Making the case for desperately needed bike lanes on embattled Westwood Blvd

Maybe.

Just maybe, we may finally be seeing progress in getting desperately needed bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard, after earlier plans were summarily canceled by CD5 Councilmember Paul Koretz at the urging of a local homeowner’s group.

Now local traffic planner Ryan Snyder has come up with a new plan that won’t result in the loss of a single traffic lane or parking space.

Westwood homeowner and bike advocate Calla Weimer has once again offered a detailed and insightful analysis of the plan and why it’s needed, this time in the form of a presentation to the Transportation Committee of the Westwood Village Improvement Association.

I’m posting it below with her permission.

She also notes there will be another meeting to discuss the plan at the WVIA Town Hall at 5 pm on February 23rd, at 10880 Wilshire Blvd.

Given the rampant objections to bike lanes on Westwood, there’s still a lot of opposition to the plan, even though it won’t affect anything.

Except to improve traffic flow and make a dangerous street safer for the bike riders who will arrive in droves once the Expo Line opens on the Westside.

So support from cyclists will be vital to get it approved.

Note: I initially used the term NIMBYism to describe opposition to bike lanes on Westwood Blvd. While I feel the term aptly describes many residents in the area, where even dancing is banned in Westwood Village at the insistence of local homeowners, it does not further the conversation in this instance. Terming people who object to bike lanes as NIMBYs and those who want bike lanes as activists merely results in talking past one another, and failing to engage in a genuine conversation between people with differing concerns, making consensus difficult, if not impossible. As a result, I have rewritten this piece to remove the term.

……..

Bike Infrastructure for Westwood Boulevard

Remarks Submitted to the Westwood Village Improvement Association

4 February 2015

Calla Wiemer*

The challenge of transitioning from a car centric streetscape to one that is bike and pedestrian friendly is nowhere more pressing than on Westwood Boulevard. This heavily biked corridor exhibits an alarmingly high incidence of car-bike collision and cyclist injury. With the Westwood station of the Expo light rail line slated to open later in 2015, interest in biking the boulevard can be expected to ramp up sharply, compounding the conflict between bike and car.

This submission to the Westwood Village Business Improvement Association makes three points:

1) The incidence of car-bike collision and cyclist injury on Westwood Boulevard is unacceptably high.

2) Bike infrastructure should be developed as a network and integrated with rail transit. The Ryan Snyder “Remove Nothing Plan” jump starts the conversation on this for Westwood Boulevard.

3) Mayor Garcetti’s “Great Streets” designation for Westwood Boulevard calls on us to aspire to more than just removing nothing.

 

Collision & Injury

First, a few summary statistics on collision and injury for the whole of Westwood Boulevard will be presented. Following that, conditions will be analyzed and collision counts reported segment by segment for the length of the boulevard. Data on collision and injury are drawn from the Transportation Injury Mapping System of the University of California, Berkeley. Case identification numbers for the collisions along with explanatory notes are provided in an appendix.

  • The five year period 2009-2013 saw 36 collisions reported between bikes and motor vehicles along the 2.7 mile length of Westwood Boulevard.
  • Four of the cases were felony hit and runs.
  • The cyclist was at fault in only three cases, the motorist in 26, with no fault assigned in the 
remaining seven.
  • The cyclist was injured in all 36 cases; no motorist was injured.

Collision incidence varies along the length of Westwood Boulevard commensurate with discernible differences in conditions. The table that follows distinguishes four segments, presenting collision counts and distance in miles for each. It should be borne in mind that ridership decreases appreciably from north 
to south. Counts taken during the peak hours of 7:00-9:00 am and 4:00-6:00 pm on November 6, 2013 tallied 256 riders at LeConte Avenue, 157 at Santa Monica Boulevard, 116 at LaGrange Avenue, and 110 at Ashby Avenue (source here).

Location

Collisions

Miles

LeConte-Wellworth (incl)

5

0.5

Wellworth-Santa Monica

10

0.6

Santa Monica-Pico (incl)

18

0.8

Pico-National

3

0.8

Along the most northerly segment of Westwood Boulevard through the Village, motorized traffic moves very slowly. The large number of pedestrians crossing at intersections helps to animate driver attention. Only five of the 36 collisions occurred in the half mile stretch between LeConte Avenue and Wellworth Avenue (inclusive of cross streets at both ends). This is despite the much higher ridership at the north end of the boulevard.

Bike lanes begin at Wellworth Avenue and extend to just north of Santa Monica Boulevard. These bike lanes, however, are narrow and pass through the door zone of parked cars that line both sides of the street. The lanes are often obstructed by double parked cars or cars in the process of parking or exiting parking. Motorized traffic along this stretch can move at high rates of speed. Ten of the 36 collisions occurred along this 0.6 mile stretch.

