Sixth Street Shuffle

Sixth Street, in Mid-City Los Angeles, is, plain and simple, a dangerous street. From Fairfax to Rossmore, it’s four lanes with no center turn lane and few left turn pockets. Motorists use it as an alternative to Wilshire, and, as most of them are typical scofflaws, they speed, swerve, and blow lights with abandon. Several pedestrians have died on that stretch, many people have been injured, light poles are regularly knocked down by out-of-control cars, and it is common to pass by debris fields indicating a recent wreck, all along this stretch. I know; I live on a block abutting Sixth Street and travel it several times a day most days, usually on foot or by bike, sometimes in a car. I have seen bodies lying in the street. I have seen drivers speeding at over seventy on this neighborhood collector.

The city’s’ approach to Sixth Street has been unequivocally hypocritical: a road diet has been planned for it—but only from Fairfax to La Brea. an LADOT engineer I spoke to about this several years ago stated that, east of La Brea, Sixth was “too narrow” for a road diet.

But I noted yesterday during a personal survey of the road that the entire stretch from La Brea to Rossmore forbids parking entirely, thus making that segment of the street effectively wider.

In other words, it would be very easy to install a 4-to-3 road diet with bike lanes on the entire distance from Fairfax to Rossmore, thereby winning the road design trifecta by:

1) Slowing speed-demon drivers with a narrowed lanespace;

2) Moving the numerous left-turning drivers out of the way of through traveller 24/7; and

3) Providing an alternative to driving by making bicycle travel more comfortable through the district.

Road diets, it has so often been shown, often actually increase the average speed of motor traffic on a street, even if incrementally, and vastly increase its throughput of foot and bike traffic. This is no longer a matter of hope or conjecture; it has been measured repeatedly. Average speed is what counts; peak speeds between traffic clots mean nothing—except danger and delay.

So what is happening with Sixth these days? Hah! The road diet has been put on hold because of fears that it the subway construction in Wilshire will send “too much traffic” over to Sixth. Yes, rookie council member David Ryu has wrapped himself in the mantle of term-out Tom LaBonge and declared cars shall be your only god in the MIracle Mile. So he continues to hold back a simple painting project that could add capacity to this deadly street while preventing the carnage that has become typical in my neighborhood.

It’s a damn shame, especially in a city that loudly proclaims its adherence to the principles of Vision Zero.

Perhaps Ryu and the rest of the council’s Neanderthals think that that means zero cyclists on the road and no one ever crossing the street on foot. You could be excused for thinking so, since this malign neglect of Sixth Street is but one more example of LA’s backwards thinking.

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