Monday, December 9, 2013

Letter by Professor Olga Yokoyama

After our recent conversation with Vice Chancellor Parker, Professor Yokohama, a long-time bicycle commuter, added her own voice to the concerns raised last month. Her letter encourages the University to address the many challenges and barriers faced by cyclists approaching the campus. With the Expo Line coming in 2015, the Chancellor for Government and Community Relations appreciates hearing from the campus community and to learn that bicycle infrastructure surrounding the campus is fast moving up the agenda. Please add your own voice and share your letters with us.

Dear Director Brannon and Vice Chancellor Parker:
I write to you in support of the bicyclers among the UCLA community. I daily ride a bicycle to work and daily I think how nice it would be if bicycle riding culture spread in the US. It is healthy, it is “green”, it saves money and, often, it even saves time. I hope the university supports it in deed, not just in word, just as the university has finally embraced a no smoking policy. Please consider doing the right thing!

This past summer, I found a picture of a lovely graying cyclist couple on the cover of one of UCLA Health Care pamphlets and called the editors of this publication to tell them that those idyllic pictures are very nice but the whole campus, including the Medical plaza, has insufficient bike parking spots. It took me several calls and many pushed buttons to get to talk to people who were willing to listen. But it still didn’t get me anywhere, because the brochure turned out to be outsourced. The obvious incongruence (not to say hypocrisy) of such pictures does not ring a bell with those nice folks who design promotional brochures and posters. So the university’s one hand does not know what the other hand is doing: championing healthy bike riding, on the one hand, and making bike riding dangerous and uninviting, on the other, are two contradictory stances that the university’s administration routinely takes, not realizing that they are contradictory. Please give some consideration in your busy schedule to the ways in which bicycling culture can be supported at UCLA, and find a place in your admittedly tight budgets to support bike riding.
Olga T. Yokoyama
Distinguished Professor
Department of Applied Linguistics
University of CaliforniaLos Angeles

Friday, November 22, 2013

Meeting the Vice Chancellor

Keith Parker is a calm and collected man. He must be. As Vice Chancellor for Government and Community Relations, many issues come to his door every day. The high art of Community Relations is not advanced by excitement and agitation. 

Cover of UCLA Extension Catalogue, Woody Pirtle
UCLA loves Bicycles (1): Cover of UCLA Extension Catalog
And yet, we came to the 15th floor with a large bag of agitation and a sense of injustice. We wanted to hear that yes, something needs to be done about improving access to campus without a car. We wanted him to recognize the scandalous way in which cyclists find themselves thrown into the path of fast moving traffic around campus. Dismay and despair about the lack of non-motorized connections to UCLA drives us crazy. Good luck with that, he seemed to say. We are worked up about the lack of vision to offer healthy options for the commute to campus, about the missed opportunities that come to UCLA with the EXPO Line. For him our anger makes it barely to the bottom of his priorities: It would be nice to get involved here, but sadly, it has nothing to do with the core mission of the University: The creation, dissemination, preservation and application of knowledge for the betterment of our global society.

UCLA loves Bicycles (2): Banner from the UCLA Health Homepage

Point taken. Cycling towards academic excellence is probably a precarious proposition. But I was surprised that our partners across the table seemed content to outsource the benefits of active modes to a transient and un-funded group of cyclists like ourselves. Why would UCLA not take a position that explicitly encourages healthy, active and green modes for the commute to campus? To raise more green commuters, you need more than a blog. You need to engage local agencies so they provide better facilities around campus. And then you articulate disappointment when Councilmember Koretz just steps away from the commitment to study bike lanes on Westwood Blvd. Advice about how to reach out, how to negotiate and how to make lemons into lemonade has been well received, but this baby is too big for a crew of well-intentioned activists who need to get on with their academic lives. Remember, we too have to study and to work, to teach, to read, to write and to do research. Do you really expect us to remedy what your institution has overlooked for decades? Would it be so difficult to interpret current guidance about how the campus is to act within its local community to include an explicit emphasis on healthy and active modes? 

Yes, this reference to the academic core mission was pretty pathetic. No one can conduct and facilitate community relations while staring at the priorities of a research university. We were talking to right Vice Chancellor, yes, but he answered as if it said "research" on his door. We better clarify that.

UCLA loves Bicycles (3): Bruin Bikes
Perhaps they would if they could. A very vocal minority of homeowners who have forced Koretz's hand on Westwood Blvd. Perhaps they also have the Vice Chancellor for Government and Community Relations on speed-dial. Perhaps the reluctance on the 15th floor to recognize the benefits of cycling and to work actively towards better infrastructure has something to do with the same vocal minority of homeowners. They call when parking or congestion affects their residence, - but the woman on a bike, whom is she to call when a driver almost hits her, doors her, when the cratered roadways around campus throw her? Try (310) 794 6823 and ask for Mr Parker or Mrs Brannon. There comes a point when the university has to decide if it wants to stay quiet when local politicians make bad decisions. This point is not quite here, but it is close. Then facilities for those who want and need to get to campus without a car will no longer be only "nice to do." 

It surely was good to have this conversation. Thanks to all. As a follow-up, the Vice Chancellor will arrange a meeting for us with Koretz's transportation deputy. We also sensed that public health initiatives, for instance the healthy campus initiative or the school of public health, could become important partners for our concerns. We were impressed by Renee Fortier, who contributed and moderated very effectively. But we also felt that the campus leadership has barely started to consider the negative impacts of car-dependency. 

As we left the meeting, at the intersection of Westwood and Wilshire, we saw the new majestic on-ramps for the 405 in the distance, built for many million dollars, with UCLA drivers in mind. They owe us a whole lot of bike lanes, don't they? 

