It didn’t have to happen at all. It certainly didn’t have to happen twice, and in so short a time. There was already a plan in place, vetted by community and Council both, paid for, ready to go.
The road diet on North Figueroa would have slowed peak driving speeds while making more room for bicyclists and pedestrians. These changes have been proven over and over again to make streets safer, friendlier, and more prosperous. (New storefronts have been filling old vacancies on York Boulevard since its own road diet.) They have even been shown, in recent analyses, to get cars through an area more quickly even as they roll more slowly.
This is not some ignoramus’s “gut feeling.” This is verifiable fact, observed on real roads in real cities the world around. The sun rises in the east, and road diets make communities safer, healthier, richer.
But Council Member Gil Cedillo chose to ignore the facts, perhaps in deference to his puppetmasters from outside the district. He decided, based on nothing he has been willing to express in public, to stop the road diet. In fact, he went so far as to set his staff to phoning residents of the district and cajoling them to oppose the plan. He was not uninformed: I myself, as well as dozens of others, including the LADOT, presented information that anyone not an abject fool—or a cat’s-paw for outside interests—could easily comprehend.
This is not a religious issue, which is basically a competition of opinions about the invisible and uncountable. This is science: concrete movements observed, counted, correlated, laid out plain and simple for all to see. The facts are clear: slowing traffic from 40mph to 25mph saves lives; encouraging bicycle and foot travel saves neighborhood businesses. There is no disputing this except by lies. Or by silence.
In July of this year, William Matelyan was killed by a speeding driver on North Figueroa Street. The road diet that Cedillo blocked, and which would have been in place for several months by then, would probably have saved his life, as road diets have saved lives everywhere from San Francisco to New York City. Instead, Cedillo chose to exploit Matelyan’s death for political capital.
And now, a few days ago, Gloria Ortiz was killed by a hit-and run driver, just off North Figueroa Street: by a driver who believed that speeding was his right, and that those who stood in his way deserved no consideration. This is the message that the roads-as-freeways Cedillo favors send to the motorists who traverse them.
It doesn’t have to be this way. And it wasn’t going to be this way! We could have had a safer, healthier, richer Highland Park, a place where people could shop and eat and visit and go to church without fearing that they’d meet their God ahead of schedule courtesy of a speeding car.
No, North Figueroa doesn’t have to be a Slaughter Alley. If not for Gil Cedillo, it would be better now. But it is not. And so we keep on dying for a delusion of hurry.