Peter Flax L.A. Times Editorial Nails Playa Del Rey Controversy

"Taking steps that force us to slow down isn’t an outrage or a conspiracy, it’s making L.A. a better place to live."

New Vista Del Mar street configuration with inland parking shifted to the beach side. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
New Vista Del Mar street configuration with inland parking shifted to the beach side. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

In a Los Angeles Times Op-Ed published today, Peter Flax nails the sad dynamics of the controversies brewing over the city of Los Angeles’ Playa Del Rey street safety upgrades. Flax aptly calls out his fellow Manhattan Beach residents in the title “Hey, Manhattan Beach, preventing pedestrian deaths is more important than your speedy morning commute.” Though the safety improvements are located in the city of Los Angeles, much of backlash has come from Manhattan Beach residents, who, hypocritically, seem to be fine with fewer lanes and calmer traffic in their own fair city, but not in adjacent jurisdictions.

Flax begins by outlining Manhattan Beach’s “hysteria” over rush hour traffic, families and businesses harmed by delays, and even speculation by the mayor that Manhattan Beach home values might sag. He goes on to write:

The battle over this project has little to do with bikes and everything to do with safety.

I’ve heard unrestrained laughter greet a reference to fatalities on Vista del Mar as “thinning the herd.” On Twitter, an attorney who works part time in Manhattan Beach shrugged off pedestrian deaths on the thoroughfare, comparing them to lightning strikes. The consensus appears to be that pedestrians and cyclists dying is acceptable collateral damage, as long as the route these commuters use runs as fast as possible.

In the rush to create opposition, Manhattan Beach folks aren’t just being insensitive, they are wrong about the level of their inconvenience. Studies have shown that road diets slow speed but allow about the same number of cars to move through an area over about the same time period, because slower traffic is more compact. In L.A., once wide and chaotic roadways like Abbott Kinney in Venice and Main Street in Santa Monica have been reshaped into vital neighborhood assets, without causing regional transit nightmares.

and:

I moved to Manhattan Beach for its award-winning public school system and its exceptionally livable environment. I let my 10-year-old walk to the public library downtown and encourage my older son, 12, to bike with his buddies down to the beach. The streets are safe by design; the city’s general plan contains explicit language minimizing cut-through traffic for the sake of residents’ quality of life. That L.A. wants to extend that sort of safety to Playa del Rey makes perfect sense to me.

He concludes:

When cars race through neighborhoods where people live, shop and play, speed kills. Taking steps that force us to slow down isn’t an outrage or a conspiracy, it’s making L.A. a better place to live.

Read the whole editorial here. Follow Peter Flax on Twitter. Bike the streets that caused “all hell broken out” for yourself this Sunday at the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition’s Sunday Funday bike tour.

  • William Wickwire

    Facts missing from editorial. Very biased op-ed piece. See comments on the LA Times page.
    Not courageous. Actually dissing your neighbors is ANTI-Manhattan Beach, and my bet is that Peter Flax will be sorry he doesn’t care about them.
    Guaranteed troll piece.

    http://www.latimes.com/opinion/livable-city/la-oe-flax-manhattan-beach-road-diet-lawsuit-20170628-story.html

  • fuzdis

    Okay, first there haven’t been any road diets in Manhattan Beach. In fact, lanes have been added or are planned to be added (the Sepulveda Bridge just south of Rosecrans is going to be widened to allowed an additional lane) and Aviation/Marine had a lane added just recently. So Mr Linton is pulling that fact out of some magical happy place.

    Second, there are other ways of improving safety than instituting a policy of gridlock. If this had been a safety maneuver there would have been efforts to improve safety and keep traffic flowing. Instead it was clearly designed to reduce the throughput and give those rich residents a nicer neighborhood.

  • Guy Ross

    ‘He’ll be sorry’? Is there a MB mafia made up of middle-aged white men I’m not aware of? What are you and your like-minded members going to do? Shun him at a little league game? I think PF will be just fine knowing he has taken the high road to make roads safer and pissing off types like you. Just a hunch.

