February 5, 2013
On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors adopted a new Healthy Design Ordinance that will change zoning and permitting requirements to promote walking, bicycling, community gardens, farmers’ markets and other elements of good health in future Los Angeles County developments.
Aimed at curbing the epidemic of obesity, diabetes and other diseases, the ordinance is the result of an expanding partnership between planning and public health officials to tilt this car-bound and fast-food-laden metropolis toward a more wholesome scale.
Among other things, the ordinance will require sidewalks in new developments to be shadier, wider and more walkable. It will also mandate bike parking in new projects and make it easier for communities to create community gardens and farmers’ markets, which will be required to accept CalFresh payments, formerly known as food stamps.
October 4, 2012
Quick: How many calories should an average adult consume daily? Should growing boys and girls eat more than their parents or less?
If you didn’t know that 2,000 calories a day is plenty for most adults and that most children need even fewer, keep your eyes out for Los Angeles County’s latest front in the surging obesity epidemic—a sweeping new public education campaign aimed at getting people to reduce their food portions.
The initiative was launched last week in Spanish and English on billboards, buses, web banners and other media. And it’s coming none too soon, according to a new report from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
In a survey released this week, public health officials found that adult obesity rates here have risen by 74% since 1997, when the county first began tracking the problem. Obesity now afflicts nearly a quarter of Los Angeles County’s adults, with rates in some parts of the county exceeding 30%.
In South L.A., for example, about one adult in three is obese now. In East L.A., the rate is 30.1%. In the Antelope Valley, which has the county’s biggest weight problem, the rate has more than doubled to nearly 35%—roughly the same as Mississippi’s. (The Westside, by comparison, has an obesity rate of less than 10%.)
The local findings correlate with trends across the nation, where the overall obesity rate—the percentage of people with an overall body mass index of 30 or higher—has reached epic proportions. Obesity is approaching tobacco use as the leading preventable causes of death in the U.S., and its attendant medical costs are estimated at $147 billion to $210 billion a year.
A recent state-by-state projection by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that if Americans continue on the current trajectory, obesity rates could top 44% within the next two decades in every state in the nation, including California, and more than half of the states could have obesity rates of more than 50%.
The situation, which is not only shortening lives but threatening efforts to contain healthcare costs, has prompted national, state and local intervention. New York, which has been in the movement’s forefront, recently became the first city in the nation to ban the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces and has launched a push to get rid of sugary and fatty food in hospitals.
In Los Angeles County, initiatives have ranged from ads depicting the amount of sugar in non-diet sodas to campaigns to improve nutrition in day care centers and pre-schools. The result, the public health department report notes, has been “a hint of a decline” in children’s obesity rates.
But Paul Simon, Director of the DPH Division of Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention, says that, even at its current plateau, childhood obesity here remains a profound problem and that’s “no evidence the obesity epidemic among adults in the county is stabilizing.”
“The rate of increase may be slowing,” he says, “but it’s still going up.”
Consequently, health officials are going back to basics in trying to educate the public on the kinds of habits that make people overweight. The current campaign, expected to cost slightly less than $1 million, is being funded by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and managed by the county’s Choose Health LA campaign.
“Obesity is a problem that starts early,” says Simon, “and one that continues to get worse with time. So we are doing many different things to address it. Portion control isn’t the only intervention, but it’s an important one.”
Portion sizes have ballooned over the last two decades. (For an eye-opening quiz, click here.) Study after study has shown that larger portion sizes make us eat or drink more. Even a feeling of fullness won’t stop us.
“We’re wired to eat what’s on our plate,” says Simon. And, he says, most of us don’t have a clue how many calories we’re consuming. To test market their campaign, DPH convened two local focus groups, in Spanish and English, and conducted an online survey with nearly 700 Los Angeles County respondents. One of the most startling discoveries was that most Angelenos don’t even know how much they can eat—or feed their children—without gaining weight. Some respondents thought 4,000 calories a day was the recommended allowance, others were sure it was more like 500.
In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that adult women only need 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day, and adult men only need 2,000 to 3,000. Young children need only 1,000 to 2,000. And unless you’re an athlete, you should be saying “when” at the lower end of those ranges. A grand-slam breakfast, a 12-inch sandwich, three slices of pizza, a bowl of spaghetti with two meatballs, a double-double with large fries—for most people, any one of these could, in a single sitting, dish up half of a full day’s calories.
