Los Angeles County Elected Leaders Focus on Walking and Bicycling


  • Eric Bruins, Planning and Policy Director, Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, and

  • Jessica Meaney, Southern California Policy Director, Safe Routes Partnership

Transportation TrendsLast week, the Safe Routes Partnership and Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition hosted a breakfast for Los Angeles County elected leaders and key staff from Metro, local cities, and school districts to discuss challenges and opportunities in making LA County more walkable, bikeable and transit-accessible. This was a rare opportunity to bring all three levels of government (Metro, cities, and school districts) into one room to discuss these issues. This convening built upon previous engagements with community-based organizations, researchers, environmental and health advocates, and city and county staff to build consensus for transportation policy changes across the region. Like other stakeholders, elected officials at the meeting universally stressed the importance of walking and bicycling to Los Angeles County’s health, environment and economy.Last week’s conversation is part of a changing story of transportation in Los Angeles County. Metro is rapidly building out the nation’s most ambitious transit capital program and, unlike new freeways, transit has a tremendous potential to be neighborhood focused. Our elected officials recognize that active transportation is the foundation of local mobility and therefore a regional priority.

We were excited to share our research findings with the assembled leaders, which show that active transportation has historically fallen through the cracks between different agencies due to lack of resources, technical capacity and focus. During our discussion, we heard that Metro, school districts and local cities each have unique opportunities and challenges when it comes to active transportation. Only by coordinating and sharing resources can agencies achieve common objectives.

Los Angeles County Elected and Key Staff Breakfast 9/17/13Metro opportunities:

  • Board adopted a Sustainable Planning policy, providing a framework to address active transportation and other sustainability issues
  • Local sales taxes provide resources to implement, subject to board discretion
  • Metrics and modeling capability to prioritize projects
  • First Mile/Last Mile targets investments in strategic transit-oriented areas for maximum benefit
  • Countywide reach for education and encouragement

Metro challenges:Los Angeles County Elected and Key Staff Breakfast 9/17/13

  • Can’t do it alone - must partner with local jurisdictions
  • Has not historically implemented projects, mostly a funder
  • Regionally significant projects require interjurisdictional coordination

 School District Opportunities:

  • Captive audience for education programs
  • Can reach students and parents

 School District Challenges:Los Angeles County Elected and Key Staff Breakfast 9/17/13

  • Need resources and best practices for education and encouragement programs
  • Barriers to walking and bicycling to school extend beyond campus, including perceived safety (parents’ perceptions), traffic safety, personal safety

City and County Opportunities:

  • Control the public right of way and regulate the built environment
  • Police departments enforce safe behavior, particularly around school routes during the morning

City and County Challenges:

  • Lack of funding for walking and bicycling investments
  • Building enough local support for changes to the public right of way
  • Need more technical knowledge on integrating walking and biking into urban design, land use and transportation engineering
  • Challenging to collect adequate data about bicycle and pedestrian travel behavior
  • Must better target education and enforcement to address specific issues and general perceptions

Fortunately, every challenge for one agency matches an opportunity for another.  By working together and implementing the recommendations identified in Transportation Finance in Los Angeles County: An Overview (see page 8), we can leverage the incredible investment Metro is making in transportation to build a county that is an even better and safer place to walk and bicycle.

The elected leaders breakfast was one in a series of stakeholder meetings that we've held throughout the year.  On January 8, 2014, we will hold a meeting to bring together all of those stakeholders to break down silos and work together to make LA County more walkable and bikeable.  Please join us for this very special meeting, which will be held at the California Endowment--all leaders, partners and stakeholders are welcome. For more information about the event or to lend your support, contact jessica@saferoutespartnership.org or eric@la-bike.org.

Breakfast Attendees:

  • Metro: Chair Diane Dubois, Directors Pam O’Connor, Mike Bonin, and John Fasana, CEO Art Leahy & staff
  • LA County: Offices of Supervisors Molina, Ridley-Thomas, and Knabe
  • Cities: Bell, Carson, Culver City, Duarte, El Monte, Los Angeles, Lakewood, Lancaster, South Gate, West Hollywood
  • School Districts: Azusa Unified School District, Bassett Unified School District, Los Angeles Unified School District, California Latino School Boards Association
  • State Legislators: Office of Senator Fran Pavley, Office of Senator Carol Liu
  • Other Key Partners: Bike San Gabriel Valley, AARP, Prevention Institute, UCLA Complete Streets Initiative, Kaiser Permanente, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health