  • William Wickwire

    Yes, I think he will be sorry because people who actually use the roads to come from Santa Monica and the silicon beach area will not be able to get, for example, to the Little League games.
    When your own children and family suffer because of obstructionist decisions made and foisted upon you by others who think they know better, there is going to be anger and anger translates into whatever it translates into.
    Furthermore, the whole article is full of such idiotic ideas. How, for example, does he think Manhattan Beach got the idyllic way it is? People have to work, that’s how. And they don’t all work from their homes writing articles. If they don’t work, they don’t own in that community and don’t pay taxes. I asked him to comment on his route, because although he claims to ride 8000 miles per year on city streets in Los Angeles, he never said which ones.
    I grew up in Manhattan Beach and my family has lived in Hermosa & Manhattan Beach for almost 60 years. I have certainly seen it grow and not altogether for the worse, but keeping it the way it is takes money and the money has to be able to get back-and-forth. That was my point.

    And you also should know that I do you commute by bike past silicon beach, or at least I have 100s of times, and know what I’m talking about regarding the state of disrepair of the existing routes.

    You took my phrase as some sort of direct threat against Peter Flax. He lives in a rarefied world where he can do things others can’t, and his is a pretty arrogant opinion. It’s sort of the bicycling version of “let them eat cake”.

  • William Wickwire

    I agree. It’s not about safety. There is some other force or forces at work. Maybe as simple as Councilperson Bonin having power mania.

    I have another comment on here, and the guy who countered my opinion doesn’t even have the courage to have an open profile while he suggests a MB Mafia of middle-aged white men.

    Put-downs abound.

  • Tom Kuhr

    There is no mention of the fact that the lane narrowing does nothing to eliminate the parking on the east side of Vista del Mar, and no crosswalks were added. So pedestrian safety has not been improved at all. There are additional ways to slow traffic aside from cutting down on volume. And factually, there are very few houses located on Vista del Mar, and a grand total of ZERO on the beach section. This isn’t a neighborhood – it’s one of only 4 north/south arteries to travel to and from the South Bay.

  • Vooch

    gridlocked cars do not kill children

  • Loampounder

    “The battle over this project has little to do with bikes and everything to do with safety.”

    Yes and no. The discussion is not about bikes but it is also not about safety. A safety step is removing the parking spaces on the east side of Vista del Mar. That makes sense, as there is no where to go from there but across the road. What makes no sense is that they could have removed the parking spaces without removing the second lane. In fact, shifting the four lanes over to the east by a few feet would remove the pedestrian issue, make parking on the west side safer, and maintain the traffic flow.

    The change also was not about speed of car, either. On off hours, the traffic is just as fast as before. Most of the pedestrian deaths are at night, and these lane changes do nothing to address those situations.

    There is a clear comparison on scene. South of Imperial on VDM, there is no parking, two lanes, and safe, efficient travel. North of Imperial on VDM there is parking on the street and problems.

  • Guy Ross

    Nope, never assumed it was a direct threat. It is appropriately echoed in your followup: ‘there is going to be anger and anger translates into whatever it translates into’. It’s an indirect passive/aggressive threat made by weak individuals on the wrong side of an argument.

    You want to keep the automobile as the only viable transportation option for the residents of MB. Fine. It’s an opinion. Argue it on its merits. If it makes your drive longer and that makes you angry, then that is an argument. Keep ‘MD idyllic’ by making sure every who lives there must drive to get anywhere is some weak sauce.

  • William Wickwire

    Definitely not passive aggressive. Lawsuits are in play and the GoFund me site has tens of thousands of dollars for a legal challenge. I wouldn’t call it passive, I would not call it aggressive, and I sure wouldn’t call it passive aggressive.

    It’s just realistic to expect a big reaction after using a sneaky technique (failure to receive input from all affected parties ) to force thousands of high earning high paying taxpayers to use bicycles when they don’t always want to…Well what Bonin did and the Flax attitude…THAT is passive aggressive.

    Anyway, you are talking to somebody who rides the bike path to work, and that’s fine when it connects for me, but it’s dangerous where it doesn’t. And I don’t always have the ability to do it (errands during the day, things to do after work, noplace to shower), but I don’t want the alternative to be wasting gas and time sitting in traffic. I ride my Segway to dinner…I have 8 of them. But I would never try to tell everybody that they should use a Segway.

    I suspect the author of this article, Mr. Flax really doesn’t leave Manhattan Beach very often. 24,000 miles riding bikes in Los Angeles in three years but never saying exactly where he goes or what time he goes could be misleading. I want to hear the truth from him and he is not responding to his own comments.

