Last week we alerted you to an attempt by the Panorama City Neighborhood Council to sneak in a last minute vote on removing the road diet and bike lanes on Chase Street through the San Fernando Valley neighborhood.
Despite the late notice, a number of bicyclists emailed to protest the blatant attempt to bypass legitimate discussion of the issue, and a handful of riders were able to attend the meeting.
Glenn Bailey, Vice Chair of the Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee, offers his report on the matter.
Existing bicycle lanes in Panorama City were under attack last week as both the Arleta and Panorama City Neighborhood Councils voted to support efforts to “restore” two additional lanes of motor vehicle traffic along a one-mile stretch of Chase Street between Van Nuys Boulevard and Woodman Avenue. The bicycle lanes, installed a year ago, link a major commercial district in Panorama City with the existing bicycle lanes on Woodman Avenue, and will provide a future connection for the proposed bicycle lanes on Parthenia Street, which will extend west to Canoga Park. The Chase lanes also serve the adjoining Chase Street Elementary School and nearby Panorama Recreation Center.
The removal of the bicycle lanes has been spearheaded by the Arleta “Looky Loo” Neighborhood Watch group, even though the lanes are located in Panorama City and not in Arleta. They claim traffic is delayed “up to fifteen minutes during rush hour.” (Alternatively, bicycling the route at any time of the day only takes four to five minutes.)
The Panorama City Neighborhood Council (PCNC) held its regular fourth Thursday monthly meeting last week but the Chase Street bicycle lanes item was not listed on the agenda distributed three days earlier. Instead, the PCNC issued a second agenda for a special meeting that was not publicly distributed via the City’s Early Notification System until less than 11 hours before the meeting start time.
Generally, these “special” sessions are only called pursuant to State’s open meeting law, the Brown Act, to consider items that become known within two to three days before a regular meeting. However, public records indicate that the Chase Street bicycle lanes have been agendized by the PCNC at least twice over the last two years: in April 2013 and in October 2014. The issue was most recently considered by the PCNC Public Safety Committee at a meeting held on March 11, 2015 and yet the item was not included on the agenda for the next full Board meeting held on March 26, 2015. Instead, it mysteriously appeared six weeks later with virtually no advance notice for the public.
Despite the lack of public notice, the PCNC President, Viviano Montes, reported that the Board had received about twenty emails that afternoon supporting the bicycle lanes. Two bicyclists who live in Panorama City and who use the Chase Street bicycle lanes on a daily basis did attend and spoke passionately in favor of keeping the lanes.
Two persons spoke against the bike lanes and apparently neither live in Panorama City, but rather in neighboring Arleta. One speaker said the bicycle lanes should be “shared” with motor vehicles, apparently unaware that a five-foot lane width is too narrow to accommodate cars and that such use is a violation of the State Vehicle Code. She claimed to have petitions with 250 signatures to remove the lanes, but apparently a copy was not provided to the Neighborhood Council so the Board doesn’t know if the signers are actually from Panorama City or not.
But that was enough to influence some of the PCNC Board members who said they would vote to represent the wishes of the “majority.” The vote was 10-1-3 (yes-no-abstain) to “ask the city to restore Chase Street to four traffic lanes between Woodman Avenue and Van Nuys Boulevard” which would necessitate the removal of the bicycle lanes. (A similar motion was passed the previous Tuesday by the Arleta NC on a 7-1-1 vote.)
According to the U.S. Census, the current population of Panorama City is 70,749 so if the Neighborhood Council wants to represent a true majority, they will need to hear from at least 35,250 more of their constituents.
Instead of undoing the road diet and removing the bicycle lanes, the City’s Department of Transportation should conduct a traffic and safety study and make recommendations to improve the flow of traffic, if necessary. For example, the complaints about delays at the four-way stop signs could be addressed by installing roundabouts at those intersections.
The bicycle lane opponents vowed to submit their petition signatures to the local City Councilmember Nury Martinez (6th District) so stayed tuned as this story unfolds.