Councilman Smith on Wilbur Road Diet: Bike Lanes Safe, Road Diet Under Scrutiny

8_23_10_joe_wilbur.jpgWill Wilbur revert? Photo by Joe Linton

The surprise appearance of a Road Diet and new bike lanes on Wilbur Ave earlier this year caused quite a stir.  In addition to the roar from local drivers, the LADOT’s outreach process has come under such fire from the local Councilman, that he proposed new laws that would require the neighborhood approval before any transportation project was completed on a local street.

Last week, news broke about that the Wilbur Avenue Road Diet and Bike lanes were in very serious danger.  LADOT had been in discussion with Councilman Greig Smith’s office and unveiled plans to reconfigure the avenue back to four lanes in a private meeting.

Smith responded by organizing a community working group to advise LADOT on what configuration makes the most sense for the community.  The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and residents living along Wilbur Avenue are concerned with the makeup of the committee. There is no guaranteed spot at the table for cycling advocates or residents who live on Wilbur Ave.

The residents of Wilbur have responded with another petition asking for a seat at the table and reiterating their strong support for the Diet.  Over 300 signatures were gathered in support of keeping the Diet as it is on Wilbur Avenue.  Another petition gathered 55 signatures to have Don Ward, who has become a spokesperson for the residents, named to the Working Group.

While the impact of the residents protest is not yet know, cyclists were thrown a bone from the Councilman’s office.  In an open letter to the community, Smith promises that the bike lanes are not in danger.

Smith’s communication deputy, Matt Meyerhoff, forwarded me the letter Smith’s office sent to constituents.  You can read it below.

Update on Wilbur Ave. Road Striping…

We have received a great deal of input from community stakeholders, residents, and cyclists about the re-striping of Wilbur Ave. between Chatsworth St. and Nordhoff St. in Northridge.

The Department of Transportation has came back with suggested changes to fix the problems with the re-striping or “road diet.” The bike lanes will be preserved on Wilbur Ave.

Our office is putting together an ad hoc working group consisting of officials from the Department of Transportation, our Transportation and Planning Deputy, the President of a local home owners association, and three members each from Northridge West Neighborhood Council and Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council. In addition to their President, each Neighborhood Council will be able to appoint two other people, either from their Neighborhood Council Board or from the community at large.

The Working Group will meet, not as a decision-making body, but to analyze the proposals and give input on behalf of all community stakeholders on the DOT recommendations.

Following that meeting, their input and the DOT’s proposed changes will be merged, and the recommendations will be presented at a joint public meeting of Northridge West and Porter Ranch Neighborhood Councils so that the public can review them and give their input.

All of the information from the joint public meeting will be reviewed and incorporated into a final proposal for changes to Wilbur Ave.

I have always supported Neighborhood Councils and consider them an excellent platform to communicate the sentiments and needs of community members on a highly localized level. The Neighborhood Council system was established by the City Charter to fulfill exactly this type of advisory function. Most of them already have transportation committees and are highly engaged and knowledgeable about local traffic issues.

Please note that the Council Office and DOT are not appointing the members of the Working Group. This has been and will continue to be an open, collaborative process that has generated a great deal of constructive community dialogue.

We will announce the date and location of the public joint Neighborhood Council meeting in our newsletter and on our website at www.CD12.org.

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