    The reality is that commuting on a bicycle in Los Angeles is more dangerous than commuting in a car. The new bike path across the wetlands is a bike path to nowhere.

  • fuzdis

    True, so your view is anything, anything at all that kills children should be removed from society in totality? Everything from peanuts to bees to pull-cords on blinds? All danger should be removed from the world?

  • Vooch

    drivers are the leading cause of death for children by a factor of 100 times.

    Drivers are a extreme menace to life and limb.

    the other items you mention represent trivial dangers to children.

  • Guy Ross

    With people like you being the high-earning enforcers of the neighborhood riding around in a Segway posse transforming anger into whatever that translates into I don’t blame him for not telling you where he rides.

    Your insistence to declare your social status -‘I have 8’- is to give you authority on transportation issues? Is to determine the value of your opinion? Is used as a weapon against those who appose you? Do you use this weapon only regarding a roads project you don’t like or at the drive-through at the burger joint when the get your order wrong? The umpire at the little league game when they call a strike on your boy?

    You think LA is just fine. Got it. You got the money – you’re probably right then.

  • William Wickwire

    Certainly I will not get angry at someone like you who makes personal negative comments designed to make someone else mad. The entire point is that I am a proponent of alternate forms of transportation, and put my money where my mouth is, but only if they are reasonable and safe.

    What is happening now in the beach community is not reasonable, and it’s not safe with regards to transportation changes in Los Angeles.

    We all pay taxes and we all deserve access to roads and there’s a new bike paths just end in the middle of nowhere in the existing bike paths are sandy and curvy and not acceptable for commuting both directions every day for all people. Not only that, if you look at the space requirements, and the fact that bicycles still take up a lot of Road space, you should be looking at what amount of public infrastructure benefits the most people for the price and it remains cars since you still have to have a car..

    I do think that there should be huge benefits for carpooling with strangers (Waze pool, Uber pool) but now you’re starting to scare people about riding with the person they don’t know.

    Please don’t respond to this comment as I can tell from your prior threats that you are trying to attack me personally, you are a troll, or your thought processes to tangential to have meaning please don’t respond to this comment as I can tell from your prior comments that you are trying to attack me personally, or your thought process is too tangential to have meaning 12 discussion to have productive discussion.

    Enjoy your Fourth of July in the best country in the world.

  • William Wickwire

    Certainly I will not get angry at someone like you who makes personal negative comments designed to make someone else mad. The entire point is that I am a proponent of alternate forms of transportation, and put my money where my mouth is, but only if they are reasonable and safe.

    What is happening now in the beach community is not reasonable, and it’s not safe with regards to transportation changes in Los Angeles.

    We all pay taxes and we all deserve access to roads and these new bike paths just end in the middle of nowhere & the existing bike paths are sandy and curvy and not acceptable for commuting both directions every day for all people. Do you not see the irony of VDM where they put in more parking and not a bike lane?

    Not only that, if you look at the space requirements, and the fact that bicycles still take up a lot of road space, you should be looking at what amount of public infrastructure $ benefits the most people for the price, and it remains roads for cars since you still have to have a car..

    I do think that there should be huge road tax benefits for carpooling with (Waze pool, Uber pool), but now you’re starting to scare people about riding with the person they don’t know.

    I can tell from your prior comments that you are trying to attack me personally, or your thought process is too tangential to have constructive, productive problem-solving discussion. It is you who wants to tell others how to live.

    Enjoy your Fourth of July in the best country in the world.

  • jamesjamonsta

    Three people were killed on Vista Del Mar. To settle a lawsuit, the road reconfiguration happened. All I hear here is a bunch of grown adult crybabying going on in the comments here. Grow up. A few extra minutes in your car isn’t going to kill you. We all sit in traffic in LA.

  • Guy Ross

    Never ‘attacked you personally’. I brought up issue to your elitist posturing. You are not the victim – stop it. You are threatening Peter Flax with ‘He’ll be sorry’ and ‘Anger translates into whatever it translates into’. You are articulate. These threats are below you – stop that too.

    ‘We all pay taxes’ – when you are driving a car you are paying for well below a half of what you are demanding from society. If you want to fall back on the ‘I’m paying taxes’ line, then you need to be lobbying for full taxation. To this point, you haven’t.

