To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Planning Our City for People or for Cars


By Ryan Snyder, August 18, 2015


MOBILITY 2035 THE DISCUSSION--The City of Los Angeles has taken an historical turnabout in placing higher priority on people than cars in its recently passed Mobility Plan 2035.Its Vision Zero goal is to eliminate traffic fatalities; something we have always just assumed was a fair price for transporting ourselves. As a long-time critic of an autocentric Department of Transportation (DOT), for the first time I can now say I am very proud of DOT, our Planning Department and our City. 

Mobility Plan 2035 calls for many new miles of bus lanes, protected bike lanes and pedestrian safety improvements. We’ll have new ways of getting around. Safety comes first in this plan, even if it comes at the expense of slowing cars.  It seems so logical, but it took us way too long to conclude that people’s lives are more important that saving motorists five or ten seconds. 

Mobility Plan 2035 recognizes that we have to address climate change, health, safety, and overall livability. Planning our city for people does that.  Planning for automobility undermines all of those goals.  

While I believe that addressing climate change is the most urgent of these, I first want to focus on livability. Think of our favorite cities  -- Santa Monica, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Boston, Washington DC, Barcelona, Paris – they are places that put people first. You can walk, bicycle or take transit.  But having not sacrificed the soul of these places to the auto leaves them livable, interesting, rich in architecture, and places you’d want to live or visit.  

Now think of the cities that place the auto first – suburban San Bernardino County (or much of southern California for that matter), Phoenix or Houston. Are these places you want to visit on the weekends, take your out of town visitors to show, or go to on vacation?  Would you choose to live there?  I doubt it. 

When we plan our city so that it is safe for an 8-year old boy to walk to school, or our 80-year old mother to walk to the store, we plan a city that is good for people.  When we make it safe to bicycle to work, we plan a healthy city where Type II diabetes and premature heart ailments are kept in check. When we make it convenient to use public transit, we clean our air and reduce the threat of climate change.  When we plan this way, we plan a safe, healthy, livable, sustainable community.  That’s what Mobility Plan 2035 is about. 

Detractors are already complaining about congestion that might result from the Plan. As if congestion is our greatest worry.  This may be a shocker to some, but congestion shouldn’t be our greatest concern.  When it is, we just seek ways to keep the cars moving at the expense of all of our other community goals.  

Some people are threatening to sue.  These are the same people who scream about traffic congestion, and are the ones who fight attempts to provide attractive alternatives so that we don’t have to be stuck in congestion.  You can’t complain about congestion, and at the same time, complain about providing options to driving. Let’s be clear about one thing – it’s the cars that cause the congestion.  It’s not bicycles, buses or people walking. It’s cars. One person taking up 150 square feet of street space wherever they go causes congestion.

Let’s be clear about another thing. Each of us driving around with two tons of steel never was a sustainable transportation mode. Cars are largely responsible for climate change and this is the greatest threat to humankind. Tiny concerns over traffic congestion pale in comparison to the destruction of human habitability that awaits us from climate change if we keep our heads in the sand and fail to address it with great urgency. 

With the drought in California we have come to see that we are all responsible to do our part in reducing our water use. We have to adopt the same mentality when it comes to driving. We all need to do our part to carpool, walk, take the bus, or bicycle when we can. We need more attractive transportation options in order for more of us to use other modes.  We should embrace these options, not fight them. 

Most disturbing are the City Councilmembers who want to gut the Mobility Plan out of concerns over traffic congestion. Paul Koretz wants to take bike lanes off of Westwood Boulevard, the street leading into UCLA.  A plan has been sent to Koretz’s office that shows that bike lanes could be added to Westwood Boulevard without removing any travel lanes or parking.  No skin off of anyone’s nose.   

Despite widespread community support for the bike lanes, Koretz is carrying water for a small group of well-heeled homeowner association leaders that don’t want people on bicycles in their way when they drive. These are the same people who convinced him to remove the bus lanes from Wilshire Boulevard in their neighborhood. Councilmember Koretz simultaneously talks about the urgency of climate change, but his actions show he really cares more about re-election and he believes these people are key to that. 

Los Angeles is poised to move into the next era of transportation planning.  It’s one that can leave us a safer, healthier, sustainable and more livable city.  I hope the City Council has the wisdom to keep Mobility Plan 2035 in tact when a few Councilmembers look to appease the old guard.