Bike Summit: First Encounter

Last weekend, I went to a Bike Summit in beautiful downtown LA.

I saw, “beautiful”, because it reminded me of any other East Coast City. Heck the weather was the same as well–at least for a late fall or early spring.

There is so much to cover regarding this summit so I’m going to break this up into multiple posts.

One of the first people I spoke with was from the Culver City Bike Coalition.

LA County has 88 cities, so the goal is to make a coalition for each city. So far there are about a dozen.

We saw the fruits of their labor in Santa Monica a couple of months ago with all the new bike racks, lanes, and the diverse riders.

Culver City seems to be organizing as well.

The Culver City rep, Steve, had some great advice for
Safe Routes to School. I’m going to link to this for now, but I’ll have more details on this excellent program later.

As for now, he wanted to have a safe route near his home, but the whole thing got torpedoed by one, old crochety guy. It seems like this is always the case.

You can have thousands of letters against a freeway, none for it, and still get a freeway. On the other hand, any tiny change which would actually save the lives of people seems to be subject to the whims of every single person on the planet who can pen a letter in English.

There’s definitely still a bias towards the dubious goal of endless traffic flow for no other purpose.

So the take home message from this campaign is to get the message our first.

That is, Mr. Crotchety made up nonsense about the changes and posted it on flyers. If the Safe Routes people had struck first with flyers then they could have won.

The second message is to compromise.

Usually, the purpose of a person to get something changed is fear and ego. You can reduce both by bringing such clueless busy bodies into the process early.

If they had made a single street two way instead of one way, this guy would have had no objection to the plan.

Instead of compromising, though, the Safe Routes people suggested that Mr. Crotchety to speak directly to the city to have that single piece changed. This is a mistake because if you let anyone talk to the city, they will go off message.

There’s no way we are all experts in traffic planning just because we drive a car or own a house. Thus, we should buffer the complaints, take them seriously, but don’t allow the person to totally object. Give the person a good feeling and make minor changes.

Cities actually like bike organizations to be buffers for complaints because they give people political cover which allows them to take bigger risks. Also, they would prefer to speak with one group with one plan rather than have to try to make a lot of people happy.

Remember, we can’t even agree, with friends, on pizza toppings. In the selfish world of traffic planning, there’s no way we are going to make everyone happy with a plan.

However, once a plan is put into place, people are usually happy with a people-centric design.

Go figure.

Thanks to Steve to give us the benefit of hindsight. They tried their best to get a better route to the school and had no way they’d be blind-sided by Mr. Crotchety. I’m sure that with their experience, they’ll win this one in the future.


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