By far the most treacherous segment lies between Santa Monica Boulevard and Pico Boulevard. Motor vehicle travel lanes are too narrow to allow the three feet of passing space required for overtaking cyclists. On the northbound side, street parking is suspended during peak hours with two lanes then allocated for travel. During these hours, most cyclists cling timidly to the curb, enticing motorists to try to squeeze by within the same lane in disregard of the three-foot law. On the southbound side where parking is
permitted at all times, most cyclists cleave to the door zone, again tempting motorists to pass within the same lane. Fully half of the 36 collisions took place on this 0.8 mile stretch. This high incidence of collision occurred despite a much lower ridership than further north.

The most southerly segment from Pico Boulevard to National Boulevard carries much lighter traffic than parts north. A dedicated left turn lane is little used for the purpose since cross streets are few and lightly traveled. Thus northbound, where there is only one travel lane, motor vehicles overtaking cyclists tend to move into the center lane to afford comfortable passing space. By contrast, with two travel lanes southbound, conflict between cyclists and motorists in the rightmost lane is a problem. Still, only three of the 36 collisions occurred along this 0.8 mile stretch.

To put these numbers into perspective, consider that car-bike collisions on Westwood Boulevard occurred at a rate of 2.7 per mile per year during the period 2009-2013. For the segment between Santa Monica and Pico Boulevards, the rate was 4.5 per mile per year. By contrast, for Los Angeles County as a whole in 2011, the rate was 0.24 per mile. The rates on Westwood Boulevard are thus higher by more than an order of magnitude than for the county generally. This calls for community action to meet a reasonable standard of street safety.

 

The “Remove Nothing Plan”

The “Remove Nothing Plan” by Ryan Snyder takes as its premise that no motor vehicle travel lane or parking space should be given up. Even under this severe restriction, the plan finds scope for bike safety enhancements for each and every diverse segment of Westwood Boulevard. The plan provides a fine point of departure for discussion. By addressing Westwood Boulevard as a comprehensive whole, it stands up to a political process that has in the past treated the street in fragments affording any neighborhood association or influential local figure veto power against change. But a transportation system must function as a citywide network. It cannot be patched together at intervals counted in blocks. And with rail lines going in and interest in cycling surging in the city of Los Angeles, Westwood Boulevard cannot stand apart.

If any portion of Westwood Boulevard is dangerous for biking, the corridor itself is dangerous. Safe passage must be afforded from end to end to create a viable transportation link. For the most dangerous stretch of the boulevard between Santa Monica and Pico, the “Remove Nothing Plan” proposes sharrows (arrows painted on the pavement to indicate bikes and cars must share the lane) and signage. This would constitute a significant improvement over the status quo. When the lane is too narrow for cars to overtake bikes legally, the safest behavior for a cyclist is to take the lane. This forces motorists to move to the adjacent lane in order to pass. Cyclists who are bold enough to take the lane now on Westwood Boulevard are often met with honking and shouting. Many are too intimidated to hold their ground. Sharrows and signage would help check threatening behavior by motorists and encourage cyclists to claim a safe space.

The dangers on the Santa Monica to Pico stretch of Westwood Boulevard are of such magnitude, and the proposed mitigation measures of such ease, that the measures should be implemented without further delay. The conversation should then move on to the larger issue of how the community can best make use of its limited street space. Perhaps this discussion will be catalyzed when motorists find cyclists claiming their shared lane at a rate of one every minute or two during peak hours, especially when that means a given motorist must often overtake the same cyclist repeatedly as they leapfrog along together through stoplights. So, what other approaches might there be to not only accommodate existing cyclists, but motivate people in greater numbers to get out of their cars and take to their bikes? On this note, the discussion should turn to the mayor’s “Great Streets” initiative.

 

Westwood Boulevard as a Great Street

Mayor Garcetti has invited us to re-envision Westwood Boulevard as a “Great Street”. His designation applies specifically to the stretch that runs through Westwood Village, but the community has every opportunity to expand on that. For a street to merit the label “great”, it should act as a safe and welcoming public space. It should accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists, and not allow human life to be crowded out by motorized traffic and parked cars. It should be graced with sidewalk rest spots and beautiful landscaping and should support thriving businesses.

To achieve such a vision will involve change. Street space on Westwood Boulevard is now given over almost entirely to motor vehicles, many of which sit empty. Street parking should be on the table for discussion. Parking can be provided off street – and indeed is overwhelmingly provided off street already – whereas mobility in its various guises cannot be. Along the dangerous stretch of Westwood Boulevard between Santa Monica and Pico, more than 90 percent of parking is currently provided off street (source here). The less than 10 percent of parking that is on street unquestionably yields benefits to some individuals. But whether this is the best use of a public resource under today’s changing circumstances is a discussion the community ought to have.

People in increasing numbers do not wish to be encased in steel and glass and powered by fossil fuels for their every move about town; not when the alternative is the exhilaration of riding a bicycle. This change in lifestyle could be a great thing for public health, for the environment, and for street life. It could be a great thing for Westwood Boulevard.

 

Appendix

Collision data analyzed in this document are taken from the Transportation Injury Mapping System of the University of California, Berkeley (website here). Case identification numbers are given below.

