On August 20, at the ironic request of Councilmember Gil Cedillo, the Los Angeles City Council adjourned in memory of 84 year-old Korean War Veteran, William Matelyan. Matelyan was crossing North Figueroa Street at Avenue 26 last month when he was struck and killed by a car. This area of North Figueroa was approved for a road diet in the 2010 City of Los Angeles Bike Plan. Road diets are proven safety measures that make streets safer for all.
A Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was prepared by city staff and released in January of 2013. The report showed a series of road diets and bike lanes throughout Los Angeles would have “no significant impact” on through-traffic time. The EIR traffic studies included the North Figueroa Project between San Fernando Road and Colorado Boulevard.
After the extensive EIR work, the city’s Transportation Department (LADOT) was on the verge of implementing the North Figueroa road diet, until it was delayed last year by newly-elected Councilmember Cedillo. Cedillo later indefinitely delayed the safety project, citing safety concerns. Cedillo’s supposed safety justification appears to be based on the unsubstantiated testimony of selected police and fire officers. Officers cited possible emergency response vehicle delays, though their statements are at odds with actual LADOT traffic studies.
Before Cedillo blocked the project, construction had appeared imminent. Based on similar projects throughout the city, it is clear that construction would have been completed by now without Cedillo’s interference.
The diet would have reduced the number of through-traffic lanes for much of North Figueroa, and would have added buffered bike lanes for 5.1 miles between San Fernando Road and Colorado Boulevard. The city’s traffic studies showed this would lead to slightly reduced average traffic speeds, making the street safer for bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists. LADOT calculated that the peak delay along the road diet would be less than a minute of delay for motorists.
When asked to comment on the street’s safety on Facebook, Cedillo spokesperson Louis Reyes answered that “Having researched the issue with our staff, that corner has not been slated with any type of prior planning. We are in the process of having LA DOT look at this dangerous intersection. “
Whether Reyes is unaware of LADOT’s EIR, or forgetting the highly-publicized battle to improve North Figueroa safety, or whether the office is just stating that slowing down traffic to make streets safer for all road users isn’t a safety improvement is not known.