Keith Parker, Felicia Brannon (Government and Community Relations), Dave Karwaski, Renee Fortier (Transportation Services), Lana Martin (Graduate Student), Dylan Smith (Graduate Student), Hyeran Lee (Bicycle Coalition at UCLA), Michael Cahn (UCLA Bicycle Academy)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Healthy and active transport modes for UCLA along the Westwood Corridor

The LACBC has called the local bike ambassadors to discuss Westwood Boulevard, for which a bike lane is promised in the LA 2010 Bike Plan (passed unanimously by the City Council). Here Westwood Blvd is designated as a “backbone” of the network, not least because it offers the direct connection to UCLA. Now Councilmember Koretz has put planning for this on hold, probably because he has not heard from those voters in this corridor who believe that better bike facilities make for better neighborhoods. How can UCLA become a part of this conversation? This is what we want to discuss with the Vice Chancellor for Government and Community Relations.

Dear Mr Parker,

The UCLA Bicycle Academy (an informal group of staff and faculty with an email list of 200) and the UCLA Bicycle Coalition, a chapter of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, would like to request a meeting to discuss the opportunities for healthy and active transport modes along the Westwood Corridor, especially in view of EXPO line service starting in 2015.

We would like you to discuss in how far UCLA policy goals relating to the

  • Healthy Campus Initiative
  • reduction of traffic, congestion and air quality impacts
  • Being a good neighbor in Westwood
  • Creating attractive neighborhoods which can accommodate car-light lifestyles in order to attract and retain students and faculty

could lead UCLA to assume a more active role in the current planing process relating to the implementation of the LA Bicycle Master Plan, which includes a bike route along Westwood Blvd.

Among our members it is a widely shared hope that in the future more UCLA staff and students will have a choice of active and healthy modes for their commute to campus. How can we make this possible?

For the cyclist, the challenging geography around UCLA can be managed with the gear shifter. But in order to address the man-made bottlenecks which surround UCLA in many directions, it seems important that the voice of UCLA be heard more clearly in the local and political conversation. We had initial conversations with Nurit Katz (UCLA Sustainability) and Mike King (Transportation Services) and are currently exploring ways to inform and survey UCLA members resident in the affected area about the planning process for Westwood Blvd.

We would be very grateful for an opportunity to discuss these opportunities with you at your early convenience

Stand by for news on this important campaign

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Still Riding Strong

First Fridays, that's when UCLA Bicycle Academy meets. Lu Valle Cafeteria, at 12 noon. Past meetings were pretty virtual, but September 2013 marks a new beginning.

Tiffany, Jenny, Donald, Michael (2x), Mark and Jean-Francois were at the table, we had a few more expressions of interest, up to a great start.

The topics raised were:

"The Glen" UCLA Faculty Housing up Beverly Glen. How to improve options for those who do not want to use a car between UCLA campus and UCLA housing.

Public Bike Repair Stand: We noticed this new feature just nearby: A stand with tools and pump for minor repairs "on the go." Great feature for a bicycle friendly campus. How to improve access to this location?

Except Cyclists:
Use of "Except Cyclists" signage (eg "No Entry Except Cyclists") signage on campus. "Except Cyclists" signage has been proven to be very effective to encourage cycling. (See recent Safe Routes California document, page 30)

Need for better wayfinding signage on campus and around campus.

Westwood Bike Lane:
This relates to the Exposition Line and its connection to UCLA. Westwood is a nasty piece of work, a good example how cars have the ability to ruin a street. Improvements could also benefit cyclists. Is there the political will to make Westwood Blvd into a better place for all users? During our discussion the view developed that Kelton, properly developed as a Bike Boulevard with forced right turns for cars every second block, may be a useful alternative (Major issues crossing Pico, Santa Monica Blvd and Exposition). There is already signage restricting cut-through traffic on Kelton. Kelton Bike Boulevard would need proper wayfinding signage and should allow cyclists right of way at intersections. In addition, on Westwood Boulevard on every block a single car parking space should be converted into a Bike Corrall (alternating sides). This is important to address the needs of cyclists who visit destinations on Westwood. The full proposal for a "floating bike lane" (changing sides during a.m. and p.m. rush hour) between Pico and Santa Monica Blvd is here.

Bike Share:
Bike Rental (for the duration of the term) was welcome. Concerns were raised regarding the high cost of a proper Bike Share program. If demand is too uniform and leads to each bike being used only once or twice a day,  then a proper cost benefit analysis could reveal that each bike trip cost more than a taxi ride. If we want to remove barriers to cycling, then this kind of public money could probably be spent more effectively.

Bruin Commuter Club:
Interesting incentives, especially the "discounted parking when you need it." Members receive one year LACBC membership. Apart from the public transit pass program, vanpool, carpool, Emergency Ride Home, Zipcar (coming 2013-2014)

Academic Conference:
The idea was raised to facilitate a small academic meeting bringing together the various aspects of research into active modes (Urban planning, sociology, gender studies, history, technology, public health, GSM applications, bici cultures, etc) What kind of bicycle research is happening currently on campus?

We have been invited by Jonathan Weiss, chair of the Advocacy and Education (A&E) subcommittee of the Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee, to attend the next meeting which takes place in Palms at the IMAN Cultural Center, 3376 Motor Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90034, on Wednesday, September 18, 2013, from 7-9 p.m. Facebook link here. The City of Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee is to advise the “Mayor, City Council Members, and the various agencies of the government of the City of Los Angeles in the encouragement and facilitation of the use of the bicycle as regular means of transportation and recreation.”