At tonight’s meeting, the City Council will consider a draft Pedestrian and Bicycle Mobility Plan. As someone whose primary modes of transit are my feet and my bike, I am grateful for the city’s commitment to making West Hollywood a safer, more comfortable place to get around in an environmentally friendly way. I appreciate city staff and consultants’ four years of work to collect input and develop the plan.
One of the most common themes from the many pop-ups, community meetings and online input was that we need more bike lanes in our city: Perhaps the most significant gap is that there are no east-west bike lanes between Kings Road and La Brea.
I wasn’t surprised to see that a mere 35% of those surveyed considered our city is a friendly place to bike — and none thought it was super-friendly. (In contrast, 86% consider it friendly or super-friendly for pedestrians.)
The bike/ped mobility plan proposes some welcome improvements, including neighborhood greenways on Willoughby and Almont, which involves traffic calming and making the streets easier to bike, and several short bike lanes. But if the city is going to move that 35% number significantly, more is needed — particularly an east-west arterial that carves out a safe space for bikes.
A Near-Term Fountain Avenue Study: In the near future, the bicycle coalition, along with the Transportation Commission, would like to see a traffic study and community input about the possibility of improving Fountain Avenue. New “sharrows” — signage and pavement markings highlighting the need to share the road with bikes — have made Fountain a more comfortable place to bike. However, they are no substitute for bike lanes, and even some of our members still do not feel safe biking on the street. Some have been honked aggressively for simply biking on the sharrows. The experience for pedestrians is also unpleasant — wheelchairs and even some walkers cannot fit on the substandard sidewalks. Meanwhile, the rate of auto collisions is the highest in our city for the miles traveled. It’s a complicated street of varying widths, but there are so many problems that it needs serious and prompt consideration.
Santa Monica Boulevard Improvements: Santa Monica is our city’s Main Street, and it is — and will remain — the most bicycled street in the city given its many destinations and WeHoPedals locations. However, many riders feel unsafe on the busy street that doesn’t carve out a space for them east of Kings Road. Meanwhile some pedestrians are uncomfortable sharing the narrow sidewalk on the eastside with bikes.
Even in the existing bike lanes, there are dangers — cars often cut through them to park without looking, stand in them, or open their doors without checking for bikes. We urge green paint to make the existing bike lanes more visible, and additional segments of bike lanes wherever it is feasible. Making bike lanes protected — or physically separated from cars — would be safest.
Incentivizing Active Transportation: The biggest complaints in our region tend to be traffic and parking. Yet, surprisingly little is done to incentivize reducing car ownership. My apartment includes a parking space that I am not allowed to rent out separately despite living in a car-free household, as was the case at every other apartment where I inquired. My apartment complex in Silver Spring, Md., had a much better approach, allowing each tenant to pay a separate fee if he or she wanted parking. De-coupling the costs of housing and parking creates an incentive not to own a car. It also allows for the most efficient use of limited parking space and would allow many low-income people and seniors who are no longer able to drive to save money.
Implementation: Our city approved ambitious bike or bike/ped plans in 2003 and 2011. But progress on them was very limited. None of the 2003 bike lanes were implemented, and only two of the five priority projects from the 2011 plan were implemented — one of which was only partially implemented. We urge the city to make this a living document with a goal of bringing it to fruition, and to have city staff make an annual report on progress.
Here in Southern California, we have a perfect climate for biking. Yet most people will continue to sit in the traffic they hate for even one-mile trips unless and until they feel safe biking on our roads. While the Bike/Ped Mobility Plan and our recommended changes will hardly make us Amsterdam, they would move us closer to our city’s ideals. Every trip that’s made by biking or walking means less fossil fuels burned and more of a sense of community.
The West Hollywood City Council meets at 6:30 p.m. at the City Council Chambers, 625 N. San Vicente Blvd. south of Santa Monica. Free parking is available in the five story structure behind the chambers with a ticket validated in the lobby.