Praise and Criticism for Venice Blvd at LADOT Mar Vista Open House

LADOT hosted an open house on recent safety improvements for Venice Boulevard in Mar Vista. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
LADOT hosted an open house on recent safety improvements for Venice Boulevard in Mar Vista. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
This article supported by Los Angeles Bicycle Attorney. Click on the bar for more information.
This article supported by Los Angeles Bicycle Attorney as part of a general sponsorship package. All opinions in the article are that of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of LABA. Click on the ad for more information.

Last Saturday, the L.A. City Transportation Department (LADOT), the Great Streets Initiative, and L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin hosted a public open house to receive input on the Mar Vista’s Venice Boulevard Great Streets project.

The Venice Boulevard safety improvement project, completed in June, includes a road diet, mid-block pedestrian crossings, and protected bike lanes. Many drivers have been critical of the project as the lane reduction has resulted in some delays to car commutes. Even in the face of some boisterous opposition, the Mar Vista Community Council recently voted in support of keeping the pilot in place.

The open house took place in the gym at Windward School
Saturday’s open house took place in the gym at Windward School

Last Saturday’s Mar Vista forum was attended by roughly 300 people, plus radio and TV media. About 50 city staff members were on hand, including LADOT, LAPD, council office, and mayoral staff.

KNX radio interviewed attendees
KABC radio interviewed attendees
City Councilmember Mike Bonin responding to comments
City Councilmember Mike Bonin responding to comments

Councilmember Mike Bonin was on hand to hear from constituents. In a few minutes of listening in on his conversations, I overheard people complain about Westside development, express frustration over driver delays on Venice Blvd, and express enthusiasm for being able to bicycle safely on Venice Blvd.

Bonin listened patiently, and responded thoughtfully to each.

LADOT data shows some driver delays during construction and since it was completed. Image via LADOT presentation boards
LADOT data shows some driver delays during Venice Blvd construction and since construction was completed in June. Image via LADOT presentation boards

LADOT had some early data on the project, showing that driver travel times on Venice Blvd have been increased by an average of 30 seconds, with eastbound evening traffic being most affected. LADOT reported some increased traffic, presumably spillover from Venice Blvd, on a couple of smaller parallel cut-through streets: Pacific Avenue and Charnock Road.

Possible modifications to right-turn treatments would increase some visibility at a cost to parking. Image via LADOT
Possible modifications to right-turn treatments would increase some visibility at a cost to parking. Image via LADOT presentation boards

One design modification that LADOT is proposing is to modify right turns to include a short merge zone. This would increase visibility somewhat, but would lose a couple of parking spaces at each of six proposed right turn locations. It also creates a bit more car capacity by shunting turning vehicles into their separate turn pocket.

LADOT Vision Zero lead Nat Gale summed up input his department had received as follows: “We have found that the majority of comments about the project have been positive. As today and the vote at last week’s Mar Vista Neighborhood Council meeting showed, the majority of the community is invested and in support of the project. LADOT will continue to listen, observe, and be responsive to the concerns of the community.”

LADOT continues to monitor the project, and will provide future reports at three and six months. Gale encouraged people to find project information, including Saturday’s presentation boards, at the city’s Mar Vista Venice Boulevard website. Comments and questions can be submitted to ladot.veniceblvdmarvista[at]lacity.org.

One open house attendee carried a "no road diets" sign
One open house attendee carried a “STOP ROAD DIETS!!” sign
This attendee added a comment in favor of the Venice Boulevard project
This attendee added a comment praising the Venice Boulevard project as “safer, comfortable.”
In front of the
In front of the gym, these “Restore Venice” folks were organizing against the project. There was also a nearby table where L.A. Walks and the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition were organizing support for the project.

In just a few conversations I engaged in, I heard a lot of the tired (false) anti-bike tirades that I am used to: L.A. is a car city, bicyclists don’t pay taxes, every lane is already a bike lane, fewer car lanes causes more pollution, and “I don’t see any bicyclists using the lanes on Venice.” To the latter I responded that I had just seen a dozen riders just in my ride there that morning, prompting the person to respond “Well, only a dozen riders.” In dialogue with one mostly-respectful person, I mentioned bicycling with my nearly-four-year-old daughter. She responded that cyclists with kids should go around circuitous side-street routes because “you’re not in a hurry” compared to commuting drivers. This crystallized an all too frequent attitude that somehow drivers are legitimate, while cyclists are not worthwhile.

