Westwood Boulevard: We Have To Stop Doing Bike Planning for Cars

While hardly a regular cyclist these days, Koretz has a lot of miles on his legs. Here he's posing on the 405 after a short bike ride during Carmageddon I. Photo:##http://www.scpr.org/news/2011/07/16/27755/405-shutdown-carmageddon-live-updates/##KPCC##
Though a sometimes cyclist himself, CD5 CM Paul Koretz angeres a lot of riders by vetoing bike lanes on Westwood Blvd. Photo:##http://www.scpr.org/news/2011/07/16/27755/405-shutdown-carmageddon-live-updates/##KPCC##

Yesterday, Streetsblog’s Damien Newton broke the news that plans for bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard between National and Santa Monica, were, in effect, dead in the water.

According to the story, CD5 Council Member Paul Koretz had unexpectedly come out in opposition to the lanes. And given the exceptional power LA councilmembers have over what does or doesn’t get built in their districts, his opposition alone is probably enough to kill the plans.

Last night, Koretz’ office released a statement confirming his stand against the lanes, which was forwarded in an email from the Westwood South of Santa Monica Homeowners’ Association, most of whose members have strongly opposed the project. While the statement came through a third party, a representative from Koretz’ office has confirmed its accuracy and authenticity.

November 13, 2013

As I announced early this year, I support exploring the option of bike lanes along Sepulveda Blvd. north from National Blvd.

At that time, I also stated my opposition to a proposal for bike lanes on Westwood Blvd.

I was subsequently approached by representatives of the cycling community, who requested that the City investigate a second and possibly less intrusive floating bike lane concept, to be employed on Westwood Blvd.

I appreciate that the cycling community has been contemplative and creative in arriving at such a suggested
option, but I have come to the realization that even this concept would have substantial negative impacts on the movement of traffic, and would cause significant changes for parking conditions along this corridor. I have also received critical input from many in the community who are certain that a floating bike lane along

Westwood Blvd. would prove far too confusing and disruptive for motorists and cyclists alike, and is therefore untenable.

Consequently, I will not be supporting the exploration of the floating bike lane concept nor other options for bike lanes along this crucial commercial corridor.

I will support further investigation of the viability of Sepulveda as a corridor for bicycle infrastructure, 
and/or the exploration of other north/south residential corridors if they can be made viable.

………

However, many supporters of the Westwood bike lanes have questioned parts of that statement, particularly the conclusion that the lanes would be disruptive to traffic.

Which traffic, he does not say, since bike lanes would only enhance bicycle traffic on the boulevard.

The proposed floating bike lane for Westwood between National and Santa Monica Boulevards. Image by LACBC via Rancho Park Online
The proposed floating bike lane for Westwood between National and Santa Monica Boulevards. Image by LACBC via Rancho Park Online

As Damien’s story points out, Koretz had agreed to a formal study of a proposal for floating bike lanes, which would move next to or away from the curb as parking switches sides during the morning and evening rush hours. The plan, which has been successfully employed on the Embarcadero in San Francisco, would not have resulted in the loss of a single traffic lane or parking spot.

However, despite his promises, Koretz first suspended, then permanently halted the study. Even though sources tell me the study was halted after the first portion had been completed, showing that it would have zero impact on automotive traffic.

The only question remaining was the impact it would have on non-metered parking, such as valet stands at local restaurants, and requiring people to cross the street to get to stores and cafes they might otherwise be able to park directly in front of. If they can find nearby parking, that is, which is often difficult if not impossible at peak hours.

And which could be alleviated, at least in part, by giving customers a safe alternative to driving.

Which begs the question of how the councilmember concluded the bike lanes would create a traffic nightmare, when the study he halted showed just the opposite.

………

“We have an expectation that council offices will work with us in a public and transparent manner,” said Eric Bruins, Planning and Policy Director with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. “That did not happen in this case.”

According to Bruins, there is no viable alternative to Westwood Boulevard for bike riders seeking a direct north/south route through the area, noting that detours and hills can adversely affect ridership. And ridership on what is already one of LA’s most dangerous streets for cyclists is expected to increase exponentially once the Expo Line station opens on Westwood a few blocks south of Pico, and the boulevard becomes the only direct route between the station and the UCLA campus.

“We’re open to alternatives, but they have to work to the benefit of bike riders and keep them out of the way of vehicular traffic,” Bruins explained. “I have yet to see an alternative to Westwood that offers the same favorable characteristics of being a direct route and relatively flat.”

