Councilmember Ryu Rowena Study Could Determine Future of Safety Improvements

Silver Lake's Rowena Avenue. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
Silver Lake's Rowena Avenue. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Despite proven safety results, Silver Lake’s Rowena Avenue road diet is facing questions from car-centric neighbors pushing to see it undone. The issue is expected to be discussed tonight at a meeting of the Transportation Committee of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council. Keep Rowena Safe is urging stakeholders attend the meeting, which will take place at 6:30 p.m. at the Silver Lake Library at 2411 Glendale Boulevard.

In response to the 2012 death of Ashley Sandau, killed by a motorist while she crossed Rowena Avenue, the city Transportation Department (LADOT) implemented a road diet to make Rowena safer. For about half a mile between Glendale Boulevard and Hyperion Avenue, Rowena’s four car lanes were reduced to three. An LADOT review of the project found that post-diet Rowena supports roughly the same volume of cars as pre-diet, but does so with reduced speeds and fewer collisions.

The road diet implementation was supported by then-Councilmember Tom LaBonge. He was termed out and, in 2015, David Ryu was elected to the L.A. City Council to represent the area. Ryu has expressed skepticism about road diets, asserting that they are “creating traffic” and having “unintended consequences.” Ryu decided against a proposed road diet for 6th Street in mid-city.

At the urging of road diet foes, Ryu’s office commissioned consultants Kimley-Horn to further study Rowena. In 2017, Ryu spokesperson Estevan Montemayor characterized the goal of the study as “to provide mitigations for cut-through traffic in the residential neighborhood adjacent to Rowena Avenue while continuing to prioritize public safety for all.”

The $88,000 Kimley-Horn study is apparently complete and has been shared with some stakeholders.

The study does not appear to be available online. Streetsblog emailed Ryu’s office to request the study. They responded that they would “check on it” but have not yet provided the study.

According to one source (who declined to be identified) who read the study, it does include recommendations for addressing cut-through traffic, primarily on parallel streets Angus Street and Waverly Drive. According to the source, despite including “data that clearly shows reduction in collisions since 2013 when the road diet was implemented” the report “goes sideways in the last two pages, where inexplicably three options are introduced as alternatives to the existing Rowena roadway alignment” and “there is no analysis or rationale presented in support of altering the current road diet roadway configuration, nor for the three alternatives.” According to the source, the report’s alternatives are:

  • Option 1: allow the existing road diet to remain
  • Option 2: remove bike lanes in both directions and repurpose as additional eastbound vehicular lane
  • Option 3: remove parking and bike lane in eastbound direction and replace with a sharrow lane
  • Option 4: restrict street parking during peak a.m./p.m. commute hours and use parking zone and sharrow lanes in both directions

Streetsblog will continue to try to obtain the actual publicly-funded study, but if this source is correct, the report appears to lay the groundwork to remove the Rowena Avenue road diet and bike lanes. Undoing the road diet would make Rowena more dangerous, and would set a poor precedent for city Vision Zero efforts to reduce traffic deaths and injuries.

The recommended interventions on Waverly and Angus would make a lot of sense; they appear somewhat similar to the recent improvements to keep nearby Baxter Street safer from cut-through traffic. In the past, LADOT had proposed similar interventions for Angus and Waverly, but they were opposed by road diet opponents. If the new study can help spur improvements to these parallel streets it would do some good.


  • michael macdonald

    If Ryu moves forward with this ill-intentioned plan to make Rowena more dangerous, the next person killed on Rowena will be the end of his political career.

  • Oren

    The fact that you are likely wrong is exactly the larger problem at work here.

  • I wish something would end his

    Ryu’s office did some kind of survey for changing 6th Avenue in Los Angeles to make it more safe for pedestrians & biked and I took the survey because I think that 6th should have a road diet as well. The survey was so skewed in it’s questions that basically there was no other conclusion then to keep things completely the same on this dangerous street. After seeing that very poorly written survey that dictated a status quo result (the questions were almost as bad as “do you want terrible traffic jams on sixth Avenue with a road diet or do you want to freely moving traffic?”… it was ridiculous), I would be very very suspicious of any study that ryu’s office commissioned. And dealing with his office, I too have asked for information that should be public And have gotten the runaround as well. On what basis can they keep it publicly funded survey from people who would question the survey? I wish something would end his career but I don’t want it to be the death of someone else. Please let’s find a better candidate next election cycle!

