OPINION | Bike lanes aren’t about safety, they’re about control

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First it was Fountain Avenue, then Santa Monica Boulevard. Now, they’re coming for Willoughby.

West Hollywood City Council last week reviewed sweeping changes to the flow of traffic on yet another of WeHo’s major cross-town corridors, including the creation of a “dedicated east-west route” of protected bicycle lanes, along with roundabout intersections and bulb-out corners intended to slow cars down. 

Meanwhile, City Hall is preparing to rip up Fountain Avenue this year to install protected bike lanes at the cost of two lanes of vehicle traffic and 150 of the precious streetside parking spots neighbors depend on.

The city predicts the bike lanes will force 40 percent of Fountain’s vehicular traffic onto nearby Sunset Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard, which will also be getting bike lanes in the future.

So why mess with Willoughby? Why now?

“While mainly a residential street, Willoughby Avenue experiences high traffic volumes and also serves as a de facto bikeway due to the traffic signals installed at major intersections (Crescent Heights Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue),” the city says. “These traffic signals protect cyclists crossing major intersections. However, these traffic signals have unintended consequences as motorists use Willoughby Street (sic) as a cutthrough route.”

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The staff report includes a map of traffic volume — derived from data on our cell phones — that suggests 60% percent of traffic on the road is drivers trying to avoid congestion elsewhere. 

Contrary to the thinking behind these projects, traffic isn’t just going to disappear — it has to go somewhere. People will still need to cross WeHo on their way to work, home or school. People who live near the Willoughby renovations will still need to park their cars even if there are 22 fewer spaces available. The city understands this.

“Those spaces are well used during daytime,” Senior Transportation Planner Bob Cheung said during Monday night’s City Council meeting. “I would say 50 to 60% utilization early morning, and late night it’s around 80 to 90% utilization, so those spaces are being used pretty frequently. One of the problems that that we can foresee is because we’re eliminating of so much parking on Fountain, (parking problems near Willoughby) could be exacerbated.”

The city says its grand plans for Fountain Avenue, Santa Monica Boulevard and Willoughby Avenue will make the roads safer for everyone, more environmentally friendly and more useful for those who aren’t driving.

But this is all in theory. 

Since City Council first directed staff to look into bike lanes on Fountain in 2021, the city has been rolling out piecemeal “streetscape improvement” plans that invariably leave more questions than answers. Fountain bike lanes, for example, began as a pilot project. How did it transform so subtly into an inevitability?

The city says it’s done “outreach,” but let’s be real: The vast majority of WeHo residents and commuters are going to be blindsided when they discover their trusted four-lane roads are suddenly squeezed into two lanes of traffic and they have to park a half-mile away from their apartments.

They don’t have a clue what’s coming, and for City Hall, it’s probably better that way.

Because for city planners, this is all just an experiment in social engineering, and we are its test subjects.

In addition to researching which safety infrastructure fads work and which ones don’t, they’re seeing how much upheaval we will tolerate — how much more time stuck in traffic will we put up with? How many of us can they convince we don’t deserve a parking spot? Who can they force to take up cycling, not by choice but by desperation?

They are collecting data on our driving habits, our destinations, our cell phone usage. 

For them, West Hollywood is a petri dish; it’s not home. Unlike the WeHo residents affected by these plans, they get to park their cars in a garage.

They can call it “mobility planning,” but this is social engineering. 

If the idea that a dozen or so people in City Hall can decide to upend the lives and meddle in the habits of potentially hundreds of thousands of people sounds like dystopian fiction to you … welcome to WeHo 2024. 

Bike lanes and traffic circles are just one piece of a much bigger predicament: we have lost control of our city government. 

We must not allow ourselves to be herded like sheep toward a future we didn’t choose by technocrats who think they know what’s best for us. Whether or not we’re driving a vehicle, it’s time for us to take the wheel back. 

 

 

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Mike The Point
Mike The Point
3 months ago

I volunteer at a nursing home nearby. When I signed up I asked where the other volunteers were, there weren’t any and still not any except me. Makes me think of the bike lanes. Build it and they will come? Orange County has bike lanes All Over since the seventies and Sorry Charlie, they are terribly underutilized. If you want to improve the environment, stop airplane travel, get rid of pets, make do with less material things, and see how it goes from there. We got these spoiled kids living here and their moms and dads send them tickets to… Read more »

Harambe's Vengeful Ghost
Harambe's Vengeful Ghost
3 months ago
Reply to  Mike The Point

Airline travel is the most efficient and “carbon friendly” mode of travel. Pets? What kind of an evil Maoist birdbrain are you? If you want to improve carbon emissions, stop stacking people in these godforsaken wicked, retched cities, full of toxicity and fake progress that’s just going to continue to send us further and further into hell. So glad I’m leaving this fucking shithole of a communist city.