But a second discovery, borne out in other studies, was that too harsh or challenging a message would simply cause some people to tune out. So the county campaign took the unconventional step of including ways to cut calories from the kinds of meals people were actually eating, as opposed to the healthier food they should eat.
The campaign’s images are not of broccoli and kale, but of smaller burgers and fewer slices of pizza, shown with their respective calorie counts next to the motto “Choose Less. Weigh Less.” Simon says the message is not necessarily to give up fast food and big restaurant portions, but to consider splitting an order, choosing a smaller plate or asking the server to put half in a to-go bag before bringing your food to the table.
The campaign is expected to get a boost from the federal health care reform law, which was upheld by the U.S Supreme Court this summer. Among the pending requirements of the Affordable Care Act is one that will require calorie counts to be posted in all chain restaurants with more than 20 outlets. (California has had a calorie-count law for nearly two years. But its implementation has been slowed because the new federal law has pre-empted it, as it has a county ordinance championed by Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.)
Though the fast food industry has, in general, resisted the posting of such information, a few chains, such as Panera Bread and McDonald’s, have voluntarily begun posting calorie counts on menus. This summer, McDonald’s experimented with a “Favorites Under 400” promotion of menu items with 400 calories or less.
Simon says that, down the road, the county might be able to build on that commercial involvement by encouraging restaurants to broaden their range of small-plates, offer half-orders or give patrons the option, before their food comes to the table, to save half of their entrée in a take-out box for later.
Yaroslavsky, a supporter of the county’s anti-obesity efforts, says the campaign “is one of many public health initiatives the County of Los Angeles is pursuing to help make our communities healthier.”
“Our aim is to give people access to healthy foods and beverages where they live, work and play.”
April 12, 2012
Four of Los Angeles’ newest planned parks could fit comfortably into a tiny fraction of Griffith Park’s sprawling 4,210 acres.
But the new parks, ranging in size from ¾ of an acre to 2.8 acres, have grand, out-of-the-box ambitions of their own—and each could play a transformative role in the aesthetics, health and recreation of their communities.
The parks will be funded by $5 million in state grants recently awarded to the Mountains Recreation Conservation Authority, which will work with community groups to develop the new recreational expanses in Hollywood and Pacoima—both in the 3rd Supervisorial District—as well as in Elysian Park and Compton.
All of the parks promise to bring small-scale pleasures, along with forward-looking environmental features, to areas hungry for a little green space.
“I think that L.A. is just a concrete jungle. The parks are large and they’re far away. People have to drive to get to Griffith Park,” said landscape architect Jeff Hutchins, a principal in Mia Lehrer + Associates, which is working on the ¾-acre Hollywood project. “People don’t necessarily need basketball courts or running tracks. People just need someplace close by to sit and reflect and spend some time with their family.”
The Franklin/Ivar Park, to be created on a triangular parcel below the Vine Street off-ramp of the Hollywood Freeway, represents the power of consistent neighborhood involvement in getting such projects off the ground.
“We have absolutely zero green space in this neighborhood,” said Terri Gerger, who’s heading up the initiative for the Hollywood Dell Civic Association, a longtime backer of the project. “There is no park space for kids.”
The lot, originally acquired by Caltrans when the 101 Freeway was built, has been vacant since the 1950s. George Abrahams, an adopt-a-freeway volunteer who lives in nearby Beachwood Canyon, has devoted untold hours to clearing the property of debris and keeping its exuberant bougainvillea in check over the years.
Going through the lot, where homeless people and drug users once congregated, “was like an archaeological dig,” he said. “I pulled about five or six thousand needles out of that area.”
At the urging of the community, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy purchased the property from Caltrans for $162,100 in 2008, with a significant contribution from the developer NCA/Commonfund, help from private donations and funding from state Prop. 84.
Now the grant from the conservancy’s partner agency, the Mountains Recreation Conservation Authority, will deliver $2 million to transform the Franklin/Ivar site. Plans call for a “carbon eater tree screen” to help absorb and filter polluted air coming off the freeway ramp, a water reclamation feature, a solar-gathering shade area, a water fountain, a demonstration garden, an “adventure play area” for kids, public art, and even an amphitheatre and grotto. And there’ll be Wi-Fi—an important attraction, Gerger says, for students at nearby trade and technical schools who are expected to use the park along with local residents.
In Pacoima, the impetus for creating a park on another once-forsaken piece of land is part of the movement to create healthier communities by carving out appealing places for outdoor activity.
