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The Jackson Huang Lesson: Dismiss Cyclists At Your Own Peril

Bike advocates are furious over what they consider to be a dismissive response to a local teen by city officials.

Late last month, Florence Nightingale Middle School Student Jackson Huang , requesting that bike lanes called for in Cypress Park through the city's five-year Bicycle Plan be implemented as soon as possible. 

Councilmember Ed Reyes responded to Huang's letter about a week later, urging Huang to be patient as he waited for the lanes to be installed in Lincoln Heights.

The lanes Huang wrote about would be located on Cypress Avenue and Avenue 28, both of which are actually located in Cypress Park.

That was the first of what local cycling activists consider to be a pair of "dismissive" responses to Huang.

Comments made by LADOT Spokesman Bruce Gillman about Huang's Letter in L.A. Streets Blog have prompted the strongest reaction.

“While these projects don’t yet have a date for implementation, Cypress Ave. and Ave. 28 are both in the five year implementation plan as Bicycle Friendly Streets, which does not preclude us from implementing bike lanes if bike lanes make the most sense for these streets,”  Gillman said (we'll have more on that quote later).

The distinction between bicycle friendly streets and bike lanes--and Gillman's suggestion that both Cypress Avenue and Avenue 28 were designated as the latter and not the former--caused bike blogger/activist/organizer Joe Linton to go--in the words of owner Josef Bray-Ali--"nuclear."

From Linton's Blog Post on L.A. Eco-Village

LADOT’s Bruce Gillman is wrong.

LADOT has a history of lying when it comes to devising ways to block implementation of bike projects: Reseda Blvd, bike plan mileage planned, bike lane mileage implemented, etc. Some folks may say it’s maybe not deliberate lying, it’s just inattention to detail or error or incompetence or who-knows-what… but L.A. bicyclists know it’s a pattern. When the DOT makes an assertion about why they can’t do bike stuff, don’t take their assertion at face value. And when a department repeatedly makes false statements, well that’s lying in my book.

As Linton alludes to in his post, both streets are designated as "Priority 2 Future Bike Lanes," and not "Bicycle Friendly Streets."

This means that they should at some point in the next five-years get freshly painted lanes that provide a safe space for riders.

Were Cypress Avenue and Avenue 28 designated as "Bicycle Friendly Streets," they would get no lanes. Such streets have already been designed for cyclists and pedestrians and experience little motor-vehicle traffic. Cypress Avenue and Avenue 28 don't meet those criteria, Linton writes. 

So what was Gillman talking about in his comments to Streets Blog?

Patch contacted Gillman, who responded with this:

"While these projects don't yet have a date for implementation, Cypress Ave. and Ave. 28 are both in the five year implementation plan as Bicycle Friendly Streets, which does not preclude us from implementing bike lanes if bike lanes make the most sense for these streets. We thank the Nightingale Middle School students for their enthusiasm and we are happy to work with the Council Office to help prioritize these projects for early implementation."

If you're scoring at home, that's the same exact comment that was given to L.A. Streets Blog about the bike lanes last week, before Linton wrote his post. 

Pressed for more detail, Gillman directed us to Bike Program Coordinator Nathan Baird, who explained that he had given the original comments to Streets Blog, had answered from memory, and made a mistake. 

"These are Future Bike Lanes. I answered from memory last time and did so incorrectly. It was a busy week last week. Their implementation status remains the same: We don't yet have a date for implementation. Though, we are happy work with the Council Office to help prioritize these projects for early implementation," Baird said.

Baird and company no doubt had their hands full last week with the impending closure of 10-miles of roadway for L.A.'s fourth CICLAVIA event--which has been heralded here and elsewhere as an overwhelming success.

However, given the recent spate of accidents in Los Angeles, and the general sense among riders that city government still isn't totally committed to making the city a safe place to ride, Linton's frustration make sense. Add in the fact that the comments were directed toward a civic-minded 13-year-old--who was actually correct--and you've got the recipe for an explosion.

"What is really frustrating to me is that LADOT’s official spokesperson Bruce Gillman, under color of authority, is basically saying that this NMS student got his request wrong… when Gillman himself got it wrong," Linton writes in his post. "Gillman is abusing his official power as LADOT’s spokesperson to belittle a 13-year-old. That’s so screwed-up that it gets me inarticulate…"

Actually, Joe, we think you made yourself abundantly clear.

The city has made some commendable progress in the last year in responding to the pleas of local cyclists. York Boulevard's and

And Baird seems like an entirely competent and committed individual, as well. He's an Occidental College graduate with bike advocacy bona-fides; it's his job to implement this immense and complex bike plan.

If there's a lesson for Baird and other city staff to be learned here, it's that in 2012, even the appearance of a dismissive attitude toward cyclists--especially a civic minded 13-year-old who understands the details of the bike plan--will be met with a "nuclear" response.

Susan R April 20, 2012 at 12:48 AM
Councilmember Ed Reyes has been in office for 12 years. If he wanted a bike lane one would be there. Now, he is a lame duck because he is termed out and will be out of office next year. And, who wrote the letter? Probly not the councilmember, but only a staff person that signs his name. And, probly the same person that wrote a letter of support to Divine Saviour Catholilc church on city letterhead “encouraging” them to take me to court. (the church lost, I won!). Cypress Ave already has bike lanes from Pepper Street to Division. Only a half mile from Figueroa to Pepper needs them. That is only half a mile! North Figueroa is the place that really needs the bike lanes. And, there should NOT be any bikes allowed on San Fernando Road where the speed limit is too high to accomodate bikes and it is extremely danagerous. Especially when Cypress Avenue has safe bike lanes. No bicyclist should be on San Fernando Road. Councilmember Ed Reyes put in a million dollar $1,000,000 water fountain at North Figueroa next to Home Depot in the middle of nowhere. He should have used that money for bike lanes or any other project that the community needed. We did not need a useless million dollar water fountain. The council office NEVER asks the community what they want or need.
nishith April 20, 2012 at 08:08 PM
i agree with Susan in the sense that North Figueroa need bike lanes (from Avenue 26 to Avenue 50). Councilman Reyes should move quickly, if he cares - he's got nothing to lose being a lame duck (and everything to gain--a reputation for caring about his community).
Susan R April 21, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Nishith, I agree with you but I don't think it will happen.

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