Central Ave and Westwood Blvd Bike Lanes Preserved in Mobility Plan

TRUST South L.A.'s Samuel Bankhead giving public comment in favor of Central Avenue bike lanes at yesterday's Planning Commission hearing. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Safe streets advocate and TRUST South L.A. boardmember AsSami AlBasir El gave public comment in favor of Central Avenue bike lanes at yesterday’s Planning Commission hearing. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

At its meeting yesterday, the Los Angeles City Planning Commission unanimously re-affirmed keeping bikeway designations for Central Avenue and Westwood Boulevard.

Unfortunately these facilities are likely to remain in the plan, but not move closer to on-the-ground improvements due to anti-safety positions staked out by City Councilmembers Curren Price and Paul Koretz. Price and Koretz had introduced motions, 15-0719-S9 and 15-0719-S3 respectively, requesting Central Avenue and Westwood Boulevard be removed from the city’s approved Bicycle Enhanced Network (BEN).

The City Planning Commission turned down the anti-bike amendments while voting unanimously in favor of a handful of amendments to the city’s approved and contested Mobility Plan 2035. The commission affirmed plan changes to formally acknowledge equity and community outreach, as well as a number of largely technical amendments.

The City Planning Department (DCP) 108-page staff report [PDF] affirmed the need to keep bikeway designations for Central and Westwood:

In response to motions from Council Districts 5 and 9, the second Addendum to the Mobility Plan EIR considered the removal of Westwood Boulevard (from Le Conte Ave to Wellworth Ave) and Central Ave (from Washington Boulevard to 95th Street) from the Bicycle Enhanced Network. While the councilpersons expressed their interest in having these segments removed, staff recommends that these segments be retained in the BEN. Both Westwood Blvd. and Central Ave serve as important north-south corridors for persons who bicycle and it would be premature at this time to foreclose the opportunity of improving these corridors for bicycling in the future. Language has been included in the Mobility Plan […] which reinforces the conceptual nature of these network assignments and further articulates the opportunities that exist in the future to consider alternative corridors. This level of flexibility is intended to provide opportunity to study such corridors as Westwood and Central along with potential parallel alternatives at whatever point in the future the corridors are prioritized for implementation. (emphasis added)

Planning staff opened the hearing affirming DCP’s position that the bike lanes were important to keep in the plan. A representative of the Fire Department (LAFD) spoke in support of the plan, stating that LAFD would further study “any kind of impacts” to emergency response times.

Councilmember Paul Koretz testified before the commission, lamenting Westwood Blvd’s inclusion in the Mayor’s Great Streets initiative, calling protected bike lanes “pretty dangerous” and disparaging thousands of cyclists that use Westwood every day by suggesting, “only the most aggressive people take it.” Councilmember Price sent staff to testify against Central Avenue bike lanes; they asserted that even protected bike lanes there would not be “low stress.” Councilmember Gilbert Cedillo’s staff also testified in support of Price and Koretz, and against bike lanes. 

Public testimony was heavily in favor of keeping the bikeways in the Mobility Plan, with 27 speakers in favor of bike lanes, and five in opposition.

Westwood bikeway opponents cited “already badly compromised traffic,” loss of turn pockets and parking, and the presence of a large number of buses on Westwood Blvd as reasons not to include a bike lane there. Proponents countered that there are plans for Westwood that can squeeze in bike lanes without removing any existing lanes or parking. Proponents also cited safety concerns, current cyclist usage, and Westwood as a key connection to UCLA, including from the Expo Line planned to open this May.

Damien Goodmon gave the only public testimony against Central Avenue bike lanes, citing “inadequate parking capacity.” Correction: Damien Goodmon spoke against bike lanes planned for Crenshaw Boulevard, not Central Avenue. Numerous Central Avenue bike lane proponents spoke of the need to prioritize safety there. Many of the pro-bikeway speakers were affiliated with TRUST South L.A. which staged a No Más Deaths! protest against Councilmember Price’s anti-bike policies earlier this week.

A couple of commissioners had attended UCLA and remarked supportively regarding better bike access to the campus; commission President David Ambroz stated, “Westwood Boulevard is a great place for a bike lane.” Broadly the commissioners affirmed DCP staff work to foster of multi-modal transportation and complete streets.

The modifications now go to the L.A. City Council, likely initially before the council’s Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) and Transportation Committees.