Bicycles, walking and the environment

Once again the stars have aligned to provide rich material for discussion of the environment. Last week in this space I came to the conclusion that "Twenty Is Plenty," the European traffic calming and safety program that was recently considered by the City of Downey Green Task Force, is impracticable in Downey, given, among other things, the requirements of California traffic law.First star in alignment: Steve Perez, a strong local advocate for the environment, who originally proposed the "Twenty Is Plenty" program to the Green Task Force, is also a friend of mine. In an exchange following my article, he suggested that the possibility of "Twenty Is Plenty" could at least be left open as a volunteer program. Second star in alignment: in last week's Letters to the Editor, Patriot reader Paul Duran lamented the unsafe and discourteous riding habits of many bicyclists on public streets in Downey. As an avid bicycle rider myself, I can understand Mr. Duran's frustration, having all too often passed other bicyclists in Downey who were riding on the wrong side of the street. The connection here is that one of the objectives of "Twenty Is Plenty" is to foster safety and cooperation among multiple modes of transportation: namely, bicycle, pedestrian, and vehicular traffic. So Mr. Duran's comments could not be more timely. Not only that, but as I mentioned in last week's article, bicycle and pedestrian transportation already comprises 21% of all travel in the greater L.A. region, as well as 25% of all traffic fatalities. And with an already overcrowded traffic infrastructure and an anticipated 20% increase in population expected in the region by 2035, it will be increasingly necessary for vehicle drivers and bicyclists, as well as pedestrians, to learn better how to share the road. Third star in alignment: last Sunday, a mere three days after these issues were raised in The Downey Patriot, the City of Los Angeles held its fourth CicLAvia, closing ten miles of downtown streets between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. in an area extending from West to East to South L.A., in what has been described by one CicLAvia official as L.A.'s "biggest block party." CicLAvia "opens L.A. streets to pedestrians and bicyclists creating a temporary web of public space on which residents of Los Angeles can walk, bike, socialize, celebrate and experience more of their own city." (This apt description of the event appeared on the Patt Morrison page of the KPCC website, as part of a radio preview last Friday.) Again, the connection here is that other cities--in this case Downey's big sister to the north--have discovered ways to celebrate the richness of community life in the streets. Even though this event momentarily gives precedence to non-motorized transportation, it has the effect of humanizing the urban environment for everyone who participates. Fourth star in alignment: the Downey Street Faire will be taking place on Saturday, April 28. Along with the Christmas Parade, and the annual Arc Walk (which just took place in late March), the Street Faire could be said to be our closest analog to L.A.'s CicLAvia - an opportunity to share the streets of our city in community - AND, it might be noted, in harmony with the concepts of "Twenty Is Plenty." Fifth star: this coming Sunday, April 22, is our nation's forty-second Earth Day, which although originally a grassroots event celebrated mostly on college campuses, has now become a widely accepted national reminder that our environmental resources are critical to the country's health and well-being. To be more specific, the emphasis here is that all our various forms of transportation, from pedestrian to bicycle to Cadillacs, Mini Coopers, diesel semis, and delivery trucks, affect the environment immensely in a number of ways. Consequently, we'll continue that discussion in upcoming issues, including Mr. Duran's request in his Letter to the Editor for a safety article and information on bicycle traffic laws.

********** Published: April 19, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 01