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Are You Bike Friendly? CD 11 Candidate Mike Bonin Responds

For the March 2013 elections, LACBC asked each of the candidates running for City Council of the City of Los Angeles to respond to our questionnaire so that our members could learn how each candidate proposes to make our streets safe, balanced, and livable. Here are 2013 responses from CD 11 candidate (and current council member) Mike Bonin.

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).

My most powerful cycling memory is strongly associated with a sense of growth, freedom and joy.  In the mid-1990s, shortly after getting clean and sober after years of addiction, I started bicycling.  I can vividly recall cruising down Ocean Park Blvd in Santa Monica late at night, feeling the wind in my hair and the breeze on my face.  I can still feel the sensations I felt as I biked from my home near Venice Beach, up the beach bike path to the Palisades.   I can remember soaking in the air, the noise, the beautiful natural environment, and the diversity of the people in Los Angeles.

Those memories are so powerful because they never went away, and I feel them every time I get back on a bike.  For me, bicycling is about freedom, joy, appreciating life, and feeling grateful.

2. The Department of City Planning is in the process of updating the City’s Mobility Element for the first time in decades.  What policies would you prioritize for inclusion in the Mobility Element?  What role do you see bicycling playing in the City’s transportation system, if any?

The update to the Mobility Element creates an enormous opportunity to spark change and to begin to give birth to a better Los Angeles – a Los Angeles with a range of viable transportation choices.

We deserve a choice to walk, cycle, take a bus or take a train. But absent viable options – efficient, integrated, comprehensive systems of alternative transportation – the choices are too few and too meager.  Fifty percent of all trips taken in our city are within a 3 mile distance, but people will continue to take too many of those trips by automobile unless we improve our bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

We need to consider walking and bicycling as a component of all other transportation modes. We need to implement complete street standards so that we ensure high quality pedestrian and bicycle access are part of our planning decisions and public roadway improvements.  And we need to provide all residents, workers, and visitors with efficient, convenient, affordable, and attractive transit services

We also need to make safety an urgent priority.  For far too long, safety has been regarded as a performance measure of our road system rather than a goal.  That needs to change and we need policies that:

  1. Emphasize safety over speed.  We need to design our roadways in a way that prioritizes the safety of all road users, including pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, children, seniors, and people with disabilities.

  2. We need to better track collisions on our roadway with an annual review that will guide us on addressing safety concerns before they rise to epidemic proportions.

  3. We need to reevaluate the effectiveness of the State’s speed limit requirements on street safety and performance.

  4. And we need to educate.  We need to promote awareness to all road users on safe driving, walking, and bicycling habits.

Data should drive our decisions. We need to develop a comprehensive, integrated transportation database for the City so that we can make informed decisions about our transportation system.

We also need strong environmental leadership to convert existing street and transportation infrastructure to more renewable and energy efficient sources. This should be a priority in all that we do, but especially with our transportation system.

And we need to hold regular open street events like CicLAvia.  So that the public has the opportunity to experience and re-imagine what our streets could be.

(What role do you see bicycling playing in the transportation system?)

One of Los Angeles’ greatest flaws is that our transportation system is focused almost exclusively on a single mode.  It must be a public policy imperative to right that wrong by expanding the number of transportation choices available to the public.  We have to focus on moving people not cars.

Bicycling is an integral part of a sustainable transportation system, and I envision bicycling playing a critical role in the future of this City.  Bicycling is efficient, environmentally friendly, healthy, cost effective for cities and affordable for users.  The infrastructure necessary to support cycling creates great streets that complement neighborhoods, instead of degrading them with congestion and speeding automobiles.  Bicycling is a real and promising complement to the transit system that will continue to expand in the coming years thanks to Measure R.  I believe that bicycling as a mode of transportation is great for cities and great for neighborhoods, and failure to view its inherent value to this City would be ridiculously short-sighted.

3. Just a few months ago, Los Angeles was honored as a Bronze-level Bicycle-Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists. Do you believe the city should pursue a Silver-level designation, and if so, what steps would you take in the first year of your term to move LA up to the Silver level?

The City’s priority should be to lead in innovative bikeway facility design and implement programs that foster safer conditions on the road for bicyclists.  Recognition is great, but our goal should be to create roadway conditions that support cyclists on the road and encourage others to take to two wheels.  If we can achieve those goals, then the recognition will follow.

We need more bicycle facilities, but we also need higher quality facilities that provide protected lanes. Recent research has confirmed the value of building quality facilities by demonstrating that risk of injury drops by 50% riding in a bike lane, and by 90% in a protected lane.  I intend to bring higher quality facilities and innovative bikeway design to the 11th District.

We need to calm traffic on our roadways.  Historically, the City addressed automobile congestion by building more capacity at the expense of other transportation modes.  Now we’re faced with roads that were built for peak hour congestion, which only encourages off-peak speeding. Speeding needs to be addressed.  I believe there are simple policy changes we can make in how we comply with the California Speed Trap law that could lead to positive changes. For instance, we should send police officers out to conduct targeted enforcement on a street prior to conducting speed surveys.  By suppressing speeds in advance of conducting the speed survey we may be able to push speed limits down.  Complementary to that effort, we need to re-engineer our roadways to calm traffic where necessary.  Reducing lane widths, jut-outs, roundabouts and speed bumps are all tools that I will direct LADOT to use in the 11th Council District so we can ensure the safety of all road users.

I also want to explore education opportunities.  Establishing a diversion program that allows cyclists to have their citation dismissed in return for completing an education program could help deter dangerous behavior. The diversion program could also be made available to members of the general public who want to learn how to safely ride in an urban setting.

Bike to Work Day should be a monthly or weekly event.  The City needs to actively encourage the public to explore other modes of transportation. I will occasionally bike to work to demonstrate this commitment and help promote cycling.

