As I noted on here a few weeks ago, I was recently approached by representatives for both of the candidates in the race for L.A.’s 5th Council District. They each offered to have their respective candidates address bicycling and transportation issues here, so I sent each campaign a list of five questions. Former state Assembly Member and West Hollywood City Council Member Paul Koretz is the first to respond. I’ll repost this on the CD5/SD26 page above and keep it there through the election on May 19th, and will post David Vahedi’s responses as soon as I receive them.
A bicyclist was killed by an intoxicated hit-and-run driver in Echo Park recently, the latest in a string of hit-and run incidents. What can be done on the city level to reduce the rate of both drunk driving and hit-and-runs? And what can be done to improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians?
First, we need to educate people about drinking in moderation by promoting alcohol abuse awareness programs and making the public more conscious of the serious consequences of drinking and driving. Second, I think one of the largest contributing factors to drunk driving in Los Angeles is the lack of an accessible and effective regional public transportation system. We simply do not have a system in place for people to safely travel between local bars and restaurants and their home. Expanding our existing public transportation system would be the first big step. I also believe that penalties for hit-and-run drivers need to be substantially increased and enforced. It’s a serious crime and the penalties need to be much stiffer for offenders. I strongly believe that our current system lets drunk drivers off the hook too easily.
I have met with neighborhood groups throughout the district who are deeply concerned with the recent increases in alcohol-related accidents that have caused serious bodily harm and in some cases, unfortunately, death. We need to increase traffic police activity near major intersections and thoroughfares throughout the district to deter speeders and red light runners. Cross walk sting operations (near Robertson and Pico) have been able to temporarily increase awareness among morning and evening commuters. In addition, we should also increase traffic lights and reflectors near intersections to alert drivers at crossing areas. Finally, I am also in favor of increasing penalties for violations of these regulations.
One step we could take immediately to help make our streets safer would be to support Assistant Majority Leader Paul Krekorian in helping pass AB 766, the Safe Streets Bill. This important legislation would address the problem of rising speed limits in our neighborhoods and empower give local cities and neighborhoods to regulate their own speed limits, while still being able to enforce them. The Safe Streets Bill will equip local governments with the tools to keep the speeds traveled on local roads at a rational level and make the streets in our community safer for bicyclists, drivers and pedestrians alike.
The Los Angeles City Council recently gave approval to the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights. Are you familiar with this document, and if so, do you support these rights as written? Are there any you disagree with, and why? And what would you consider the next steps to transform those rights from mere words into tangible action?
I am well-versed with the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights and I support it. It goes without saying that Cyclists should be entitled to the same protections under the law as everyone else. I believe the first step is to transform these rights into tangible action by increasing the role that cyclists play in urban and roadway planning. I strongly encourage input from the cycling community on how to improve our public transportation and specifically how we can increase access to and use of mass transit. We all need to work together to create conditions that will ensure safety for all parties – pedestrians, cyclists and mass transit passengers.
There is often a high level of tension between cyclists and drivers in Los Angeles as they compete for limited road space, as illustrated by last year’s incident in Mandeville Canyon. What can the city do to help reduce that tension, and encourage both sides to safely and courteously share the road?
It’s not easy to get motorists in Los Angeles, who are so dependent on their cars, to realize that bicyclists have the same rights as someone in a car. That being said, I think the driver in the Mandeville Canyon incident went far beyond extreme – deadly. I am pleased that Councilmember Rosendahl (who has endorsed my campaign) agreed to introduce the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights, which I whole-heartedly support and I think is a step in the right direction to addressing the tension.
What role, if any, do you see bicycles playing in city transportation policy and improving traffic flow within the city?
When I was the Mayor of West Hollywood, I requested input from the bicycle community on how to implement bike lanes on part of Santa Monica Boulevard. I think Los Angeles needs to adopt a regional public transportation approach that not only addresses improving traffic flow, and mass transit, but also how we can improve options and the quality of life for bicyclists.
In general, we need to focus on the creation of an effective bicycle infrastructure. Los Angeles, with over 330 sunny days a year, should be the world leader in bicycle commuting. We need to start the work of building many more miles of safe bikeways and adequate secure parking for commuters. These two steps will be a good beginning in our efforts to alleviate congestion and improve traffic flow.
Are there any other issues you want to address, or any additional comments you’d like to make to the bicycling community?
I am very proud to say that I rode a bicycle all the way from San Francisco to Los Angeles as part of the AIDS Lifecycle. It was one of the most rewarding experiences because I got to see California from a unique perspective while supporting a great cause.