Are You Bike-Friendly? CD4's Tomas O'Grady 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 Council District 4 candidate Tomas O'Grady.

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).

Growing up in Ireland, gasoline (petrol) was and still is very expensive. My 80 year old grandfather would cycle on his “High Nelli” every day to the local post office to pick up the Irish Independent, and some other supplies. It’s no accident that he lived a long and healthy life, not least because he was cycling well into his 80’s.

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 100% support the Great Streets program for Los Angeles, and Vision Zero. A world class transportation system for the 21st century should value safety and access first and then mobility. A classic example is the Hyperion Bridge retrofit project. I support building this bridge in a manner that is safe and convenient for all modes of travel. It makes absolutely no sense for cars to be speeding on that bridge at 50mph as they are, creating a hostile condition for cyclists and pedestrians. Losing a lane is not only feasible it is a proven safety measure that will calm speeding on the bridge and make it safer for drivers as well.

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?

Let’s be honest here, there are many citizens in this city who do not have the luxury or ability to get out of their cars, yet there are many amongst us who would. Ciclavia proves it. Given a connected and safe bike network, people will choose to walk or bike, particularly for short run trip. In fact, I’ve read a statistic that says most car trips are 3 miles or less. So let’s give people choices. You shouldn’t be forced to choose a car just to feel safe. By giving people safe convenient choices we free up space for those who have no choice.

My dream for my 15 year old daughter, Eireann O’Grady, is that her generation will have the ability to safely choose between public transportation, walking, and cycling, and to make these choices so convenient that perhaps she even foregoes the ownership of an automobile altogether.

Regarding tradeoffs, communication can go a long way here. I will work with business groups, homeowners and commuters to continue the effort towards a complete and safe street design that accommodates and honors vision zero goals.

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 understand that the last 10 years has been something of a block by block struggle for safer more accessible streets for all. Hundreds of people have spent thousands of hours begging for safe streets. If the community has worked hard during a previous administration I will respect that process and make sure that plan is as safe and accessible as possible moving forward.

You know what I hate? I can’t stand seeing faded lines and scrape marks of removed crosswalks around town. I will pledge to work with LADOT to re-stripe crosswalks, and bring back erased crosswalks in the district. I will pledge to implement all possible avenues to calm speeding through our streets.

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) –Currently 4th St. is a bike friendly route that takes you all the way across town from Silver Lake ending at Park La Brea just shy of LACMA. The 6th St. project would connect that final half mile to LACMA from 4th St. The striping of a road diet would not only calm speeders it would include a middle turning lane and improve pedestrian access to Wilshire for all the folks in Park La Brea looking to get to the park, the museum shops and restaurants on Wilshire.
  • San Vicente Blvd (Wilshire to Venice) – Yes I support. This route has plenty of space.
  • Hyperion Ave Viaduct (Rowena to Glenfeliz) – I am on record, and have created a rendering depicting Option 3 to help everyone visualize what a great resource this nearly 100 year old bridge was meant to be. The traffic studies show that it is feasible, reducing a lane heading down hill discourages speeding into Atwater.
  • Hollywood Blvd (La Brea to Sunset) – Yes I support but it will take extraordinary community input and coordination and I am up for the challenge. In fact this could set the stage for bike sharing in Hollywood.
  • Hillhurst Ave (Los Feliz to Sunset) – Yes I support. My family and I eat on Hillhurst all the time. We’ve always dreamed of Hillhurst being slower, safer, and for it to be easier to cross the street. The advantage for me is a) I can stop for a happy hour cocktail at Little Doms and walk across the street to pick up some grass fed beef from our local, organic, mom and pop butcher. 
  • Lankershim Blvd (Hatteras to Cahuenga) – Yes I support. 
  • Cahuenga Blvd (Lankershim to Odin) – Yes I support. 

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?

Getting more people access by biking and walking to cafes, shops and businesses means more customers using less of the scarce parking resources.
I would like to identify and establish bike friendly business zones where we really work with the businesses that want to have more bike racks, bike corrals, etc and accelerate implementation of these facilities.

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?

I would work with the LAPD to put together a task force that specifically addresses hit and run crimes prioritizing vulnerable road users and those with injury. Currently, the turnaround for identifying hit and run vehicles is slow and criminals can cover their tracks. In the rare times that a license plate number is taken, a police unit should immediately be deployed and a unit sent to the residence. Vehicles identified in hit and run crimes should be impounded as evidence asap.

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?

Yes I would support. As a city if we are going to get our money’s worth for Measure R and its descendants, it needs to work across the board. Walk, bike, and public transit and we need to work to increase funding for all three. Car infrastructure is subsidized in many ways already, I understand we have to include it to get these measures on the ballot but there is no reason that bike and pedestrian infrastructure cant get a significant boost. I will fight for that.

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 love that.

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?

We have come a long way thanks to cycling advocates who seem to be indefatigable when it comes to holding our elected representatives accountable to all transportation constituencies. I feel reasonably safe, but the truth is if you asked me would I feel safe for my 15 year old daughter, I probably would say that I am nervous. I would ask for comfortable, buffered bike lanes, a culture of road sharing, and less speeding from red light to red light.

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

I am a father of four and an environmentalist. When Justine and I designed and built our green house, we did so thinking about our children’s future. Any reasonable human being on this planet has to admit that our children cannot be in automobiles to the degree that this generation is. I want my children’s generation to have safe choices, and I want them to choose clean, human powered transportation as much as possible. Planning and development has to happen now to set the stage for that future.

Through my work with the nonprofit EnrichLA which I Cofounded, we have a close relationship with over 70 schools in this city. This is the perfect springboard for an aggressive push toward the “Safe Routes to School” grant money, which this city just seems to leave on the table every year.

I ask that you not look at my promises, but at my record. Myself and community stakeholders made a gallant effort to save the old Figueroa Bridge with a plan to eventually use it to connect the Figueroa bike lanes to the LA River Bike Path, in addition to offering a mini-park over the river.

For what seems like forever now, I have been right there with the community fighting for Option 3 on the Hyperion Bridge, the first safe cycling connection to the LA River from the West Side in the LA River Bike Path’s history. Once complete, it will connect miles of networks, including the Sunset bike lanes, Griffith Park lanes, 4th St. Bicycle Blvd, Koreatown and Downtown Los Angeles. My commitment, if elected, is to be a reliable partner with the Safe Streets community and to work to continue to change the conversation in our city. Ciclavia proves that hundreds of thousands will ride bikes and walk when the streets open up. Lets make it safe for everyone every day.

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