“Road Diet” Opponents Awaiting Study

The Rowena “Road Diet” between Silver Lake and Los Feliz remains in place, even as road diets in other council districts have been halted or reversed. This photo was taken in September 2015 shortly before 8 a.m., and shows a line of cars on Rowena backed up heading west into Los Feliz at Hyperion Avenue. The photographer caught this shot through his car window. Photo: Joseph Mailander.

SILVER LAKE—Amid talks of recalling Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin over nine miles of lane reductions in his district—including a hugely unpopular and recently reversed so-called “road diet” on Playa del Rey’s beachside thoroughfare Vista del Mar—and a July motion by Councilmember Gil Cedillo to halt all road diets in his Northeast council district, the Rowena road diet remains intact.

Implemented in 2012 by then Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge after a fatal pedestrian accident, the road diet removed two car lanes from a half-mile stretch of Rowena Avenue and replaced them with bike lanes.

Since then, it has become one of the neighborhood’s most contentious issues, with road diet supporters claiming it has reduced speeds and increased safety on Rowena and detractors saying worsened traffic has pushed speeding cars onto residential side streets, only to create new safety issues there.

Like Rowena’s lane reduction, the Vista del Mar road diet was a response to a pedestrian fatality, after a teenage girl was struck by a taxi near Dockweiler State Beach in 2015.

But unlike Rowena, Vista del Mar’s road diet, implemented this June and reversed in July, lasted only one month.

Waverly Drive resident Jerome Courshon has been a vocal opponent of the Rowena road diet since it was implemented five years ago.

According to Courshon, his once peaceful street, which has no sidewalks, has now been made dangerous by cut-through traffic from Rowena Avenue.

“The Waze [wayfinding] app takes you down all these quiet—well, formerly quiet—neighborhood streets,” said Courshon. “People with strollers won’t walk [on Waverly] anymore during rush hour” because of speeding cars.

City Councilmember David Ryu, who represents the area affected by the road diet, contributed $88,850 from his discretionary funds in May to pay for an independent contractor to evaluate such cut-through traffic, according to public records.

Although Courshon said he planned to wait for the results of that study before taking any action, he said the restoration of lanes on Vista del Mar proves that constituents still have a voice.

“I think it certainly shows that with community pressure, reversals can be achieved through the city,” said Courshon.

Anne-Marie Johnson is part of a working group formed by Ryu to evaluate potential solutions to the traffic problems on Rowena, which voted to hire the contractor.

“We’re doing what should have been done prior to the installation of the road diet,” said Johnson of the study. “We are the poster child and the litmus test for [road diets citywide], but it’s got to be done correctly and it wasn’t.”

Although according to Johnson, the group does not yet know when the independent contractor’s evaluation will be completed, she said even a slow study is better than no study.

“I’m disappointed that it’s moving at a snail’s pace, but at least there’s a snail,” she said.

Johnson also co-chairs the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council, which she said has taken a neutral “wait and see” position on the lane reductions, pending the results of the study.

The Rowena road diet’s once vocal opponents seem to have taken a similar approach, even in light of Vista del Mar’s lane restoration.

According to Ryu spokesperson Estevan Montemayor, there has been “no uptick” in Silver Lake complaints since Playa del Rey residents’ successful push to reverse their road diet.

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3 Responses

  1. I am disappointed that this article quoted a road diet opponent, but the author did not quote and therefore did not appear to interview a road diet supporter. That’s bias. Is this a news article or an opinion piece? As president of Different Spokes Bicycling Club of Southern California and as a Los Feliz resident who rides a bicycle along Rowena Avenue, I appreciate being safer when I have the opportunity to ride in a bike lane. Los Feliz Blvd and Hyperion Ave both lack bike lanes. When I plan a bicycle ride east from Los Feliz to Pasadena, Highland Park or Eagle Rock, I use Rowena Avenue. The bike lane ends at Glendale Blvd and does not start up again on Fletcher Drive until east of San Fernando Road. I would like to see the City of Los Angeles finish one continuous bike lane from Los Feliz all the way to the South Pasadena City Limits. There is more to life than getting to and from your office a few minutes faster in your automobile. Making Los Angeles safe for all of its citizens – even those who don’t pollute – should take priority.

  2. Waverly Resident says:

    What the commenter said above (Bryan Blumberg) here in the comments section, is completely misguided thinking. And that’s the issue with the Bike Lobby. Rowena Avenue’s current bike lanes were NOT done to create some contiguous bike route around the neighborhood. They happened because of former Councilman Tom LaBonge’s lazy approach to dealing with Rowena. When LaBonge ILLEGALLY put in this road diet with DOT, there happened to be some extra room, and they striped in bike lanes. This is a fact and on the record by LaBonge.

    Additionally, the bike lobby doesn’t care one whit about residents in neighborhoods adversely affected by bad road diets. They don’t care that parents with strollers feel unsafe walking on their OWN once-quiet residential streets, like Angus St. and Waverly Drive. Or that parents are afraid of having their kids walk to school on these crazy streets now. (There are no sidewalks on Angus and Waverly.) They don’t care AT ALL. This is sad, and speaks to the selfishness of these folks. Instead of fighting against us in Silver Lake and elsewhere, they SHOULD be fighting for some innovative ideas out there in the world, such as bike skyways — that would be safe, cool, and 21st Century. (Such as the one in Copenhagen.) Why aren’t they fighting for something like this at City Hall?? I’ll tell you why: Because City Hall may say those are expensive (they’re not, compared to all the rail being built in LA), and the Bike Lobby then gives up on ideas like this. And that’s shortsighted.

    Why? Because if the Bike Lobby really got behind an idea of an eventual bike skyway “system” in LA, they would find most of the city’s residents behind this (and them). But… they’re apparently not smart enough for this kind of thinking & strategy.

  3. sheplerwill says:

    Erin, Thank you for keeping some focus on this issue. We all hope that sanity prevails, the lanes are returned, and a proper solution for safety and road use is found. I want to point out two small corrections regarding the Vista Del Mar road diet. First, it was not initiated in response to the 2015 death. It was initiated as an “emergency” response to the lawsuit settlement for that death, two years later. In the lawsuit, the family asked for crosswalks, streetlights, and several other safety options which were ignored. The city settled, because they knew they were liable, having ignored LADOT recommendations in 2013 for those very same safety options. Second, while a substantial portion of the road diet along Vista del Mar was returned, a stretch of about .3 miles of that road is still cut down to one lane each way, creating a terrible bottleneck for commuters and residents alike. Just like Rowena, the traffic created by road diets in Playa del Rey spills onto residential streets.

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