“Open Streets PDR” Pushes Pro-Car Backlash Against Councilmember Bonin

Road diet bike lanes recently being installed on Pershing Drive in Playa Del Rey. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
Road diet bike lanes recently being installed on Pershing Drive in Playa Del Rey. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Construction is now complete on safety improvements designed to save lives on several Playa Del Rey streets. The improvements are championed by L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin and local residents interested in making PDR streets safer. Playa Del Rey’s safety issues were highlighted by several traffic deaths in recent years, including that of 16-year-old Naomi Larsen, who was killed crossing Vista Del Mar in 2015. In Larsen’s case, the city of L.A. paid a $9.5 million legal settlement because it failed to make Vista Del Mar safe for pedestrians. A second very similar lawsuit, over the 2016 death of Michael Lockridge, is pending.

L.A.’s adopted Vision Zero policy sets a target for the city to eliminate all traffic deaths by 2025. With Bonin and LADOT taking Vision Zero seriously, the city is taking unprecedented steps to use proven engineering measures to make streets safer.

The Playa Del Rey street improvements include several lane reductions, also called road diets. Though L.A. has implemented dozens of road diets, in the past they had largely been opportunistic – primarily on excessively wide streets where car traffic impacts were minimal. Under Vision Zero and Bonin leadership, improvements are now being smartly targeted in places where they are most needed.

The courageous safety improvements have elicited an unprecedented backlash from drivers.

Ironically the primary backlash organization is going by the name “Open Streets PDR” as part of “Open Streets L.A.” It is ironic because, for years, the term Open Streets has referred to worldwide car-free festivals like L.A.’s CicLAvia. See, for example, the 2014 Streetfilm The Rise of Open Streets. It is sad that these particular “open streets” proponents somehow think the term would work for their narrow car-throughput-focused agenda.

The anti-safety contingent has filed an administrative appeal against the Vista Del Mar improvements, and are threatening to file a lawsuit to revert the street to its previous deadly configuration. Backlash forces have, as of today, raised $18,145 to fund their efforts.

Sadly, the anti-safety diatribes from these folks are rife with victim-blaming, calling crash victims “ignorant” and asserting that “Naomi Larsen’s parents got paid for their failure to raise a child educated enough to know how to cross a street safely.” In response to her very balanced L.A. Times story Laura Nelson received (and tweeted) an egregious email stating, “In today’s Los Angeles, a way to accumulate wealth will be to give a car key to your 16 year old and advise her to drive at night in various dangerous spots.” On social media, frustrated drivers are urging a recall of Bonin and Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Mike Bonin has long been great on livability issues. A 2016 Streetsie award winner, Bonin has pressed for Vision Zero, Mobility Plan 2035, parking reform, and much more. In a recent open letter responding to critics, Bonin told the stories of victims of traffic violence, and focused on the moral obligation to make streets safe:

My responsibility is to keep Playa del Rey and those who live here safe. My obligation is to provide for the residents of Playa del Rey the safe, vibrant, and inviting downtown area that they’ve yearned for, much like Manhattan Beach has with Highland, or Culver City has with Culver and Washington, or Venice has with Abbott Kinney. We should never buy into the notion that convenience is worth endangering lives. It is just not true.

While Playa Del Rey residents are split on the improvements and include some vocal critics, Bonin correctly points out that a great deal of criticism is coming from folks who live elsewhere. People who live in other South Bay cities hypocritically want their own streets to be safe, but would like PDR streets to serve as a high-speed commuter cut-through. According to The Beach Reporter, the city of Manhattan Beach voted “to have its city attorney explore legal action against the Los Angeles Department of Transportation.”

Bonin responded, “With respect to our friends in the South Bay, many of whom have made clear they would rather see a four-lane highway traverse our neighborhood in Playa del Rey: I won’t solve their 405 traffic problem on the backs of the people I represent.” Further, Bonin points out, “People who live in cities that restrict vehicle access to prevent speeding and cut-through traffic should not try to deny residents of Playa del Rey the same traffic safety measures they use or can choose from in their own communities.”

  • Loampounder

    Perhaps he intends to buy a lot of groceries, more than a rack can hold.

