LACBC: LA built to kill those most likely to walk and ride bikes

Suv vs ped in lincoln heights

The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC), a leader in data-driven advocacy for better streets for bikes, has done it again – releasing maps that show the relationship between poverty, urban density, and the number of dead cyclists and pedestrians at the hands of motorists in LA’s streets.

Recent LACBC data analysis shows that people walking and riding bikes from 2000 to 2008 in dense, poor, areas of LA are getting killed and injured. In areas where income levels are above $50,000 per year or greater, crashes and injuries to bike riders and walkers drop off significantly.

LACBC's map of bike and pedestrian crashes and median income

The maps the LACBC has created show that there is a bloody trail of carnage behind the LADOT’s efforts to speed up urban car speeds with anti-gridlock zones and signal synchronization in LA’s congested urban core.

These maps show us the cost of automobile’s dominance in our inner city: dangerous streets in areas that people are most likely to walk and ride a bike. How do we get out of this bloody mess?

First, our local government has to stop ignoring the data on crashes and injuries to cyclists and pedestrians. This data analysis was put together using volunteer labor at a small bicycle-based non-profit. There are full time safety professionals in many of LA’s departments, there are Boards of Public Safety, and commissions on bicycles, pedestrians, and environmental justice issues. Our city government needs to use crash and injury data to drive forward the discussion in our halls of power. It is not enough to have a tiny non-profit serving this stuff up online. City staff and political appointees need to live and breath this information. When the only “data” submitted at a city council transportation hearing is some engineer’s speech about “improving” an intersection by speeding up cars and Councilman Whocares blabbing about his mother-in-law driving in LA (or another inane anecdote), you know something is wrong.

Second, we need to place blame for these injuries where they belong: cars need to be rhetorically torn apart. Automobiles are handy devices, but they do not belong in the inner city where they have been shown to kill, maim, and destroy property with abandon. Building and supporting automobile based sprawl made a lot of people wealthy in the 20th century – but that time is over. The money to be made in the 21st century is in de-valuing the car-dependent suburbs and focusing on areas that are walkable, bikeable, and transit connected. You can see this transition occurring slowly in cities across the developed world from London to Seoul. LA needs to stop killing its cyclists and pedestrians, and start making the streets they use safer.

The LACBC’s data-driven approach to advocacy makes them a leader in a crowded national field. In the land that invented federally backed suburban sprawl and numerous international fast food chains, it makes sense that our bike advocacy organizations have needed to be the best to overcome our massive cultural and institutional bias in favor of cars. The LACBC is doing the right thing and we need to get behind their efforts to ensure that death and bodily injury to bike riders and walkers on our streets is brought to the fore in any transportation discussion in Los Angeles.

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