Bicycle supporters storm City Hall to demand a fair and honest study of bike lanes on Westwood Blvd

CD5 Councilmember Paul Koretz was there, but was he listening?
CD5 Councilmember Paul Koretz was at today’s council session, but was he listening? Photo by Eric Bruins.

Amid calls for more Americans to arm themselves and not to miss Ender’s Game, a handful of concerned citizens fought for safer streets for Westside bike riders.

Acting on less than 24 hours notice, 10 bike lane supporters managed to free their morning to speak to the LA City Council, and take CD5 Councilmember Paul Koretz to task for publicly coming out against any form of bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard, despite earlier promises to keep an open mind while a study — since halted at his request — was underway.

In fact, half of the speakers at today’s council session were there to support a resumption of that study, punctuated by calls from other speakers in support of getting drunk, arming private citizens and pimping Hollywood productions.

Many made a point of reminding Koretz of his previous support for bicycling, as well as the council’s unanimous vote in approving the 2010 bike plan, which included bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard as a key part of the citizen-inspired Backbone Network.

Jonathon Weiss, Koretz’ representative on the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee and chair of the BAC’s Advocacy and Education Committee, urged the council not to “break the Backbone on Westwood, which would inevitably lead to broken bones on the boulevard.”

Meanwhile, BAC chair Jeff Jacobberger urged the council to complete the study of bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard that Koretz had halted before it could be completed. “If there’s anyplace we should be exploring for bike lanes, Westwood Blvd is it.”

Long-time LA bike advocate George Wolfberg reminded the council that improving bike safety and transportation on the Westside — particularly on Westwood itself — has been a focus of the committee since he was a member 30 years ago.

UCLA student Lee pointed out that hundreds of cyclists ride Westwood every day, with over 800 riders injured in collisions on the street in the past decade. Meanwhile, fellow student Megan Kavanagh, who is working on her Masters degree in nursing at the university, framed it as a public health issue. And said that, even as a Licensed Cycling Instructor, she’s afraid to ride on Westwood because she gets harassed the entire way — including drivers who threatened to kill her simply for being in their way.

USC Visiting Scholar Calla Weimer addresses the council; photo by Eric Bruins
USC Visiting Scholar Calla Weimer addresses the council; photo by Eric Bruins

“We were promised that you would study bike lanes on Westwood,” said Calla Weimer, visiting Scholar at USC and a resident of the area. “We were told the study had been authorized, that the next step would be to discuss solutions, and we were promised that the councilmember had not made any commitments or promises.” She also pointed out that 43% of all collisions on the six-block stretch under consideration involved bike riders.

Alek Bartrosouf, Campaign and Policy Manager for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, reminded Koretz of what he’d written in response to the coalition’s candidate survey earlier this year, in which he voiced his support for speeding up implementation of the bike plan in his district. And in which the councilmember expressed his fears of riding on commercial streets where he has to compete with cars for the same space — the same problem riders currently face on Westwood. And will continue to face if Koretz has his way.

A speaker named Marci said she was neither a bike rider or a driver, but merely someone who had “witnessed it all” on Westwood, and called for completion of the halted study. That call was repeated by Eric Bruins, Planning and Policy Director for the LACBC, who said the roll of a city council member is to “ensure we have the information necessary to have informed discussions and make the right decisions.”

But popular bike advocate Don Ward may have summed it up best when he said bicyclists weren’t even asking for bike lanes to actually be built, but just an honest look at the need for them on Westwood.

“We though we had built trust with the city council. So let’s stop the lying, let’s stop the games. We want to work with you, we want to support you. We want honesty. Please.”

  • Calla Wiemer

    Re: the photo caption at the top. No Councilmember Koretz was not listening. As citizens rose to speak one after another asking for the promised study of bike lanes to be re-initiated, the Councilmember absorbed himself in a series of side conversations.

  • Don Ward

    Calla you were awesome in telling Koretz to get back in his seat. Thank you for speaking and taking time out of your day.

  • Calla Wiemer

    Channeling my inner professor of yore.

  • Dylan

    Thank you to all of you who testified!

  • I ride a bicycle everyday and I don’t think we need Bike Lanes. 99% of drivers pass with seven to ten feet of clearance. Only one-in-five-thousand comes closer than three feet. If you put down a painted stripe three feet off the edge of the curb, it gives the wrong message, and frankly it sinks everyone down to the lowest-common-denominator level.
    It is much more cost effective for cyclists to mount digital video cameras on their bikes or on their helmets. With a camera, you now have evidence, and the plate number of the car that cut you off, which can be used in court.

  • oscar

    Let’s not stop at bike lanes only. We should advocate for protected bike lanes to truly advance the safety concerns of cyclists.

