By The Times Editorial Board, October 19, 2014
Motorists unite! An advisory initiative on San Francisco's November
ballot urges city leaders to reverse their public transit and
bicycle-friendly policies. Because 79% of households in the city have a
car, proponents argue, wouldn't it make more sense to dedicate more
money to helping cars move faster and making it easier and cheaper to
park them? Why have local transportation authorities created a “war on
motorists” by removing street parking and traffic lanes for bike routes,
while hiking meter rates and parking ticket fines? Enough already!
Sound familiar? It should. Los Angeles has been hearing some of the same
complaints as it begins a transformation from car-centric sprawl to
what planners hope will be walkable, bikeable “urban villages.” Several
projects designed to give Angelenos more transit choices and make
streets safer have faced angry push-back from residents, businesses and
City Council members have shelved proposals for bike lanes on Westwood
Boulevard on the Westside and North Figueroa Street in Northeast L.A.,
despite the fact that they were part of the city's master plan for
bicycle routes. The council also considered dismantling the first
Complete Street project to add protected bike lanes and pedestrian
safety features on Figueroa near downtown. And a citizens group has
protested increases in parking meter rates and parking tickets as
balancing the city budget on the backs of drivers. There probably will
be more fights as Mayor Eric Garcetti pushes his Great Streets
Initiative and as the Department of Transportation focuses on making it
easier to bike, walk or take public transit, which can mean slower
speeds or less parking for cars.
Of course, San Francisco is not Los Angeles. It has such a high
population density and compact layout that every bike lane or bus lane
added necessarily means removing parking spaces or vehicle lanes. L.A.
has more space to accommodate multiple modes of transportation. Still,
it's worth looking at San Francisco's initiative to “restore
transportation balance” as a cautionary tale.
Redesigning the urban landscape demands patience and consensus-building.
That means listening to communities and building a record of success
that can persuade even die-hard drivers that there are benefits to the
proposed trade-offs, such as safer roads and reduced reliance on fossil
fuels. It also requires a firm commitment by the city's political
leadership — as well as the countywide Metropolitan Transportation
Authority — to planning and funding a vision of L.A. that puts
pedestrians, cyclists and transit users on equal ground with drivers.
Hopefully, Angelenos can avoid a war on motorists and simply learn to
share the road.