The problem with using Sepulveda as an alternative, as Koretz suggested, is that it is several blocks out of the way, adding nearly a mile to the 2.2 mile commute from the station to the campus. And it would require significant traffic calming or separation to encourage cyclists to take on a heavily travelled street that varies from high speed traffic, to congestion, to near gridlock conditions depending on the time of day.

In fact, sections of the roadway that already have bike lanes seldom see bike traffic, as most riders seem to prefer alternative streets.

Bruins also notes that shifting bikes onto Sepulveda would conflict with the city’s long range plans, which calls for it to be a preferred bus route, with Westwood as the preferred route for bicycles.

The obvious solution is a Westwood Blvd that doesn’t favor one form of transportation over everything else.

“We have to stop doing bike planning for cars,” he said.

………

While some bike supporters were outraged by Koretz’ decision, Bruins encourages them to channel that anger into constructive action. “We need to act like the adults here.”

He encourages bicyclists to call, write or email the councilmember’s office to demand a resumption of the study and a fair and open discussion of the subject, which he believes would inevitably result in bike lanes on Westwood, as the only viable solution that serves all road users.

Email: paul.koretz@lacity.org

Address: 200 North Spring Street, Room 440, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Phone: 213/473-7005, 310/289-0353 or 818/788-9210

Meanwhile, Calla Weimer, a dissenting member of the homeowners’ association in question, and the author of the two Westwood safety studies Damien linked to in yesterday’s story, offered a public letter to Koretz that is worth sharing.

From: Calla Wiemer

Sent: Friday, November 15, 2013 8:26 AM

To: Paul Koretz

Cc: Jay Greenstein

Subject: Westwood Blvd

Dear Councilmember Koretz,

On June 26, 2013, you stood before the Westwood South of Santa Monica Homeowners’ Association annual meeting and announced that you had given the green light for the LA Department of Transportation to study bike lanes for Westwood Blvd.  Before that study could be completed, however, you ordered it suspended.  Then on November 13, you halted the study permanently, saying that you “will not be supporting the exploration of the floating bike lane concept nor other options for bike lanes along this crucial commercial corridor.”

All along, your deputy for transportation was assuring those who favor bike lanes for Westwood Blvd that suspension of the study was only temporary, that the process would go forward, that the day would come for an informed public airing of views.  He also asked bike advocates to refrain from doing outreach within the community until the results of the study became available.

Our community needs to have the informed public discussion we were promised.  Such a discussion could provide a springboard for making Westwood Blvd a better place.

Mayor Garcetti has challenged Los Angeles to remake itself as a city of Great Streets.  What is a Great Street?  It is certainly not a street where cyclists are being mowed down in great numbers.  Could Westwood Blvd become a Great Street?  Some of us think so.  Do you have the vision to facilitate the discussion?

Respectfully,

Calla Wiemer

  • Dylan

    Correction on the Council Office phone numbers: 213-473-7005, 310-289-0353, or 818-971-3088

  • bikinginla

    Thanks, Dylan. Evidently I tried to move his office to New York.

  • ubrayj02

    Koretz got elected in 2009, right? So is he up for re-election soon? If so, I say we organize to support anybody but him. How about an anti-Koretz bike ride to his district office doors?

    We can have critical mass do loops through the Westwood area as collective punishment. On second thought, why go to Westwood now when we can wait another 10 years until it is the Detroit of Los Angeles, the baby boomers are dead, and the new people arriving can live like humans without needing a 2,000 lbs. prosthesis just to buy a jug of Gogurt and insulin.

    Koretz slogans:

    Vote Koretz! “A kick in the ‘nads to street safety”
    “Bike lanes in 2050!”
    “Delusional homeowners associations are the best!”
    “Why let good practices get in the way of making bad decisions!”
    “Lower Westwood rents now!”

  • ubrayj02

    I will say this: Koretz’s bike pictured above has excellent puncture resistant tires afixed. He’s is gonna need them when he is collecting bottles and cans after he gets voted out of office.

  • Dennis_Hindman

    Koretz started his second term as a city council member on July 1st.

    I don’t see anything unexpected in his actions. Both Bill Rosendahl and Paul Koretz were against installing bus only lanes during peak hours along Wilshire Blvd in their districts. Why would installing bike lanes be any different, even if it doesn’t involve the removal of parking or travel lanes for cars?

    Unfortunately, in that area of the city its likely that the bikeway improvements will have to mainly be on residential streets for the foreseeable future.

