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Westwood Bike Lanes Connecting National and Wilshire Killed by Council Office

The participants in a February 2013 Ride Westwood ride showed support for the proposed bike lane. Photo: ##

The participants in a February 2013 Ride Westwood ride showed support for the proposed bike lane. Photo: LACBC/Flickr

Streetsblog received word last night from Jonathan Weiss that the proposed bicycle lanes on Westwood Boulevard between Pico Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard are opposed by local City Councilmember, Paul Koretz. Weiss serves as Koretz’ appointee to the City of Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee.

While hardly a regular cyclist these days, Koretz has a lot of miles on his legs. Here he's posing on the 405 after a short bike ride during Carmageddon I. Photo:##

While hardly a regular cyclist these days, Koretz has a lot of miles on his legs. Here he’s posing on the 405 after a short bike ride during Carmageddon I. Photo:KPCC

This news comes as a blow to cyclists that use Westwood Blvd. every day to commute to and from UCLA and other destinations. Bicycle lanes already exist south of National Boulevard and north of Santa Monica Boulevard, making this an obvious connection in the city’s Bicycle Plan. The UCLA Bicycle Coalition and LACBC organized “Ride Westwood” to support the connection.  However, after the Los Angeles Department of Transportation held a public information session that turned senselessly raucous, the future of the lanes seemed uncertain.

Our coverage of the meeting even led to a lively segment on the local conservative political talk radio show John and Ken on KFI 640 AM.

Local opposition to the lane publicly centered around an LADOT study of a bus lane (bikes allowed) which would have removed travel lanes and parking.  That plan was DOA.  Instead, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition proposed a “floating” bicycle lane where the parked-car adjacent bike lane would be moved to the curb during rush hour so that the road could continue to have a peak hour lane.  After the public meeting, the LADOT began a study of the floating bike lane (which they had only briefly introduced as an “idea” at the public hearing), but that was put on hold by the Councilmember.

Now, the floating bike lane plan has been rejected by the Councilmember before he has allowed the formal study to be was completed.  In response, today, the LACBC released an action alert calling on Koretz to move forward with a full study of the lanes that includes all stakeholders.

Weiss argues that the road width is actually wide enough to put in lanes without removing parking or mixed-use lanes if lanes are narrowed.

“There is ample room for bike lanes without losing car lanes or parking,” Weiss writes in a letter to Koretz. “Providing bike lanes would actually free up traffic by separating bikes from cars.  And safety concerns will continue to keep risk-averse people from riding – exacerbating, rather than relieving, automobile traffic to UCLA and keeping buses stuck in traffic.  (Biking is actually faster than the bus during the evening commute.)  UCLA has done a great job in cutting its carbon footprint, but this bottleneck on its doorstep hinders its ongoing efforts in that regard.”

It is wildly unlikely that the city will move forward with a bicycle lane project without at least tacit support from the Council office, which is bowing to pressure from homeowner groups that have been hostile to transportation options outside of the automobile. One homeowner group, the “Westwood South of Santa Monica Blvd.” homeowners, even formed a “bicycle committee” which met three times, received a long and well-researched report on why the Bicycle Lanes should be put on Westwood Blvd., and then circulated a letter opposing even studying of a design proposal to make lanes less obtrusive.

While the timing of such news is never good, it does provide a call for action for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, whose Neighborhood Bicycle Ambassador Committee for the Westside has its regularly scheduled meeting tonight (details at the bottom of the post.)

NYCDOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan likes to remark that projects that are aimed to improve mobility for all road users should be first explained as safety projects. After all, who can argue against safety?

Apparently, the Westwood South of Santa Monica Homeowners Group can.

In her eloquent and well researched series (part I, part II) on bicycle safety on Westwood Boulevard, Calla Weimer shows that the stretch of Westwood Boulevard where the lanes are proposed are among the most dangerous blocks to bicycle in the city. Read more…


Will the Next Expo Battle Be About Access to the Bike Path in Cheviot Hills?

Executed Settlement Agreement – Samuels v. FHWA

With all of the legal challenges to the Expo Line Phase II finally resolved, those interested in the multi-modal Expo Rail and Bike Path can focus their full attention on the path. Council Member Mike Bonin’s office is promising good news on the controversial crossing at Exposition and Centinella in the next week. However some bicycle advocates are now worrying about a new issue involving access to the future bike trail in, you guessed it, Cheviot Hills.

Some background.