Mike The Point
Mike The Point
3 months ago

Of course they want you to get rid of your parking spot, how else are we going to give Google and Uber and all of these high level political players, kickbacks? You can’t drive yourself anymore! Look up Tony West, he’s a former top government lawyer appointed by President Obama and now is the top lawyer at Uber and is Kamala Harris’s brother-in-law. Look up how much money Uber and Lyft donate to the one dominating party. Even the appointed senator, Miss Butler, served as a lobbyist for Uber. Meanwhile go for a walk And The sidewalks are blocked by… Read more »

MrEguy
MrEguy
3 months ago

When is the last time you saw a City Council member riding a bicycle in West Hollywood?

Terry L Bolo
Terry L Bolo
3 months ago

Not everyone wants to ride a bike everywhere! This is also ageist! How many old people do you see on bikes!? This isn’t China! You can’t make people give up their cars and ride bikes and those stupid scooters! Bikes and scooters are kids toys!

Phil Witzen
Phil Witzen
3 months ago
Reply to  Terry L Bolo

Not everyone wants to drive everywhere either.

Adam Crowley
Adam Crowley
3 months ago

Cities are for humans not cars. Bike lanes just help allow humans to bike safely. We have prioritized automobiles for over fifty years and all we have is more traffic. “Just one more lane” for cars never works.
Build for people, not cars. If you’re complaining about traffic just remember- YOU ARE THE TRAFFIC.

kab1200
kab1200
3 months ago
Reply to  Adam Crowley

How many bikes do you see in the bike lanes we currently have??? Hardly any. You think I’m going to ride my bike to work in West LA from Weho? I’ve lived here since 1983, leave my city alone!

Phil Witzen
Phil Witzen
3 months ago
Reply to  kab1200

You don’t notice them because you are likely trapped in your car, probably looking at your phone.
Another reason, they are the most efficient form of transport and do not create jams… which is when you’d notice them.

J Cross
J Cross
3 months ago

Once again WeHo catering to the 3% and pissing off the 97% of non-bike users. Victim mentality wins again.

kab1200
kab1200
3 months ago
Reply to  J Cross

Not even 3%!

Phil Witzen
Phil Witzen
3 months ago
Reply to  kab1200

Likely because it’s dangerous. Give people they option and they take it. It’s science.

Latishia Jones
Latishia Jones
3 months ago

As someone who rides their bike in Weho daily, I’ll tell you this–Willoughby should be the only road that becomes a bike lane. Fountain is very high up the hill, and I never see bikes on it, but I do see them on Willoughby. Finally, my most astute observation is just to turn the sidewalks into bike lanes and leave the roads alone. Nobody walks in LA, and you can have little turnouts for the bikes to get around pedestrians. Sidewalks in LA are totally underutilized space. For fountain, if they insist on a bikelane there, use the sidewalk and… Read more »

Last edited 3 months ago by Latishia Jones
Terry L Bolo
Terry L Bolo
3 months ago
Reply to  Latishia Jones

Actually, I think that is a good idea. People ride their bikes on the sidewalk all the time.I can’t tell you how many times I was almost run down by a cyclist coming from behind me, not even saying on you’re left!

Gimmeabreak
Gimmeabreak
3 months ago
Reply to  Latishia Jones

As I am told by a Fountain resident there is insufficient off-street parking so those cars are on the street out of necessity. When parking spaces are removed those cars will spill over on the cross-streets, which will affect available parking for all of us on the streets that meet Fountain.
This really is a big deal!

Olen
Olen
3 months ago

My god, this is an annoying rant. Get over it. Fountain Ave is a residential street packed with housing, not a commuter corridor. Who wants to keep seeing cars go 50 miles an hour down fountain Avenue? Commute will be two minutes longer at most. And people who are looking for Fountain Avenue parking are not gonna be looking for parking anywhere near Willoughby Avenue.