The Pacoima Wash Greenway-El Dorado Park project grew out of an earlier county Public Health PLACE grant to Pacoima Beautiful, which is seeking to improve the health of a community that experiences high rates of heart disease, stroke, asthma, diabetes and obesity—all consequences of a sedentary lifestyle in an area where recreational amenities are few. Nearby industrial plants contribute to poor air quality, and some children suffer from what the grant application describes as “Nature Deficit Disorder.”
While the planned park itself occupies just 1.2 acres, it’s part of a larger initiative that’s eventually expected to create a publicly accessible greenway all along the Pacoima Wash and link it to larger recreational areas like the Angeles National Forest to the north and Ritchie Valens Park to the south.
“It’s the connections that are important,” said Ken Frederick, project manager for Pacoima Beautiful.
The city-owned property will benefit from $1.075 million in grant funding to plant trees, develop a free play area in a natural grass meadow, build a trail loop and create a “stormwater arroyo” that will allow plants to naturally remove contaminants from water as it flows into the ground.
The other grant recipients are the Los Angeles River Marsh Park in Elysian Park, which is receiving $725,000 to add an open air picnic area and community gathering spaces to the 2.8 acre project, and the Compton Creek Natural Park at Washington Elementary School, which will get $1.036 million to bring children’s recreational amenities and learning gardens to 1.3 acres of vacant school property.
With their environmentally-friendly features, educational components and public health roles, the new parks promise to be a hard-working bunch.
“A park can’t just be a patch of grass and a baseball field anymore,” said Eric Bruins, a Mountains Recreation Conservation Authority projects manager who’s overseeing the Pacoima and Hollywood parks for the agency. “It has to do many more things.”
March 14, 2012
When the 2012 L.A. Marathon thunders through town on Sunday, March 18, you’ll either want to be right in the thick of it or way out of its path.
And in either case, you’ll probably want to bring an umbrella. Weather officials said a repeat of last year’s rain-drenched marathon may be in store. The latest from the National Weather Service on the coming cold storm is here.
This course map shows the marathon’s progression over its entire “stadium to the sea” route, starting at Dodger Stadium and finishing by the Pacific Ocean. These “turn-by-turn” directions are also useful. The 26.2-mile course will take participants through downtown L.A., Silverlake, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Westwood and Brentwood, before ending in Santa Monica.
Rolling street closures will take place along the route, and additional street closures will be enforced to accommodate the event and all its accompanying fanfare. An overview of what to expect is here. There also will be lots of detours on bus routes.
If you decide to venture out to cheer on the runners, you can get there via Metro Rail and at least stay dry for that part of the excursion.
January 24, 2012
What does the width of your sidewalk have to do with the diameter of your waistline?
What do shade trees have to do with how active you are?
And what does bicycle parking have in common with farmers markets and community gardens?
They’re all elements in Los Angeles County’s new Healthy Design Ordinance, initially approved by the Board of Supervisors Tuesday, and now receiving finishing touches from county attorneys.
The ordinance, expected to become law in March, represents part of a new and increasingly important partnership between planners and public health officials trying to fight an epidemic of obesity, diabetes and other diseases by making it easier for people to adopt a more active lifestyle.
To the delight of bicycle advocates, the new ordinance would require for the first time that bike parking be included in new developments in unincorporated parts of Los Angeles County. (Similar provisions are included the county’s proposed Bicycle Master Plan, which is expected to come before the board in coming weeks.)
To foster more walkable communities, the Healthy Design Ordinance also would mandate 5-foot wide sidewalks instead of the current 4-foot standard. And, to make sure those wider sidewalks are inviting, it would require that shade trees be included in future development plans.
It also seeks to bring healthy vegetables and fruits to so-called food deserts by making it easier for farmers markets and community gardens to take root in residential and other areas without a lot of red tape. And written into the ordinance is a requirement that those markets accept CalFresh payments.
Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, the county’s top public health official, said his department was happy to have invested part of a 2010 grant it received from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help get the Healthy Design Ordinance off the ground.
It’s all part of a shift in tactics to move disease prevention out of the doctor’s office and into the streets.
“If we want to improve the health of Angelenos, we need to start by improving our physical environment and our social environment,” Fielding said.
Supervisors praised the work that has been done so far.
“This is a big idea. This is forward-looking. This is progressive policy-making,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Zev Yaroslavsky, who initially proposed the measure along with Supervisor Don Knabe, also saluted the efforts. But he said the new ordinance is just a first step toward designing a healthier county.