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

4034615
4234410
4344350
4385290
4492457
4512304
4629058
4640680
4643254
4820508
5015804
5112556
5194281
5219033
5219037
5289084
5354124
5354132
5361255
5385158
5453135
5474924
5667951
5760408
5900383
5950842
5960237
5975338
6008917
6065016
6086196
6137746
6260375
6260378
6287803
6305334

Cases were selected only if Westwood Boulevard was reported as the primary street. This means collisions that occurred in an intersection with Westwood Boulevard given as the secondary street were not selected.

Data for 2013 are provisional and incomplete.

* Calla Wiemer owns a home just off Westwood Boulevard and bikes the corridor on a regular basis. This document can be found along with her other writings on bike lanes referenced herein at http://www.callawiemer.com/Pages/BikeLanes.aspx.

 

19 comments

  1. Craig says:

    May I suggest you stop using the pejorative “NIMBY” in your posts as it diminishes the conversation and reduces this important topic to an “us versus them” mentality. And that is not the case.

    A parallel route along the tree lined, residential street Veteran Ave. is a viable alternative and would be far less controversial. Not to mention the fact it would be a much more pleasant bike ride, and facilitate a larger portion of the population (such as children) to utilize the route. As for safety putting bikes on such a parallel route would seem akin, and I would argue superior, to building a protected bike lane which would provide safety above and beyond what a bike lane would provide.

    Would you and other cyclist activist support such an alternative route?

    • Veteran Ave is not the most direct route from UCLA to the Expo Line, Westwood Blvd is. Veteran Ave does not connect to the businesses along Westwood Blvd where students want to go. Bicycle riders need to get to the same places that everyone else does and they want to take the fastest and most direct route to get there. What you are essentially proposing is that people should choose driving instead of using a bicycle for utilitarian trips.

      Westwood Blvd is on the mobility plan for a protected bike lane. Its quite obvious the homeowners in the area are trying to block that from happening.

      Also, Veteran Ave is too narrow a street to get a protected bike lane without taking away parking.

      Veteran Ave would not attract more people to ride a bicycle compared to Westwood Blvd. It’s well known that the greatest amount of bicycle riders in a city comes from students. Veteran Ave does not come close to connecting to UCLA, Westwood Blvd is the main street that connects to UCLA.

      Your suggesting an alternative that is not viable and its quite obvious that you are trying to keep any bicycle infrastructure from being installed on any major street in the area that you live.

      • Craig says:

        I would trade a slight detour to improve the safety (and enjoyment) of a bike ride. I think many riders would.

        You reference the Expo station on Westwood assuming of course that is the main source of riders. That is a poor assumption in my opinion, but for the sake of discussion the detour in question here would be;
        * start from the Westwood Expo
        * ride west along the bike way parallel to the tracks (something like 500 ft)
        * at Veteran Ave turn right

        Veteran connects just fine to all businesses along Westwood Blvd. Those connections are via Tennessee, Mississippi, La Grange, Missouri, Santa Monica Blvd. Massachusetts, Ohio, etc.

        I have taken Veteran to shops on Westwood in exactly the way I propose to go for lunch, meet with people, pick up take out, etc. Try it, its easy.

        Homeowners in the area like me want the focus more broad than many activists who continue to keep the conversation limited to “bike lanes on Westwood Blvd.” Expanding the view point means considering the needs of the community as a whole, not just the desires of the limited number of long distance bike commuters.

        You don’t need a bike lane on Veteran Ave. You just ride Veteran Ave. on your bike; “taking the lane” as it where. Isn’t taking the lane much safer? And couldn’t Veteran Blvd. be relatively easily configured to limit automobile traffic to further enhance its use for bikes?

        You make assumptions about what would attract bike riders. Isn’t the highest concentration of bike riders usually on bike routes, where there are no cars at all? That’s certainly been my experience (albeit limited) as I have observed far more riders on the Ballona Creek route than on any city street. Veteran Ave. is now, and could be much closer to a bike route than Westwood ever can be. In that sense, Veteran would be a great encouragement to people (that’s everyone, the young, the old, not just the 100 mile a week commuter) to get on their bike.

        I’m sorry you feel my option is not viable or that I’m being obstructionist. I do not see how utilizing a “major street” is of significance. I respectfully disagree with your characterization of my involvement as I’m suggesting bike infrastructure be implemented in a way which better suits the entire community in which I live. I appreciate that you have an alternate viewpoint on the subject however.

        • Calla Wiemer says:

          Craig, my offer of the last two years stands to ride with you on any route you wish to propose as an alternative to Westwood Blvd. The route should take us from the Expo station to UCLA. We should do it during peak hours for a serious test.

          • Craig says:

            Calla,

            Thanks but not sure I understand you. My memory may be fading some but I don’t recall your offer from the past. And not sure what this has to do with my comments.

            I know your opinions here and again respect them. I’ll also concede you ride many more miles per week/month/year than I do. I’m not a UCLA student and honestly have little interest in riding from Westwood Station to UCLA. I have much more interest riding from my home to local businesses along Westwood (and Pico/Olympic) maybe within a mile radius. Or riding with my young daughter. I would never want to take her on an artery like Westwood, lanes or no lanes.

