Are You Bike Friendly? Supervisor District 5 Candidate Mitch Englander Responds
Over the past several years, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and BikeSGV have made great strides toward making bicycling a safe and convenient way to travel, connecting diverse communities to make our county more livable, economically vibrant and environmentally sustainable. Critical to this progress has been supportive leadership from our County Supervisors, who also serve on the Metro Board of Directors.
It is our hope that our new supervisors will continue this progress and elevate LA to the next level. The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and BikeSGV invite all supervisor candidates to appeal directly to an engaged, thoughtful group of voters–our county’s bicyclists–by responding to our questionnaire.
Note: The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and BikeSGV are 501(c)3 non-profit organizations and cannot endorse candidates or engage in electioneering on behalf of a candidate. We are offering this questionnaire as a service to candidates to communicate with potential voters for informational purposes only. All candidates have an equal opportunity to respond and responses will be distributed without bias in the order in which they are received.
The election for the L.A. County Board of Supervisors’ Fifth District is on Tuesday, June 7th. To register to vote, check your registration, request a vote-by-mail ballot , or find your polling place, visit: www.lavote.net.
Below are responses from Fifth District candidate Mitch Englander.
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 father was a 100% disabled veteran, so we didn’t have any money. I remember that my dad bought my first bike for me on an installment plan. I got to go to the bike shop with him every month when he made the payment to “visit” my new bike. When it was finally paid off, I got to take it home and he taught me how to ride it. That bike shop was called the Spoke N Wheel and is still open today. As a Councilmember, I was able to feature them as a “Business of the Month”. You can see that video here: https://youtu.be/gCJWPdfO50o
Bearing in mind there are thousands who do not drive for any number of reasons, under what circumstances would you feel safe using a bicycle as your primary means of transportation?
I personally feel safest when traveling by bicycle in clearly designated bike lanes on a roadway. I think that bike lanes will encourage more people to travel by bike as they provide a level of security and protection from car traffic. Taking it one step further, protected bike lanes are the ideal solution in my view, as they help control the flow of traffic and offer a much better level of protection for cyclists.
To better understand the needs of those who depend on the County’s public and active transportation systems, would you be willing to take the SoCal multi-modal challenge once a year (e.g. Complete your daily routine for 5 days without the use of an automobile)?
Absolutely. I strongly believe that the best way to understand something is by experiencing it yourself. As a City Councilmember, I have always made a point of taking a hands on approach to any issue when considering policy proposals to address that given issue.
County supervisors have great power to improve the safety, health and livability of Los Angeles County through both their role on the Metro board shaping countywide transportation policy and investment decisions and through oversight of County departments, including Public Works, Public Health and Parks & Recreation. In 2012, the County of Los Angeles adopted a Bicycle Master Plan proposing 831 miles of new bikeways due to be completed by 2032. What would you do to ensure that implementation of the Bicycle Master Plan projects continues during your term? How many miles of new bicycle facilities will you commit to implementing each year in your district?
As noted above, the Board of Supervisors can play an important oversight role to ensure that adopted policies and plans are being implemented as intended. I strongly support the Bicycle Master Plan as it represents a much needed and long overdue update to the 1975 Plan of Bikeways. As a County Supervisor, I would like to hold regular hearings where the relevant County Departments provide updates on their progress implementing the plan. These hearings will help ensure that progress is being made in a timely manner and will most importantly help us identify obstacles or slow downs to implementing the plan so they can be addressed immediately. Consistent communication and regular oversight are essential to the proper implementation of the Bicycle Master Plan. The 5th District is home to approximately 466 miles of bikeways within the Bicycle Master Plan. Ensuring the completion of all of these projects is of critical importance to the transit infrastructure within the 5th district and I would like to see steady progress year to year in order to meet the goal of completing all of the proposed projects by 2032.
The County needs to be a leader when it comes to connecting communities across the district, whether it is by waterway, roadway, or bike path. Many people have felt that the County does not always take ownership of the role it plays in connectivity and bringing communities together. How do you see your potential role as County Supervisor being a critical piece in closing the gaps that you would administer, control, and that are sometimes created with bad planning?