West
3 months ago

The societal conversation about 15-minute cities emerged as part of the COVID experience,when during the pandemic lockdown, many Americans were forced to abandon their daily commutes and were forced to live their lives centered around their homes. Melbourne, Australia, has adopted “20-minute neighborhoods,” a planning strategy to place all daily needs within a 20-minute trip by foot, bicycle or public transit. Britain expanded a “low-traffic neighborhoods” push during the pandemic, using traffic filters to block cars and encourage walking and cycling.  Downtown revitalization projects, urban bike lanes, suburban sidewalks and mixed-use developments near public transit hubs all predate the 15-minute city,… Read more »

Gimmeabreak
Gimmeabreak
3 months ago
Reply to  West

This is social engineering which says, “This is the way it is going to be whether you like it or not!” And it is government officials who don’t necessarily have any expertise on anything who make these decisions.

TomSmart
TomSmart
3 months ago

Since I’m a fortune teller my prediction is that the city will spend a lot of money on this, hear an avalanche of complaints, then reverse course and go back to the way it was. Stop. The. Madness.

josh
josh
3 months ago

oi, this op-ed: reactionary at best, but mostly completely ignorant of how transportation, climate change resiliency and city governance actually works.

sorry you will lose some parking spaces to make your neighbors, including some who don’t even live in weho (the horror!) safer from car traffic. walk a few more blocks to your car each day. enjoy the weather. stop counting the number of bikers that supposedly “don’t use” the bike lanes near your house. grow up.

Joseph Bologna
Joseph Bologna
3 months ago
Reply to  josh

The second the name-calling began, you lost any weight to whatever you are saying. I moved onto the other mature comments. This “WeHo Online” publication mostly seems to offer a fair, respectful assessment of local news and happenings. I don’t always agree with every article, but they’re way more fair and smarter than most of the tripe that goes for news online nowadays. This writer has some sound opinions. You can always disagree without trying to denounce his views as “completely ignorant.” Sharp criticism like this usually makes the commenter look bad, not the writer.

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
3 months ago
Reply to  Joseph Bologna

The favored attempt at countering an argument is to engage in name-calling. and indeed borderline ad hominem. Most of it is grounded in ideological brain rot that fails to account for the nuance of anything that is not black or white. Almost all of it is executed in toxic anonymity. My favorite is when they ascribe to me words that I never said. It’s fun to monitor which issues push the button to call the trolls and bots into groupthink response. P.S. I am highly confident that much of the most militant and intolerant fights come from city hall staff,… Read more »

Andrew Solomon
Andrew Solomon
3 months ago
Reply to  Alan Strasburg

How dare these sycophants engage in name calling.

Jim Nasium
Jim Nasium
3 months ago
Reply to  josh

oh brother

kab1200
kab1200
3 months ago
Reply to  josh

You apparently didn’t see his 2 part story on his bike trip from La Brea to La Cienega, on Fountain. He actually did his own traffic study. He knows what he is talking about. Also, 150 parking spaces is not some, it’s a lot. Where do you propose they will park now? It’s already hard enough to find parking on the side streets. 😒

Mike The Point
Mike The Point
3 months ago
Reply to  kab1200

People don’t care about each other so nobody cares where somebody else parks. We are more divided and at each other than ever before. If you look at how they did the bus lanes on LA brea, they erased the old traffic lines but there is a lingering silhouette of them. I think that is dangerous because they are equivalent of a ghost Lane. A distraction while driving. It’s like hiring somebody to clean your carpet but on their way out their boots left stains but they did what they were hired to do which was to clean the carpet.… Read more »

MrEguy
MrEguy
3 months ago
Reply to  kab1200
Mike The Point
Mike The Point
3 months ago
Reply to  josh

Pets have a giant carbon footprint.. We can include this in the dialog about the environment. Imagine all the meat our pets consume. Imagine how many extra air conditioners are running. Imagine all the dog excrement in the watershed. Next, a single airplane flight has a much larger footprint than people’s personal vehicle use. Flying to New York for that friend’s party has a larger carbon footprint than driving your car all year around weho. Let’s stick to the science here. If this was about the environment then half of us wouldn’t be traipsing around the world polluting the place.… Read more »

mike dunn
3 months ago

My friend lived on Vista just north of Fountain in the City of Los Angeles. It seems Fountain is the deciding line for much of it. Do I see a Lawsuit? Many apartment were built with no or insufficient parking. Where are these people going to park. Visiting my friend was always a pain in the ass. Fountain Ave. has historically been a “pass thru” thoroughfare. Some suggest motorist take public transit. The MTA has cut back on service in West Hollywood in both directions in the east-west travel corridor from the beach to Downtown Los Angeles. They have less… Read more »

kab1200
kab1200
3 months ago
Reply to  mike dunn

Exactly

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