One thing you seldom see in Los Angeles is bold action from elected officials.
You might see it in the private sector — especially from corporate jerks vying for the title of the city’s biggest bunghole. But from the government, no so much. At least not since the city’s last great mayor.
That’s why I was stunned to get up one day around 18 months ago, and discover this in my morning paper — an exceptionally bold, if flawed, plan to reconfigure Olympic and Pico Boulevards into near one-way streets through much of the Westside. (Note that the story was written by the much-missed Steve Hymon, one of the latest victims in the slow decline of the once great L.A. Times.)
As anyone would expect with such a radical transformation of city streets, local residents and business owners had some legitimate concerns. And as usual, rather than sit down with the concerned parties — or the city council, for that matter — and negotiate out a solution that could work to everyone’s benefit, the mayor responded in typical L.A. fashion.
He tried to ram it down the city’s throat.
And in typical L.A. fashion, a lawsuit ensued. As a result, the brakes were applied, just as they are countless times every day by frustrated drivers stuck endless Westside traffic.
The sad part is, it could have been a great plan. Had the mayor and his minions looked at the plan as more than just a means of increasing traffic flow and reducing commute times, these streets could have become tremendous assets for the city.
But nowhere in this plan was there any suggestion of creating livable streets that would improve the neighborhoods they pass through. No mention of walkable streetscapes or any measures to accommodate cyclists. No beautification plans that would draw people to the area, increase property values and create new business opportunities.
Nothing to address the concerns of business people over the loss of street parking, or resident’s worry over difficulty getting in and out of their homes. Let alone concerns that the plan could backfire and actually increase traffic and congestion by drawing even more drivers are drawn to these streets.
Now, after repeatedly scaling back the once-bold plan, the Department of Public Transportation is holding hearings on what’s left of it. Which basically consists of three lanes in each direction, with a turn lane in the middle, prioritizing traffic in the direction of traffic flow, and eliminating street-side parking at rush hour.
Which may succeed in improving traffic flow somewhat. But continues the focus on vehicular throughput that the city has employed for the last 60 years — the same failed focus that got us into this mess in the first place.
And squanders a rare opportunity to do something that could truly transform L.A. streets for decades to come.
So the question is, do we settle for a mere fraction of the original plan — which itself was just a fraction of what it could, and should, have been?
Or insist that they go back to the drawing board, until they come up with a complete solution that works for everyone — cyclists, pedestrians, transit users, residents and business owners alike.
And not just drivers looking for a faster route from here to there.
Thanks to Damien Newton of LA Streetsblog for the complete refresher course on the Pico-Olympic plan. And for most of the links I’ve used on this post, as well.
One week after being invaded by drunken, rampaging cyclists and the cops who love them, Hollywood once again finds itself infested — this time by mopeds. New York cyclists need better PR; evidently, they need better bike locks, as well. Louisville cyclists get a new Downtown bike center with their stimulus dollars. It looks like Colorado will get a new bike safety bill this year, despite the objections of the bike-hating sheriff. Green LA Girl profiles the founder of the Bikex Database. The best-named bike shop in town gets a new home, with plans for a “soft-opening” party this weekend. And finally, my brother and his dogs survive wind chill factors of -50 degrees Fahrenheit to arrive safely in Nome.