Last Sunday I broke with my long-ride routines and joined the “Friendly Ride,” put on by the Mid-City West Community Council and the New Urbanism Film Festival. It was a neighborhood ride, designed to showcase a proposed micro-network of Neighborhood Greenways in Hollywood and the Miracle Mile. I say “micro-network,” because the ask is for only two streets, one of them already almost devoid of motor traffic. The streets are Rosewood, from just east of La Cienega to Formosa, and Formosa and Alta Vista/Cochran (one of those maddening LA streets that changes its name at random intervals) to Wilshire Boulevard, where the new rush-hour bus/bike lanes are almost done. The chosen stretch of Rosewood is so narrow that cars going opposite directions can barely pass, but of course there’s plenty of room for bike traffic!
Scott Epstein of the MCWCC hosted the ride start, and Taylor Nichols gave a spiel on each proposed treatment at the several stops, while the New Urbanism Film Festival’s Josh Paget distributed maps and flyers showing the suggested (not at this point planned) facilities. These include diverters, roundabouts, active crosswalks, bike boxes, and intersection sharrows, all designed either to shunt through motor traffic off the routes, or to make it possible to cross such difficult streets as Crescent Heights or Third.
There was a moment of unplanned irony as Council Member Paul Koretz explained that he was a “timid cyclist,” who was comfortable riding only on “this kind of infrastructure.” He did not then explain why he’d blocked even a study of “this kind of infrastructure” for Westwood Boulevard not long ago. That moment was followed by yet another, as Carolyn Ramsay fervently expressed her love for Neighborhood Greenways. Ramsay is running in Council District 4 to replace the termed-out Tom LaBonge, whose Chief of Staff she was for years. LaBonge, who also fervently expresses his love for biking infrastructure whenever a camera or microphone is apparent, is the man who blocked the Fourth Street Neighborhood Greenway, who stands against the Lankershim Boulevard road diet and a bike-friendly Glendale/Hyperion bridge, and who uprooted thirty-three heavily-used bike racks from Larchmont Boulevard not long ago. Ramsay is his anointed successor, which, despite her fine words Sunday, worries me.
But the ride (which neither politico actually pedaled along on) built my hopes back up a little bit. We started and ended in true bikeonomics mode, buying java at Alfred Coffee on Melrose Place, and stuffing our faces with cookies from Milk Jar on Wilshire at the end, with a stop at La Brea Bike Works‘ grand opening along the way.
The two streets show promise; Alta Vista/Cochran especially would provide a vital north/south corridor that should probably continue well south of Wilshire to Washington Boulevard. It would connect bikeways on Fourth and Venice along the way. And Rosewood is a quiet alternative to the narrow lanes on busy Melrose Avenue. Of course, this project is aspirational, and there is no funding yet. But the strong support of the Mid-City West Community Council, which represents a prosperous and densely-populated part of town (ie, one with plenty of voters and political donors) gives it half a chance of getting done. If it doesn’t happen, it won’t be because of neighborhood fears, but of LA’s old internal enemy, political timidity.
Let’s hope for the best. Meanwhile, here is a handful of photos:
Taylor Nichols (left) and Josh Paget at the ride start:
Paul Koretz explaining while Scott Epstein looks on:
Carolyn Ramsay emoting while Scott looks on:
Talking with a friendly neighbor at Rosewood and Crescent Heights:
Cookie fest on Wilshire Boulevard: