Praise and Criticism for Venice Blvd at LADOT Mar Vista Open House

LADOT hosted an open house on recent safety improvements for Venice Boulevard in Mar Vista. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
LADOT hosted an open house on recent safety improvements for Venice Boulevard in Mar Vista. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
This article supported by Los Angeles Bicycle Attorney. Click on the bar for more information.
This article supported by Los Angeles Bicycle Attorney as part of a general sponsorship package. All opinions in the article are that of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of LABA. Click on the ad for more information.

Last Saturday, the L.A. City Transportation Department (LADOT), the Great Streets Initiative, and L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin hosted a public open house to receive input on the Mar Vista’s Venice Boulevard Great Streets project.

The Venice Boulevard safety improvement project, completed in June, includes a road diet, mid-block pedestrian crossings, and protected bike lanes. Many drivers have been critical of the project as the lane reduction has resulted in some delays to car commutes. Even in the face of some boisterous opposition, the Mar Vista Community Council recently voted in support of keeping the pilot in place.

The open house took place in the gym at Windward School
Saturday’s open house took place in the gym at Windward School

Last Saturday’s Mar Vista forum was attended by roughly 300 people, plus radio and TV media. About 50 city staff members were on hand, including LADOT, LAPD, council office, and mayoral staff.

KNX radio interviewed attendees
KABC radio interviewed attendees
City Councilmember Mike Bonin responding to comments
City Councilmember Mike Bonin responding to comments

Councilmember Mike Bonin was on hand to hear from constituents. In a few minutes of listening in on his conversations, I overheard people complain about Westside development, express frustration over driver delays on Venice Blvd, and express enthusiasm for being able to bicycle safely on Venice Blvd.

Bonin listened patiently, and responded thoughtfully to each.

LADOT data shows some driver delays during construction and since it was completed. Image via LADOT presentation boards
LADOT data shows some driver delays during Venice Blvd construction and since construction was completed in June. Image via LADOT presentation boards

LADOT had some early data on the project, showing that driver travel times on Venice Blvd have been increased by an average of 30 seconds, with eastbound evening traffic being most affected. LADOT reported some increased traffic, presumably spillover from Venice Blvd, on a couple of smaller parallel cut-through streets: Pacific Avenue and Charnock Road.

Possible modifications to right-turn treatments would increase some visibility at a cost to parking. Image via LADOT
Possible modifications to right-turn treatments would increase some visibility at a cost to parking. Image via LADOT presentation boards

One design modification that LADOT is proposing is to modify right turns to include a short merge zone. This would increase visibility somewhat, but would lose a couple of parking spaces at each of six proposed right turn locations. It also creates a bit more car capacity by shunting turning vehicles into their separate turn pocket.

LADOT Vision Zero lead Nat Gale summed up input his department had received as follows: “We have found that the majority of comments about the project have been positive. As today and the vote at last week’s Mar Vista Neighborhood Council meeting showed, the majority of the community is invested and in support of the project. LADOT will continue to listen, observe, and be responsive to the concerns of the community.”

LADOT continues to monitor the project, and will provide future reports at three and six months. Gale encouraged people to find project information, including Saturday’s presentation boards, at the city’s Mar Vista Venice Boulevard website. Comments and questions can be submitted to ladot.veniceblvdmarvista[at]lacity.org.

One open house attendee carried a "no road diets" sign
One open house attendee carried a “STOP ROAD DIETS!!” sign
This attendee added a comment in favor of the Venice Boulevard project
This attendee added a comment praising the Venice Boulevard project as “safer, comfortable.”
In front of the
In front of the gym, these “Restore Venice” folks were organizing against the project. There was also a nearby table where L.A. Walks and the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition were organizing support for the project.

In just a few conversations I engaged in, I heard a lot of the tired (false) anti-bike tirades that I am used to: L.A. is a car city, bicyclists don’t pay taxes, every lane is already a bike lane, fewer car lanes causes more pollution, and “I don’t see any bicyclists using the lanes on Venice.” To the latter I responded that I had just seen a dozen riders just in my ride there that morning, prompting the person to respond “Well, only a dozen riders.” In dialogue with one mostly-respectful person, I mentioned bicycling with my nearly-four-year-old daughter. She responded that cyclists with kids should go around circuitous side-street routes because “you’re not in a hurry” compared to commuting drivers. This crystallized an all too frequent attitude that somehow drivers are legitimate, while cyclists are not worthwhile.

In so many recent transportation forums, from Playa Del Rey to Fletcher Drive, it is difficult to have productive conversations with so many people coming at issues from entrenched perspectives. Hopefully, as the construction delays fade from memory and people actually use the new street configuration, there may be room to have reasonable conversations. We’ll see.

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