What’s in a Name?

If you’ll remember, last week I wrote about efforts in Hancock Park to forestall installation of cyclist and pedestrian only traffic lights along the coming 4th Street Bicycle Boulevard at Rossmore and Highland. Although this may have been driven by a misunderstanding–many residents thought that a full-scale intersection was going in, something that might indeed have increased frantic cut-through traffic using the little street as an alternate to Third–still, something had to be done.

I published the URL of their devious leading-question poll, and I know many of you voted for the signals, which I think may have helped temper the tempers. But LADOT also got on the ball, publishing a simple yet pointed defense of the intended signals on their blog; check it out here.

Unfortunately the illustration they posted of the roundabouts intended to calm traffic along another part of that street seemed to me inadequate–they simply don’t force enough of a swerve to cars to require that drivers slow down much. I doubt that they’ll be any more effective than the pitiful roundabouts in Culver City’s Higuera Street, which I have often watched drivers roar through at speed–occasionally doing so in the wrong direction!

Here’s one of them, which I photographed just after a maniac driver took his stretch-cab dually through it the wrong way at about 50mph:

We need to get serious about traffic calming. I’m getting tired of articles that explain with a metaphorical sigh of relief that Thank God just as many cars are moving through the corridor just as fast after the installation of bike lanes or a road diet as before.

Listen, lots of fast cars constitutes the primary problem on the street! Fast heavy traffic kills people, degrades neighborhoods, and makes sidewalk cafés impossible; and sluicing cars along as fast as possible prevents travelers from even considering the idea of stopping for a bite to eat or a last-minute purchase on the way home. Speed kills the economy as well as human beings.

Calming traffic makes life and business exciting again. Slowing cars while providing effective alternatives in the form of bike lanes and frequent transit is the best way to bring prosperity and happiness to a neighborhood–lots of people moving slowly, looking around, and needing almost no space to park.

West of Hancock Park, Beverly Hills is moaning and groaning lately because they just can’t park enough cars in the South Beverly Drive area to support the restaurants, clothing boutiques, jewellers, et al that make up the shopping zone. Well, duh: three blocks of angle parking, a surface lot, a giant parking structure, and underground parking in larger buildings didn’t work, so maybe your problem is too many cars!

Put in bike racks, sharrow the residential streets leading in to Beverly Drive, throw a street party to get folks acquainted with the idea, and watch business boom. You could put put in enough bike racks to double the parking there for less than the cost of a couple of spaces in a parking structure.

That’s why I don’t like the moniker “bicycle boulevard,” which may have made the Hancock Parkians who are fighting the traffic light nervous. It sounds exclusive: This is for us, not for you. But what we’re really talking about is a “complete street.” It is car roads that are exclusive, keeping out all but drivers. Any driver can and will speed wherever he thinks he can get away with it. But even fit, young hotdog cyclists can’t go much more than 25mph–exactly the speed limit on LA’s residential roads!

Accommodate bikes, and you accommodate strollers, runners, kids, wheelchair users, old folks with canes, and everyone else. Including anyone who wants a quiet moment at a café–or on their front porch.

Let’s hope the folks in Hancock Park figure that out soon. Let’s hope that LADOT does too.

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  1. Joe Linton
    Posted August 3, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Great article! It totally bugs me when bike improvements are justified as “we can do this with just as many cars”

    Thanks for raising the flags on the 4th Street issues!

  2. keith
    Posted August 3, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    not sure if councilman labonge would be any help for the 4th bike way idea(s), he does lead one of his evening rides down 4th.

    when i worked over on commonwealth ave – 4th st. was my freeway. ive not really had any traffic probs on that street, 5th’s good too.

  3. Ron Durgin
    Posted August 4, 2011 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Nice one, Richard. “Speed kills the economy as well as human beings”

    I’ve also had the same experience when riding a bicycle on Higuera St. in Culver City, angry motorist passing the wrong direction at high speeds. In fact, while serving on the Public Advisory Committee during the Bicycle Ped Master Plan process I repeatedly told Culver City Engineering/Public Works that Higuera is the worst example of a traffic calmed street I’d ever encountered. LADOT must not make the same mistake when they pull Roundabout’s out of their toolbox.

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