  • I think we’ve been through this before, about people who are against bicycle lanes not because they believe that it is unfair to equalize access to the road over motorists, but because they think that it is sets an incorrect expectation of safety. I’m glad you’re on a bike. I truly am. You’re probably within that 1% who will ride regardless of the conditions. I am not, and neither are many people who are reading and commenting here. We are also invested in encouraging people to cycle, and to do so more often. In the cost-benefit analysis of building a bike lane, there is a value that needs to be assigned to changing attitudes and to “converting” waves of people into using a bicycle for recreational and utilitarian purposes. The message that painted lanes and other treatments send to me and others is that we belong on the road.

  • ubrayj02

    Let me be the first person to cancel out your vote for “no bike lanes” with my vote for “yes bike lanes”. If my kid is run over and I have a video file of the incident – do I get my kid back? Will her injuries magically be healed? Will I ever forgive the road designers who made the streets this dangerous?

    When you type “lowest common denominator” who the f&*^ are you referring to anyway?

    Please, Mr. Master Race on Wheels, tell me why a GoPro on a kid riding with their parents to and from school is going to be “safer” than a protected bike lane?

  • Roadblock

    Josef. You seriously rule. Thanks for shutting this idiot up.

  • Disclaimer: I am a Gulf War Veteran. I ride with lots of red and amber marker lights on my bike, day and night. I wear a Reflective Vest. I don’t race. I watch my rear-view mirrors. If I see anything funny behind me, I stop, dismount, and start taking pictures. I have flags on fiberglass poles on my bike. Everybody thinks I’m a Police Officer (I was Military Police during the first Gulf War, and I help the Auxiliary Police direct traffic , but I’m not on the Police Payroll. ) I have a digital camera on a tripod, in the handlebar basket, so the camera can be aimed independently of the handlebars. The city has traffic cameras on poles with flash, like 40 of them. I have a flashing headlight on my helmet, which everyone thinks is a camera, but the real cameras are elsewhere.

    I live on the North Shore of Long Island, out here on the East Coast. We have Mass Transit, in the form of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), and Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE Bus). In the city of Glen Cove, the hispanic population makes great use of bicycles, though most ride on the sidewalks. Glen Street was put on a “Road Diet” a few years ago, which narrowed the road, but made it safer, go figure.

    I may have started the photography thing, but notice that instead of other cyclists installing cameras, the city has installed the cameras on poles at every major intersection. Now the question is about civil rights, the city may take heat for using cameras, but I as an individual certainly have the right to have a camera on my handlebars.

    My a advice is to watch the rear-view mirror, and stop, dismount , and start taking pictures when anything starts to happen. Typically, any car that is approaching from the cyclists rear, and has come within 200 feet…

  • The “Safe Routes to School” program is a good idea. In addition to traffic violations, however, when a motorist messes with a child, we need to make sure he’s not a pedophile. If the driver can move to the left lane when he’s 200 feet behind my bike, and not come within ten feet as he passes my bike, why should he come any closer to a child on a bike? Children should be safe when riding there bikes to school, and we as adults should make it so.

    Now, by the L.C.D, I meant that with most drivers passing me with seven to ten feet of clearance, and we pass a law telling them 3 feet is okay, then the law would be counter productive.

    Maybe they have more respect for me because I’m a gulf war veteran, and I conduct myself like a trooper on patrol (see my Disclaimer).

    And we need to get more people riding bikes . When the motorists are stuck in traffic, and they see bikes passing them, the solution should be to get a bike. Biking is easier than walking. A person on a Bike can cover five times the distance he or she could other-wise walk. It may be a conundrum, that motorists are too lazy to ride a bike, but cyclists are too lazy to walk? hmm….

    People are much too nuts about their jobs and their commutes. You could leave earlier for work, to make sure you get there on-time. Or you could negotiate for a shorter work week, like a six hour day and a four day week. You could go on strike and freeload off your mother while your employer tries to famish you into submission.

    Better yet, forget the commute, maybe the workers should have barracks, shantytowns, or dormitories, right at the work site. Ironic that the car you used to commute to work in, had a nicer interior than the shanty you now live in, but I digress.

    God bless you, most parents these days are too cheap to buy bikes for their children.

    What would I do if a motorist came closer than ten feet to my Daughters Bike? I can’t tell you, the internet is being monitored , and I may be accused of conveying a threat.

  • Roadblock

    That is a LOT of work just to “think” that you are safe on the road. Guess what, drivers typically burst up to 50mph on LA streets. You wont have time to do anything let alone dismount and take a photo. I know, i saw a suspected drunk coming at me at 50+ mph. By the time you realize they arent changing lanes or slowing down you cant get out of the way. I saw mine coming and i made a move hoping to dive out of the way. Nope. Got slammed and thrown 75 feet.

  • Yeah, it could happen, i mean it’s bound to happen unless we do something, but the point I’m making is that only one percent of motorists would hit a bike. Law Enforcement and Insurance companies should make sure these drivers stay off the roads.
    Concrete barriers to keep motorists out of bike lanes are expensive. Something like 4.3 million dollars per mile. You want my opinion?- Give the offenders some serious big-buck speeding tickets, that would really help fund the construction of the concrete barriers. I don’t see why the taxpayer should bear the burden.