    ‘Bicycles still take up a lot of road space’ compared to what? Do you have any objective evaluation to support this? Is it more efficient – less efficient use of space than others? Please support your position.

    ‘Do you not see the irony’? Absolutely! But your gripe is not with a lack of bicycle infrastructure, is it? It’s the fact that you lost a lane for your private car. Please don’t argue on behalf of those you are actively seeking to undermine. It’s creepy and disingenuous.

    I’m sitting in a chalet in the alps. Austria is ok but it’s no Switzerland or France…. I’ll do my best though. Thanks.

  • William Wickwire

    Well, sir, I beg to differ.
    Cars are necessary and I believe it is elitist to presume that others can ride bicycles long distances just because Peter Flax can. Do his kids and do his family members ride bicyles too… say to Exposition Park for a planetarium show or something like that, or to Hollywood or Universal Studios?

    I am not elitist, as you have labeled me when I tell you that I have explored alternate transportation options and found them lacking.

    I understand that you are telling me that it takes time to build the infrastructure that I’m complaining is unavailable, but it’s not just presence of bikeways…It’s taking passengers along, it’s weather, it’s multiple trips…

    The reason I have multiple Segways is not to sound elitist, but it is necessary to take people with you since one Segway only holds one person.

    Anyway, when voters passed measures to expand alternate transportation options, I don’t think anyone thought that that meant taking away from what we already had.

    And don’t forget we are talking about NOT adding a bike lane on the most direct route along Vista del Mar, which could be easier to support but rather adding parking for people who don’t take their bicycles for their pure recreation event at the beach. We are not talking about adding comprehensive commuting options but rather just doing something to piss off people in their cars.

    Peter Flax must know that and he won’t admit it. People living their lives with their own families and yet making a living is what we are talking about and he must know that doing anything to diminish other people’s ability to do that is going to reduce livability in his “idyllic town” of Manhattan Beach.

    I grew up in Manhattan Beach, and while I am not against progress, it would be better if people like him had never moved there. I will bet you he did not choose to live in Playa del Rey because the schools aren’t good enough. And by the way his real hometown of Scarsdale, New York is an upper-upper-middle-class town as well.

  • fuzdis

    Where do you get your numbers? Out of a total of 586 in the US West in 2015, 228 were motor vehicle related. Yes, that’s almost double the next killer, drowning at 127. Then there’s homicide, 124 and suicide 115. Driving may be double-the-deaths for children but it’s no where near your crazy numbers.

    Exaggeration does not help and those who died (41 by suffocation) or 5 riding a bicycle (not traffic related) probably don’t consider those dangers trivial.

    Motor vehicles are the most widely accessible, efficient and practical means of transportation in the modern age. Can we do more to eliminate traffic related deaths? Absolutely. Does setting an unrealistic goal (zero) and effectively banning motor vehicle traffic (by making it impractical, inefficient, and expensive) improve the quality of life?

    I would argue job loss and loss of mobility are very detrimental factors. Your hysteria is showing.

  • Vooch

    Indeed, life without cars would be a return to savagry. A series of short videos showing how the anti-car zealots ruined the once vibrant city of Munich

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

    We can’t let these insane practices come to Los Angeles.

  • fuzdis

    I’m glad you admit you are anti-car zealot. Really, I believe you. I’m more of a multi-modal-zealot — equity approach to development, street redesign and improving transportation. It must be done in consideration with work/living arrangements and public transportation options. Munich, as evidenced by your videos, is not without cars and highways clearly still exist. It seems not even they are as anti-car as you.

  • Vooch

    Munich commuter mode share

    walk to work approx. 27%
    Train approx 30%
    Cycle approx 25%
    car approx 25%

    is that what you mean by multi-modal ?

  • fuzdis

    Those numbers look great. To reach them is going to take serious investment not just in transportation but housing. Guess they’re lucky they don’t have to take the bus.

  • Vooch

    the war on cars is very real – it’s too dangerous for children to be around bikes. These videos show Munich destroyed by anti-car zealots

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?list=PLzNM_rzDSme6P4gvpkVIVGEo1ta2TFMeS&v=-XbN6PI-wzk

  • Vooch

    adjusting existing roadways to support active transportation costs pennies. It’s a rounding error in most DOT budgets.

    80% of all trips in the US are less than 3 miles.

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