Rowena Avenue Forum Reveals Significant Common Ground

Silver Lake's half-mile Rowena Avenue road diet. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
Silver Lake’s half-mile Rowena Avenue road diet. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

In 2012, Ashley Sandau was walking across Rowena Avenue and was hit and killed by a motorist. Then-Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge spearheaded efforts to make Rowena safer. The city Transportation Department (LADOT) implemented a road diet on Rowena. The street had two travel lanes in each direction. These were reduced to one travel lane each direction, plus a center left turn lane and bike lanes. LADOT studies have found that post-diet Rowena supports roughly the same volume of cars as pre-diet, but does so with reduced speeds and fewer collisions.

A group of Silver Lake residents are frustrated with the Rowena road diet and urging the current Councilmember David Ryu to undo the safety improvements. Road diet opponents have a website and petition, and have attracted the attention of the L.A. Times.

Last night, the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council held a town hall meeting to discuss the Rowena road diet. The event was held at Ivanhoe Elementary School. Approximately 200 people attended.

Attendees initially directed questions to a panel of city representatives – LADOT, plus police and fire representatives – plus pro- and anti-road diet leaders and Councilmember Ryu’s Chief of Staff. The questions were mostly fielded by LADOT, represented by engineer Tim Fremaux, who stressed that the diet was a proven safety measure intended to slow speeds and make crossing safer, with bike lanes that “do not connect to anywhere” just “icing on the cake.”

After the questioning, the meeting shifted to public comment. While there were certainly vocal road diet opponents expressing comments, the sentiment ran about two-thirds in favor of the road diet, with many Silver Lake residents expressing that they do bike and walk, and do want to make the neighborhood more conducive to these modes.

While one couple that live on Rowena described the post-diet street as a “living nightmare,” most commenters expressed that Rowena had been improved and could be made even better – more of a commercial village “more like Larchmont.” The largest quantities of critical comments were mostly not focused on Rowena Avenue itself, but on cut-through traffic impacting nearby parallel streets, especially Angus Street to the south, and Waverly Drive to the north. One Angus resident decried that calming Rowena had “pushed millions of drivers onto our street.” 

What was perhaps most remarkable was the unanimity in opposition to scofflaw drivers. While there was opposition to the road diet, there was practically no criticism of cyclists or bicycling. There was, however a constant chorus against the high volume of drivers not stopping at stop signs on Waverly and Angus, some of which were added by LADOT to address post-diet spillover. Numerous speakers implored LAPD to step up enforcement; others were critical of apps including Waze that foster increased cut-through traffic.

Matlock Grossman (center in blue shirt) reads his comments at the Rowena Avenue forum. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
Matlock Grossman (center in blue shirt) reads his comments at the Rowena Avenue forum. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Some of the pro-diet sentiment was best expressed by 11-year old Silver Lake resident Matlock Grossman, who has been riding his bike to school since he was seven and has already experienced his share of driver harassment. Grossman stated:

Clearly there are motorists out there who not mature enough to share the road without having the rules painted on the road to show who goes where. The road diet by design is meant to slow down cars because – motorists are the problem.

Even if there are zero bicyclists taking advantage of the bike lanes, it doesn’t matter. The road diet effectively reduces collisions and the statistics prove this.

Stop bullying and victim-blaming the pedestrians and bicyclists as being the problem.

If motorists acted towards women, or another group of people, the way you act towards cyclists, people would be horrified by your hateful words and violent actions.

I don’t understand why driving a car makes you think you’re more important than someone else. You’re not.

It’s whiny entitled behavior you wouldn’t tolerate from a kid, why should I tolerate it from adults?

Councilmember Ryu’s representatives promised that there would be further dialog and engagement as they determine the city’s next steps for Rowena Avenue.

  • chairs_missing

    Smart kid… couldn’t have said it better myself!

  • Mike

    Grossman for City Council

  • I_Like_Buildings

    Or his parent wrote it for him. Even if his did, I don’t care – it is exactly what needed to be said.

  • slg9303

    Can anyone link to who was on the panel and what groups they’re affiliated with (if any)?

  • Fuck Off

    Using your child as a proxy for your shrill opinions is disgusting.

  • TerranceS

    You might take a rhetoric lesson from him.

  • Chewie

    Even if you just look at it from a motorist’s perspective, four lane streets with no center turn lane are annoying. Any time a car wants to turn left, it blocks the entire left lane. I’d say gaining the bike lanes and the left turn lane to make a street with safer speeds, that is less noisy, is well worth it. If traffic is cutting through the neighborhoods, put in some speed humps.