            Again, in my opinion riding along Westwood Blvd. is just not a good option. There’s too much going on with cars, buses, trucks, etc. to make it enjoyable.

            • Calla Wiemer says:

              Craig,

              I made the offer to ride your proposed alternative repeatedly at our WSSM HOA Bike Committe meetings.

              If you are happy riding Veteran for your own local purposes, fine. The bigger issue under discussion is how to safely accommodate the currently hundreds of riders a day, and prospectively untold numbers more who might desire to ride Westwood Blvd. Are you proposing an alternative for these people when you ask if “activists” want to put their support behind Veteran? From my experience, Veteran is not viable. It’s one lane in each direction with parking on one or both sides, depending on the stretch. If cyclists take the lane, motorists can pass only by crossing over into oncoming traffic. And traffic for many hours of the day is too heavy to do that. Cars will back up behind cyclists taking the lane, causing much antagonism. Personally, I find Veteran even scarier than Westwood. At least on Westwood there’s a second travel lane for cars to pass in. That’s why I propose to ride your alternative with you and find out how your perception can be so much different.

              And since Councilmember Koretz is the ultimate decisionmaker, we should invite him to ride your alternative with us too.

        • bikinginla says:

          In regards to riding on Veteran, like drivers, most bike riders prefer to take the most direct route, In fact, it is more important, since bicycles are muscle driven, and it is more tiring the more one has to go out of his or her way.

          While Veteran is relatively calm between Pico and Santa Monica, it has a number of stop signs that force people to either stop their bikes, then expend the extra exertion to resume riding, or go through the stop, which leads to angry complaints from motorists. And even though it is a relatively slow speed street with room to pass a bike, I have been subjected to angry shouts and honking horns for merely having the audacity to ride there. Not exactly a pleasant experience.

          Once you cross Santa Monica Blvd on a bike, Veteran becomes virtually unridable. There is a steep hill immediately north of Santa Monica that is beyond the ability of most bike commuters. The street also narrows at that point; merely riding outside of the door zone places anyone on a bike directly in the path of cars coming from behind, often leading to confrontations with drivers angered at being delayed. Riding in the door zone puts people on bikes at risk of being hit by swinging car doors and cars pulling out of parking spaces and driveways.

          That section of Veteran can’t be made safe for bike riders without the removal of parking on at least one side of the street, which is not going to happen.

          As someone who had been riding a bike in urban traffic for over 30 years, I won’t ride there unless absolutely necessary, and then for as short a distance as possible.

          You are right that many people will choose quieter streets or off-road pathways when possible, but only when they provide a relatively direct route to where they are going. But not if they perceive those streets as more dangerous than the alternative, which much of Veteran clearly is.

          Also, put yourself in the position of a young woman riding home alone late at night. Would you prefer to ride on a dark, quiet street, or one on which is well lighted and traveled at all hours, and where you are clearly visible to other people? Women have worse things to fear than impatient drivers or getting hit by a car.

          The simple fact is, people ride bikes on Westwood now, for all sorts of reasons, even though it is a very uncomfortable and dangerous street to ride. And they will continue to do so, whether or not bike lanes are ever installed on the street, and in increasing numbers when the Expo Line makes is easier for those who work or go to school in the Westwood area to commute without a car.

          What I will never understand is why local residents continue to fight tooth and nail against a plan that improves safety and traffic flow, without removing a single traffic lane or parking space.

          And why local homeowner groups refuse to work with people who ride bikes to come up with a solution that works for everyone, rather than demonizing people who just want to get where they’re going safely as “activists.”

          • Craig says:

            Calla,

            I can accept if you don’t prefer Veteran. But its certainly a viable option. And if you restricted through auto traffic (e.g. limit crossings of major streets like Olympic to bikes only) the amount of auto traffic would be reduced mainly to local residents. It would essentially be a open road for bikes. And that sounds like a great, and much safer option to me.

            bikinginla

            I just can’t see the most direct route argument being the dominant factor. Adding to the route is a trade off. If that up side of that trade off is a more pleasant, less stressful ride, I certainly would take that trade. And I think others would as well. Of course, there’s a limit. But also, everyone’s route is different (not all riders in West LA start at the Westwood Expo station).

            Let’s be honest and admit the tired but largely legitimate characterization that the vast majority of bike riders do not obey stop signs. While I agree, losing ones momentum is problematic at a stop sign (less when going down hill which is the case south bound), hardly anyone even does that and I believe there’s been a push to make stop signs “yield” signs for bikes (like in Portland I believe). There’s an option here to make north/south direction actual yield signs. Its not a reason to declare Veteran unviable in my opinion.

            I too have felt the ire of auto drivers on Veteran. Not sure how to resolve that as its about respecting others. But, if you follow through with my plan to restrict auto traffic on Veteran by limiting the major street crossings to bikes only, I think the problem of car/bike interaction goes significantly down (maybe close to zero).

