Neighborhood Shoppers Are “Outside Interests,” but Cut-Through Drivers Are Not?

Let’s start off today’s post with this lovely little photo of Figueroa Boulevard, the street that naysayers whine is “too busy” to give up an inch of asphalt to bike lanes, the street that needs to remain a junior speedway for the convenience of cut-through drivers:

Daunting traffic isn’t it? I snapped the photo a few mintues after noon on a Thursday last September.

Not surprising it’s so empty, since it has both a major freeway and a light-rail line within a couple of blocks.

Nevertheless, NIMBYs claiming that people who want to be able to walk or ride bikes to neighborhood shops are somehow “outside interests” threatening the freedoms of red-blooded motor maniacs, have been doing their best to intimidate the local council members into stymying the road diets and bike lanes on Colorado and Figueroa. Life, limb, and the local economy be damned, they want all the asphalt, all the time. So I have composed a little “Open Letter to the Residents, Business Owners, and Representatives of Highland Park and Eagle Rock”:

Regarding the controversies proposed bike lanes and road diets on Colorado and North Figueroa:

The majority of attendees at numerous community meetings have stood in favor of bike lanes–and the majority of those speaking in favor were residents of the area or owned businesses there.

Nevertheless, while the Eagle Rock NC voted 12-1 to support the lanes, Eagle Rock’s Chamber of Commerce voted against, the Cypress Park NC voted against, and the Historic Highland Park NC voted not to support.

Now we hear that our area representatives may be putting the projects on hold.

Yet a small minority of constituents have stood against the lanes. They are a very loud and angry minority, but a minorty nonetheless.

Worse, they are basing their “arguments” on gut feelings that only massive support of car use brings business.

Yet the experiences of city after city in all over the US prove that this is not true; in fact, real-world experience shows that unless you are a bigbox store such as Wal-Mart or Home Depot, too much car infrastructure sucks business away, while road diets, traffic calming, and especially bike lanes improve retail activity for local businesses, and boost tax receipts for municipalities.

I am going to include some links to actual studies, or to articles that link to actual studies, supporting my statements; you don’t have to take me on faith as you do the opposition, who doesn’t seem to believe in empirical data. Please read the following before you make up your mind to go along with the demands of the naysayers, for doing so will ensure that our streets remain slaughterhouses; our pubic health continues to be ravaged by obesity, diabetes, and stress; the good people of our communities retreat further from a public realm made dangerous and unpleasant by excessive car traffic; and our businesses continue to limp along while other neighborhoods, other nearby cities reap the benefits of reality-based, humane transportation planning. It will be worth your while to peruse the articles linked to in the following jounals:

Streetsblog
The Wall Street Journal
The Atlantic Cities
Strong Towns

After all, Colorado is paralleled by a giant freeway, as is Figueroa, which has the busy Gold Line as well. There is plenty of opportunity for passing through quickly. But there is no room for anything else on those corridors—at present. Not to change that will mean inviting blight, as residents and businesses gravitate to other parts of Los Angeles, or to our thriving bike-friendly neighbor to the west, Santa Monica.

No, I don’t live in Northeast Los Angeles. But I love the place, I spend my money there once or twice a week…and, though I am sixty years old and a stroke survivor, I always arrive by bike.

Meanwhile, over in Eagle Rock, it turns out that the Chamber’s opposition to the Colorado Boulevard bike lanes represents a distinctly minority opinion even among the folks it claims to represent. The Eagle Rock Patch reported Monday on a flood of letters from Colorado Boulevard businesses (as well as the president of Occidental College) strongly supporting the bike lanes—forty-eight local businesses or organizations at last count! Read about it here.

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