    And yeah, that kid is effing awesome. The only thing that could have made his speech better is dropping the mike and walking out.

  • Walt Arrrrr

    No link but here’s what I have:

    LAPD, Northeast Division, Captain Arturo Sandoval.
    LAPD Central Traffic’s commander Captain, Ann Young (not on panel)
    LAPD Traffic Investigator, Officer Holcomb? (not on panel)
    LAPD Traffic Detective, Mike Kaden (not on panel)

    LAFD, Captain, Jeff Schaumburg (On-duty captain for Station 56 located on Rowena.)

    LADOT’s Bhuvan Bajaj.
    LADOT’s Tim Fremaux.

    CD4 Council Member, David Ryu’s Chief of Staff, Sarah Dusseault
    CD4 Field Deputy, Catherine Landers (Not on panel)
    CD4 Senior Advisor, Alex Kim (Not on panel)
    CD4 Director of Communications, Estevan Montemayor (Not on panel)
    CD4 Planning Deputy, Julia Duncan (Not on panel)
    CD4 Legislative Deputy, Justin Orenstein (Not on panel)

    City of Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee Member, Jeff Jacobberger.

    Los Angeles Bicycle Attorney, Franklin Hills resident, Josh Cohen. (There on behalf of LACBC)

    Vision Hyperion’s Don Ward

    Jerome Courshon, 56, resident of Waverly Terrace in Silver Lake. Doesn’t like the road diet. 


    James O’Sullivan, Hancock Park resident and Co-founder of “Fix The City, Los Angeles”

  • Walt Arrrrr

    This meeting felt really constructive. I went expecting the usual bikelash, but left feeling empowered. Lots of common ground and desire to traffic-calm the neighborhood. Kudos to Silver Lake NC for bringing us together.

  • dexter

    You should go back to school and learn the difference between opinion and fact. That young man is entitled to use that roadway, for you motorists it is not a right, but a privilege. Since you don’t understand we have to do things like this to help make you understand.

  • slg9303

    Thank you. I appreciate it.

  • bikecar101.com

    Not quite sure what people are going to do as traffic gets worse (with a growing population). Having proper bicycle infrastructure in place is a great alternative. Multi-modal transportation options are the future for the Southern California region — even if people do not accept the fact. Everyone should have the right to feel safe on the road.

  • The kid was great, honestly, probably a better person than the vast majority of adults. As for the road comment, I agree with this to no end. As a driver, you’re stupid to prefer a poorly designed 4 lane road to a well designed 3 lane road. I mean, you aren’t as likely to die in a collision, but you still might get injured.

  • Just because the 11 year old child is more mature and had better perspective on things than some adults, doesn’t mean he’s acting as a proxy, there are just some really really immature adults.

  • Grossman for City Council
  • All good, but that mistake is now no longer made. Newer roads are built with either a center two-way turn lane or hardscape median and turn pockets, so the opportunity to diet them doesn’t even exist.

  • Spartan

    you’re disgusting for saying that. your name is disgusting.

  • krayyy

    that kid got some lines fed to him, or he’s a class a troll in the making. Drivers feeling superior to cyclists is not something a kid comes up with. Furthermore, this phenomenon afflicts drivers as the same rate as cyclists, it’s nonsense.

  • Reverend Dak J Ultimak

    You’re disgusting. Take a hike.

  • Again, why is it so inconceivable to you that an 11 year old might understand when someone driving a car treats them poorly.

  • neroden

    5-laners with a center turn lane and two travel lanes each way *also* stink. By the time they build a road that wide, one of two things is true:
    (a) it’s way overbuilt for the traffic, and so cars speed recklessly down the middle of the two lanes; or
    (b) cars pile up in the RIGHT lane waiting to turn RIGHT.

    A decent modern “wide road” design has one travel lane in each direction, with both left AND right turn pocket lanes. So, at an intersection, you’ll see this:

    —/

    This means that the through lane swerves back and forth between intersections. *This is a good thing* since it causes cars to slow down to the speed limit. Speed bunmps don’t work, but chicanes DO work.

  • Most of the new roads in my area build right turn pockets as well, so cars turning right don’t back up in the through lanes. They usually also take the time to make sure that the path is straight to avoid deviations through intersections like you described. They almost always at a minimum have two through lanes and some have up to four. Per direction.

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