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Bicycle supporters storm City Hall to demand a fair and honest study of bike lanes on Westwood Blvd

3:02 PM PST on November 19, 2013

CD5 Councilmember Paul Koretz was there, but was he listening?
CD5 Councilmember Paul Koretz was at today's council session, but was he listening? Photo by Eric Bruins.
CD5 Councilmember Paul Koretz was there, but was he listening?

Amid calls for more Americans to arm themselves and not to miss Ender’s Game, a handful of concerned citizens fought for safer streets for Westside bike riders.

Acting on less than 24 hours notice, 10 bike lane supporters managed to free their morning to speak to the LA City Council, and take CD5 Councilmember Paul Koretz to task for publicly coming out against any form of bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard, despite earlier promises to keep an open mind while a study — since halted at his request — was underway.

In fact, half of the speakers at today’s council session were there to support a resumption of that study, punctuated by calls from other speakers in support of getting drunk, arming private citizens and pimping Hollywood productions.

Many made a point of reminding Koretz of his previous support for bicycling, as well as the council’s unanimous vote in approving the 2010 bike plan, which included bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard as a key part of the citizen-inspired Backbone Network.

Jonathon Weiss, Koretz’ representative on the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee and chair of the BAC’s Advocacy and Education Committee, urged the council not to “break the Backbone on Westwood, which would inevitably lead to broken bones on the boulevard.”

Meanwhile, BAC chair Jeff Jacobberger urged the council to complete the study of bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard that Koretz had halted before it could be completed. “If there’s anyplace we should be exploring for bike lanes, Westwood Blvd is it.”

Long-time LA bike advocate George Wolfberg reminded the council that improving bike safety and transportation on the Westside — particularly on Westwood itself — has been a focus of the committee since he was a member 30 years ago.

UCLA student Lee pointed out that hundreds of cyclists ride Westwood every day, with over 800 riders injured in collisions on the street in the past decade. Meanwhile, fellow student Megan Kavanagh, who is working on her Masters degree in nursing at the university, framed it as a public health issue. And said that, even as a Licensed Cycling Instructor, she’s afraid to ride on Westwood because she gets harassed the entire way — including drivers who threatened to kill her simply for being in their way.

USC Visiting Scholar Calla Weimer addresses the council; photo by Eric Bruins
USC Visiting Scholar Calla Weimer addresses the council; photo by Eric Bruins
USC Visiting Scholar Calla Weimer addresses the council; photo by Eric Bruins

“We were promised that you would study bike lanes on Westwood,” said Calla Weimer, visiting Scholar at USC and a resident of the area. “We were told the study had been authorized, that the next step would be to discuss solutions, and we were promised that the councilmember had not made any commitments or promises.” She also pointed out that 43% of all collisions on the six-block stretch under consideration involved bike riders.

Alek Bartrosouf, Campaign and Policy Manager for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, reminded Koretz of what he’d written in response to the coalition’s candidate survey earlier this year, in which he voiced his support for speeding up implementation of the bike plan in his district. And in which the councilmember expressed his fears of riding on commercial streets where he has to compete with cars for the same space — the same problem riders currently face on Westwood. And will continue to face if Koretz has his way.

A speaker named Marci said she was neither a bike rider or a driver, but merely someone who had “witnessed it all” on Westwood, and called for completion of the halted study. That call was repeated by Eric Bruins, Planning and Policy Director for the LACBC, who said the roll of a city council member is to “ensure we have the information necessary to have informed discussions and make the right decisions.”

But popular bike advocate Don Ward may have summed it up best when he said bicyclists weren’t even asking for bike lanes to actually be built, but just an honest look at the need for them on Westwood.

“We though we had built trust with the city council. So let’s stop the lying, let’s stop the games. We want to work with you, we want to support you. We want honesty. Please.”

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