            Veteran is unridable north of Santa Monica? I find that difficult to accept. I’m sorry if this sounds flippant but if you are a UCLA student riding from Palms, I’m sure you can handle that short stretch of climb. Its a minor trade off in my view.

            Again, if you limit auto traffic on Veteran, you can take the full lane, well out of the door zone. Aren’t you closer to the door zone when in a bike lane on Westwood?

            If you are concerned about bikes encountering cars pulling out of driveways and parking spaces, isn’t that also a concern on Westwood? Not sure if one is more severe than another but from driving on Veteran, I almost never see a car pull out of a parallel spot (seems like residents camped for days). But on Westwood, I routinely see cars waiting for a spot while a driver pulls out. So here I think your point is not taken, Veteran is “safer” in my view.

            A young woman riding home late at night, alone? You see this as a common use case for bike commuting in West LA to argue against use of Veteran? I don’t see that happening much. And even if it did, and God forbid there was some sort of attack, who is more likely to hear and respond? Residents in their homes along Veteran, or closed shops along Westwood? Either way, I hate to say it, but I don’t think it would be LAPD who responds.

            There will always be people riding on Westwood. The brazen, the rebels. Same ones riding on Pico and Olympic. Is that a reason to encourage more?

            I cannot speak for all home owners, and I just one. But here’s some reasons why I support Veteran as a parallel bike route, instead of lanes on Veteran. In no particular order;

            * don’t agree bike lanes on Westwood are safer for anyone

            * bike lanes on Westwood is myopic and homeowners focus on impact to the community as a whole

            * lanes on Westwood do not serve the local community of which a good percentage is families with children, and elderly. This community is not commuting from Palms to UCLA. They are not commuting from Expo to UCLA. They want to go from their homes, to other homes in the area (e.g. children’s friends) or they want to go for coffee, or ice cream, or lunch. Or they just want to go for a pleasure ride.

            * more bikes on Westwood will almost assuredly slow traffic on Westwood which is already rough by anyones standard. Path of least resistance means, drivers on Westwood try to cut through the community. The more resistance, the more cut through. That negatively affects the community as a whole.

            To my knowledge, local home owners groups are trying to work out a solution. That’s what the alternate route proposal is all about. I see the same tooth and nail resistance from my perspective looking at supporters of the lanes as you seem to see.

            • The cause of the traffic congestion in the Westwood area is not enough lanes to meet the demand of car travel in peak hours.

              Why do so many people choose to drive along Westwood Blvd instead of using another mode of transportation? The main reasons are that its the fastest, easiest and most direct way to get where they want to go. As long as this remains the case people who are able to and can afford it will choose to drive instead of using any other mode of transportation.

              There are a few fundamental ways to move more people along Westwood Blvd. One is to increase the capacity for cars by knocking down buildings to widen the road, double deck the roads or create tunnels for cars. None of these are viable options due to costs, disruptions to existing traffic from tunneling, causing hardships to businesses or visual blight.

              Another option is to encourage people to travel in the existing right-of-way using modes of transportation that have the potential to move more people in the given amount of space. Those modes of travel include transit, walking and bicycling.

              An example of how this works is the recently started LACMTA Express bus line that stops at the Orange Line BRT stations at Van Nuys Blvd and Sepulveda Blvd in the San Fernando Valley and then travels to UCLA. What makes this bus route different is that there are parking spaces for 1,400 cars at these two stations and it makes one stop after the Sepulveda Orange Line station before getting on the 405 freeway to head directly to the UCLA area. This makes it more attractive by both creating a faster more direct route to UCLA from the Valley and making stops to pick up park and ride customers at the Orange Line stations.

              Your idea is to try and encourage people who only produce about a tenth of one horsepower to ride three blocks over to Veteran Ave instead of using the faster much more direct and convenient Westwood Blvd. This will not make a significant difference in getting more people to choose a bicycle for their trips since its faster to drive along Westwood Blvd than it would be to ride over to out of the way Veteran Ave.

              At USC its faster and easier to use a bicycle traveling to campus than it is to drive. Try to encourage these people to ride on a much less direct route and there will be much less of them choosing a bicycle as transportation.

              Westwood Blvd does not have undulating steep slopes that require much more stressful exertion like Veteran Ave. Bike lanes on Westwood Blvd would separate a bicycle rider from moving vehicles and Veteran Ave requires that you ride in front of moving motor vehicles. This is not an attractive option for most people who potentially could be riding a bicycle.

              It doesn’t look like bicycling is going to be a significant form of transportation in the Westwood area in the near future due to not being able to get any more separation for bicycles from motor vehicles along important corridors.

              Meanwhile, the USC area is getting a protected bike lane along Figueroa St. which is in addition to the bike lanes that connect to the University on Exposition Blvd and Hoover St. This will no doubt increase the percent of people using a bicycle to commute. Maybe sometime in the next few years the Westwood homeowners will learn that the volume of bicycling in the USC area can be created in the Westwood area by simply allowing a network of bike lanes to be installed on major streets in the area.

