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Councilman Back Pedals on Bicycle Meeting

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Photo by Egan Snow via Flickr

After quickly championing the rights of vehicles and bicycles sharing the road in the aftermath of the Mandeville Canyon "road rage" incident, Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl has canceled this Monday's community town hall that he quickly put together last week (he even changed locations once to accommodate the expected large crowd comfortably).

"At the request of the residents and of the cyclists who use Mandeville Canyon Road, I have decided that a more focused, deliberative task force will achieve my goal of bringing the relevant people together to discuss ideas and proposals for everyone to share this narrow canyon roadway," Rosendahl said in an e-mail notice sent to residents.

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The notice continues to say that "the tenor of media coverage and of blog posts would make a Monday public meeting counter-productive."

Alex Thompson, resident of Rosendahl's district and a monthly rider with Santa Monica Critical Mass, said he was surprised and disappointed in the cancellation. "I'm sure the meeting would have been uncomfortable, but that discomfort comes from a genuine conflict between motorists and cyclists. We won't get anywhere by ignoring that conflict when these two cyclists were hurt. The problem is deeper and broader than Mandeville Canyon, so we need to approach it as such."

The task force will be made up of representatives from the three Mandeville Canyon homeowners associations, the four cycling clubs that regularly train there, the Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee, the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, and his staff. It will be tasked to "develop proposals to address issues of safety, personal and public rights, and civic responsibility - among both cyclists and residents of Mandeville Canyon," the e-mail stated.

Rosendahl introduced a "Cyclists' Bill of Rights" motion on Friday that was endorsed by fellow councilmembers. He thinks the venue for such discussion is more appropriate at Transportation Committee and City Council meetings where it could lead to a citywide education campaign about cyclists rights and sharing the road.

The original Cyclists' Bill of Rights for Los Angeles was written by the Bicycle Writers' Collective. No member was invited to the task force. "The Citywide response to this Road Rage Incident has demonstrated that this is a Citywide problem that must be addressed with a Citywide Solution," said BWC member (and LAist Contributor), Stephen Box, who had just returned from a Neighborhood Council event downtown where he was promoting the Cyclists' Bill of Rights and lobbying the community leaders for support. "As authors and champions of the Cyclists' Bill of Rights, the BWC must be a part of the task force, but even more important, it is imperative that the public have a chance to participate."

Councilman Rosendahl's letter to Community
Sent 5:38 p.m., Saturday, July 12, 2008

In response to escalating tensions over a July 4 incident that sent two cyclists to the hospital, Councilmember Bill Rosendahl is replacing a public Town Hall meeting with a task force on how cyclists and residents can better and more safely share Mandeville Canyon Road. "At the request of the residents and of the cyclists who use Mandeville Canyon Road, I have decided that a more focused, deliberative task force will achieve my goal of bringing the relevant people together to discuss ideas and proposals for everyone to share this narrow canyon roadway," Rosendahl said.

Over the past few days, officials with homeowner associations and the bicycling clubs that train on the winding, 5-mile stretch of road expressed concern that the tenor of media coverage and of blog posts would make a Monday public meeting counter-productive. Many said they worried the issue had become larger than the specific issues of Mandeville Canyon

"While I always prefer more public dialogue and welcome it even now," Rosendahl said, "I appreciate the views and concerns of the residents and cyclists most involved in this issue and most familiar with this road.'

The Town Hall meeting had been scheduled for 6:30 p.m. July 14 at the Felicia Mahood Multipurpose Center in West Los Angeles

Instead, Rosendahl said he would convene a task force of representatives of the three Mandeville Canyon homeowners associations, the four cycling clubs that regularly train there, the Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee, the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, and his staff. The group will develop proposals to address issues of safety, personal and public rights, and civic responsibility - among both cyclists and residents of Mandeville Canyon.

Rosendahl said he hoped the more global issues of road-sharing between cyclists and motorists throughout Los Angeles would get a more thorough airing in a more appropriate, citywide venue. He noted he and several colleagues last week introduced a motion endorsing the Cyclists' Bill of Rights.

"When the Transportation Committee and the City Council take up that issue, I think it will be an exceptional opportunity to begin a citywide education campaign about the rights of cyclists and the need for everyone to share the road. We're all stuck in gridlock in Los Angeles, and we need to voice our frustration at the lack of a sensible transit system, and not at each other.

Rosendahl said he also welcomes any feedback at councilmanrosendahl@lacity.org.