Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Villaraigosa Finally Acknowledges The Importance Of Cycling To Sustainaible Transit, And Promises Budget Commitments To Get Projects Started This Year

Although the mayor has shown some support for certain public transit projects, (namely the "Subway To The Sea") he has never really rocked the boat in funding or planning priority for automobile transit. In a surprise move he announced this morning that in response to volatile fuel prices and growing traffic woes, "...alternatives to car trips need to be given serious attention, and serious financial commitment by the city." Elaborating further, he spoke on the need for safe routes for cyclists, improved pedestrian crossings and other incentives that have been shown to grow cycling and walking trips in other cities such as Portland Oregon. "I promise the numerous, and growing population of cyclists in this city, the new bicycle master plan will be secured funding. It is absolutely shameful the conditions we accept as bicycle routes today in some parts of L.A., and that will change."

He then touted his successes in the passage of Measure R and of the coming public transit projects that will boost mobility across Los Angeles. During this portion of the press announcement, he must have mentioned his favorite project, the Subway to the Sea, at least 6 or 7 times. In regards to the coming Expo Line, reiterating his new commitment to cycling, he assured worried cycling activists that the planned adjacent bicycle path, much like the Orange Line, would be constructed with the laying of the tracks and that if Metro could not set aside the funds for the necessary study, the City of Los Angeles would secure those funds.

Finishing off his statements he expressed the importance of these projects and the funding for them with a remarkable acknowledgment of the staggering costs to the the city for car trips and the potential for encouraging alternative modes to save money, and improve quality of life in the long term.

I have to admit with Antonio's past of rarely even acknowledging that cyclists exist, this about face change of priorities came as a complete shock. I only hope that this commitment is real, as it is of course the actions that speak louder than words. Perhaps with Mayors of New York, Chicago, and Portland all making significant commitments to cycling, he finally decided to join the party in that pursuit of a "world class" city. It's about time.