“Much more needs to be done to create livable neighborhoods that do not rely solely on automobile transportation,” Yaroslavsky said. “County planners and engineers, and private developers, will have to make a concerted effort to achieve neighborhoods where people feel comfortable walking, biking, and taking transit.”
In a motion adopted along with the board’s vote Tuesday in favor of approving the ordinance, Yaroslavsky directed county staff to take a closer look at “zoning and land use policies that encourage sprawling developments which force people to drive vast distances just to get to work, or buy a gallon of milk.”
At the same time, the motion recognized that there are no one-size-fits-all approaches, and that not all healthy design features will apply to every community.
A rethinking of what planning can mean to the health of communities and individuals is “actually pretty exciting,” said Susan Tae, a supervising regional planner who led the Healthy Design team for Regional Planning. “To create a more pleasant environment is to encourage a pedestrian to take a walking trip rather than jump in a car.”
Tae said other initiatives, such as the upcoming Bicycle Master Plan and a new specific plan to create a more walkable area around Gold Line stations on the 3rd Street Corridor inEast L.A., will help move the spirit of the new ordinance forward.
Designing for health, she said, requires thinking like a walker or cyclist and constantly asking: “How do we create things at more of a pedestrian scale?”
“If it’s not comfortable,” Tae said, “then it’s not going to be used.”
January 4, 2012
The new year is off and running in Los Angeles County—not to mention bicycling, walking and watching what it eats.
January, the traditional kickoff month for diets and self-improvement regimes of every kind, promises to bring some healthy developments of the public policy variety to Los Angeles County.
On January 11, the Regional Planning Commission is scheduled to vote on the county’s first updated bicycle master plan in more than three and a half decades. The plan is expected to expand the county’s network of bikeways and, by unanimous vote of the Board of Supervisors, also to include cutting-edge design proposals for making cycling safer and more enjoyable throughout the region.
Then, on January 24, the Board of Supervisors will take up a proposed Healthy Design Ordinance, aimed at turning car-centric, fast-food-eating Southern California into a more walkable, bikeable and garden-filled place.
Meanwhile at the Department of Public Health, this year’s anti-smoking and anti-obesity efforts will be rolled into the county’s new Choose Health L.A. campaign. Funded for the past two years by federal stimulus grants and now by health care reform funds, those projects have sought to improve health, not by targeting specific diseases, but by teaming up with cities, community groups and school districts to get at the root causes of chronic ailments such as heart disease and diabetes.
Last year’s successes included a wave of local smoking bans in cities throughout L.A. County and a provocative ad campaign underscoring the sugar content in soft drinks. The federal grant money has also helped lay the groundwork for the master bike plan and the Healthy Design Ordinance.
Next up: food stamps at farmers’ markets, a grassroots push for smoke-free apartment complexes, teamwork with city attorneys to enforce laws against cigarette sales to minors, and work with hospitals to make it easier for new mothers to breastfeed.
Paul Simon, who heads the Department of Public Health’s Division of Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention, says the initiatives are the fruit of an ongoing effort to create an infrastructure of good health in Greater Los Angeles.
“In many of our communities, people want to make healthier choices but have a hard time doing it,” says Simon. “Especially in lower income districts where people want to be physically active, but can’t bike or jog or go out without worrying about violence. Or where the landscape is dominated by these packaged food products jammed with calories. If you set out to design a community to get really high rates of obesity, the community you’d design wouldn’t be far from the communities we’re living in now.”
The Healthy Design Ordinance would mandate wider sidewalks and shadier landscaping in the county, increase bike parking, simplify permitting for community gardens and farmers’ markets and require thru-ways in dead-end cul-de-sacs so that pedestrians and bicyclists can more easily get to shopping, recreation areas and schools.
Though it would only apply to new construction and major renovations in unincorporated areas, its effects, like those of the bike plan, are expected to influence surrounding cities—and to create a healthier landscape for years to come.
November 30, 2011
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire? Better check your woodpile and your air quality.
Amid concerns about agricultural pests and air pollution in Southern California, state and local authorities have been paying closer attention this year to wood-burning fireplaces, one the most fragrant, but environmentally vexing, aspects of winter in L.A.
For instance, the Southern California Air Quality Management District will begin issuing mandatory “no burn” advisories through the end of February on days in which fine particulates in the area exceed federal health standards. Though the advisories are expected to be rare, and first-time offenders can get off the hook by taking a smoke-awareness course, fireplace owners who repeatedly light fires on those days can be fined up to $500.