    The point is, with an existing bike lane, the city paid money to create more traffic and to force a change to his lifestyle. Address the issue – creating an anti-car environment in a spreadout city.

    Can EMS take a bike to travel the same two miles?

  • D G Spencer Ludgate

    Let’s see – A case of water. A bag of kitty litter. A bag of pet food.

    I go shopping once a week. For two people, I usually transport 9 gallons of water (72+ pounds), 3 bags of vegetables (20 pounds), 10 pounds of meat, plus about 5 pounds of random items. That is well over 100 pounds. It all fits nicely in the trunk of my car.

  • Geck

    I shop once a week for a family of four with a bike trailer. But I don’t buy water. Maybe invest in a water filer.

  • Geck

    EMS can use a bike lane in a pinch and by-pass traffic.

  • Loampounder

    Still, you are advocating for a lifestyle change based on a poorly-implemented and a very limitedly justified change from the city. The status quo is four lanes on the road; there was an existing bike lane nearby. Cutting lanes in half drives life change for everyone (locals and commuters) with no meaningful benefit?

    We pay taxes. We should not be forced into a life style change because the city refuses to maintain infrastructure. If that road would need a use increase to include bicycles, the road should be rebuilt. There is no reason why the Nicholson merge should exist on a one-lane road, even more so for bikes with bike trailers.

  • Loampounder

    That would last until the first multimillion dollar lawsuit from the cyclist that was run into the marsh by an EMS vehicle. Or into one of those telephone poles. That area is filled with soft shoulders.

    On top of that, you are advocating for more cyclists with bike trailers AND EMS using an increasingly busier bike lane. Your solution is getting more and more unsafe by the post.

  • JudenChino

    May I suggest investing in a Britta? 72 pounds of water! You deserve a “my desires are unconventional meme” from 50 shades of gray for that habit! I regularly get all sorts of stuff from Whole Foods on bike (up to 50 lbs). But I guess you got me beat. I’ll concede, I use peapod for grocery delivery a lot too.

  • JudenChino

    I love the bike lanes are bad for EMS take. Unlike, all the cars in the way. It must be the bike lanes fault (which, depending on the bike lane, EMS can actually take to get around the grid-lock).

  • Joe Linton

    Is saving lives not a “meaningful benefit”?

  • Geck

    Why don’t I tell you what I am advocating. I am advocating that we not reject road safety improvements because they slow traffic and shorten crossing distances and make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists. I am advocating for thinking outside the metal box as the only means of transportation that matters. Your “lifestyle” choice, which is what exactly — the ability to drive fast? — is not more important than other people’s lives.

  • JudenChino

    I think you just don’t like people riding on the streets on bikes. That’s the only logical conclusion based on your, don’t know how else to say it, really fucking stupid comments. I’m sure there’s a “we must make them license and register their bikes and pay taxes to fix the roads,” comment from you.

  • Loampounder

    There is no evidence that any lives are safer. Removing a lane does not address the safety hazards in that area at all. No crosswalk is safer and no speeds have been reduced during non-traffic hours. Culver, with the soft shoulders, is not safe for cyclists and MDV is even riskier (packing has to back into traffic and through cycle lanes, no north bound cycle lane, no crosswalks at all, etc.).

    Even in your article, you don’t talk about safety – it’s all about the backlash. It’s even possible to say that the changes made the road LESS safe – parking backing into traffic and bikes, no north-bound cycle lane, the Nicholson merge, etc.)

    In the Naomi Larsen lawsuit, the parents claimed that the city failed to provide safe pedestrian ways despite knowing there was a problem. The next person hit will claim the same exact thing because nothing concrete was done to address the pedestrian ways on MDV. Nothing is safer.

  • Loampounder

    It’s not one or another. We don’t need to have cycle lanes at the expense of car lanes or visa versa. Playa del Rey is a perfect place for additional cycle lanes, but the road needs to be rebuilt to accommodate safe lines. On VDM we need to expand cycle lanes on the beach as it’s a perfect place for cycle-only roads down the cliff from VDM.

    It’s just that this really crappy plan from Bonin pits one against the other while refusing to invest in our neighborhood.

  • sigaba

    My impression is that it’s the minorities, I’ve been at Dockweiler many times into the evening and never felt unsafe.

