Renowned Bike Experts Turned Away From L.A. City Cycling Workshop

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Fri, Sep 23, 2011 at 6:28 PM
click to enlarge Green bike lane in Long Beach. - EBBC.ORG
  • ebbc.org
  • Green bike lane in Long Beach.

The bike problems thicken for L.A.

Two prominent bike afficienadoes, one of whom was a government employee, were asked to leave today when they tried to observe the Think Bike L.A. workshop.

The reasons for this are not quite clear.

According to an anonymous source provided to Alex Thompson, president of cycling outreach group Bikeside, a CalTrans head honcho and a award-winning bike consultant walked up to the meeting and were asked to leave by Department of Transportation bicycle coordinator Michelle Mowery.

Dale Benson is a senior transportation engineer for CalTrans and Rock Miller designed the innovative facilities in Long Beach. Apparently, they were just curious.

The confrontation went something like this:

Benson: I just want to observe and watch the groups working.

Mowery: This is a closed thing.

Benson: Well who made that decision? Who do I need to speak with?

Mowery: You can talk to the mayor's office . . . don't make this difficult for me.

The two men did not RSVP for the meeting, but Thompson said that denying these two experts would be like "denying the Mayor of sitting in on any city meeting."

The Think Bike workshop is a country-wide event, where cities host Dutch bike officials to get input on how to make their roads better for cyclists. Amsterdam is considered one of the best, if not the best, bike-friendly city in the world.

The September 23 meeting was an exclusive, culminating affair with out Dutch guests, but when such respected officials ask to sit in, they are expected to be welcomed with open arms.

"It would make sense to kick out activists like us," says bike-blogger Stephen Box, "but this did not make any sense."

Thompson adds that Benson is the main decision-maker in terms of providing money for Caltrans related projects, so city bike officials pretty much nipped the opportunity for future funding in the bud.

Thompson elaborates:

Historically, the City of LA has struggled to compete for Metro and CalTrans funds. In the recent call for projects, the [city] Bikeways only secured one on-street bikeways project. That project received only 20% of the funding that LADOT Bikeways requested.
All of this on top of L.A. receiving an attaboy Honorable Mention in bike-friendliness and the revealing that the over-hyped bike plan will take 35 years to complete.

The event with the Dutch went the way the city wanted it to says Thompson. Dutch officials were taken on the cleanest and best L.A. bike routes, even though the officials were here to help fix our bike problems. Thompson said it was like the city put on "stripper make-up" to impress the Europeans.

"Bottom-line, the streets are not changing," says Box.

Well, at least to the Dutch, they kind of look like they are.

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