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Editorial: Westwood Neighborhood Council must approve bike lane proposal

By Editorial Board

March 12, 2015 12:00 a.m.

There is a clear need for upgraded bicycle safety in Westwood.

The local cyclist community’s ongoing struggle to get a bike lane on Westwood Boulevard from UCLA to Pico Boulevard is being stalled once more by the Westwood Neighborhood Council.

Cyclists entering UCLA come from Westwood Boulevard at higher rates than most other entrances on campus, according to a 2006 plan to improve bicycle access on campus. The plan surveyed local community members and found that only about 3 percent of students and 2 percent of employees bike to campus regularly. Community members listed inadequate cycling routes to campus as the main reason they did not bike to campus more regularly.

The need for better bike access on Westwood Boulevard is about safety as well as practicality. About 35 cyclist and car collisions were reported between 2007 and 2012, according to a recent proposal for a Westwood bike lane from a local transportation planning association.

Linda Sarna, acting dean of the UCLA School of Nursing, and Vice Chancellor for UCLA Health Sciences Eugene Washington spoke in favor of a Westwood Boulevard bike lane at a Dec. 10 council meeting. They pointed out that bike lanes reduce collision rates by 47 percent.

UCLA is doing its part to encourage the healthier and more environmentally sustainable form of transportation. New bike lanes on Strathmore Plaza and Charles E. Young Drive and the presence of bike repair stations make campus roads more accessible to cyclists. But a bike-friendly campus is useless if cyclists are unable to navigate the surrounding roads safely.

The council has so far prevented the creation of the bike lane by exercising influence over the local L.A. City Councilmember Paul Koretz, who must express a need for the bike lane to the Los Angeles Department of Transportation in order for it to happen.

The Westwood Neighborhood Council and Koretz have rejected proposals for new bike lanes continuously over the last five years, citing concerns about diminishing the area’s already limited parking options.

But concerns about parking are overblown. Ryan Snyder Associates, a local transportation consultant, drafted a compromise called the Remove Nothing Plan, which reimagines Westwood Boulevard with both a bike lane and street parking.

The proposal for the lane, which would cost about $15,000, is supported by the UCLA Bicycle Coalition and the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.

UCLA undergraduate and graduate student government both passed resolutions in support of the bike lane proposal. Representatives from UCLA Transportation and the UCLA Medical Center have spoken in support of a bike lane on Westwood Boulevard. The solution is obvious and has the backing of the UCLA community.

Yet at a council meeting last month, councilmembers still disapproved of adding bike lanes to the area. Their rejection stems from concerns over prolonged traffic delays – a temporary inconvenience – and eliminating lanes for cars.

The Westwood Neighborhood Council’s continuing rejection of bike lane proposals is in stark opposition to the desires of its constituents, ignores pleas from experts and is detrimental to the Westwood community.

The council must live up to its obligation to represent the greater needs of the Westwood and UCLA communities and throw its support behind the latest bike lane proposal.

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