As you may know, the city has long been developing plans to refurbish the Glendale/Hyperion bridge between Silver Lake and Atwater. But perhaps they’ve been working on them a bit too long: what they came up with represents the height of outdated car-only, streets-as-speedways thinking that has made so much of Los Angeles only marginally habitable. Wide, sweeping lanes, a 55mph limit that scofflaw drivers (that is, all of them) will universally exceed, and no room for pedestrians or cyclists on this vital connection over a river and a wide freeway between two walkable, bike-friendly, human-scale neighborhoods.
Here’s the letter I sent to various city entities (including the clueless council members, Tom LaBonge and Mitch O’Farrell):
For decades we have built wider and faster roads, only to discover that they induce more traffic and congestion, degrade public health, and crush healthy commercial activity along their corridors.
While city after city in the US, following the lead of healthy and prosperous Northern European communities, has been emphasizing walkability and bicycling, with brilliant results, we in Los Angeles are repeatedly subjected to constant retrograde efforts to boost car speeds through our neighborhoods, replacing a salubrious street life with aggression, noise, fumes, crashes, and empty sidewalks.
Silver Lake and Atwater are little success stories in the drab blandscape that obsolescent traffic engineering has made of Los Angeles. Now, plans to rebuild the Glendale/Hyperion bridge—a bridge I traverse frequently by bicycle, and whose form and setting I know well—seem intended to result in a chopped-off snippet of superhighway, with wide lanes and banked turns that are guaranteed to induce speeding. The drivers swooping over the bridge will not be willing to slow down when they approach Rowena or Glenhurst, nor will they have much regard for cyclists or walkers trying to make their way to neighborhood shops—let alone cyclists on the bridge itself.
Everywhere else in the civilized world–from other West Coast cities such as Seattle and San Francisco, to the powerhouse towns of Chicago and New York, to planetary capitals that include Washington DC, Paris, Tokyo, and London, forward-thinking engineers have chosen to slow down and de-emphasize the car, and to support walking, cycling, and transit, which cannot co-exist with shrieking motor traffic.
It is well-known and thoroughly proven now that nurturing the cyclist and the walker results in more cohesive communities, less crime, healthier populations, and increasingly profitable businesses. Who wants to wander a shopping street’s sidewalk or sit at a sidewalk table when you need a gas mask and earplugs to do so?
If council members Labonge and O’Farrell and the ladies and gentlemen of CalTrans and the DOT let this unconsidered project move forward as presented, they will be remembered as the last, lost befuddled champions of an obsolete obsession with speed over people, with chrome-plated arrogance over prosperous communities, with the ignorant and presumptive past over the prosperous future the rest of the world is bounding into without us.
Don’t let them turn the Glendale/Hyperion bridge into a road-raging speedway!