“Fine particulates are not only bad for the environment, but bad for our health,” says AQMD spokeswoman Tina Cherry. “They can lodge deep in your lungs and exacerbate lung conditions and asthma. So this year, on days when the fine particulate levels reach 35 micrograms per cubic meter, we’re asking people not to burn wood.”
State and agricultural authorities, meanwhile, have been urging residents with wood-burning fireplaces to “buy it where you burn it” when it comes to firewood because so many invasive insect pests and diseases are transported in woodpiles.
“Right now, there’s a quarantine in San Diego County because of a pest called the Goldspotted oak borer, which spreads via wood and is a real threat to oak trees,” says Frank McDonough, botanical information consultant at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden.
“But you have to be careful even in areas without quarantines.”
The measures and warnings seek to wean Southern Californians from the wood fires that are such a tradition this time of year. To many, one of the coziest aspects of winter is the smell of a eucalyptus or oak log in the hearth, burning down to embers, but the fires that perfume winter nights with that smoky aroma also spew about 5.5 tons of particulate matter a day, on average, into the region’s air, according to the AQMD.
The new “no-burn” mandates are the latest in a set of measures aimed at controlling that pollution. Wood-burning fireplaces and stoves have been banned in new developments since 2009 in California, and voluntary no-burn days were initiated last year.
Although AQMD data has indicated that curtailment conditions can occur as often as 15 times in a typical winter, only one voluntary no-burn advisory was issued in 2010-11, and that was in February in the Riverside area, Cherry says.
This year’s mandatory no-burn laws will run from November 1 until February 29, and the AQMD will issue residential wood-burning advisories to let the public know whether particulate levels are elevated.
Residents can call a “Check Before You Burn” hotline at (866) 966-3293 to find out whether an advisory has been issued, or click here to sign up for an online notification. An interactive no-burn advisory map, which allows users to check for advisories by entering a ZIP code in the search area, is also available here.
November 22, 2011
Mmm. Turkey and stuffing, cranberries and sweet potatoes, pie and ice cream—few pleasures are as reliably delicious as Thanksgiving dinner, or as enduring: The basics alone will set you back thousands of calories.
Fortunately Los Angeles County has a bounty of public recreational options that can help offset the gluttony, many of them right here in the 3rd District. So as we load up our plates this week, let us also give thanks for the equally enduring pleasures of a Thanksgiving morning workout or a brisk walk after dinner. Here are some of our favorite menu additions for a healthy holiday:
Take a hike
It’s not an accident that a landmark in the Santa Monica Mountains is the headquarters for a health and fitness reality show. The hills and canyons of Los Angeles County have been an inspiration to millions, and the county’s trail system just keeps getting better. With the exception of a couple of small parcels, for instance, the 65-mile Backbone Trail is now almost entirely owned by the public, and the long-planned Coastal Slope Trail has passed several key milestones this year.
Enter the Fitness Zone
You don’t need to join a gym to improve your strength, flexibility or cardiovascular abilities. Thanks to the Trust for Public Land, outdoor gyms have been installed in the last four years in more than two dozen parks across the county, with durable, weather-resistant exercise equipment designed to let you get toned at no cost. Both El Cariso Park in Sylmar and Pan Pacific Park in Los Angeles now have Fitness Zones that are just waiting to help you whittle away that second helping of stuffing. (For a map of Fitness Zones, click here.)
Hit the bike trails
Better yet, ride over the river and through the woods on one of Southern California’s paved bike paths, some of which are world famous, after all. If you’re socially inclined, preface your dinner with one of the Thanksgiving bike rides that have been organized in places like Beverly Hills and Brentwood. With events like CicLAvia capturing the public imagination, pedal power has never been hipper than it is right now in L.A.
Step into liquid
You’ll probably need a wetsuit, but who in Los Angeles wouldn’t give thanks for our beaches? Even if you don’t like to surf in November, the Southern California coast offers endless fitness opportunities—for free. If you’re not a water baby, check out the Marvin Braude and Ballona Creek Bike Trails. Or make like Zev and take a beach run between Santa Monica and Marina del Rey before Thanksgiving dinner.
Pick up the pace
If you can walk, you can speed walk, or even jog a little. If you’re feeling really ambitious, maybe you want to sign up for one of this year’s “Turkey Trots” for runners in Burbank, Topanga and Van Nuys. More interested in proceeding at your own pace? Run the UCLA perimeter or shake a leg on one of the two jogging tracks at Van Nuys/Sherman Oaks Park. Out-of-town guests? Take the whole crew to the San Vicente median, jogging track to the stars (or, in any case, the almost-famous). It’s grassy, tree-lined, filled with beautiful people and easy to get to, and if you do the whole 6-mile loop from Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica to South Bundy Drive in Brentwood, it’ll knock about 600 calories from your intake. Or make room for extra pie.