  • jennix

    Our strategy has to change. The driving majority has decided that there are an acceptable of motorist deaths facilitating the status quo, therefore they have no problem establishing an acceptable number of pedestrian/cyclist/etc. deaths, so long as they can reduce the time length of their commute.

  • Joe Linton

    What should our strategy be?

  • Protected bike and scooter lanes on every road

  • RR

    Actually, DOT did not offer, 3 years ago, ANY viable interventions for Angus and Waverly. So could we please have some honesty with this story…?

    The only thing DOT suggested, were no turn signs on Griffith Park Blvd. to try to stop people from turning onto Angus to cut-through. Anything that is enforcement (by LAPD) dependent, is simply a non-starter as that is useless. Further, there were no suggestions for Waverly whatsoever.

    Secondly, this road diet initiative was not “supported” by Tom LaBonge, it was instigated by him. He’s the one that made it happen, and DOT went along. This should really be corrected in the article. Also, Mr. LaBonge now has reportedly said what he did was a mistake and he regrets it. But he won’t say that publicly. (You know, kind of like Trump who never apologizes? LaBonge won’t apologize or admit a serious mistake like this, at least not publicly.)

    There are other inaccuracies in this blog as well, but I don’t think any of the usual readers here will appreciate the desire to correct the record.

  • Matti Paul

    I say instead of demonizing drivers, which tends to divide communities, make the conversation more about giving people options. This is really the problem no? Our cities have for too long developed exclusively to accomodate automobile travel. In much of our country, our cities have developed around cars to such an extreme that driving is often a necessity. I think some of the issues highlighted here (safety of pedestrians and bicyclists, neglect of public transit, vibrant walkable communities) is a result of that.

  • jennix

    I wish i knew.

    People see bikes, skates, boards, and scooters as toys, and they feel like using one is a step down in … i dunno honestly, i don’t get it. Manhood? Adulthood? Success? Social status? Whatever it is, i really think that’s the big issue.

    Maybe if they put warning labels on cars? “Likely to cause wage slavery.” “May cause weight gain, lethargy, and/or diabetes.”

  • 1976boy

    It’s looking more and more like outside of Downtown LA there is no political support for safer streets.

  • Ben Phelps

    how was it a mistake? It’s great.

  • LAifer

    Let’s just take a step back and consider a few things:
    — We have a Councilmember now contemplating removing the only safety measure put in place by the City on a street after someone was killed there
    — The bike lanes are on a half-mile section of the road, and they not only do not connect to other bike lanes — they actually dump bicyclists onto terribly unsafe streets for anyone on a bike.
    — The road diet, despite the lack of bike lane connectivity, has demonstrably worked. All the talk of using *data* to determine where and how to implement street changes, and this project has worked as it was intended.
    — All of this effort right now to remove this half-mile segment of road diet is being led by a couple loud neighbors who want things they way they used to be, even though that is demonstrably less safe, for everyone (including drivers).

    It is in this context that Councilmember Ryu has spent several years and about a quarter million dollars on this “study” which, while described as being about cut-through traffic, is intended to lay the groundwork for removing one of the only road diets (and some of the only bike infrastructure) that exists anywhere in his district. Anyone thinking that the Councilmember will be remotely willing to entertain keeping Rowena as is ought to consider that everything he’s doing is in contradiction to what we would expect from someone who cares about safety and mobility. This is about cars first and only cars, and the lives of those human beings that will be endangered by this approach are unimportant.

  • Joe Linton

    What do you think of the Kimley Horn recommendations for Angus and Waverly?

  • KJ

    Squeaky wheel… write to council member Ryu and show up at meetings. It is the only way to counter the road diet complainers.


Rowena Avenue Forum Reveals Significant Common Ground

In 2012, Ashley Sandau was walking across Rowena Avenue and was hit and killed by a motorist. Then-Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge spearheaded efforts to make Rowena safer. The city Transportation Department (LADOT) implemented a road diet on Rowena. The street had two travel lanes in each direction. These were reduced to one travel […]