Westside councilmember Paul Koretz seems to be catching it from all sides lately.
Just days after many bicyclists — yours truly included — reacted negatively to his call for slashing greenhouse gases after killing bike lanes on Westwood Blvd, the UCLA Bicycling Academy falls just short of calling the councilmember a liar.
Consulting Economist Calla Wiemer writes that Koretz appeared before the Westwood South of Santa Monica Homeowners Association recently to explain his decision to kill the bike lanes, after promising the same group last year that the city would study them.
The Councilmember offered two justifications for the cancellation. One was that he realized that incorporating bike lanes into Westwood Boulevard would only make the situation more dangerous. The other was that he recognized an “overwhelming consensus of the community” in opposition. In light of these considerations, he determined that regardless of any LADOT findings, he would not approve bike lanes for Westwood Boulevard. There was thus no point wasting time with a study.
Yet as Wiemer explains, the bike lanes would have improved safety on one of the city’s most dangerous streets for bike riders, while moving riders out of the way of impatient motorists.
In fact, I’m told the safety portion of the study Koretz cancelled was virtually complete when he pulled the plug, and would have shown that the proposal would have no negative impact on safety — something he undoubtedly knew, despite proclaiming just the opposite as a justification for killing the project.
Which could explain his timing in killing the study last year before the results could be released.
As for his other excuse,
Koretz’s second justification for canceling the LADOT study was an ostensible “overwhelming consensus of the community” in opposition. The hundreds of riders who brave Westwood Boulevard daily on bikes would surely be surprised to discover the ease with which their interests can be overwhelmed in the view of the Councilmember. Moreover, those in favor of bike lanes extend well beyond the cycling community, or even the would-be cycling community taken to encompass those who would like to ride Westwood Boulevard but are deterred by present conditions. All who drive Westwood Boulevard regularly have the experience of getting stuck behind cyclists and wishing them out of the way. For motorists too, then, bike lanes are the answer….
With support of bike lanes for Westwood Boulevard so much in evidence, an “overwhelming consensus” in opposition would require a counterforce of a scale difficult to imagine. UCLA is, after all, the largest employer in Los Angeles after government and contributes $12.7 billion a year to the local economy. To understand the influences at work on the Councilmember, a group of UCLA students filed a public records request for all communications of the District 5 Council office pertaining to bike lanes. Covering the period February 24, 2010 to November 22, 2013, the file runs to 1035 pages. It is tough to read through all this material let alone infer any consensus from it. Views are presented on both sides of the issue with a relatively small number of people dominating the input. The most vocal opposition comes from the leadership of the Westwood South of Santa Monica Homeowners Association.
One problem with this whole scenario is that the few who run the WSSM HOA carry such disproportionate weight in the Councilmember’s assessment of public opinion. Another problem is that a group constituted on the basis of homeownership in a diverse neighborhood of single family homes and condominiums, young and old, cyclists and non-cyclists would take such a strident position on bike lanes. As a member of this homeowners association myself, I am an indication of the range of opinion that exists in the neighborhood with regard to bike lanes.
It should be deeply troubling to anyone that a single councilmember can, let alone would, derail the democratic process to satisfy an unelected homeowner’s group — not even the Neighborhood Council elected to represent all those who live, work and shop in the area, rather than just the privileged few who can afford homes in the area.
The late Dale Carnegie once wrote that there are two reasons for anything a person says or does — a reason that sounds good, and the real reason.
Koretz has given us two reasons that sound good, but don’t stand up to even the most basic scrutiny.
Which leaves us to wonder just what his real reason is.
Recently we discussed CABO’s opposition to AB 1193, a popular bill before the state legislature that would legalize protected bike lanes in California, which are currently prohibited under restrictive state law.
Jim Baross, president of the California Association of Bicycling Organizations, wrote in response that the group didn’t oppose the lanes, but simply wanted to maintain standards that he said would ensure their safety.
Yet the following comment from Baross, left on the Cycling in the South Bay blog in response to a story about harassment from motorists on PCH, doesn’t sound like someone who supports bike lanes, protected or otherwise.
It is so similar it’s difficult not to menton (sic) the similarity to racists’ treatment of those they consider not to belong – though nothing nearly as pervasive or violent; bicyclists are not lynched, but we are certainly being discouraged from exercising our rights – equal or less than equal. Disturbing to me is the Uncle-Tom response seeking, in effect, separate and usually inferior facilities – the back of the bus may be safer and using shoulder space may be more comfortable, bit (sic) it shouldn’t be forced on anyone by harrasment (sic) or misapplication of laws.
He’s got a valid point that no one’s choice of where to ride should be forced on them at the end of a bumper.
But to call anyone who wants safe infrastructure that doesn’t require us to share the lane with motorists an Uncle Tom couldn’t be more offensive.
Whether to bicycling advocates who disagree with his apparent opposition to anything but the same vehicular cycling approach that has stymied the growth of bicycling for the past 40 years, or to those who have suffered from real racism for the last 300.
Jim, you’ve got some serious explaining to do.
The Cypress Park Neighborhood Council meets tonight to discuss the already approved, funded and shovel-ready North Figueroa road diet and bike lanes, inexplicably halted by CD1 Councilmember — and apparent Koretz emulator — Gil Cedillo.
It only took two years, but a dangerous intersection on the Expo Bikeway has finally been fixed.
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Ninety-four percent of Oregon cyclists stop for red lights, compared to up to 77% of drivers who break the speed limit.
It’s been a bad year for cyclists in central Wyoming, as a rider from New York is killed while turning left across a highway. A letter writer suggests the solution is to let cyclists ride salmon; uh, no.
A Wisconsin writer says go ahead and ride to work, but buy a waterproof messenger bag first. And never try to race the rain.
A group of bystanders lift a taxi off an elderly New York bike rider.
A heartless UK thief steals a bike that was left to a woman after her father was killed in a plane crash.
Scot pro David Millar is booted from his team for this year’s Tour de France.
Belgium’s soccer team prepares to lose to play the US in the World Cup by going for a leisurely bike ride.
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And guess who doesn’t think the doping investigation that brought down Lance Armstrong was good for cycling? That’s right, Lance.