In so many recent transportation forums, from Playa Del Rey to Fletcher Drive, it is difficult to have productive conversations with so many people coming at issues from entrenched perspectives. Hopefully, as the construction delays fade from memory and people actually use the new street configuration, there may be room to have reasonable conversations. We’ll see.

  • D Man

    It’s California Highway 187 and designated as a Boulevard II by the City.

  • D Man

    It’s not conjecture as we have formed a coalition to monitor the traffic and accidents. Bike accidents have increased because of the completely hidden bike lane. Cars do not see the cyclists and make right turns across the hidden bike lane resulted in a t-bone accident. And the data you are referring to is collected by the “advocates” such as the LADOT which has bad data (e.g. they claim only a 30 second increase in travel time during rush hour which is virtually impossible considering it now takes 3 light cycles to cross Centinella going east in afternoon rush hour). Vision Zero is also claiming that gridlock has no adverse impact on air pollution and climate change. Apparently they think that everyone can afford Teslas and Prius. Some of us have to drive to work and can’t afford those cars. Why do you hate the working class?

  • D Man

    Lies, lies, lies. 80% of the MVCC meeting were opposed and the “support” they are receiving is from bike advocate groups, not the neighborhood. This we be gone within 6 months. “LADOT Vision Zero lead Nat Gale summed up input his department had received as follows: “We have found that the majority of comments about the project have been positive. As today and the vote at last week’s Mar Vista Neighborhood Council meeting showed, the majority of the community is invested and in support of the project.”

  • Gonzalo Estévez

    It was turned over to the city last year. State highway 187 will cease to exist very soon.

  • Jeff

    Gonzalo, you read my words but missed my point.

    If Chad rides his 50cc scooter (40MPH top speed) on the freeway (65MPH) his speed differential with the other vehicles on the road is 25MPH. This is illegal because it’s a.) dangerous and b.) holds up traffic.

    If Susie rides her beach cruiser at 15MPH along Venice Blvd (40MPH) her speed differential is also… 25MPH.

    Now if a 25MPH speed differential is so dangerous that it’s illegal in one place, why not in the other?

  • Dennis_Hindman

    It’s only conjecture to state that bicycle collisions have gone up with only one week of monitoring or that the overall bicycle collisions will go up because of this, that and the other.

    There were 190 miles of bike lanes installed in the city of LA from fiscal years 2012 through 2014. The vast majority of these were installed only in the so called door zone of parked cars. Even though the amount of all traffic collisions increased from 2014 through 2016, the reported bicycle collisions decreased in each of those years even though the amount of bicycling increased. Similar results occurred after NYC installed a lot of bike lanes.

    When you state that it now takes three light cycles to cross Centinella going east in the afternoon rush hour that is not a before and after result, that is only stating what it is now. The LADOT is stating there was a 30 second average increase in traffic delays. Your statement doesn’t refute that at all.

    Collision data that LADOT uses comes from reports generated by LAPD officers at collisions. That data is then compiled by the California Highway Patrol and is accessible to anyone who wants to inquire.

    You also seem to be assuming that no significant amount of people will change their type of transportation during rush hours. A bicycle is quite competitive compared to a car in terms of getting from A to B during rush hours over a distance of 3 miles or less in that area. The changes to Venice Blvd is likely to attract more people to cycle on that street based on previous installments like this in other U.S. cities.

  • Walt Arrrrr

    Great reporting Joe. Looks like L.A. City is getting better at putting on these forums. Tremendous leadership from Councilmember Bonin. Also looks like not much of a turnout for such a “controversial” issue. Maybe all this fuss is not so controversial but just contrived?

  • Marcotico

    Godwin’s law.

  • Max B

    The very large majority of people there hated the lane reduction. Bonin created a mess and deserves to be recalled.

  • D Man

    If a bicycle rider hits a pedestrian who is at fault? Or is it “victim blaming” if we blame either one of them?

  • Joe Linton

    Depends on the situation – what happened? (Overall I think you may be looking at a very tiny problem. The number of U.S. pedestrians hit and killed by cars is 4,000+ each year, with 50-60,000+ serious injuries on top of that. https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812375 The number of U.S. peds killed by cars in the US is tiny – generally 1 or 2 each year, with injuries around 1000 annually. Bike vs ped crashes do happen, and can be serious, but they’re pretty rare.)

  • Gonzalo Estévez

    Jeff: Well, according to Section 21654 of the California Vehicle Code, slow-moving vehicles may legally operate on the right hand lane. Moreover, you’d likely be hard-pressed to make the claim that a bike is a hazard as they’re legally allowed to operate on the road. I don’t see what speed differentials have to do with anything.

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