Are You Bike-Friendly? CD4's David Ryu Responds

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015 is the runoff election for Council District 4 the City of Los Angeles. Prior to the primary election in March, 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 May 19th.

Below are responses from Council District 4 candidate David Ryu.

All candidate responses are available here:

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).

I still remember my first bike: a blue Huffy from Fedco. I rode that bike everywhere. I can’t recall a time when my bike was not with me, or for that matter any kid without a bike. It was truly a different time. Bicycles were our universal language and EVERYONE had one ‐‐ or rather everyone I knew had one. Bicycles weren’t just for children, either. Often you would see families biking together around town, especially on weekends. I’m sure traffic was a concern back then, but there were fewer cars on the street (or it felt that way). Drivers were more tolerant and, more importantly, it was much safer or at least it felt safer.

Remembering those great times, a few years ago I tried getting back into the scene. It took a few days to get into the swing of things but I realized how much our neighborhoods have changed. Not that 20‐30 years ago LA was a bike‐oriented or bike‐friendly city but it definitely is not today. As a responsible adult cyclist, sidewalks are for pedestrians and the side of the road is where I should be ‐‐ but it is scary. LA is growing, we have more people, cars, traffic, but we lack open space. To progress to a more livable City we must find ways to make bicycling and other more urban forms of transportation safe, viable alternatives.

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?

I support the goals of Vision Zero – and know that the City can do much more to utilize current data on bike accidents to limit injuries and fatalities. Beyond safety, I believe that encouraging walking and biking, as healthier and more community‐oriented modes of transportation should be a priority. I do think that we have to approach these changes collaboratively, however, and recognize that there is no one‐size‐fits‐all solution. Neighborhoods and streets are different. What works well and improves safety in one place may be impractical, even dangerous in another.

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?

I do think this is a worthy goal, and as stated above, I will approach every decision with a priority on public safety. Protected bike lines are key to increasing bicycle usage in the City, so I’m generally supportive. But any decision to remove a lane from traffic has tremendous impacts, especially in highly congested areas. So I would approach each area on a case‐by-case basis, prioritizing public safety, but also recognizing that traffic and mobility are already huge concerns for the District. I think if we approach these issues in a cooperative way, and in the context of improving our transportation system as a whole, we can find win‐win solutions that will serve the entire community.

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?

As with all issues, plans adopted by my predecessor but not yet implemented will be reviewed. I want to focus on the first/last mile of public transit – and that means we need to prioritize bike racks near metro and bus stations (but secure bike racks like those in more transit‐friendly cities, not just stand‐alone metal bars), and I definitely support the Path/Lane/Route designations, because I think that clarity is key for properly implementing the Bicycle Plan.

5. (CD4 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.

  • 6th Street (Fairfax to La Brea)
  • San Vicente Blvd (Wilshire to Venice)
  • Hyperion Ave Viaduct (Rowena to Glenfeliz)
  • Hollywood Blvd (La Brea to Sunset)
  • Hillhurst Ave (Los Feliz to Sunset)
  • Lankershim Blvd (Hatteras to Cahuenga)
  • Cahuenga Blvd (Lankershim to Odin)

I’m not going to comment on these specific proposals, because I have not yet seen the plans or the analysis. But I’ll tell you that generally, my approach will start with public safety and will include close consultation with each neighborhood. We need to make sure bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists are all safe in these high‐traffic areas.

My approach to serving on City Council is generally to start with the neighborhoods. This sounds simple, but too often the first voice a Councilmember hears is someone who has a lobbyist or an advocate in City Hall. But I start and end any decision with the community, not paid advocates.

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 the Bicycle Plan, there is an emphasis on placing bike racks on City property. This is key to developing a proper bike/pedestrian availability in business districts, because it enables people to ride bikes, but also to get off their bikes. It may or may not be practical, but I’m interested in the idea of incorporating some types of bike racks into existing City infrastructure like parking meters.

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?

Prosecutions are a state and county matter, but I would absolutely support increasing penalties for hit and run perpetrators, and allocating resources so that the LAPD can actually investigate these crimes with vigor. This will require more state funds, but with the majority of drug and low‐level offenses now not being prosecuted, there is an opening for a new priority for police and the DA – and I would support making this a priority for them.

8. 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 do support allocating an appropriate share of potential new transit funds to walking/biking lanes. I am not yet willing to commit to the specific percentage, but I am interested in hearing arguments for what that percentage should be going forward.

9. 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 I would meet with local bike ambassadors. A few years back I was so happy to rediscover the bike community and was pleasantly surprised to see new innovative bike friendly cooperatives like the “Bicycle Kitchen”‐ a teaching store that helped people understand bikes and taught you to fix your own bike. They didn’t charge a fee, operating on donations (pretty good idea‐ I ended up donating more than it would of cost to fix my bike!). Unfortunately they moved and I lost touch, so I am more than eager to be reintroduced to the greater community of cyclists.

Moreover, YES I would love the opportunity to lead a regularly scheduled bike ride with my constituents. As a matter of fact‐ after purchasing and rehabilitating two “classic” bicycles‐ I have gotten more serious and have invested in a brand new road bike along with all known accessories to man (head light, reflectors, back grocery bag, under the seat pouch, water bottle holder, smart phone bag/display, etc..) and am ready to go! However, I am embarrassed to admit it’s been sitting in my garage untouched for almost a year now, begging to be ridden, so I am very much looking forward to this opportunity after the election.

10. 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?

While my recent re‐introduction into biking has not been long, for the most part I still do not feel safe biking on our city streets. However, my knowledge in this arena is limited and the answer obviously depends to some degree on where one is riding. I do believe more clarity will go a long way towards increasing trust between the bike community and car drivers.
That is why I support separated and protected bike lanes, because I believe in the saying “good fences make good neighbors” and nowhere is that more important than in our streets.

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

I hope to see you all on the streets in the months and years ahead as I slowly re‐engage with biking.

12. (Question added April 2, 2015.) The Department of Recreation and Parks has reopened Mt. Hollywood Drive to automobiles to expand available parking within Griffith Park. During its two-decade closure, this area became popular among bicyclists and hikers seeking a safe and quiet place to recreate. Do you support opening Mt. Hollywood Drive to motor vehicles? Why or why not?

I attended the most recent Griffith Park Advisory Board Meeting and heard first hand the frustrations from local cyclists. I am committed to listening to all community stakeholders, when it comes to mitigating traffic concerns, from Beachwood Canyon to Los Feliz and Griffith Park. This issue comes down to public safety and there needs to be a better solution so that cyclists, hikers, and residents can all be safe.

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