HEAL cities and bicycle master plan

DOWNEY - One of the beautiful things about a free society and the democratic process is that, whether you win the vote or not, you still have an opportunity to make yourself heard. In that spirit, the remainder of this article includes the text of my remarks to Downey City Council at its regular meeting last night during the Non-Agenda Public Comment segment of the meeting."Mr. Mayor and members of Council, I'd like to recall to your attention the September 25th Council meeting at which council members unanimously approved the drafting of a City Ordinance setting in place the HEAL Cities campaign for the City of Downey as proposed by Council Member Vasquez.. "Mr. Guerra spoke in favor of rolling out the campaign this month as a component of a Healthy Downey campaign, and then-Mayor Brossmer instructed staff to start drafting the ordinance in preparation for such a campaign. "At that time several community members, including myself, encouraged Council to coordinate the HEAL Cities Campaign with the advancement of bicycling in Downey. I want to underline that encouragement tonight with a few additional reasons why I believe the time is NOW, not only to embrace the HEAL Cities Campaign, but also to begin assertively to develop a bicycle culture in Downey, including the creation of a Bicycle Master Plan for the City. "The first and most urgent reason to advance active living in Downey is the health of our city's children. According to figures gathered by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, one of the partners in the HEAL Cities Campaign, 40% of children in Downey were overweight in 2010, an increase of over eight percent from the same study in Downey in 2004. "A second reason that also relates to our kids is that children engaged in an active lifestyle are more focused and more attentive, and therefore more likely to perform better in school. "Added to that are the obvious, but still compelling benefits of reduced air pollution, reduced vehicle congestion, and reduction in use of fossil fuel that come from more walking and biking as they help to decrease vehicular travel. "Less obvious, but of great significance to you council members, charged as you are to insure that our city is healthy and prosperous, is the fact that evidence increasingly shows that walkable, bikeable cities are economically more robust, in fact that their walkability and bikeability likely contribute to that economic health. "And that's not all. If you look at an LA Metro Bike Map, bike lanes in the Gateway cities--with Downey in the center--are conspicuously absent, except for the riverbeds. But the cities of both South Gate and Lynwood are in the final stages of drafting Bicycle Master Plans, and though I don't have firsthand confirmation, I understand the City of Norwalk is working on one as well. So the City of Downey is falling behind its next door neighbors. "On a related issue, public records from Lynwood indicate that consulting fees for their bike master plan were a mere 30% of estimates for the same service I was given by Downey city staff some months back. So I believe you'll find the development of a bicycle plan less costly than you might think. In fact a comprehensive bicycle plan for the City of Downey would cost pennies on the dollar compared to the cost of any significant vehicle infrastructure improvements. "Finally, I was present last night at a meeting which established the Downey Bicycle Coalition. This group is the first in what will become a significant group of stakeholders who want Downey to become a healthier community and a haven for bicycling and walking, just like other successful communities in the greater LA area. "In conclusion, I know each of you well enough to know that you will support these goals. It's just time to pull the trigger. "So I'm asking you to please instruct staff to complete preparation of the HEAL Cities Campaign ordinance as soon as possible, and to actively begin investigating the advancement of bicycling in Downey, including the development of a Bicycle Master Plan."

********** Published: December 13, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 35