Bike Lane Draft EIR Goes to Public Hearing

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.

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Comment by barney desimone on February 28, 2013 at 9:01am

I've been watching these community meetings for decades. Back when Zev came out for a meeting at the Scouting/and Community room next to Overland Av School to talk about the new mall. My mother and many neighbors were there. The community was overwhelmingly against it. It went in anyway. When the Expo was proposed, the streets were full of lawn signs protesting it. It went in. I heard there were a lot of people at the local council meeting against the Westwood bike ln. My prediction is that it will go in. The same goes for all of the mega development around L.A and Santa Monica. People can protest but they will not be heard. This process is promoted and funded from places far away from L.A and from the people. It would be a good idea for people to find out where. Once federal grant money is involved local input gets disregarded. Most of what is called local concensus building is a sham.   

Comment by Eddie North-Hager on February 28, 2013 at 8:03am

Politicians are voted into office by voters in an open and fair process. And this is not only going through the open City Council process but they are also going to all the neighborhood councils to get input in an open and fair process. Whatever side you are on, we can be part of the decision.

Comment by barney desimone on February 24, 2013 at 9:24pm

I question the objectivity of the politicians involved in these studies and I think the studies are biased. toward bikes. That whole agenda that includes mixed use, sutainable development, rail lines and bikes is all too pat. Nothing that stands in the way gets a fair hearing, least of all the majority of residents in the area.  I wouldn't give much credence to anything the Gonernor says. He's an extremist IMO. Even if the six minute delay figure were accurate, the time it takes to drive up Westwood is already horrible.

I ride out in Agoura a lot on a motorcycle. That area is a Mecca for bicycles and there are lanes up and down Kanan Rd. That street is ideal for them, It's wide. There's no parking and it's not too crowded other than during rush hour. We've had fatalities non the less. There are crashes all over the mountains with cars and bikes. The problem with cars and bikes as opposed to cars and motorcycles is the speed differential. That's what causes the most injury. 

Regardless it's going to turn into a PR problem for biking. I suppose we'll all see soon enough.

  

Comment by Yolo Watefah on February 24, 2013 at 6:48pm

Barney, from the Draft Environmental Impact Report's Transportation section (I think it is section 4.5 and on page 18), the amount of total delay added for someone driving at the peak hours on Westwoord from Santa Monica Blvd to National would be (in a worst case scenario): 355 seconds or about 6 minutes.

This isn't "my" traffic study any more than it is yours. This is calculated by the LADOT.

The LADOT and the City Planning Department cite a lot of valid studies from other cities regarding increases in cycling rates, less injurious crashes, reduced noise, etc. in the rest of the environmental document.

The time delay impact cited above was recently removed by the state legislature from the list of things that would trigger an environmental review for a bike lane project in the future. Which means that the body of elected representatives in both the assembly, senate, and the governor himself deemed motorist delays as so beneath consideration in urban planning that they took it off the list of environmental impacts that previously stood in the way of creating a high-quality, connected, bike network in cities like LA.

As for riding on side streets: there are also plans for a neighborhood network of bike facilities in the bike plan. The mayor made it his priority to push the backbone bike network - which is a connected series of bike lanes on major surface streets. The reason for this is that it creates the highest spikes in ridership when cities do this and it drops crash and injury rates for all road users at the same time - the most bang for your buck. Cyclists are people - and people need to get to all the good stuff on our major streets like schools, jobs, stores, etc.

Мы победим!

Comment by barney desimone on February 24, 2013 at 6:26pm

Once again you come with the same snarky attitude that you started with. There is such a thing as connotation. When you continue to use words like sewer and rat runs you lose credibillity and also the support of the majority stakeholders in the community, drivers. If you are that foolish why should we take anything else you say seriously. You're argument is working against you when you do that. You really need to apologize to the community for these insulting comments.

As for your traffic studies, I've yet to hear about one that applies directly to the conditions on Westwood Bl north of Pico or the same stretch of Sepulveda. I haven't heard anyone respond to the suggestion about riding on side streets. What's the negative there? It's been suggested by a couple of people but nobody from your side has explained why that wouldn't be a good idea.

What you may not have thought of is that you may be bringing unwanted regulation upon your biking community by pushing this agenda. Once you do achieve the bike lanes and the increased number of bikers that you want, you can expect more regulation. Now bikes are loosey goosey go where you want, no restrictions except for freeways. The day may come when bike riders will have to be licsensed with riding tests like motorcycles and special bicycle written exams. They could be required to carry insurance and of course mandatory helmets for adults as well as children. Look for stricter law enforcement with tickets and fines. You're going to make yourselves an attractive target for regulators and law enforcement. There will be new regs being pushed by ever more annoyed motorists. There's always a backlash. My advice would be to soft peddle this agenda a bit ( no pun intended ). Go for the streets that would most easily accomodate lanes and leave Westwood alone.

I'd like to see a poll of business owners on Westwood. I don't think many would like the idea of bike lanes on that street.   