Effectively addressing connectivity issues in the region starts with coordination. I strongly agree that the County can play a significant role in helping coordinate the work of scores of agencies, special districts, and municipalities in order to ensure that we have a cohesive transit network that works together in the best possible manner. I believe that the Board of Supervisors can play a bigger role in bringing agencies together and fostering collaboration by encouraging the exchange of information and communication. For example, working to ensure that transit agencies better understand how individuals travel and their patterns will help each agency improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their routes, thus improving connectivity. Accomplishing this will not be easy. However, I believe that I am the best equipped and experienced to meet this challenge I have a proven record of working with both Democrats and Republicans, local stakeholders and community based organizations to find solutions and deliver results. My track record as a coalition builder will be vital to working with state and federal leaders to secure needed funding and prioritize our community. I also have a record of effectively bringing agencies together to encourage collaboration and root out dysfunction. I look forward to tackling this issue on the Board of Supervisors.
County Public Works design standards currently favor high speed traffic by requiring minimum lane widths larger than other transportation agencies. This has created an unnecessary barrier to implementing bicycle projects in urban unincorporated areas, resulting in shared “class III” bike routes on major streets where dedicated “class II” bike lanes would be more appropriate. Do you support adopting the Model Design Manual for Living Streets produced by the County Department of Public Health but not yet adopted by Public Works?
I agree that the a preference for high speed traffic and the associated minimum lane widths hinder the construction of dedicated bike routes in certain communities. The Model Design Manual for Living Streets is a good starting point helping us apply the most appropriate design guidelines for a given roadway while also encouraging the growth of multi-modal transit. However, as is the case with many transit issues, a one size fits all approach is rarely appropriate. I would like to work with stakeholders within the community as well as the professionals at the Department of Public Health and Public Works to further explore the Model Design Manual and ultimately adopt a version that meets our the needs of each community in the County while also encouraging the growth of bikeways.
Studies have shown that protected bikeways (i.e. those that are separated from moving vehicles by a curb or parked cars) can reduce injuries by as much as 90%, while reducing collisions and improving safety for all road users. The County Bicycle Master Plan calls for the implementation of such facilities, but none have been planned on County streets to date. Would you support the implementation of protected bikeways, and can you suggest any areas in your district where such facilities should be built?
I am a strong supporter of protected bikeways. In the City of Los Angeles, we have funded a number of pilot projects to construct protected bikeways and better understand their impact. I am proud to say that my council district is the home of the City’s first parking protected bike lane and that this model is being duplicated in other parts of the City. I believe that commercial corridors are good candidates for these protected bikeways because of their correlation to safety for all street users and because of the documented benefit to increased revenues for businesses in proximity. I would like to see the County move forward of this front as well.
In Los Angeles County, 19% of all trips are made on foot or by bike and 39% percent of those killed on our county’s streets are people walking and biking, yet Metro only allocates 1% of its funding to these modes of transportation. The three sales tax measures that generate a majority of Metro’s revenue (Proposition A, Proposition C and Measure R) dedicate 0% for walking and biking. Metro’s 2016 potential sales tax, the Metro Plan, could address these underfunding issues, do you support allocating at least 10% to active transportation as part of the Metro draft expenditure plan?
I strongly believe that we need to increase funding for multi-modal transportation. As we continually work to make our communities more walkable, encourage transit oriented development, and seek to get more people out of their cars and into public transportation, this is a critically important piece of achieving these goals. In order to encourage more people to use rail for example, we need to ensure that walking and biking, which are the most common modes of transit used to make connections or reach a final destination, are safe and pleasant experiences. Accomplishing this means investing more in bikeways, pedestrian safety, and traffic calming measures.
In Los Angeles County, 34% of students walk or bike to school, while motor vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of death for school-age youth. Many more parents don’t feel safe allowing their children to walk or bike to school, resulting in heavy vehicular traffic at school hours and dangerous levels of congestion in front of schools. Metro is currently drafting a countywide Safe Routes to School Strategic Plan, but without an implementation strategy or dedicated funding. Do you support dedicated funding for a countywide Safe Routes to School program that would improve safety for children and parents, and encourage more biking and walking to the over 2,000 public schools in Los Angeles County?
Yes. Absolutely. A Safe Routes to School Program will not only address safety issues, but will help reduce neighborhood traffic and also encourage active lifestyles among children. This is a critically important issue in terms of public health as well as transit.
In the early 1900’s, Los Angeles County constructed a watershed management and flood control system using box channels, rivers, and creeks. These waterways currently criss-cross Los Angeles County and provide an opportunity for creating linear park space, regional connectivity to attractive destinations (downtowns, shopping centers, schools, parks, etc.), and safe routes for alternative modes of transportation. What role can the county play in advancing the development of existing, underutilized waterways into community greenways?
