Pedaling toward a bike-friendlier L.A.
February 18, 2010
Failing is Metro’s new top highway executive, but he’s also the agency’s interim chief planning officer, and in that capacity he will kick off its first bicycle roundtable on Friday.
To get a preview of what’s in store, and to learn about Failing’s bike philosophy, we dropped by his 22nd floor office at Metro’s Gateway Plaza this week for a chat.
Here are some edited excerpts of what he had to say.
On Los Angeles’ bike-friendliness—or lack thereof
We’re in the C- area. We have a long way that we can go. We’re not a D, or in a failing grade area. We are a dense urban environment. We certainly have our challenges in that we don’t have a lot of separate facilities [bike paths] that I do see in some communities. But quite frankly you don’t need separate facilities.
L.A. is too important to not be striving towards the absolute best in everything that we need to do. We need an A-list transit system. We need an A-list highway system for cars. We need an A-list bicycle transportation system.
We need A-list pedestrian facilities. We have to get there.
On safety and coexistence on the streets
I think the biggest issue that we need to deal with is just overall public education so that our greater [body of] citizens recognize the important role that bicycles play and that they are allowed on streets.
They have rights and they have responsibilities. Both groups–the bicyclists as well as the drivers and pedestrians–all need to know their various rights and responsibilities as they’re commuting.
We’re not at a point where we’re going to create a whole series of new [bike paths.] We will do some new [bike paths], and those are important. But those will only go to a few specific locations.
And bicycles, like people, need to go everywhere. So we need to have methods to get everywhere.
I very much believe in the safety education piece of it. And the coexistence is happening, like it or not, so let’s get over that piece of it and get down to the safety education piece of it.
On where his agency fits in
Metro has a strong role. Our role is to make sure we have a cohesive master plan that covers our entire county.
And more than just the planning, we are a funding source.
So we have money available, which is never a bad thing when you’re trying to get things done.
On how it all fits together
I am a firm believer in a holistic look at how transportation occurs and how our communities develop.
There’s a place for everyone. We all have to be at the table.
On getting things done
I’ve been here 30 days. So I think I should give it more than 30 days. I’d like to see us be able to formulate some good solid policies in the next three to six months…That should be plenty of time.
On the roundtable
Friday’s roundtable for me is the beginning of a better conversation.
I’m hoping that we see a mix of people that can speak on behalf of the casual riders–the more pedestrian, suburban type users–not just the hardcore commuter types, who are important as well.
On his own two wheels
Riding on my street in front of my house—I’ve done that within the last three or four months As far as taking the bicycle out with the family and doing some riding on a bike path, it’s been a couple of years for me.
I’m not gonna be a bicycle commuter. Ain’t gonna happen with me.
I’m more interested in my weekend trips, quite frankly. Of the things I do in my own local community. There’s a lot of stuff that’s really close by the house that I don’t have to fire up the SUV and go truckin’ over to do.
I know the old Schwinn I had as a kid, which was single speed, got me everyplace. And I spent a lot of time on a bicycle as a kid. I think we all did. But there’s a lot more to it than there was back when I was a kid.