- Reporters Desk
By Joseph Baroud, Editorial Intern
About 240 miles of bicycle lanes were added throughout Los Angeles within the past two-and-a-half years, but the ones on Westmont and Capital drives in San Pedro have residents up in arms.
So what went wrong? Installing the bicycle lanes on Westmont and Capital drives has meant the removal of a vehicular lane on each side of the street. Instead of the street maintaining two lanes that vehicles can travel on each side, it’s now reduced to one.
This has resulted in an increased amount of traffic congestion during drop-off and pick-up hours from Dodson Middle School, atop of the street.
San Pedro residents attended meetings and were aware of the implementation of the bike lanes. The extent of their awareness is debatable.
“They didn’t talk about specific configurations, [at the community meetings held on the topic of the bike lanes] but it was known at the time, a majority of the proposal could result in a loss of lanes,” said Branimir Kvartuc, Councilman Joe Buscaino’s communication director. “Community meetings were held citywide, including San Pedro. And Capital and Westmont drives were added to the plan because of the outreach process.”
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the Complete Streets Act in 2008. The legislation was enacted as a result of successful lobbying efforts made by the California Bicycle Coalition during the final months of Schwarzenegger’s administration.
The Complete Streets Act was designed to enable safe access for all users. This has given pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders the ability to move along safely.
Councilman Busciano’s office claims the outreach program was designed to inform community members of the project, reaching out to local residents through community workshops and neighborhood council meetings. His office said that the community supported the inclusion of bike lanes.
“The outreach [programs] did come to Northwest San Pedro Neighborhood Council meetings and did talk about bike lanes,” Kvartuc argued. “I don’t know what the vote was, but a majority of members voted the bike lanes would be a good idea.”
Northwest San Pedro Neighborhood Council members, however, do not recall discussing bicycle lane installations or having ever attended a meeting.
Diana Nave, NWSNC president, said the board doesn’t have an issue with the bicycle lanes, but rather with the confusion and congestion it has caused. She also said they didn’t like the Department of Transportation making changes to their city without consulting them first.
The council passed a resolution on May 15, 2013 regarding the bicycle lanes, resolving that the council be consulted; that there be adequate notice given to the community prior to initiation of any future work; that the council office establish a task force to further examine the impacts at all intersections and develop recommendations within 30 days for possible alleviation of the problems; and direct the Planning Department and Department of Transportation to re-analyze the traffic impacts of the proposed Ponte Vista project.
The bike lanes added on Westmont and Capital drives, are much wider than conventional bike lanes. Further width was added to ensure a heightened feeling of safety for people using the bike lanes and to accommodate people with disabilities.
The bike lanes have also added an extra safety measure. The slowing down of traffic has resulted in less traffic collisions within the area and a safer location for children to walk.
“What the Los Angeles Police Department likes about the bike lanes, is it’s slowing down traffic on Westmont during the hours that there’s kids out there.” Kvartuc said.
Kvartuc said Buscaino is aware some of the residents in the neighborhood are against the bike lanes and would like the street to be back to the way it was. But community streets were designed to accommodate all members of the community.
“This act is supposed to be inclusive of everybody using the street,” Kvartuc said.
People who are ordinarily bicycle riders can’t find what all the fuss is about. Southern California’s beach cities have the perfect landscape for bicycle riding. Many of those cities have paved bicycle pathways to compliment the terrain and the scenery.
“We are a California beach city and we lack any kind of infrastructure to support alternate means of transportation,” said Allyson Vought, a San Pedro resident and professional cyclist.”
While Capital Drive might offer a too much resistance for the casual bicycle rider, Westmont Drive seems to be ideal.
“Westmont is a real nice street to ride up to Western.” Vought said. “It’s not steep; it’s manageable.”
Some say city planners could have done a better job with planning. Contexts and situations within proximity and rush hour could have been looked at specifically when designing the layouts.
“This shouldn’t be a rubber-stamped project for all of Los Angeles,” said community activist John Mavar. “[San] Pedro is different than other places and that’s how it should’ve been planned.”
A heavy complaint and call volume has led the councilman’s office to assume residents believe Buscaino can instantaneously solve the issue.
“A lot of people think the Councilman snapped his fingers to put the bike lanes in and can snap his fingers to take them out” Kvartuc said “That isn’t the case.”
Though there isn’t an imminent solution to the issue, Buscaino is attempting to make things right. A townhall meeting took place at Peck Park, 6 p.m. June 11. The meeting addressed all the possible solutions to the issues residents are having. The addition of another pickup and drop-off area at Taper Elementary School, located on the bottom of Westmont Drive and a left-turn lane on Western Avenue and Westmont Drive, were amongst the solutions discussed.
No matter the complaints or congestion, the risks and benefits, Mavar reminded the community of one fact that can’t be overlooked.
“We’re going to have to live with this.”