In 2010, a group of seven homeowners living on Northvale Blvd. in Cheviot Hills sued the LADOT and a host of federal oversight boards for the city’s environmental review of the Expo Bike Path. LADOT re-completed the “Categorical Exclusion” but the homeowners were unhappy with the result and filed suit again. The two parties came to a settlement out-of-court in November of last year.

Recently, that settlement has become public. Most of the agreement between LADOT and the “Northvale 7” are pretty standard. The bike path will now have a sound wall in the area through most of Cheviot Hills. The Westside Neighborhood Council and Council District 5, currently represented by Paul Koretz, will be provided with a presentation and a chance to weigh in on whether or not there should be an entrance to the bike path at Northvale and Dunleer Drive and whether or not the access should be 24 hours.

It’s this last clause that has some cyclists worried. The Westside Neighborhood Council isn’t exactly known for it’s support for transportation options. While two members of the Council sit on the Expo Bicycle Advisory Committee, another appeared on radio railing against any bike lane plan for Westwood Boulevard. A writer for Rancho Park Online described the Council as unreceptive to even studying a floating bike lane program for Westwood.

Unmentioned in the agreement is the aforementioned Expo Bicycle Advisory Committee. When asked, the Expo Staff that controls the agenda of the committee commented that it wouldn’t be within the Committee’s scope to comment on the “ingress-egress” issues in this area because this is the part of the bikeway is being designed by LADOT and not the Expo Construction Authority.

Another reason for concern is that the Cheviot Hills has a 20-year history of blocking access to public rights-of-way.  In the same area as a potential bike path gate, there is a gate across the Dunleer Footbridge, connecting Cheviot Hills to the Palms Park (at Overland and National).

Read more…


Is the California Public Utilities Commission Foreshadowing the Supreme Court on Expo Phase II

Expo wins every round in the legal match so far, but NFSR could still score a TKO at the Supreme Court.

Last Friday, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) tentatively closed the books on one of the last remaining avenues for opponents of the Expo Line in West L.A. to stop construction in its tracks. CPUC posted a “Proposed Decision” on its second hearing of the rail crossings for Phase II of the Expo Line. The ruling unequivocally states that the 16 at-grade and 11 above-grade crossings fall within state guidelines.

Expo Phase II is an eight mile extension of the Expo Line from its current terminus in Culver City to near the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica.

CPUC is a state board that reviews, among other things, rail projects that impact “public utilities.” In this case the impact would be on the city’s road network. When CPUC reviewed Phase I of the Expo Line, the board found several items for concern and ordered additional safety mitigation at one crossing and the construction of a new station at where the Expo Line crossed Farmdale Street near Dorsey High School. When CPUC unexpectedly re-opened its review of Expo Phase II, despite the fact that the line is already well under construction, rail fans fretted.

However, the Proposed Decision seems to close one of the two remaining battleground for Neighbors For Smart Rail, the coalition of neighborhood groups fighting the line. The remaining battle is at the California State Supreme Court, where they hope justices will rule that using a “future baseline” as the basis for a traffic study is contrary to state environmental laws.

But CPUC’s Proposed Decision hints at a Supreme Court Ruling in Expo’s favor. Read more…

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Streetsblog TV: Westwood Neighborhood Greenway Groundbreaking

Tomorrow morning at 11 am, the Westwood Neighborhood Greenway Steering Committee will celebrate the ground breaking for the Westwood Neighborhood Greenway. Streetsblog TV will be there to Live Stream the event, and you are welcome to join us at 11 a.m. by clicking here.

Join us by clicking here.

Jonathan Weiss, who has led the efforts for the greenway for years, explains:

Through the enthusiastic support of Councilmember Koretz, the Department of Sanitation Watershed Protection Division, and the Mayor’s office, culverts are being placed under Expo Light Rail so that, when final funding is found, a vestige of Brown Canyon Creek can be reestablished and redirected along both sides of Expo Light Rail line near the Westwood-Rancho Park station.  Part of Mayor Villaraigosa’s 50 Parks Initiative, the Westwood Neighborhood Greenway will be uniquely accessible by rail, bikeway, and walkway to educate the public and students about ocean-friendly water conservation and native gardens.

You can read our full coverage of the efforts to create the greenway, formerly known as the Expo Greenway, by clicking here.


A questioning look back at Bike to Work Day

A typical pit stop on the Westside

Don’t get me wrong.

I love Bike to Work Day. I had a blast yesterday trying to hit as many Westside pit stops as I could before making my way back to my home office to get down to work.

Which isn’t exactly the point, I know.