November 17, 2011
As Los Angeles County closes in on its first updated bicycle master plan in 36 years, cycling advocates this week urged planners to incorporate more ambitious and innovative approaches to making streets welcoming for bicyclists of all ages and abilities.
The plan as currently drafted would add 816 miles of new bikeways in unincorporated Los Angeles County over the next two decades, at a cost of $327.7 million. But critics say the plan relies too heavily on the lowest category of bike route—just signage, no dedicated lanes—and doesn’t embrace enough forward-thinking solutions for getting new riders to brave Los Angeles County’s streets.
“The plan before you…is basically straight out of the ‘70s,” said Eric Bruins, a USC cycling coach who was among those turning up on Wednesday to address the county’s Regional Planning Commission as it prepared to take up the plan, the county’s first since 1975.
Bruins told the commission to look no further than Long Beach for examples of cutting edge design, such as “cycle tracks” that separate bike lanes from automobile traffic with a row of parked cars.
“We’ve unnecessarily limited our toolbox, and the kinds of facilities that are missing from this toolbox are those that are going to actually increase ridership,” Bruins said.
Bruins also urged bike planners to take a page from another upcoming county initiative, the proposed Healthy Design Ordinance, to make sure that the best possible designs for cyclist and pedestrian safety are written into the plan.
The county’s plan, developed with the Department of Public Works acting as lead agency, requires approval from the Regional Planning Commission before it can move to the Board of Supervisors for final consideration.
Commissioners heard testimony Wednesday, but then voted to delay a decision until Jan. 11, 2012, to allow time for completion of the plan’s final environmental impact report.
The commissioners praised the work that has gone into the bike plan so far—and so did some of the speakers.
Alexis Lantz, planning and policy director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, commended the county for its efforts and acknowledged the complexity of the job. But, she told the commission: “We feel there’s still work to be done to create a visionary bike plan that will truly serve our unincorporated communities for the next 20 years.”
Among other suggestions, she said the plan should give greater priority to improving cycling conditions in low-income communities and in areas with high obesity rates and significant concentrations of bicycle-related accidents.
The plan envisions adding several different kinds of bikeways to the county’s current 144-mile network. It proposes creating 70.6 miles of dedicated, car-free Class 1 bike paths. It also would add 265.9 miles of Class 2 bike lanes on streets with markings to delineate a place for bikes to ride.
And there would be 21.3 miles of “bicycle boulevards”—neighborhood streets with traffic-slowing measures in place to create better venues for cycling and walking.
Most of the new bikeways, however, would be Class 3 bicycle routes—shared roads with signs reminding drivers that cyclists are using the street but without specially designated lanes for bikes. Those would account for 458.6 miles of the 816 total miles proposed.
One speaker, Michele Chavez of the Antelope Valley High Desert Cyclists, told the commission that she was “very pleased” with the plan overall. But she said some of the proposed Class 3 routes are in areas where speeding motorists are common—and hazardous to people on bikes.
“I’m concerned that what will happen is that just a green sign will be put up that says ‘bike route’ and the cyclists will be no safer on these roads,” Chavez said, suggesting that two- to four-foot paved buffers be installed along the routes.
Sam Corbett, an Alta Planning + Design consultant who helped prepared the bike plan for the county, said the Class 3 routes should not be dismissed as unambitious.
“Class 3 facilities aren’t just all signage and stenciling,” he said. He said that 270 miles of the Class 3 routes would require road widening to increase the travel lanes to at least 14 feet in each direction to accommodate cyclists as well as cars.
Overall, Corbett said, the bike plan could help pave the way for a bicycle transformation in Los Angeles County similar to what’s happened during the past 15 years in Portland, Oregon.
“In 10 or 15 years, I think we can be where Portland is now,” Corbett said.
But some speakers, like Alice Strong of the West San Gabriel Valley Bicycle Coalition, said that’s too long to wait.
“I hope we don’t take 15 years to catch up with Portland. I’m sorry, but we should be leading,” Strong said. “We should be the innovators here.”
Strong said she would like to see many of the Class 3 routes upgraded to Class 2 lanes.
“We want to get more women cycling,” she said, “and we just don’t feel safe with just a little sign.”