            • Calla Wiemer says:

              Craig,
              There are technical questions that could be raised about how you would prevent non-local traffic from using Veteran or how you would connect it to the Village or UCLA. But I’d like to jump to the political question: Does anyone support this idea but you?

        • You don’t speak for the majority of people that would choose to ride a bicycle in the Westwood area. People are voting with their pedals and its overwhelmingly Westwood Blvd and not Veteran Ave where they ride a bike. Your trying to discourage more people from riding on Westwood Blvd by blocking any significant safety improvements for bicycling on that street and thereby also encouraging more driving along that corridor.

          Westwood Blvd not only is a direct connection between UCLA and the Expo rail line but it is also the most direct connection from UCLA to the community of Palms–7th highest population density community in the city of Los Angeles. An insignificant number of these residents would want to ride a bicycle out of their way to Veteran Ave from UCLA to get home. A better choice would be to just drive–which you are trying to encourage them to do by limiting their choice for method of travel along this street. After all, what Westwood Blvd needs is more people driving during peak hours. There is simply not enough lanes to accommodate an increasing amount of motor vehicles on Westwood Blvd during peak hours without increasing the level of traffic congestion. To put it another way there is too much demand and too little supply. Keeping the priority almost exclusively towards cars does not improve the situation. To suggest that very few people would choose to bicycle around a major University is laughable. Most of the highest bicycle cities in the U.S. have a large University student population.

          Its quite easy to see by the number of people bicycling on Veteran Ave and Westwood Blvd that the overwhelming preference is Westwood Blvd by a wide margin. Your trying to redirect people to a street where they don’t want to ride.

          I have ridden Veteran Ave several times. Its not nearly as easy to ride as you claim. Its very hilly in parts and there is no separation from moving motor vehicles. That makes it very uncomfortable to ride for all but less than 1% of the adult population who are strong and fearless. That’s the percentage of adults that would ride in mixed traffic on a busy street according to several surveys conducted in other cities. Simple bike lanes brings that percentage to 7% of the adult population and a protected bikeway increases it to 66%.

          The highest weekday AM and PM bicycle counts conducted by the Los Angeles Bicycle Coalition in 2011 were on Hoover St just above USC (which has bike lanes). The count was 60% more there in the PM than in the same time period on Ballona Creek. The USC area has by far the highest concentration of bicycle commuters in LA because it has a major University. The homeowners in the Westwood area are making a concerted effort to make sure the same thing does not happen in their area.

          Its not a broad focus to limit the types of transportation on a street that is the main connection to the biggest University and the second largest employment center in Los Angeles.

          Not having bike lanes on Westwood Blvd does not benefit the whole community. Its mainly narrowly focusing on people who drive and in doing so its encouraging more people to choose driving along that corridor since driving is given the preferential treatment of most direct and fastest route to get from point A to B. Bicycling is an option for most people, making it the slowest way to get somewhere does not encourage more people to choose bicycling for their daily trips.

          A bicycle is much more competitive in terms of speed compared to cars on a street that is heavily traffic congested. UCLA to Palms is in the 3 mile range along Westwood Blvd. That’s an easy and quick bike ride for most people.

          • Craig says:

            Dennis,

            I know I won’t be changing your mind here as we’ve had a similar conversation in the past. But in the interest of polite discourse, here goes.

            I don’t know how to estimate whether my opinions represents X% of the community, and yours represents Y% and if XY. If you do, that could be interesting.

            Who is voting with their pedals? The loudest voices in this conversation seem to be the more grizzled, multi-mile a day riders.

            And I am trying to encourage setting up the community to address a variety of interests. Those of the UCLA bike commuters is just a small segment.

            For me, it defies common sense to say its safe to route bikes and cars down the same road. Particularly when there’s another option.

            Framing this whole conversation on safety is myopic and I would guess partly disingenuous. I’m not referring to you or anyone else in particular, but I feel many of those who claim bike lanes are needed for safety would also argue helmets should not be mandatory, rules of road should not be enforced for bike riders, passing on the right is perfectly safe, and I’ve yet to hear a single discussion about safe speeds (south on Westwood Blvd. is downhill as I’m sure you know, and I’ve seen some decent speed relative to stopped autos by more than a few riders). Not to mention, south bound bike riders not yielding to pedestrians in cross walks (like at Tennessee, I can personally vouch for that one as my daughters stroller nearly got clipped one day).

            I just don’t buy the argument that traffic alleviation will come in the form of bike commuting. Doesn’t pass the smell test for me. I believe mass transit is the answer. But again, I doubt we will come to agreement here.

            I’m not going to pretend that I can address all the bike routing issues around LA. I am mainly focused on my local area. I am not smart or brazen enough to take on what’s happening in Palms.

            In the name of safety, I would think many would be willing to go a bit out of their way. I’ve had broken bones surgically repaired (not from biking accidents), its not fun.

            I have to believe there are more ways to address traffic problems than just saying “bike instead”. That is overly simplistic and I feel, unrealistic.

