8/25/2017California Residents Fight Back Against Road Diets
Los Angeles, California residents strike back against Vision Zero.
State and local transportation departments around the country have been removing lanes of travel for cars and replacing them with bicycle lanes. Los Angeles, California became one of the first cities in the nation where a public revolt over these "road diets" has forced officials to reverse course. The city transportation department on Monday began restoring all four travel lanes on Vista Del Mar, a major coastal road in the Playa Del Rey neighborhood.
The controversy remains, however, as the lanes on Culver Boulevard, Jefferson Boulevard and Pershing Drive remain throttled with traffic calming measures. The LA Department of Transportation made the changes without any public notice or consultation, claiming this "Vision Zero" approach would improve traffic safety. The group Keep LA Moving filed a lawsuit last month to restore the lost road capacity, citing evidence that constricting lanes did more than just create endless traffic jams, they also produced a massive spike in traffic collisions -- 27 incidents in just two months.
The neighborhood activists point out that there have been four pedestrian fatalities over the past 17 years on the affected roads, all but one of which happened after midnight. Pedestrians, often drunk, would walk across the road in the middle of the night and be struck by oncoming traffic -- incidents that the neighborhood group says would not have been prevented by a bicycle lane.
Instead of improving lighting on the road and adding crosswalks, as a past safety study recommended, Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilman Mike Bonin opted to reduce travel lanes in accord with the mayor's citywide Vision Zero strategy introduced in 2015. The document insists that it is worth creating congestion to improve traffic safety, but Jay Beeber, executive director of Safer Streets LA, warned that this plan would have unintended consequences.
"When traffic lanes are removed and traffic backs up, drivers seek alternative routes, often through otherwise quiet residential streets," Beeber wrote. "These streets are not built to handle the additional traffic and increasing motor traffic can put residents, especially children, at greater risk."
An online petition gathered the signatures of 7610 Playa del Rey residents -- 63 percent of the neighborhood -- opposing the "one lane madness." A counter petition by Vision Zero proponents failed to gather 1000 signatures.
Affected commuters also began collecting donations for an effort to recall Bonin, who took office in July. Under city rules, a formal recall petition cannot circulate until October 1.