Are You Bike-Friendly? CD14's Jose Huizar Responds

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 is the primary election for important City Council seats in the City of Los Angeles. LACBC invited all candidates to share their perspectives on bicycling and transportation with our members and supporters. While LACBC does not endorse candidates, we encourage you to consider these responses before casting your vote on March 3rd.

Below are responses from current CD14 Councilmember and Council District 14 candidate Jose Huizar.

All candidate responses are available here: http://la-bike.org/vote

1. Please share a memory involving a bicycle that has had a lasting effect on you (whether or not you were the one on the bicycle).

When I was a boy I had a paper route where I delivered the Rafu Shimpo newspaper and I would ride over the 1St Street bridge on my bicycle from Boyle Heights into Little Tokyo to pick up papers and deliver them to Japanese families in Boyle Heights. And while, like any kid, I enjoyed riding my bike with friends, that experience of having a job that depended on a bike was one I’ll never forget. We didn’t have bike lanes back then, so it could be a little scary sometimes. I’ve always had an appreciation for the usefulness of bicycles and the need for increased safety.

2. Approximately 200 people are killed in traffic in the City of Los Angeles every year, about half of whom were walking or biking. In September, the Department of Transportation released a new strategic plan Great Streets for Los Angeles, including the ambitious goal to eliminate all traffic fatalities in the city by 2025 (“Vision Zero”). Many of the projects designed to improve safety will also slow vehicle speeds or reduce capacity, sometimes on major streets. Do you support Vision Zero? How would you evaluate a project that increases delay for drivers in order to make a street safer for walking and biking?

Safety should always be the fundamental priority in any street design. That goes for the safety of automobile drivers, as well as the safety of pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders. A design that results in a safer street for walking and biking usually means a safer street for automobile drivers, too. I think my work clearly shows I have a record of bringing these types of improvements to Council District 14, and we are already supporting Vision Zero policies.

When I look at any street improvement in Council District 14, I try to look at it holistically – Others might be focused on one project, like bike lanes, or re-striping a street, but my approach has always been, what else does this street need? What else can we do to do all things: increase safety, increase foot and bike traffic, support local businesses, add parklets, parks or public art and space and create a destination that people are drawn too? And what I have found is there are benefits to traffic calming that actually go beyond safety.

When you add some traffic calming amenities like bike lanes it can allow you to build more crosswalks, which is what occurred on Colorado Blvd. in Eagle Rock. Without the bike lanes, DOT would not let us add two new crosswalks because automobiles regularly sped down that street and were moving too fast for DOT to sign off on adding crosswalks on a six-lane street. There was an incident a few years back where young people lost their lives in a car accident and my office had received literally hundreds of complaints about speeding on Colorado and that was the impetus to improve that street.

My office’s “all things considered” model has been very successful in improving the main thoroughfares in Council District 14 – from Broadway and Spring Street in Downtown, to the 1st Street Arts Corridor in Boyle Heights, Huntington Drive and Valley Blvd. in El Sereno, York Blvd. in Highland Park and Colorado Blvd. in Eagle Rock – we have worked with local organizations and residents to improve all these corridors.

All this being said, considerations of potential delays on any street must be made on a case-by case basis and the significance of any delay and whether it would involve unintended consequences, including reducing safety elsewhere. I am a strong believer in public comment and discussion on major street improvements. Whether required by an EIR or not, they have to happen and I always encourage all sides to come and speak and be heard. For me, public discussion is important and we need to hear from all sides before making any decision.

But again, before I discuss anything in a street design, or re-design, safety is the first consideration for that discussion, and it should always be.

3. The Department of City Planning is in the process of updating the City’s Mobility Plan for the first time in decades. Among many exciting components, the plan calls for a citywide network of protected bike lanes--designed for people ages 8 to 80--called the “Bicycle Enhanced Network” or BEN. Many of these BEN projects will require reallocating either a traffic lane or parking lane in order to construct the bicycle facility. Do you believe making Los Angeles a city where everyone feels comfortable riding a bike on the street is worthwhile? How would you approach the tradeoffs inherent to such a project?

Again, my approach to improving the streets in Council District 14 is to use a holistic approach and answer as many needs as possible. To increase pedestrian use, my office created a Master Streetscape Plan on Broadway that took away lanes of traffic yet created the largest plaza space and Road Diet in the City – 10 blocks long. There are certainly trade-offs and you have to consider all factors on a case-by-case basis but I support BEN – again, community input is key but I believe that is a conversation that needs to occur.

4. In 2011, the City Council unanimously adopted the Bicycle Plan proposing a comprehensive 1,600-mile bikeway network across the City. What steps would you take to ensure implementation of Bicycle Plan projects in your district? Are there any specific projects in the Plan you would prioritize? To what extent would you feel obligated to implement a plan adopted by your predecessor?

I have a strong track record of implementing the bicycle plan projects in my district – from Boyle Heights to El Sereno to Northeast Los Angeles and Downtown Los Angeles I have worked to implement key elements, and beyond, of the plan. The one I'm most looking forward to is the MyFigueroa Project in Downtown Los Angeles. One because it really marries all modes of transportation: auto, bus, pedestrian and bikes and also because Mayor Garcetti, Councilmember Price and I worked out all of the lingering issues holding the project back, and we had a lot of public discussion in the PLUM committee that I chair.

5. (CD14 only) Bike lanes are currently proposed for all of the following streets prioritized by the Bicycle Plan. All of these projects involve a “road diet” to make the street safer for walking, biking and driving. Which of these projects are you prepared to support at this time? Please feel free to share any thoughts about specific projects.