The idea is to encourage people who would otherwise drive to their places of employment to try bicycling by providing incentives and information, in the hope that once they try it, they’ll like it. And hopefully, keep doing it.

I get that.

And I enjoyed the opportunity to partake in a free rolling breakfast and gather up mini-Clif Bars and other assorted bike swag, while talking with other riders I might not otherwise meet on the roadway. As well as offering my insights to anyone looking for a little advice on bike commuting while, sadly, finding no takers.

Everyone I met seemed to know as much about the subject as I do.

Which is part of the problem.

As with many bike advocacy efforts, we too often find ourselves preaching to the choir; rewarding those who already ride rather than getting more people to leave their cars behind, if only for one day.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Bicycling, and bicyclists, should be celebrated.

Whether or not some impatient drivers, or even the wider community at large chooses to acknowledge it at times — particularly when it involves removing a traffic lane in order to carve out a little space for those of us on two wheels. Read more…

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Bundy Triangle Park Open for Business (with a permit…)

Mike Bonin, Councilman Bill Rosendahl, and Joel Epstein (center, left to right) celebrate the re-opening of Bundy Triangle Park with the West LA School of Martial Arts.

Sitting at the corner of Bundy and Santa Monica Boulevards in West Los Angeles is a small piece of open space known locally as the Bundy Triangle Park. Ever since a homeless person was found dead in the park in the 1990’s the park has been surrounded by bars, literally caging open space in the park poor city.

While the bars are still there, residents can now access the park for events through a permit from Council Member Bill Rosendahl’s office. Currently, the West LA School of Martial Arts has permits for a weekly class. The school, Rosendahl, his chief of staff Mike Bonin and Streetsblog Los Angeles Board Member Joel Epstein celebrated the park opening on Saturday. If you’re interested in getting a permit to use the park, contact the Council Member’s West Los Angeles office at 310-575-8461.

Epstein crusaded for the park’s opening for the last two years, rallying local businesses to the challenge. Rosendahl gave full credit to Epstein’s advocacy for the park’s partial re-opening. Read more…


You Can’t Fix Traffic. You Are Traffic.

(Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times printed an editorial in their online opinion page by editorial writer Carla Hall. The editorial called out the City Council Candidates in CD 11 for not addressing car drivers’ concerns at a Streetsblog Forum and suggested some ways to “improve” traffic on the Westside. Since we were mentioned, we thought we would respond.)

Dear Carla,

This empty field might hold the answer to congestion problems for tens of thousands of Angelenos, but probably not Carla Hall

I read your piece in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times urging the Westside City Council candidates to come up with solutions to fix traffic. You cite the difficulties of living in Brentwood and working downtown and how awful it is to sit in traffic. You don’t seem to think that transit or bicycling is a good way to relieve traffic, mostly because it wouldn’t work for you.

I have some bad news for you.

There isn’t anything that anyone can do to make your commute any better. Double-decking the 405, an idea that Governor Schwarzenegger floated a couple of times, would be a disaster. You think construction impacts from adding a measly HOV lane are bad? What do you think double-decking would be like. Think Carmageddon for a month at a time.

The Pico-Olympic Plan was so unpopular that none of the Council Members that represent an impacted area (Rosendahl, Koretz, Wesson) think its a good idea. It’s such a bad idea it might have cost Jack Weiss a job as City Attorney. Many in his City Council district turned on him after his support for turning to already difficult streets into mini-freeways. Oh, and

Study after study shows that the best ways to support business is to increase access. Taking away parking, without adding improved connections for non-car shoppers, is doing just the opposite.

I don’t think I can say anything about a proposal to add hundreds of cars to a campus that caters to disabled veterans without getting insulting. Read more…


Oppose the Expo Line or Wilshire Bus Only Lanes? Then You Probably Want to Fight Bike Lanes Too.

(Note: The Westside Neighborhood Council contacted me to clarify that they have not taken a position on the lanes being debated at this community meeting. I even snarked that they “continued their streak of opposing everything.” Oops. I have struckthrough their name below and offer my apologies. – DN)

From the start, it looked like a bad night for bicycle advocates on the Westside.

Existing bicycle lanes on Westwood. Image:

Before the evening began, a post on L.A. Observed by Mark Lacter layed down the stakes for Westside residents at the LADOT and City Planning community meeting on 5 Bike Plan projects on the Westside. It’s normal people versus cycling zealots in a battle over public space. Emails from homeowner’s groups were similarly dire.

Despite the efforts of advocates, especially the Bike Coalition’s (LACBC’s) Eric Bruins to “community activists” about how bike lanes and other traffic calming devices are good for all road users; Lacter and many of those present last night at the “community meeting” can’t seem to see past their windshield.

