LA could build a city-wide network of protected bike lanes in a week — if it wanted to.
Back in 2019, the Mid City West Neighborhood Council (whose board I currently sit on as Vice Chair) passed a motion asking for more bike/scooter corrals in Mid City West. The idea was simple — make it more convenient to park your bike, and maybe more people will use bikes to get around. I approached Paul Koretz, the current sitting Councilmember for Council District 5 (and killer of Uplift Melrose) with the idea, and was told by his office to pick one location to start.
I picked a location in front of “Toasted and Roasted” on Melrose — a local coffee shop that was sadly killed by the pandemic — thinking that people might grab a coffee when parking their bike or scooter. I was told to get the permission of the retail store next to it as well, which I did. I also got the support of the Melrose Business Improvement District. Once I secured the support of the coffee shop, the retail store, and the BID, the council office asked for letters from the property owners as well.
All of this effort was to turn a single parking space into a bike/scooter corral!
To this day — nearly two years after we initially asked for it — we are still waiting for this single bike/scooter corral.
However, something interesting happened during the pandemic. Los Angeles launched “LA Al Fresco” — its program to help restaurants survive by using public space (sidewalks, streets, parking lots, etc.) for dining space, since they couldn’t have diners indoors. The program proved so popular, that the city council recently took steps to make it permanent.
On a block on Melrose near where I live (and one block from Toasted and Roasted, ironically), the city made a dramatic change. Overnight, the city took an entire block of parking spaces on the north side of the street and made space for people, using crash barriers.
There was no outreach to neighbors. There were no signatures or petitions from businesses. There was no checking with the property owners or BID. There was no neighborhood council outreach. The city just did it! I was amazed.
If the city could do this with one block overnight, it means — if we wanted to — we could have a network of protected bike lanes across the entire city within weeks.
This incident proved the city can move very quickly — and with very little red tape — when it wants to, and for reasons that are deemed sufficiently urgent and beneficial to our society at large. Why outdoor dining checks those boxes, but bus and bike lanes don’t, I’ll never understand.
Luckily, we don’t have to go parking space by parking space forever. Streets For All is making real progress at changing culture and making it clear that politicians have more to gain than lose by supporting the reapportioning of public space to better uses than private car storage.
To everyone running for mayor and city council in 2022 — we’ll see you at the ballot box! If you need some inspiration, check out Streets For All’s policy positions. And feel free to steal them :)