  • Central Ave (1st St to 95th St)
  • Boyle Ave (5th St to 8th St)
  • Soto St (Huntington to 8th St)

These projects will allow us to begin to elevate the conversation about the need for safety along these corridors and also equity in the neighborhoods these streets connect. In the areas where these projects are proposed we know there are higher levels of transit dependency, high density living and lower car ownership per household. Given that, increasing options for how people get around in their daily lives - working, learning, and shopping - is certainly worth pursuing.

But again, community input is critical. It has to begin with input at the grassroots level. The success of these projects will depend on taking our cue from the residents and stakeholder groups who live and work in the community these projects effect. If we’re going to shape our streets for the better, we need significant input from the local experts.

6. Studies have shown that people on bicycles spend more per month in local business districts than those arriving by other modes. What steps would you take to ensure that local businesses in your district are able to benefit from better bicycle access?

In December, I cut the ribbon on a new bike corral on Colorado Blvd. The ribbon cutting was momentous in itself, but it also helped us celebrate the kickoff of the City’s first Bicycle Friendly Business District. The approach involved connecting with individual retailers and business stakeholder groups to broaden the program’s exposure – participating businesses offered discounts to bike riders and it was a great success.

Earlier, when the community decided to reconfigure Colorado Blvd., including adding buffered bike lanes, my staff worked with local organizations and the Neighborhood Council and asked business owners along the corridor if they would like a free bike rack placed outside their business and eventually placed 50 bike racks along the corridor. Creating opportunities to connect customers and businesses is what we’re promoting and we will continue to do so. Bike riders are definitely ready-made customers along our corridors with bike lanes and we want businesses, and bicyclists, to take advantage of that.

7. The LA Times recently wrote a feature story documenting that hit-and-run collisions are on the rise for bicyclists, according to state records. The majority of seriously injured or fatal hit-and-run victims are people walking and bicycling. What steps would you take to reduce the rate of hit-and-run and ensure perpetrators are prosecuted?

Hit-and-run crimes are unacceptable. Many of the concerns about adequate prosecution of these crimes require state-level action. So I have voted at least six times in the last two years to pursue and support state legislation to limit the use of “civil compromise,” which can reduce the crime to a misdemeanor even when the prosecutor objects, extend the statute of limitations in incidents where a hit-and-run causes a fatal or severe injury, and increase the penalties for individuals who commit a hit-and-run, including the possible hold or forfeiture of vehicles involved in hit-and-runs and automatic license penalties.

In addition, I support the use of the “Amber Alert” system to alert the public about these events and enlist their support in finding the perpetrator, so that prosecution is possible.

I fully support the state’s three-foot law in protecting bicyclists who are particularly vulnerable when coming in contact with automobiles. I look forward to seeing the numbers to gauge the success of that legislation to see if adjustments are needed.

An additional countywide transportation sales tax is currently being formulated by Metro. None of the existing three half-cent measures (Propositions A & C and Measure R) currently dedicate significant funding for walking and biking, despite these modes making up 19% of all trips and 39% of all roadway fatalities in the county. Would you support allocating at least 10% of any future transportation tax measure to walking, biking and safe routes to school?

I think that we need to increase the allocation of transportation tax measures to walking, biking and safe routes to schools to be better address current levels of that category’s mode share. It’s equally important to have options for funding these projects. For example, the City has allocated some our own local return funding for active transportation, which has helped improve infrastructure for walking and biking. I'm interested in the potential for the other categories to include a 1st/Last Mile set aside. Rail, transit and roads/highway improvement project should include walking and biking components in their scope to integrate either into existing infrastructure or begin networks that didn’t exist before.

8. LACBC’s Neighborhood Bike Ambassadors work with local businesses, neighborhood councils, homeowner associations and other stakeholders on bicycle issues. Will you commit to meeting with the local bike ambassadors in your district on a regular and ongoing basis? Would you be willing to lead a regularly scheduled bike ride with your constituents?

Yes, absolutely. My staff and I have a great working relationship with bike ambassador Nathan Lucero. He even let me borrow his cargo bike at the Colorado Blvd Bike Corral ribbon cutting! I look forward to the next time for sure.

9. Would you presently feel safe riding a bike in Los Angeles, and if not, what would it take to make you feel comfortable on our city streets?

Yes, I definitely feel safer riding in bike lanes today compared to riding my bike on the bridges that cross the LA River as a kid. The infrastructure we've been able to put it, buffered lanes, non-buffered lanes and bike corrals are tremendous improvements for increasing cyclist safety. But it's also important to increase bike safety programs! I'm a big fan of the LACBC's “Rules of the Road” pocket guide (printed in English and Spanish!), the bicycle safety classes you put on in Downtown and the Northeast, and also Operation Firefly!

10. Is there anything else you'd like to share with L.A.'s bicycling community?

Every time I go to CicLAvia, it reminds me that the future is now. When you see hundreds of thousands of people out in the streets riding their bikes, skateboard and walking - that has done more to promote livable streets and effect change in the City of Los Angeles than any one piece of legislation, and Los Angeles’ bicycling community has a lot to do with that. It is because of their passion and advocacy that our City is changing for the better, that young families and others who don’t necessarily consider themselves “bike advocates” are out riding in our bike lanes because they simply feel safe to do so. And they enjoy it! And for that, I sincerely thank the bicycling community.

And I've very much enjoyed working with the bicycling community. The bike community in Los Angeles is diverse in profession, age, gender, ethnicity, political belief and rider level - and I love that! I look forward to working with you for the next 4 years!

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