    Its very unlikely that a council member will make a decision that runs counter to most of the organizations that represent an area for such a small project like bike lanes.

    I like to refer to what occurred when New York City started aggressively installing bike lanes starting in the second half of 2006. At first there was strong resistance. Now, there is so much acceptance, with about 2/3 of New Yorker’s approving of them, that most of the bike lanes that are now being installed are as a result of community requests.

  • andrelot

    No one wonders why many people who are not passionate either way on the debate, and could be probably convinced with a normal, long-term outreach work, become sudden opponents of bike lanes when they read things like “collective punishment – we screw traffic and bring it to a halt because we didn’t get want we think we are entitled to”.

    The post above is a typical extremist example of what *not* to do if you want to reach people who don’t have firm stands pro or against bike lanes, and could be convinced to support them, if only they were not antagonized or threatened with “critical mass loops”.

    Sometimes I think certain bicycle riders are borderline low-level “mafiosi” in their tactics, and should be denounced and rejected as such.

  • El Barto

    Its hard not to be mafiosi when the city itself is mafiosi first. Idealistic twinkle eyed bushy tailed planning graduates get crushed into militant hate frothing curmudgeons pretty quick when strung along by politicians and agencies.

  • ubrayj02

    You have written a manifesto for defeat. Koretz has made a decision that gives bike riders NOTHING. He has decided to continue making the lives of those on bikes a scary, miserable, and dangerous experience. Westwood is an area in well-documented commercial decline partially due to an overabundance of under-priced car parking, on a street that will connect UCLA to the Expo Line. Hundreds of car trips a day could be eliminated if bike lanes & bike parking are part of the light rail line’s roll out.

    Your comment circumscribes the worthless ideology of CNN-watchers and those unengaged in the day-to-day struggles in a city hall. One thing works when it comes to bike lanes in Los Angeles: raising hell.

    That isn’t my perspective, that is a well documented fact. Get over your wishy washy emotional baggage and get to work making this city a better place to bike or get out of the way.

  • Mangey Bike Rider

    AMEN. Because as you can see the “normal, long-term outreach work” done on say the Spring St. Bike Lanes and the West Wood bikes lanes really works! Oh wait, they didnt work. Where is Alex Thompson when you need him?

    You know why being a rambunctious JERK works in LA politics? Because every politician and every agency head and every HOA or BID president has some kind of DIRT in their closet that they are afraid will get shaken out by a bunch of mangey bike riders who exist as defacto 3rd class citizens of society ridiculed daily and not giving a fuck. Basically, we have nothing to lose.

    We are already out there being treated like shit, killed, maimed and not cared for and we still manage to have fun being that 3rd class folk. In fact as Ubrayj says, to those of us who’ve been battling for years we KNOW. The more we get angry the more we claw DIRT out of some politician’s image the more we make everything muddy. They dont want that.

    So take heart mangey broke bike riders under assault…. fuck shit up. Dig up dirt. claw and scratch, find that thumbscrew. bring out the blood, the pitch forks, and hammer away at the establishment. Shake out the Glenn Gritzners, organize crosswalk actions, paint them bike lanes, posterize the city, build that EIR bomb, lambaste that spineless politician, out talk that old fart engineer, slam that car hood. FUCK IT. We have NOTHING to lose. Nothing. They give us CRUMBS. They leave us for dead in the street. They install wimpy sharrows, they remove green bikelanes. They design freeways out of bridges. THEY SUCK. And We SUCK TOO.

  • ubrayj02

    “Normal long term outreach”? Hah!

    Non-normal, pissed-off, outrage is what got the bike plan amended in the first place – which never would have included the bike lanes in DTLA that are being painted now.

    We can cool our jets in a few years, once the baby boomers have been marginalized through action of time on their bodies resulting in their death. The voting blocks of LA’s future won’t need to rabble rouse and use angry rhetoric – but until the money and voting power is behind a city-wide vision for cycling we’re going to have to maintain an aggressive rhetorical stance.

    We have to blast away at the issue or, like with Westwood and Spring St., our interests will be routinely paved over.

  • Mangey Bike Rider

    preach it brotha!!

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Recently, Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz joined Mayor Eric Garcetti and others at a preview of the Expo Line Phase II, which extends that light rail line from its current terminus in Culver City, all the way to downtown Santa Monica. Afterwards, a press conference for this long-overdue project was held at the nearly-completed Palms […]