On Feb 19 the LA Department of City Planning held its Westside public hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for implementation of the 2010 Bicycle Plan. The capacity crowd of nearly 100 seemed about evenly divided between yeas and nays, although the nays were certainly rowdier.
The proposal for floating bike lanes on Westwood Blvd (see my Feb 15 Rancho Park Online blog post) got much attention. This proposal was not included in the DEIR, but rather has been absorbed into the planning process through interaction with the community.
Here are some of the objections to the proposal raised at the hearing, with responses:
The loss of parking will be devastating for businesses. There is no loss of parking under this proposal. The proposal provides for parking on both sides during non-peak hours and one side during peak hours, the same as now. The only difference is that parking during the evening peak will flip from the southbound side to the northbound side.
Congestion will get even worse. Congestion is time-of-day and direction sensitive. For the morning northbound peak, two travel lanes will remain in place. For the evening southbound peak, two travel lanes will also remain in place. Other than that, since we are not going to get more street space, the best we can do to alleviate congestion is to use existing space more efficiently. Gains in efficiency are to be had from more people riding bikes rather than driving cars provided the bikers move in a separate space from the cars. Lots of people are saying they would ride their bikes on Westwood Blvd if conditions were safer, so creating space to bike safely holds the potential to lessen congestion.
Angelenos will never give up their cars. The increase in bikes on LA streets in recent years is already palpable. On top of this broader trend, elements of the population traveling Westwood Blvd are particularly disposed to take up biking. The ultimate destination of Westwood Blvd northbound is UCLA with an enrollment of 40,000 students, and faculty and staff numbering another 30,000. Palms is home to a large concentration of these folks. This group is lobbying hard for bike lanes to get them through Westwood with the promise of patronizing local businesses en route should that become more convenient. Pitfire Pizza seems to buy into that promise – they provided free food for the 150 bikers who participated in Ride Westwood Feb 9.
Nobody told me this was going to happen. Ground zero for bike lane planning and implementation lies at the LA Departments of City Planning and Transportation. The websites of these agencies are a fount of information on bike lane developments. For a start, see the LADOT Bike Blog. Information is further communicated to the public through civic organizations, the traditional news media, and modern social media. The specific proposal for floating bike lanes on Westwood Blvd was conveyed to the Westside Neighborhood Council, thereby making the information available to the leaders of homeowners’ associations to pass on to their members. The natural channel for outreach to the business community would be the local business association if there were one for Westwood Blvd, but there is not. That leaves business operators to their own devices to keep abreast of happenings in the community. Bikers, for their part, have organized effectively to engage with City Hall which has embraced their involvement in the planning process.
It’s all happening too fast. The 2010 Bicycle Plan is still in the discussion stage as of 2013. To many bikers and would-be bikers, the process seems altogether too slow and cumbersome. But that’s how democracy works.