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.

  • Our office is putting together a group of welthy donors to my campaign and insane baby boomers that don’t own property along the affected street to push the idea that bike lanes are “great” as notional things, like unicorns and the Sasquach. This nazi socialist Obamacare thing you call “Traffic Calming” has undermined our tertiary congestion buster cut through highway, and has quite possibly undermined the core values of our republic by daring to limit car speeds in a quiet residential district to under 25 mph.

    I think I’ve seen better bullshit-English translations out there, but that is my best shot.

  • Don Ward

    Councilman Smith’s response, while greatly appreciated is not addressing my complaint that the composition of the committee unfairly gives weight to those who live north of Devonshire and in Porter Ranch. Shouldn’t it be the people that actually live on Wilbur and adjacent communities that should have the strongest representation on the committee? It is their safety that is most affected. People who live on Wilbur are impacted by it 24 hours of the day. We pull out of driveways, make left turns, take our trash out, park, walk, bike and live on Wilbur. It is our quality of life and safety that is impacted most. As I understand it, currently only one person on the committee lives in the community south of Devonshire. This is simply unfair. Also missing from the committee is a voice for Northridge area cyclists. They do exist, and I’m seeing more of them on Wilbur lately. If the committee does not include Wilbur residents and Northridge cyclists, then any sort of recommendations the committee issues will be perceived as unfairly biased.

    This is not about “bikes lanes,” this is about safety. As a cyclist I do appreciate that the bike lanes are being preserved, but this is not only a “bike lanes” issue. The way Wilbur is configured has impacts on the safety of all road users, it impacts the quality of life, especially for those that live on Wilbur. Despite the problems caused by school drop off time, the road diet has achieved its purpose, which was to provide an engineered calming of traffic. It has created a far safer Wilbur. One indication of the benefits of the new design is that lots of people have signed petitions to keep the configuration. The committee needs to have this in mind when providing input.

    I personally collected 55 signatures from the majority of home owners on Wilbur to be included on the committee as a voice for people living on Wilbur. I have walked the street, collected petition signatures from Nordhoff to Devonshire, I know the frustrations of the street locked community at Tuba/Mayall. I’m very knowledgeable of the local issues, and I am very interested in calming speeders on Wilbur to make the street safer for all.

    Once again I ask to be included as an at large Wilbur Ave resident and that you find an additional voice for Northridge area cyclists.

    Respectfully
    -Don Ward

  • Don Ward

    Additionally, Paul Kirk, the one committee member living south of Devonshire, that I spoke of, has collected 303 signatures to date from folks who support the road diet AS IS.

    I would also ask the Councilman why he is spending scarce city dollars to make our street a “speedway” once again. I just spent 2 hours observing the traffic flow on Wilbur between 6:30AM and 8:30AM and found that driving Wilbur I was able to travel at 35-40mph the entire time from Chatsworth to Nordhoff having stopped for a light or two but never more than 1 cycle of lights. I also observed 5 cyclists in that time.

    Sure, there are places where the design could be improved for folks in the street locked communities – but the over all result of the road diet is a success. People drive at a calmer safer speed.

  • “I have always supported Neighborhood Councils . . .”

    Ha ha aha ahah lololollololllolllollo

    This from the guy who tried to cut the Neighborhood Council budgets to nothing – a $5 million solution to a $400 million budget problem.

  • Richard

    In response to Don Ward – why don’t you ask the neighbohrood council presidents if you can be appointed. AS I read it, they are the ones appointing people, not council man Smith’s office.

  • Don Ward

    @Richard I not only asked in front of the entire neighborhood council, I practically begged and definitely pleaded with president Tom Johnson after the meeting. His words were that if too many people were involved it would make the process more difficult.

    I wrote an email stating respectfully that I would like to be appointed and never heard back other than the response from Greig Smith that outlined what the committee process was.

    So… I went ahead and took my plea to the people. Ayla Stern and I went door to door and got 55 signatures stating to place ME on the committee. I will turn them in later today when I get off work and I hope they have the respect for the people to place me on the committee.

    I was a bit intimidated when we went out. After all the only things I had heard at the NWNC from Mitch Englander was how much people hate the road diet. Well boy howdy was I wrong. Most of the residents love it and in fact more than a few were suspicious that I was opposed to the road diet and trying to pull a fast one!

    Here are the hard stats thanks to Alex Thompson who compile them….

    5 deaths on that 2 mile stretch in 9 years. More than 200 collisions…. And these were not the fender benders that don’t warrant a report (thus the stats) these were serious collisions. Neither the LADOT, Greig Smith, Mitch Englander or the speeders in Porter Ranch of Sandy Banks’ ilk will tell you that harsh reality.

  • Don Ward

    My big question to Mitch Englander and Greig Smith is…..

    How much of the tax payer’s treasure are you willing to spend re-designing and re-striping a street to return it to the 4 lane death trap that it was?

    The road diet has people traveling at 40ish mph rather than 60-80mph they were typically doing before. Thanks LADOT for doing the right thing. One resident told me he had this idea to create a giant thankyou card to the LADOT and post it on the curb by his house. I may just sign it pending the outcome of this committee.