            I don’t know why you want to characterize my views as encouraging more auto traffic. I live within a few blocks of Westwood and Veteran. The number of cars is a regular frustration. But its also a reality of where we live. I think there’s a balance, and a better one than exists now. But I also joke with friends from outside the area when they bemoan the traffic in West LA; “If you live in an area without much traffic, you need to ask yourself why.” The point of course being, people want to be here in West LA (as they do in other areas with lots of auto traffic).

            I don’t recall referencing biking around a campus like UCLA. I went to college, there were bikes. I get it.

            I’ll give you there’s more riding on Westwood than parallel options now. That isn’t a sufficient argument to say Westwood is the best option. I see people riding on Veteran. I see them on Military too (another great alternate, south of Pico). Maybe if Veteran was the north/south bike route (with the signs like on Westwood, and the bike route map designations) more would take it. And if you cut down the density of autos on Veteran during rush hour, I’ll bet even more would take it over Westwood. I truly feel its a great option. Its frustrating to see you trying to characterize this view as just about not wanting bikes around. Its just not true.

            Don’t recall saying Veteran was an easy ride. Isn’t the incline roughly the same whether you take Westwood or Veteran? I can see your point as I believe there’s a steeper grade at points along Veteran (like just north of Santa Monica) than Westwood. There are tradeoffs for sure but not sure I agree with your characterization that its too tough. You are also ignoring the fact that I suggest “taking the lane” on Veteran so motor vehicle separation is not the issue you make it. Its even less an issue if my grandiose idea of limiting auto traffic on Veteran were implemented. Big picture, Veteran seems like the way to go from my perspective. And I’m trying to make that perspective known.

            Fearless better describes those riding Westwood in my opinion, bike lanes or not.

            I don’t buy comparisons to other parts of LA or other cities. West LA is a unique mix of businesses, residences, schools, a university, multiple hospitals, the busiest freeway segment in the US, etc.

            Can’t speak for the group as a whole, but I do not see West LA homeowners trying to just stop people from riding bikes. What would be the reason? As one homeowner here, I can say I for one despise the auto traffic. That includes the auto traffic which comes ripping down our residential streets trying to shave a minute or two off their admittedly rough commute.

            I would not say my idea of using an alternate, parallel route represents limiting transportation on a street. Its about finding a balance in a complex system.

            This whole “most direct route” argument just sounds like dogma or a talking point. I get you feel strongly about it. I just don’t see it as that significant. When I bike commuted, I intentionally took a route that was away from the high density auto route. Sometimes that’s the least direct route. For me, that is a common sense approach that I would expect many to agree with. And I’ve spoken with a handful of friends who ride bikes, some much more than I do. They agree with me. Small sample size, yes but makes sense doesn’t it?

            A short bike ride could be an easy, quick option for some. But I don’t think it is for the purpose of commuting to/from your work place. And think about the parents or the elderly, or those going for a hospital visit (which I have to believe is common around here). I know some parents ride with their kids and more power to them. But that just isn’t reality for most, and lanes on Westwood, or a bike route along Veteran isn’t going to change that.

            I think the best hope to reduce the cars is to increase the use of mass transit and I think its going to take some creativity to make that work on Westwood Blvd. (I have an idea here too but off topic). I’m hoping Expo is a key. But bikes on Expo to make the last mile or three, I don’t see it.

            I leave you with some levity; how about this for a crazy idea which might offer some help; cut down on the UCLA student traffic (bike, car, bus, or otherwise) by moving the students on campus instead of housing them miles away in Palms!

            • Nothing is going to alleviate traffic congestion in Westwood in the near future. Its going to get worse. There is simply not enough capacity going to be built to accommodate the demand. Limiting the choices for traveling along traffic congested Westwood Blvd does not significantly improve this situation for anyone. It does however encourage people to choose siting in a car in traffic if you want to have the fastest and most direct way of getting somewhere.

              The Census Bureau sends out household surveys annually. The Westside residents of LA report in these surveys, on average, some of the lowest commute times of any area of the city. That essentially means that with a high level of traffic congestion that the distance people are traveling to work is much shorter than most areas of the city. That also means that a bicycle is much more competitive in speed compared to traveling by car. People will frequently choose the fastest and easiest method of traveling somewhere. The potential for greatly increasing the rate of bicycling in the Westwood area is partially due to this and also the high proportion of University students.

              UCLA students, faculty and workers are a huge part of the population in the Westwood area. You are primarily focused on the single family homes and consider that a broad viewpoint. There is a large untapped potential for bicycling in that area simply because of the amount of students at UCLA.

              “For me, it defies common sense to say its safe to route bikes and cars down the same road.” Then you do not have common sense because you want people to ride a bike along busy Veteran Ave in mixed traffic, even without bike lanes.

              You cannot force people to ride a bicycle along one street rather than another one. The fact is there are many more people choosing to bicycle along Westwood Blvd compared to Veteran Ave. Putting in bike lanes on Westwood Blvd would increase that difference significantly.