There is a critical need to collect data.  With all the technology available to us we should not be making transportation decisions on an ad-hoc basis.  We need to be able to quantify the benefits so that the public can see that sound investments in their transportation system are being made.

We may not be able to get all of this done in year one, but that is all the more reason to reach consensus quickly on the best programs and policies that will advance bicycling in this City, and begin the work immediately.

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?

I want to be sure that we build more bicycle facilities, but also high-quality facilities. I want the 11th District to be synonymous with innovative and higher quality bicycle facilities.  If we want to create a truly bicycle-friendly city then we need to build more separated bicycle lanes and more bicycle-friendly streets. Most of the public finds the idea of riding in a bicycle lane on a major street terrifying.  But if you put them in a separated bicycle lane or a local neighborhood street with traffic calming measures in place, they’re going to feel a lot more comfortable. And if they’re comfortable, they’ll make that trip again. That will grow ridership.

The programs under Policy 3.1.3 of the Bicycle Plan could significantly expand our network of bikeways as well as the funding available to expand bicycle programs.  Moreover, by adopting strategies that allow vehicle trips to be mitigated through Bicycle Plan programs we move ourselves away from the narrow auto-centric focus and open the City to investing in multi-modal improvements.

5. 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 access by bicyclists?

At the most basic level there is a fundamental need to connect our neighborhoods with local businesses.  Building comprehensive local networks of bicycle facilities is the place to start, whether they be bike lanes, protected facilities or Bicycle Friendly Streets.  We also need to provide adequate parking.  However, in order to truly take advantage the business community has to be informed and engaged.  Not only do they have to be informed but government has to listen to what their local needs are.  LA is full of diverse communities with a variety of needs, and I believe they are best served by engaging in a dialogue.   I would directly engage the LA Area Chamber of Commerce and local chambers of commerce to do that.  I would also hold and publicize “Open Constituent Office Hours” at local establishments that have bike corrals or bike valets.

6. The LA Weekly recently wrote a feature story documenting that almost half of traffic collisions in the City of LA are hit-and-runs, according to LAPD records.  Many victims of these traffic crimes are people walking and bicycling.  What steps would you take to reduce the rate of hit-and-run and ensure perpetrators are prosecuted?

In most cases, a hit and run will not be successfully investigated or solved unless there is swift response from the LAPD, allowing them to capture fresh information from eyewitnesses and track down leads.  In order to make that happen, we need to more wisely and efficiently deploy LAPD resources.  I intend to focus intently on making sure we get more of our cops out on the streets, and not chained to desks at police stations doing paperwork.  In order to achieve that, I would seek to equip every officer with an Ipad or tablet, and appropriate software allowing them to more quickly and easily file reports without having to spend hours at the station and accumulate hours of overtime.  This will permit officers to spend more time on the streets, and provide greater resources for response to hit and runs, property crimes, etc.

7. In the event of a collision, the survival of those injured could depend on a prompt emergency response, yet it’s recently been disclosed that response times for the Los Angeles Fire Department frequently exceed national standards. What would you do to address budget and staffing cutbacks affecting the LAFD to ensure a faster response for all those who need emergency assistance?

Public Safety will always be my highest priority. In recent years, Los Angeles has become one of the safest big cities in America – and we need to keep it that way. We need to increase the number of cops on the streets, stop the cuts and restore funding to the Fire Department, and better prepare for emergency situations. Excessive response times for emergency services are simply unacceptable. If elected, I intend to push the LAFD to develop and implement an “LAFD Service Restoration Plan,” and I will push to deploy “Motorcycle Response Teams” staffed with firefighter/EMTs to provide rapid initial response to medical emergencies in remote areas in the hills and canyons.

8. A recent proposal has been floated to assess all property owners to bring streets into a state of good repair.  Do you support the proposed bond measure, and do you believe any changes should be made to the proposal to serve all those who travel on city streets, including pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users?

I believe a bond measure will be necessary to significantly improve our streets and reduce the ridiculous backlog in street repair.  But I do not think the proposed bond measure was well-structured. When I take office, I would like to revive the idea, but make sure that it provides also for bicycling needs, sidewalks, ADA ramps, and alleys.  (We also need to  incorporate stormwater capture efforts to the greatest degree possible.) To structure a new bond measure, I would take a community organizer’s approach and hold workshops and meetings around the city to build support and define the scope of the proposal.

9. LACBC has formed Neighborhood Bike Ambassador groups in each part of the City to work with local businesses, neighborhood councils, homeowner associations and other stakeholders on bicycle issues. Will you commit to meeting with the local Ambassador group in your district on a regular and ongoing basis? Would you be willing to lead a regularly scheduled bike ride with your constituents?

Hell, yes!  Not only would I be willing to lead regularly scheduled bike rides but I want to organize constituent meetings in our great outdoor spaces in the mountains, beaches or urban landscape.  I want to lead the way by encouraging an active community.

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?

I generally feel safe because I’m experienced, because I’ve made considerable efforts to educate myself regarding bicycle safety, and because I’ve learned the hard way (bicycling Lincoln Blvd – what was I thinking?!?!?)  But while I generally feel safe, the vast majority of the public does not feel the same way.  To remedy that the City needs to create safe bicycle facilities and also actively educate and encourage the public.

One of the biggest barriers to achieving higher bicycle ridership is fear.  Studies have demonstrated that there is an inverse relationship between the volume and speed of motorized traffic and the level of cycling. We also know that the risk of serious injury to an individual cycling decreases as the level of cycling within an area increases.  What that says to me is that creating safer conditions on the road will not only induce greater ridership but it will also further protect those out on the road by virtue of increasing the number of cyclists.

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