  • joe

    a few weeks back I wrote Smiths office to voice my support for the road diet and new bike lanes. I live in the area and feel another voice of support couldn’t hurt.

    In response I got an email that lead me to believe that not only was my email never actually read, but because the subject was about the road diet they just assumed that I was opposed to it and shot back the canned, we are against the road diet, response.

    All I have to say is I can’t wait for Smith to retire and I’ll vote for anyone but his political pet they have been pushing.

  • Joseph E

    “I just spent 2 hours observing the traffic flow on Wilbur between 6:30AM and 8:30AM and found that driving Wilbur I was able to travel at 35-40mph the entire time from Chatsworth to Nordhoff having stopped for a light or two but never more than 1 cycle of lights.”

    Wow, 35 mph is about the highest speed you can sustain on a major street in Long Beach south of the 405. I consider all of those arterials too fast and scary for biking, and I have been riding my bike everywhere for the past year. (I do ride over the LA river on PCH and Willow, where traffic speeds are 40 mph. It sucks).

    Wilbur is a residential street, and ought to have 25 mph speed limits enforced. Anything higher is unsafe.

  • All of this proves one thing: you f&%k with Don Ward at your own expense.

  • CAN I GET A WITNESS?!!

    please, let the record show that the response from general road users, existing municipal power-holders, and residents, to the Wilbur Ave diet (a residential street), is EXACTLY as i described in the body and comments of this post: http://whosbicycling.blogspot.com/2010/04/why-backbone-bikeway-network-is-not.html

    as a reminder, i enumerate each of my 100% correct predictions here:
    1) the general driving population will react with opposition to reduction of throughput.
    2) entrenched decision-makers will respond to these reactions with efforts to appease pro-driving rhetoric.
    3) neighbors along residential roads will support facility improvements that slow traffic, something they’ve always desired.

    ultimately, this community support for modification to residential roads will make such improvements the most feasible option that bicycle advocates should whole-heartedly support.

    Don Ward and other petitioning WIlbur Ave residents, you are totally in the right, fighting the good fight. Keep up the great work!! Bicyclists, let’s support this community with whatever they need! Next, I’m thinking an even lower speed limit, or at least LAPD’s help with speed-limit enforcement and pedestrian-crossing stings, especially during school drop-off and loading times. That should almost be standard for any recently improved street. Y’heard?!

    *do not misunderstand this comment as a desire to halt the struggle for arterial improvements, nor a call to solely focus improvements upon residential roads.

  • Don Ward

    Update:

    Last Tuesday the LADOT was scheduled to present the “Wilbur Working Group Ad-Hoc Committee” with their recommendations for “improvements” to the Wilbur Ave. configuration. I had gotten inormation as to the time of the meeting and decided that I would show up in person 15mins before with the petitions from the residents of Wilbur Ave. and see what they would say. At Smith’s office I was greeted by Mitch Englander who gave STIFF resistance, explaining that giving input on the LADOT re-design for which the LADOT would then take and further tweak their recommended “improvements” before the public was able to see them was not tantamount to making a decision.

    I disagreed and repeated my assertion that having only one of 6 members on the committee (not counting Smith or Englander who are both opposed to the road diet) who lives south of Devonshire and none of which lives on Wilbur was unfair. At one point I felt compelled to pull out my drivers license as Englander pressed me if I actually lived on Wilbur and where I was registered to vote. Still, my efforts and proof of residence were not enough to gain access to the meeting – a possible violation of the Brown Act according to a staffer downtown (To Englander’s credit I did receive a personal apology a day later and I appreciate and respect that greatly. As I reiterated to Englander and all parties, I’m not trying to be adversarial nor was I acting adversarial in any way at Smiths office I’m just trying to get the residents of Wilbur ave’s voice heard.)

    Shortly after the meeting I received a call from Englander who did indeed present the signatures and gave me the invitation to the next meeting of the LADOT and the committee where the revised, re-design plan will be presented for further comment by the committee. As I understand Englander’s description, the road diet will remain as is south of Devonshire but some parking will be removed north of Devonshire to make way for a 4 lane config with bike lanes.

    Though I’m concerned about the INITIAL LADOT reccommendations and what they were before committee comments, there is not much that can be done at this point to recover that plan.

    There are 3-4 houses with frontages on Wilbur just north of Devonshire that I will be knocking on doors to ask opinions about just for curiosity’s sake and my newfound obligation to accurately represent the people that live on Wilbur.

    I am also going to continue to fight for a crosswalk at Mayall/Wilbur for which there is much support and petition signatures.

    The process as I understand, will continue with the second committee meeting and then a presentation to a joint Porter Ranch/ Northridge West NC / public meeting where a vote will be taken on final recommendations. I take this to mean that the road diet is still under threat.

    Meanwhile I can report that I’ve been seeing more
    cyclists along our street and a calmer steadier flow of traffic save for the semi frequent scofflaws who speed down the bike lanes with their cars.

    Paul Kirk found that a number of people who voiced opposition to the road diet cited the scofflaw drivers zooming dangerously in the bike
    lanes as a major reason.

    I have put in a call to Sgt David Krumer of the LAPD to please send a detail to Wilbur to start
    citing the scofflaws.

    More updates soon.

  • Pepe le Bewm™

    -snip-

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