In my own council district I am currently examining ways to take such a flood control channel and create a connectivity pathway between an at-risk youth center and a local park and senior center. One only has to look at the success of New York’s High Line Park to see the value of repurposing existing infrastructure for public benefit. The County needs to be a vital partner in coordinating and facilitating these efforts – particularly where they control the right of way.
Over the past twenty years cities across the world have significantly reduced their rates of serious and deadly traffic collisions by launching and implementing Vision Zero campaigns. The movement’s core principles include:
Ethics: Human life and health are paramount and take priority over mobility and other objectives of the road traffic system
Responsibility: providers and regulators of the road traffic system share responsibility with users;
Safety: road traffic systems should take account of human fallibility and minimize both the opportunities for errors and the harm done when they occur;
Mechanisms for change: providers and regulators must do their utmost to guarantee the safety of all citizens; they must cooperate with road users; and all three must be ready to change to achieve safety.
Traffic deaths and injuries are preventable; therefore, none are acceptable.
People will make mistakes; the transportation system should be designed so those mistakes aren’t fatal.
Safety is the primary consideration in transportation decision-making.
Traffic safety solutions must be addressed holistically.
The City of Los Angeles – home to one of the highest rates of traffic violence in the country – was the first City in Los Angeles County to adopt a Vision Zero policy in 2015. If elected, what would you do to reduce and prevent collisions involving pedestrians, bicyclists and other vulnerable road users? Would you support a countywide Vision Zero campaign to focus on reducing serious roadway harm and death?
As a Los Angeles City Councilmember, I have been a strong supporter and champion of the Vision Zero policy. This program has a proven track record of dramatically reducing traffic deaths and improving pedestrian safety. I have a record of seeking to use Vision Zero concepts to control vehicular speed and enhance safety for all users – particularly pedestrians. My August 2015 motion asked to reevaluate the way speeds are set on local roads using Vision Zero as a guiding principle. On the Board of Supervisors, I would like to take the lead in implementing a similar policy at the County.
AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, calls for the reduction of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2020. Passed two years later, SB 375 requires the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to reduce emissions from passenger vehicles and requires regional metropolitan planning organizations to develop “Sustainable Communities Strategies” that integrate transportation, land-use, and housing policies that plan to achieve the emissions targets for their regions. Given that almost half of emissions in LA County come from motor vehicles, what specific policies or plans would you support to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector?
There are a number of strategies and policies that I believe we need to pursue concurrently in order to achieve meaningful and long-term emissions reductions. Some of those include:
Prioritizing transit oriented development, particularly affordable housing within transit corridors.
Vehicle replacement programs that take aging high emissions vehicles off the roads by providing vouchers that can be used towards a new vehicle purchase or to put a vehicle in compliance with emissions standards.
Continued investment in our bus and rail infrastructure in order to make transit a convenient and affordable option for commuters.
Working to make improvements to our existing transit systems including increasing headways and better scheduling to ensure that routes are in sync with typical commuting times to maximize ridership.
Significant investment in multi-modal transit. This will help encourage transit ridership and make connections more convenient and safe for individuals.
Support for Bike Share programs is growing across southern California. How do you see your district getting involved in this program? How can you make sure that Bike Share programs prioritize equity to ensure all community members benefit from the program?
I have seen bike share programs in many urban communities work with a great deal of success. Bike share programs are an interesting way to encourage alternative transit and I would be very much interested in exploring the implementation of a pilot program in my district. An important part of the pilot would be to identify the best ways to ensure that the program is equitable so that every community member has access to the program.
What does equity in active transportation mean to you?
Equity is a concept that does not necessarily mean equal. No where is that more evident than in transportation and land use. Equity needs to take historic inequities into consideration before equality can be properly addressed. That said, there are many underserved communities in the 5th District – particularly with respect to active transportation. Walkability and bikeability – especially in the areas most remote from the major urban job centers is vital to getting more and more users into public transit options and away from single occupant cars. I am committed to first and last mile solutions that make the use of transit possible for even the most remote users. The safety and convenience of this infrastructure is essential to its desirability.
Is there anything else you would like to say to Los Angeles County’s millions of bicyclists?
First of all, I would like to say thank you – for doing your part to reduce fossil fuel dependence, carbon emissions and traffic. I would like bicyclists to know that they have a champion for connectivity and safety in me and that I am not shy about piloting things that make sense in my district to help expedite the process and eliminate the bureaucracy. Thank you.