Friday, March 22

Unkempt streets trouble bicyclists


The avid bicyclist had taken many falls on uneven concrete before, so he treated this accident like any other and attempted to walk away unfazed, with only a few cuts and bruises on his body.

However, when Patrick Kim looked down and noticed a 6-inch bleeding gash across his ankle, he quickly realized that this was an injury he could not handle on his own and decided to call for help.

When the Los Angeles City Fire Department paramedics arrived, Kim remained where he fell at the corner of Westwood and Wilshire boulevards, in front of the Chase bank ATM. Paramedics told Kim he was the second cyclist that day to fall in the exact same location ““ the earlier cyclist suffered a broken wrist.

Kim, a fourth-year biochemistry student, is one of many student bicyclists who have experienced firsthand the dangerous consequences that may result from biking on bad roads in Westwood.

While many bicyclists are aware of certain danger zones and routes that should be avoided, Kim, who has been biking in Westwood since middle school, says that the streets are notably uneven and riddled with potholes and bumps, making it difficult to ride safely on a road bike.

Kim, who is currently recovering after being treated at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center for four partially severed tendons, added that he believes the roads in Westwood are noticeably unkempt and in desperate need of repair even while driving in a vehicle.

The Street Maintenance division of the Los Angeles Bureau of Street Services is responsible for maintaining and cleaning the streets in an area of more than 466 square miles, and it addresses maintenance issues primarily through requests from the public, according to the division.

What many community members do not know is that the most effective way to get maintenance issues addressed is to call 311, said Keith Mozee, superintendent at the Los Angeles Bureau. When a person calls 311, depending on the type of work needed, a repair can be addressed in as little as 24 to 48 hours, he added.

But with the 405 Freeway widening project taking place, anything that would be in conflict with the project’s construction would be postponed, and any repair requests caused by the construction would be the responsibility of the contractor in charge, not the bureau, Mozee said. Nevertheless, he said calling 311 is still the best remedy for roads ““ including dangerous biking zones ““ that are in need of maintenance or repair.

Areas near UCLA that will be affected by the 405 Freeway project, set for completion in 2013, include Wilshire and Sunset boulevards and Mulholland Drive ““ all of which will serve as detour routes throughout construction, according to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Herbie Huff, an urban planning graduate student and co-founder of the UCLA Bicycle Coalition, said other run-down streets that carry a significant number of cyclists to UCLA are Comstock Avenue, which is a shortcut to North Campus from Wilshire (passing by the Los Angeles Country Club).

“Comstock is a great route up to campus from Wilshire, but the pavement is horrible ““ even in my car it feels like off-roading,” said Alexis Lantz, planning and policy director at the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and a UCLA alumna.

Lantz added that cyclists often refer to the area of Wilshire between Santa Monica Boulevard and Comstock as the “gauntlet” because of the poor pavement quality and high traffic speeds.

Yet while many cyclists are aware of the more risky routes to take around campus, convenience often outweighs the danger and cyclists choose to bike through these routes regardless.

If a person were to take the more dangerous routes on a mountain bike, they may be safer, Kim said.

However, mountain bikes are not as suitable for biking long distances through the city.

Lack of bicycle safety in the Westwood area has prompted significant concern, particularly among the many students and faculty members who commute to the university daily and who have been in unnerving crashes themselves.

After biking over a pothole on Tiverton Avenue, Gareth Walsh, while riding at 15 miles per hour, flipped over his handlebars and smashed headfirst into the side of an Escalade.

Though he suffered no real damage to himself, Walsh, a Design | Media Arts lecturer, feels that very critical changes need to be made for the sake of cyclists in the area.

“The road surface (of Westwood Boulevard) desperately needs resurfacing ““ cracks, potholes and raised, broken concrete are all over the road, forcing cyclists to mix with cars,” Walsh said.

To submit a maintenance request, visit the website for the Los Angeles Bureau of Street Services or call 311.

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