The city came prepared. A team of planners and members of LADOT Bikeways showed up ready to answer questions about the proposals. During their presentation they pointed out that currently the proposed bike lanes would be the only North-South Bike Lanes in the local network. Also approval of the lanes is part of a longer timeline than just a meeting last night for any project deemed controversial.

While many cyclists did brave the bad weather to attend the meeting, many of the “neighborhood advocates” wanted to, in the words of Lacter, not give up any of “their” space to bicyclists.

The most sensible of the comments came from Colleen Mason-Heller, a longtime opponent of the Expo Line and one of the Chairs of Neighbors for Smart Rail. Heller noted that the bicycle plans for Westwood and the traffic studies for the Expo Line weren’t in sync. The Expo traffic studies assume two lanes of traffic in each direction, while the Bike Plan removes one of the south bound lanes. Streetsblog reported yesterday on an LACBC proposal, that LADOT voiced support for, that would address this concern. Read more…


LADOT Ready to Embrace “Floating” Bike Lanes for Westwood, But Is West L.A.?

Technically, tonight's community meeting is on all of these projects. However five of them are expected to draw more attention than the others.

Tonight, city officials with LADOT and City Planning will present the environmental documents for five Bike Plan projects in West Los Angeles. Highlighting the list of projects is a proposal by the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) to restripe 1.6 miles of Westwood Boulevard between National Boulevard and Santa Monica Avenue to create a “floating” bike lane in each direction. LADOT has said they would back such a plan if there were community support.

The proposed floating bike lane for Westwood between National and Santa Monica Boulevards. Image by LACBC via Rancho Park Online

Basically, if a floating bike lane were installed, the city paint what would at first glance appear to be multiple bike lanes. During different periods of the day, the street configuration would change. For example, during off-peak hours there would be car parking along each curb, then a bike lane, then two mixed use travel lanes and a turn lane, then another bike lane, parking, and the alternate curb. At rush hour, there would be two lanes in one direction and one in the other (it changes pending which rush hour) with a turn lane and bike lanes hugging the curb.

For more information on how floating bike lanes work, read this case study from San Francisco. It states that the design, while not perfect, generally works.

While not perfect, with its slightly confusing, unorthodox design, it successfully accommodates cyclists, part-time on-street parking, and motorists needing additional capacity during peak hours. It does so with minimal signs, leading one to conclude that while the design is unorthodox, it uses fairly predictable road-user behavior to its advantage. Cyclists naturally tend to stay to the right, and motorists will use a space even if it is not clearly for their use if traffic congestion reaches certain levels and the space is reasonably accommodating.

Following 150 riders attending the Ride Westwood! ride and rally the previous Saturday, the LACBC’s Eric Bruins attended the Westside Neighborhood Council meeting on Valentine’s Day to press for the “floating bike lanes.” In advance of his meeting, some on the Council circulated a letter deriding the plan, encouraging attendance and even stating that “even the local cyclists find the proposal unworkable.” More of the letter is available at Biking in L.A.

Despite the email blast, Rancho Park Online reported that most of the people in attendance that spoke were in favor of the proposed changes. Conversely, most of those on the Neighborhood Council were skeptical. Read more…


Eyes on the Street: Sepulveda Blvd. Bike Lane Turning Into “Express Lane” for Scofflaws

When not riding his bicycle, Chen takes pictures of bike lane violators from his perch in a Culver City Bus.

In May, Streetsblog reported that new bike lanes were painted on Sepulveda Boulevard between Venice Boulevard and National Boulevard. The new lanes could connect all the way to the Expo Line Station scheduled for Sepulveda and Exposition, about a half mile north of where the lanes now end.

Reader Irwin Chen notes that the lanes are being put to good use…by speeding motorists as well as cyclists. Chen photographed cars both violating the bike lane and driving to the right of the lane at high-speed. He then mails the pictures to the LAPD, who assure Chen that they are enforcing vehicle code on drivers who violate the lane.

In a letter to the LAPD, Chen writes:

I’m writing to you with some follow up info. It has been about 6 weeks since I reported my experience riding in the bike lane on Sepulveda near National and since that time, I have stopped riding in this area because it is far too dangerous with cars constantly driving illegally in the bike lane and passing me on my right. I have attached some photos which I think are self-explanatory: cars are illegally entering the bike lane and using it to bypass traffic, sometimes at speed greatly exceeding the posted speed limit. Read more…