

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The distance from Coolidge Avenue to Purdue Avenue is a fifth of a mile. In other words, even if one subscribes to the belief that locking a gate will successfully eliminate any criminal element present from accessing or escaping the adjacent area, it is readily negated by the fact that there’s another opening just 1,000 feet away.

Next, let’s take a look at the Culver Drive gate and immediate fencing and see why even Rosendahl’s motion succeeds and the gate is shackled it will have little of its intended effect.

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As pictured above, the material is simple chain link. On top of that the gate is about five feet all. The fencing that extends east and west of the gate is just as short but its built up from a concrete footing to give it a total height of about six feet. As a barrier this offers little in the way of security. Not only can the chain link be cut but with the concrete base serving as a boost step the fence is basically ready to be climbed over and quickly by any properly motivated hoodlums.

So what’s the solution? Do we close the Coolidge Avenue gate, too? Or perhaps do we spend money the city doesn’t have to increase the Culver Drive gate’s height? Surprisingly enough you can see in the following picture this has already happened on Culver Drive another fifth of a mile upstream beyond Sawtelle Boulevard at Beloit Avenue.

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Beyond the noticeable difference in height between this fencing and gate along Culver Drive east of Sawtelle and the one seen in the previous image, it’s also very important to note that the gate is already closed and locked. This was not just a one-day occurrence. It was shackled shut when this picture was taken March 17, as well as when I rode by it on the 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st. While I’m not privy to the circumstances regarding its closure, it’s not hard to imagine the residents of these streets perhaps lobbying for it for the same reason as their neighbors on the other side of Sawtelle are doing now.

But wait, there’s more! A tenth of a mile eastward and one comes to the inexplicably locked gates of the bikeway exit into the southbound lanes of Sepulveda Boulevard.

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Entering and exiting has been denied every day this week as well. So unless one is willing to risk clambering over the upended shopping cart seen at the left of the frame (placed there perhaps by some enterprising cyclist or pedestrian or gangmember), in order to exit the bikeway you’ll have to travel under the Sepulveda Boulevard overpass and double back to the street an additional third of a mile.

For the healthy walker, jogger or bike rider this is no big deal. But let’s take a look at the potential of a worst-case scenario that involves someone injured on the bikeway in the vicinity of Sawtelle. Whereas there should be two methods of egress available to the injured person – at Beloit Avenue and Purdue Avenue – Beloit isn’t and now an exit at Purdue is in danger of disappearing. Furthermore, the only options are for the injured person to somehow get all the way under Sepulveda, go under the overpass and double back to the entrance, or make it the other direction to Coolidge Avenue.

And what if it’s a matter of emergency personnel trying to assist an incapacitated person at that point on the bikeway. It isn’t hard to imagine the potential delays that could occur if paramedics are prevented from coming to someone’s aid because locked gates block there way and force them in opposite directions and greater distances to gain entry.

While that might seem overdramatic or an exaggeration, it all goes to the matter of accessibility and whether we want to allow this important resource to be further separated from the community it serves, under the false pretense of protecting it.

I certainly can empathize with the citizens that Stephen reported on who at the meeting expressed fear over the present conditions, and I think Councilman Rosendahl is absolutely obligated to find a way to protect them. But he should redirect his sights away from the easy target he’s focused on and instead explore proactive opportunities that can be used to reduce the level of crime purported to exist there.

With two access points already locked down, closing what would be a third in a row to the Ballona Creek Bikeway is not one of those opportunities.

UPDATED (03.25): Coincidence? I think not. On my way in to work after a doctor’s appointment yesterday afternoon I exited the bikepath accessway to the northbound lanes of Sepulveda Boulevard and found the previously locked gate to/from the southbound lanes open:

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Not completely visible about a tenth of a mile beyond it is the still-shackled gate at Beloit Avenue and Culver Drive.

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OK, so what you’re seeing in the crap photo above is the back of a pick-up truck driven by a troop-supporting member of the Republican Party of San Diego County (the blurry RSD sticker in the upper right of the rear window tells us so) that I snapped while driving south on Crenshaw Boulevard on the way to work earlier this week. What you’re not seeing at all (and I’m pissed I couldn’t get a decent shot through my dirty windshield while moving at 40mph) is twofold:

1) Evidence that presidential candidate John McCain has apparently gained a foothold with the ESL vote, and

2) How not to display a hand-lettered candidate support sign that could have benefited from being proofread.

First off, the sign (the shape of which can be vaguely made out centered in the campershell window and thus creating a blindspot and being illegal) is posted on the inside of the tinted glass, enhancing it’s almost absolute inability to be read. Second, the enthusiastic writer of the sign — crafted from the side of a cardboard box and written upon with dark ink — demonstrates a marked lack of command of the English language by his use of prepositions.

Instead of going with the more traditional “for,” this McCainiac went with:

MCCAIN
ON
PRESIDENT

With support like that McCain’s a shoe-in. By sure.

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