              Your judging the potential for bicycling along Westwood Blvd by the number of riders you see now. Since there is not a complete separated route for bicycling on streets in the area, the amount of bicycling is a fraction of what it could be.

              There is going to be a protected bike lane installed on south Figueroa St. from MLK to 7th St in the next two years. Because this connects to USC, there should be a significant increase in the amount of bicycling along this street. This provides an additional low stress street to bicycle on. That will in turn increase the rate of bicycling for the USC area. Its already 8% commuting by bicycle in a USC zip code area. Its too bad that the Westwood homeowners don’t realize the potential for bicycling in their area is similar to what it is in the USC area.

          • Craig says:

            Denis,

            Written text can sometimes lose tone so I hope you interpret the following as it was meant; with a tip of the cap and nothing insinuated. You are a stubborn and persistent debater. I appreciate your tenacity. In many ways, I think we have similar personalities. And I believe some of your points and observations have merit. We just don’t see eye to eye on how bike usage impacts the transit problem in West LA.

            That said, I must sign off on this debate. As usual it was a good exercise but I must put my time and energy elsewhere.

            I will leave you one more reason why I as a home owner I the area prefer routing bikes down parallel streets (an item I failed to clarify earlier). My fundamental belief is mass transit has a chance to reduce auto use in the West LA area. And while I cannot claim to have thought the following through well, I have wondered if a creative idea (or maybe its not that creative, not sure) such as the following would work;

            Convert the center “turn lane” all along Westwood Blvd (or at least from Santa Monica to Pico) into a reversible, dedicated bus lane. I think you could still implement left turns for autos some way although I admit its not obvious (although, you guessed it, I have some ideas). Have some sort of express bus line run in the direction of congestion (so as I see it, north in the AM, south in the PM) in addition to the other regular bus lines running along with the traffic in the other direction. Re-time the lights such that these buses have priority when they approach the intersections, and use the intersection itself as the stop since the bus is effectively in the middle of the road. That is all other traffic lanes are stopped until the bus loads/unloads and clears the intersection. This could from a crazy idea perspective (and I am sure, its probably full of holes) facilitate that late mile connection from Expo Westwood to the UCLA area and in my opinion have a real chance at reducing auto use along Westwood Blvd.

            I know I’m beating a dead horse, but I think such an option has a much greater chance of getting people to change their commute habit than bikes do. Stretching a bit now, I fear that with the continued insistence that bikes are the answer to traffic alleviation in West LA and along Westwood Blvd., it gives our local government an “easy out”. They don’t have to be creative (or out in left field if that’s what you think of my idea above) if they can stand in front of a mic and say “I put in bike lanes, problem solved.”

            Thanks again for the exchange of ideas. It’s always entertaining.

    • fakenayme says:

      Veteran is a terrible alternative. Particularly, between Ohio and Wilshire where there is barely enough width for narrow car lanes. North of Wilshire, there is also no space for a bike, but currently also dangerous construction impeding pedestrian access leading to people walking the wrong way in what could be a bike lane, if the drivers were willing to lose a lane. Regardless, stop speaking of bikes needing to take alternatives. People on bikes are not secondary. Why not tell the people driving to take alternatives? Humans, regardless of choice in transport should be equally considered.

      • Craig says:

        You can take the lane on Veteran even now (with some courage admittedly but certainly doable whereas fool hardy on Westwood).

        An alternate route is not about bike riders being first or second or any other priority. My opinions are about finding a common sense approach to a complex problem.

        Having the auto drivers take alternatives would seem to imply you move the autos down the residential streets. Doesn’t seem like that solves much.

        Now if you could get the auto drivers to take a bus, I think some real change to the auto traffic could be realized.

        • Car drivers are not going to take a bus in any great number if the bus is stuck in traffic with the cars. There is simply no savings in time doing this. However, if there was a bus only lane then that would decrease the time required to ride a bus. Then again, homeowners in the Westwood area rejected bus only lanes on Wilshire Blvd and so bus only lanes have probably no more chance of being installed on Westwood Blvd than bike lanes do. Its a mentality of believing cars should have the priority even though there are too many of them at peak hours. That’s right, there are too many of them and so lets encourage more people to choose driving instead of alternatives. That’s a great non-improvement to the problem.

    • bikinginla says:

      Craig, upon further reflection, you are right about NIMBY resulting in an us versus them mentality — just as describing people who want to ride their bikes safely on Westwood Blvd as activists does.

      As a result, I have rewritten this piece to remove that term. And may I politely suggest that you, and others who oppose bike lanes, refrain from using the pejorative term activist to describe people who advocate for bike lanes.

      We’re just people, like you.

      • Craig says:

        Wow, that is awesome. Thank you.

        And yes, we are all in this together.

        Honestly, I wasn’t trying to use activist as a pejorative and have a little trouble seeing it defined in such a way. Nevertheless, I respect your feedback and will try to be more mindful of such sweeping characterizations in future posts (and I have a funny feeling there will be some future posts to make!).

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