Comment by Yolo Watefah on February 24, 2013 at 1:01pm

Barney,

I don't understand - are you an authority on transportation policy? For you to dismiss a survey of traffic volumes and numerous studies of the effects of road diets seems like maybe you are dashboard philosopher unwilling to consider that these bike lanes might not be so bad in the first place.

The amount of motorist delay that will be added to our streets is, truly, minimal. Even in the worst case scenario as laid out in the LADOT's calculations we're talking about less than a traffic signal's worth of delay. What we get in exchange is a quieter, measurably safer street.

And our major streets in the area ARE rat runs, and ARE designed as car-only sewers - the city historically measures the streets only taking into accoung the flow of cars per day and the amount of delay each car statistically experiences in the same manner a sewer system engineer measures the flow of poop through their sewer pipes. Just because it sounds negative doesn't mean it isn't true.

Who I am, and what my political beliefs about whatever political bent you assume I might or might not be or have really have no place in this discussion. Bike lanes aren't any more "green" than they are "conservative". This is a local quality of life issue and I am in support of it.

Comment by barney desimone on February 24, 2013 at 11:02am

You made the original negative charcterization about you plan's critics. I just pointed them out. If that implies hypocracy on your part in your mind then maybe self examination is required.  Where specifically did I misread anything? Attacking me or your critics does not advance your cause. My family is not within the scope of your business here, sir.

Academic studies can be written to support any position on anything. They do not represent ultimate truth. I've read many academic studies related to the walk, bike, train agenda, not just the bike related ones. Bikes are fine in their place. Lanes can go in safely in many areas. The whole point of this discussion is that there are some places where they won't fit. The refusal to recognize that is where we have a problem. Lanes on Westwood north of Pico and some other high traffic narrow streets are absurd. You do an injustice to your cause by insisting on these streets. I can see why you would want to change the subject with a deflection and ad hominum comments. This argument about Westwood Bl specifically has no merit. There are too many good alternatives to that route. It's unreasonable. Academic studies about bike lanes in general don't apply there.

There you go again with characterizing others as angry and negative. I remind you of your original comments about your opponents in the council meeting as negative and emotional, supporting a "sewer of cars", and a "rat run" and you still try to call ME angry. This kind of transferrance and demonizing of opponents is right out of the Leftist's play book. So much of the "green" movement is of the watermelon variety, green on the outside and red on the inside. Using terms like "cadre" also sounds like a dog whistle. If you insist that you have no such leanings then I will accept your word on it.

 

BTW is Yolo Watefah your real name or does it stand for You only live once WTF?  Serious question. I'm just curious.   

Comment by Yolo Watefah on February 24, 2013 at 10:07am

Barney - it takes a very mean-spirited misreading of what I wrote to come up with the reply you posted. I hope you aren't like this in real life. If you are, my sympathy to whatever friends and relatives you have.

If you take the time to read through the environmental documents the city has prepared for these bike lanes, they contain numerous citations of academic studies that show a marked improvement in safety (less crashes, less injurious crashes), increased bike ridership, less noise, etc.

If you angry about something in your life, try doing something positive about it instead of trash talking people by making insinuations that they are Maoist revolutionaries or hypocrites.

Be nice! It will help whatever argument you are making.

Comment by barney desimone on February 23, 2013 at 4:44pm

Well, Yolo For someone who purports to be basing an opinion on FACT finding as opposed to "negative emotions" you comments contain a lot of emotional words and expressions ie, hate, car only sewers, rat run, loud dangerous race course. I do agree with your choice of words to describe your pro-bike friends as a "cadre", well said comrad.  

 

Comment by Yolo Watefah on February 23, 2013 at 4:30pm

This article is very helpful in combatting the negative emotional responses so many have expressed in this community at the bike plan meeting. The recommendations the city is making to add bike lanes to these streets, and the findings of facts introduced at the meetings, are not pulled out of the sky - most of the studies backing up the reduction in car trips, safety improvements for all road users, improved walk-up business, air quality, noise reduction, and bike ridership increase are based on studies from across the U.S. in cities that have chosen to do similar things.

I understand the hate for non-motorized people - that is something I have seen indulged in by those on both sides of the political spectrum. Hating people not in cars is institutionalized in our media, TV shows, movies, and in song. However, the counter weight to all this hate is the embrace of the intrinsic value and worth of our public streets as something more than car-only sewers - which is largely how they function these days.

I don't live in the city just so I can drive fast everywhere. You can drive fast in Kansas City, Detroit, and Lancaster - but why would you be there in the first place? I live here because I can go walking, jogging, or bike riding almost everywhere I need: to school, to work, to go grocery shopping, and to go out and watch a movie.

The lanes are cheap, they are effective, and they must go in. Every candidate for mayor has expressed heavy pro-bike sentiment. I have already voted for the one who is the most pro-bike. A whole cadre of my friends have as well. I hope some of y'all will come around once they're installed. In the mean time - please chill out and try and see your city as something more than a car-only rat run. This is where we live and it ought to be better than a loud, dangerous, race course between our houses and some office.

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