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Are You Bike-Friendly? CD4’s Sheila Irani 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 Sheila Irani.

All candidate responses are available here: /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).

My brother and I shared a Schwinn cruiser in metallic blue when we were about 7 or so and because our home turf was new, there were a number of dirt lots that we would do jumps and circles. We each got our own bike about age 10 and I have been avidly cycling since. I have 4 bikes now from road to mountain and touring and spin at LA Fitness regularly as well.

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?

Great question. It seems like no other issue except losing parking or a driving lane gets more constituents agitated. I get both sides. Auto drivers don’t understand why the majority of the commuters should be inconvenienced for a small minority (the cyclists). Cyclists want safety so that they can commute more on bike and attract new cyclists to their commute family. I created the marketing strategy for all commute modes for the region of Washington DC from 2000-2007. We had to start with a Share the Road campaign, bike to work day (which went from a few hundred to 30,000 cyclists and spread to Baltimore), and bike maps online and printed to get people to try cycling. It took years to increase the visibility of biking among commuters so that it didn’t seem so small that they didn’t matter. Employers began bike clinics, gave away bikes to employees willing to cycle to work, bikeways became the “greenest” way to work, and bikeshare rentals were adopted in the congestion corridors. For LA, it is a tough sell to get bike lanes on major corridors and I do think we should keep the bike lanes to adjacent streets as much as possible for everyone’s safety.

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?

Yes I do wholeheartedly, but it’s not me you have to sell, it’s the drivers who don’t cycle and endanger cyclists daily with their aggressive behavior. I would love to see attitudes shift. Protected bike lanes are a must for cyclists’ safety, and if we are going to ever reduce congestion, cycling has to be given serious consideration and any new bridges and streets need to adopt bike lanes as a mandate. Going to Europe (Amsterdam), Portland (OR), Seattle (WA), or Washington DC even NYC, you see how cycling is being adopted at a much faster pace than in LA where we have 300 days of sun and mostly flat areas. It is matter of public policy focus and strength of conviction to convince drivers the change will help improve the overall congestion terrain, but it will take time.

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?

We need to get a bike path that connects Metro to Valley, and Cahuenga is a good road for that. I worked with LADOT as Director of Transportation for Councilman LaBonge and tried to get a lane on Cahuenga East and I do think Barham bridge is ripe for widening and adding a bike lane. The problem is Highland/Cahuenga West where it narrows. We may have to invest in a bike overpass. Expensive, but so was the 405 and where did that get us? I would continue any project started by my predecessor.

5. (CD4 only) Bike lanes are currently proposed for all of the following CD4 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.

  1. 6th Street (Fairfax to La Brea) – YES

  2. San Vicente Blvd (Wilshire to Venice) – YES

  3. Hyperion Ave Viaduct (Rowena to Glenfeliz) – YES

  4. Hollywood Blvd (La Brea to Sunset) – Yes but it depends on loss of parking because of the revenues for the City but I see the benefit to this Blvd with all the small stores, restaurants that are cropping up. Good bike share location too.

  5. Hillhurst Ave (Los Feliz to Sunset) – YES

  6. Lankershim Blvd (Hatteras to Cahuenga) – NEED TO INVESTIGATE, FREEWAY issues, may be unsafe, but there appears to be width and with the new ped overpass at Universal it may be OK.

  7. Cahuenga Blvd (Lankershim to Odin) – YES, but we need to solve Barham bridge closure putting more traffic on Cahuenga as well. Think we may need an overpass.

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?

We need more Bike racks/lockers in commercial areas. I would love to see the bike sharing program get up and rolling already. That has been in the R&D phase for too long.

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?

See above and SHARE THE ROAD campaign with paid ads and earned media. Severe penalties for hit and run including loss of license. Additionally cyclists have to be more engaged on wearing safety equipment (helmets, vests, reflective gear) and stop the moving violations. If you want to be treated as an equal vehicle by auto drivers, you need to act like one.

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?


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?


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?

No I don’t feel safe riding the streets of LA unless it is in my neighborhood, close to home where the streets are wide and cars travel slowly. Too many distracted drivers out there. Cyclists need protected lanes.

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

I will work on adopting more bike lanes in CD4 just as I did as Director of Transportation and Special Projects when I served CM LaBonge from 2011-2013. Most of my efforts were stymied by NIMBYism and my frustration was high. I know now that change is hard for a lot of people and if they haven’t seen how the quality of life improves by traffic calming, more cycling and walking, they can’t imagine it. This is part education and part infrastructure improvements and both are equally valuable in changing of the commute equation in LA.

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