Simrin Cheema is afraid she is going to get hit by a bus every time she bikes across Wilshire Boulevard.
The public health student felt safe with her bike at UC Davis, where she completed her undergraduate studies, because of the high number of bicyclists. But after moving to Los Angeles, this feeling of safety slowly disappeared.
To help provide better streets for non-drivers, Cheema and 250 others will meet Friday at the Complete Streets for Los Angeles Conference. Graduate students, urban thinkers, researchers and community leaders are expected to attend the event at the Japanese American National Museum.
Organized by the Lewis Center and Luskin Center of the School of Public Affairs, the event’s goal is to educate attendees on the idea of complete streets and to figure out ways to achieve them, said Colleen Callahan, deputy director of the UCLA Luskin Center.
Complete streets are streets that enable safe and comfortable access and travel for all users, including bicyclists, motorists and public transit users of all ages, Callahan said.
According to J.R. DeShazo, director of the UCLA Luskin Center and a conference speaker, complete streets are places where locals can safely cross streets, cafes can flourish and local economic development can occur.
“In the past, the main purpose of a street was to allow cars to move very quickly, but of course there are many other purposes now.
In urban areas you want people to be able to walk and bike safely,” said Michael Manville, a Lewis Center post-doctoral scholar.
Complete streets are important to the UCLA community because they can enable students to easily travel from one place to another without a car, Manville said.
“If we had streets that are friendlier to cycling and public transportation, I feel like UCLA students will be able to take advantage of the whole L.A. area,” Manville said.
Westwood does have components of a complete street, such as bicycle lanes and outdoor seating in restaurants for bicyclists.
But it is still a car-centric area and can be frightening for cyclists since there are no physical borders between bike and car lanes, Callahan said.
The day-long conference will start off with a brief explanation of the importance of complete streets, followed by four panels with speakers from transportation, urban planning and public policy.
One panel will discuss how Los Angeles can have better sidewalk designs that will create a safer environment for recreational and socially active lifestyles, while another will explain the opportunities as well as the challenges in turning L.A.’s street designs into community-oriented ones, DeShazo said.
Some of these challenges include the city’s level of service standards.
These primarily focus on vehicles, but one of the panels will discuss the idea of multimodal street standards that would help design streets to accommodate bicyclists and other non-drivers.
“It is important to recognize streets as spaces for communities to connect together,” DeShazo said.