Please excuse the lack of Morning Links today. With tonight’s discussion of removing bike lanes and road diets from the Hollywood Community Plan, I felt it was more important to write and share this open letter.
We’ll catch up on anything we might have missed tomorrow.
To the board members of the Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council,
Tonight you’re scheduled to discuss a response to the draft Hollywood Community Plan, including the proposed bike lanes included in the Mobility Plan 2035.
However, the draft response contains references to maintaining the community’s current over-reliance on motor vehicles, as opposed to improving safety and connectivity for transit, walking and bicycling to encourage people to use other forms of transportation whenever practical.
At the same time, the president of this board is on record as opposing plans for road diets, saying proponents need a reality check. And letters are included that call at least one bike lane through the Cahuenga Pass — and perhaps others — “infeasible.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. Or do more harm to the Hollywood community in the years to come.
The truth is that road diets, more accurately known as lane reductions, can actually improve traffic flow and reduce congestion while increasing safety for all road users. And bike lanes can improve the livability of the community, while increasing the commercial health of local businesses and property owners.
- Road diets have been shown to improve safety from 19% to 47%, and have been successfully used around the country for nearly 40 years.
- The economic benefits of improved safety from road diets far outweigh the costs due to minimal increases in congestion, resulting in a net positive of $2.6 million to $37 million.
- Traffic volume is usually unaffected by road diets, while traffic flow can actually improve in many cases.
- Road diets encourage increased walking and bicycling as speeding is reduced and the dangers of uncontrolled traffic is calmed.
Other cities have recently seen the benefits of road diets.
- London removed traffic lanes and built out a complete network of what they call “cycle superhighways.” The result has been a 30% reduction in motor vehicle traffic in the central city, where bicycles are now the leading mode of transportation at rush hour.
- New York has seen a 150% increase in bicycling rates after building out an entire network road diets and bike lanes, bringing traffic fatalities for all road users to an all-time low. Yet taxi data shows that traffic times have actually improved.
- Paris did more than conduct a road diet; they converted an entire highway along the Seine to pedestrian use. Despite predictions of gridlock, the traffic has simply disappeared, with no increase in traffic on surrounding streets.
But you don’t have to look to other cities to see the benefits of road diets.
- The road diet on Rowena Avenue in Silver Lake has been a proven success, reducing average speed back down to the posted speed limit with no adverse effect on traffic volume, while significantly improving safety for all road users.
- And despite the initial complaints of business owners, York Blvd in Highland Park has thrived after a road diet was installed; even just six months after completion, it had no negative effect on local businesses.
Meanwhile, there are additional benefits to bike lanes, with or without a road diet.
- Painted bike lanes have been shown to improve safety for bicyclists up to 50%, while protected bike lanes improve safety up to 90%. But not just people on bicycles; the presence of bike lanes improves safety for everyone on the street.
- Bike lanes increase retail sales, while reducing business vacancy rates, which is a key problem in Hollywood.
- Even when they require a loss of parking, bike lanes result in a net gain for retail businesses.
- Studies around the world show a net benefit for businesses after bike lanes are installed.
- Having bike lanes nearby has been repeatedly shown to increase property values while making homes easier to sell.
- Bike lanes increase the livability of a community, bringing more people out onto the streets and sidewalks, and improving the vitality of the city.
- Safe bicycling infrastructure also increases compliance with traffic laws by bike riders, addressing the exact behavior Ms. Mann complained about in her interview with KABC.
The best part is, everyone gets to enjoy these benefits, whether or not they ever ride a bicycle. All that’s required is to make it safer, easier and more convenient for other people to ride their bikes.
In fact, studies have repeatedly shown that roughly 60% of all people would like to ride their bikes more if they felt safer doing it. Even right here in the car capital of the world.
On the other hand, the best way to ensure the failure of our traffic grid is to do nothing to encourage people to leave their cars at home, as more and more people move to the city, bringing their cars with them. And more people buy cars thanks to low interest rates and a booming economy.
As counterintuitive as it may seem to some, the solution isn’t to maximize the space given to motor vehicles and their drivers.
Los Angeles streets — and Hollywood in particular — are already built out to capacity. And rapidly filling to it, as well.
Our streets will all grind to halt if we don’t take steps now to make bicycling, walking and transit more viable options for more people. The only thing that’s actually infeasible is to continue on the almost exclusively car-driven path we’re on now.
Simply put, when you say no to road diets and bike lanes, you say no to safety, livability and commercial success. And that your ability to drive unimpeded is more important than people’s lives, and a healthy, thriving community.
Please do the right thing, and support the bike lanes in the draft Hollywood Community Plan.