It seems as though Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz hasn’t ridden a bike on Westwood Boulevard, but that doesn’t stop him from acting like he understands cyclists’ problems from the safe space of his car.
For years, bike lane advocates have supported an engineering study to test whether Westwood Boulevard has the capacity to fit a bike lane. However, Koretz, who represents Westwood in the city council as part of City Council District 5, refuses to permit the study, citing Westwood Boulevard’s unsafe nature from his own “intuition.” He instead wants to move the bike lane over to Gayley Avenue between Ohio and Le Conte avenues – an unnecessary detour that doesn’t actually help improve safety.
Koretz’s vantage point doesn’t allow him to see the actual size of Westwood Boulevard’s broad right lane. Having actually biked on the road, I can attest there is adequate space for a bike lane, or at least enough to warrant a study on the lane’s merits. However, Koretz is so dogged on stopping the lane that he won’t even allow an engineering study.
Koretz’s opposition to the study equates to a censorship of facts available to the public. Instead, CD 5 needs Jesse Creed, a candidate challenging Koretz, who will support the study.
For years, Koretz has been voicing the dangers of Westwood Boulevard. He says it’s too dangerous to be improved for cyclists. At the city council debate held Feb. 21, Koretz said, “Even if they do a study that tells me it’s safe, intuitively I can see there isn’t enough space … to cram in a bike lane.”
It’s astonishing that career politician Paul Koretz has proclaimed his desire to reject an engineering study’s findings – one that would be conducted by traffic experts – because he can somehow envision the lane not fitting.
But Koretz took it a step further at the debate. He asserted he wants to decrease bicycle traffic on Westwood Boulevard and even ban it completely. As a former California State Assembly member, Koretz should know that banning bicycle traffic on a city street violates California law, since bicyclists have the same rights as any other vehicle driver. Koretz doesn’t have cyclists’ best interests in mind if he seeks to make cycling less appealing to commuters and enthusiasts.
A study could enlighten even the most stubborn opponents about the dangers cyclists face and how a bike lane would relieve some of their fears.
Since cyclists commuting to work both benefit drivers by reducing congestion and the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, biking should be encouraged and bikers’ needs catered to. Koretz’s unwillingness to even listen to seasoned experts’ opinions demonstrate he’s unfit to represent cyclists as a council member.
Moreover, many students commuting from south of Wilshire Boulevard bike down Westwood Boulevard every day. It’s unreasonable to ask them to switch to Gayley Avenue, a detour that adds an additional five to 10 minutes to one’s commute because of the extra two left turns one must take.
On March 7, West LA voters have a chance to change LA’s anti-cycling culture by voting for Creed instead of Koretz, and actually moving forward with a study on the Westwood Boulevard bike lane.
Unlike Koretz, Creed embodies a commonsense approach to revamping West LA’s biking infrastructure. Creed understands that Westwood Boulevard is a throughway for cyclists, the same way it is for cars and buses. Thus, he wants to use his city council position to improve residents’ biking experience by commissioning the study. This is a refreshing contrast to Koretz’s plan of disregarding the issue and expecting cyclists to stop using the boulevard.
In addition, Creed’s willingness to proceed with the engineering study characterizes a methodical and systematic candidate for the city council. The engineering study should ultimately be the deciding factor. As Creed said at the debate, “We don’t know whether it’s too dangerous to have a bike lane. I’m not for or against a bike lane. I’m for a study.”
Koretz embodies LA car culture to the greatest extent. LA has some of the worst traffic in the world. Yet Koretz’s solution is to impede cyclists by making biking impractical and dangerous, thus making residents more likely to drive.
It’s vital to have politicians in office who investigate an issue before irrationally and impulsively deciding on it, like Koretz has done.
CD 5 desperately needs Creed to revitalize the cycling infrastructure. When you fill out your ballot, just remember which candidate wants to continue LA car culture and which one has student cyclists’ interests at heart.