L.A. Times Editorial Raises Double Standards on Traffic Deaths vs. Gun Deaths

L.A. City Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell responding to traffic violence concerns: "Nice try" Screenshot via Twitter
L.A. City Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell responding to traffic violence concerns: "Nice try" Screenshot via Twitter

Note: Metropolitan Shuttle, a leader in bus shuttle rentals, regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog Los Angeles. Unless noted in the story, Metropolitan Shuttle is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

In an excellent editorial in today’s Los Angeles Times, architect Michael MacDonald draws attention to the double standard under which L.A. politicians rally against gun violence, but allow pervasive traffic violence to persist essentially unchecked. MacDonald rightly takes L.A. Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell to task for killing the planned Temple Street road diet safety improvements.

MacDonald stresses the importance of using actual data. For Los Angeles, MacDonald points out that, overall traffic death totals are greater than gun death totals. In 2017, in the city of L.A., there were 244 traffic deaths – a few more than L.A.’s 239 gun homicides. For decades, fewer people have died from firearms in the U.S. than from cars, though the totals are similar in recent years.

But data means little to traffic safety deniers:

L.A.’s anti-traffic-safety lobby, meanwhile, vocally questions the accuracy of data collected on traffic injuries and deaths.

…invoking a distinctly Trump-like paranoia and embrace of alternative facts — anti-safety activists routinely contend that these national studies are wrong: that road diets make streets more dangerous and are part of a nefarious plot of social engineering “meant to force citizens of L.A. into public transit under the guise of safety,”

This backlash has been playing out in deadly streets from Playa Del Rey to Pasadena, but the double standard is particularly galling in the example of how Councilmember O’Farrell has rightly championed ending gun deaths while cavalierly dismissing work to end traffic violence. As MacDonald outlines:

Consider Councilman O’Farrell’s L.A. district, where five Angelenos have been killed and twenty-one seriously injured on a small 2.3 mile stretch of Temple Street in the past eight years. The street holds the dubious distinction of being one of the 6% of streets that account for nearly two-thirds of all L.A. traffic deaths. To rectify this nightmare, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation proposed a road diet along with other safety improvements on Temple. Throughout 2017, it organized multiple community meetings and informational events to present the plan. But an anti-safety zealot from Manhattan Beach caught wind of the effort and mobilized to attack the project.

In the face of this blowback, O’Farrell — who had previously voted in favor of the city’s Vision Zero policy — killed the Temple road diet, saying he opposed a safety reconfiguration “unless there is significant, widespread outreach and support from immediate residents and businesses.” He gave no explanation of what he would do as the elected representative of the area to help perform that outreach or to build consensus for a Vision Zero project on Temple.

When pressed about the difference between his response to traffic violence and gun violence, O’Farrell only had two words: “Nice try.”

MacDonald concludes urging O’Farrell and other leaders to “show courage” to “make tough political choices in the interest of public safety” by doing something to make dangerous streets safer.

Read the full editorial at the Los Angeles Times.

  • John Russo

    Joe, once again you get it all wrong. Did you actually study journalism or are you just a guy with a keyboard? Instead of name calling why don’t you try interviewing the people you talk about?

    Do you know the ADT on Temple, Culver or 6th Street? Do you know the peak hourly volumes? Do you know the FHWA standards for road diets? Do you know about the 2006 study from Iowa? If you actually talked to us instead of attacking us you might learn something.

    I keep hoping you’ll be a journalist, but time and again disappoint me and prove you’re an activist, just like me.

  • jannos

    I know there is an 8 lane freeway a block away that nobody is attempting to make pedestrian safety alterations to, so live with that and cede Temple to traffic calming rather than 101 bipass.

  • 1976boy

    Are you only interested in attacking Joe or making a factual counter argument? If you believe that the facts and figures you cite are relevant then present them and make a case instead of taunting Joe about what you imagine he does not know.

  • Nancy Johnson

    1. The national studies aren’t wrong, they all conclude that when you implement road diets on roads with more than 20,000 ADT it results in cut-through traffic and according to Mike Bonin’s own data, that is exactly what happened with some roads like Pacific Ave (a residential street) near where I live seeing a 50% increase in traffic.

    2. Road diets are part of the State of California’s efforts to meet is carbon emission reduction goals. The biggest impediment to the state meeting its goals is due to emissions from cars, and more people are buying and using cars and less people are using public transportation.

    These are not alternative facts, they are facts. Alternative facts would be what Vision Zero does to the data it presents. For example, they called Venice Blvd in Mar Vista part of its high injury network citing 6 fatalities over 13 years. But when you look at the actual accidents, 4 of them were caused by the cyclist/pedestrian and only 2 were caused by the drive of the car.

    So considering the 51,000 ADT measured by CalTrans in 2016, and the 2 car at-fault accidents over 13 years, Venice Blvd is anything but a high injury network. And according to Mike Bonin and Joe Linton, the road diet has had no effect or inconclusive effects on accidents and injuries. So why do we still have a road diet?

  • Ironic one of the largest anti-cycling, pro traffic terrorism tools is on here…

  • James Emanon

    “Pro Traffic Terrorism”… LOLOLOLOL. Is this for real? This triggering has got to stop. LOLOL. Funny how this “pro traffic terrorist group” gets NO FUNDING from outside sources like your PRO-BIKE, PRO-AGENDA 21 groups….. whats next “ANTI GLUTEN TERRORIST”! You beta boys are so funny.

  • The Overlord

    ahhhh Agenda 21 conspiracy theorist… now we know what Russo is really thinking

  • Vooch

    caused by pedestrians ?

    you being sarcastic I hope

  • James Emanon

    C’mon soy boy, just because you are being used as a useful idiot doesn’t mean you need to be ignorant. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agenda_21

    Just a bunch of marxists on bikes, looking for handouts from the special interest groups to push your agenda. Unite Soy Boys!