    OTOH there are horror stories of incidents and the beach itself is in some no-man’s land where the police have trouble responding in a timely manner and the actual jurisdiction is unclear.

  • Vooch

    Short videos how a once vibrant city ( Munich ) has been ruined by the war on cars:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?list=PLzNM_rzDSme6P4gvpkVIVGEo1ta2TFMeS&v=rRDI7BjjqFI

  • ImJustABill

    Yours is the hysterical response. Safety, convenience, speed, cost, minimizing emissions are all important trade-offs when considering transportation systems. To all of a sudden declare that the tradeoffs which have been existence for decades are completely wrong, and that everyone has to sacrifice vast amounts of convenience, speed, cost, and minimizing emissions for a tiny improvement in safety is idiotic.

  • ImJustABill

    You have excellent ideas which would actually address the real problems. It’s too bad Bonin is in charge and not you.

  • Cyndy Jasiman

    It’s not about safety–if anything the streets are less safe as frustrated drivers look for alternatives to Culver and Vista Del Mar. No one who actually drives these roads would think that cutting our lanes in half is in ANYONE’S best interest. I drive these roads twice a day and have seen only 5 people using the bike lanes. How much more pollution is being created as we spend twice as much time on the road? This is the worst case of abuse of power I have seen in years–it was sprung on us with no warning and without a vote. What is really bad is that it’s being treated as a way to stop pedestrians from being hit (and running across a 4 lane highway is risky anytime)–but I think it’s a power trip to get us out of our cars on onto bikes. The average LA commute is 30 minutes–and it’s
    crazy to think that most of us can ride bikes in business attire to work.

    Everyone who voted this road diet should be tossed out and replaced by public servants who actually care about the people they are representing.

  • girb1492

    Blow it out your ass Bonin!

  • Flax Seed

    Hey Bernie, quote the part where D Man said death is hilarious.
    Go on, if you can.

  • GSW

    Joe Linton, do you live in Playa del Rey? I seriously doubt it. I’m very fortunate to work in El Segundo so I pass the lines of cars coming from South Bay in the morning and don’t get stuck in the gridlock of Culver coming back to my home. HOWEVER, I cannot run errands after work in my own neighborhood. A simple trip to help a friend move in Playa Vista (two miles away) took me over 25 minutes each way. I suppose your solution is to not take my car. Yes. Smart. I was helping a friend transport boxes into a storage facility so that would have been really easy. That’s the point of having a car. And, I’d love to ride my bike to work every day and show up drenched in sweat and reeking at the office for client meetings. Very logical. The fix for traffic is not punishing drivers. It is creating incentives that encourage companies to take advantage of new technology and provide more flexible days and hours that allow people to work from home. People are not driving around town in traffic for the fun of it. They are taking their kids to school, supporting local businesses (i.e. spending MONEY at actual stores rather than ordering everything on Amazon / which I’m starting to do to avoid the aforementioned DRIVING) and, first and foremost, they are GOING TO WORK. I’m single and childless so when my commute from Silverlake to the west side became unbearable, I was able to rent out my home and move to the west side. 90% of people lack either the funds or flexibility to do that. My commute is six miles each way but I still need to drive for the sweat stained reasons mentioned above. This logic is absolutely without reason and I honestly feel there is something more devious behind it because I sure as heck do not want my tax dollars being spent making my life harder and more inconvenient in this city. Where were the public hearings and studies around these plans – I must have missed them if they happened. Oh – and last but not least, on the weekends when I don’t have to WORK, I typically park my car the entire time. Funny how that happens when you have an actual choice in the matter.

  • The Right

    LOL. How am I just now seeing this article? I love it! Reminds me of The Onion. Keep up the good satire!

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At last night's meeting, Playa/Westchester NC's David Voss arguing against LADOT's Playa Del Rey safety improvements. Photo by Marcia Hanscom

Westchester Playa Neighborhood Council Votes Against PDR Safety Projects

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At a standing room only meeting last night, the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa voted to approve a letter calling to “immediately reverse the lane reductions in Playa del Rey.” The letter was approved mostly as proposed, but opposition to the Pershing Drive road diet was removed. Responding to traffic deaths and lawsuits, the city Transportation Department (LADOT) installed four road […]