Friday, February 28

Editorial: Westwood Neighborhood Council must approve bike lane proposal

The editorial board is composed of multiple Daily Bruin staff members and is dedicated to publishing informed opinions on issues relevant to students. The board serves as the official voice of the paper and is separate from the newsroom.

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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  • Michael Cahn

    Indeed, the WWNC shows a lamentable disconnect from a neighborhood which is now on the verge of a less car dependent lifestyle. Will they miss that train? Long time neighborhood leader Sandy Brown has now been appointed to lead a doubly misnamed “Bicycle Lane Committee” – Misnamed because they are called “bike lanes”, and misnamed again because it should be called “Anti Bike Lane Committee.”

    The WWNC is also home to the contorted and paternalistic argument that bike lanes on Westwood Blvd are out of the question because cycling is just to dangerous there, ignoring the fact that studies have shown that striping bike lanes (or sharrows south of Santa Monica) leads to a significant reduction in collisions involving people on bikes.

    Lisa Chapman (Staff) and Aurelia Freedman (Students) both hold UCLA denominated seats on the WWNC. What about their connection with the campus constituency? The other students or alumni on the board have so far kept very quiet on this topic, but always voted with the Home Owner leadership. Boys, get real!

    The WWNC always claimed that it represents the views of business in the area. This may be true for those business owners who are members of the board, but collecting actual sentiment on the street, one quickly gets a sense of overwhelming goodwill towards people on bikes and none of this bike lane hysteria I want to say: Calm down, let the experts from LADOT do their work, its not going to be the end of the world, it is happening all over the world, it will happen in Westwood too.

    One thing the good people of WWNC have got right: Westwood Blvd cycling is not for everybody. It is a pretty busy street. People who are new to cycling often prefer calmer side streets. These side streets could be made more attractive for people on bikes by diverting cut-through car traffic and turning them into “bicycle boulevards”. On the other hand, Westwood Blvd is an integral part of the Backbone Network of the 2010 LA Bike Masterplan. Local home-owners are not empowered to sabotage this citywide network, especially as the Expo-Line brings a regional bike connection to the area.

    In other news: A position on the board of the WWNC has just become available. That could be an opportunity for a new voice and less panic.

  • Guest of a Guest

    The WWNC has always shown themselves to be disconnected with the majority of constituents (I’m certain the number of renters, condo owners, and temporary residents outnumber the actual number of homeowners in Westwood, many who probably benefit from Prop 13, too). The minority of homeowner and their allies have turned the council into a pseudo homeowners association. One question I think is important to ask the WWNC and the greater Los Angeles community: “Is this not a place for people first and foremost?” It’s unpleasant enough to be a pedestrian in Westwood and they have yet to really work on fixing crosswalks, signals, and making the neighborhood safer for non-car commuters (the Westwood BID is the group that has been fixing the terrible sidewalks). The council hides behind the “parking situation” for everything and they have shown they enjoy the status quo as a way to seal off Westwood from the surrounding areas. The limitations on business and lack of progressive improvements to the area speak louder than any of their or surveys, meetings, reports, or “committees.”

    • Lisa Chapman

      Also, when u say that the BID is improving the sidewalks, it is from $$ that has been collected from Westwood Property owners, no council would ever have enough funds to cover that cost. And internet bullying? I am stating my opinion that degrading people on line should not be allowed by an anonymous person. You should stand behind your beliefs and opinions, and argue your point legitimately instead of hiding. Why are you so afraid this? It certainly makes you suspect in all that you say. At least we are trying to make a difference in Westwood….what are you doing?

      • Guest of a Guest

        You detract in your fervent obsession with internet anonymity. Would it matter if you knew who anyone was i what is being written is true? Has anything I written been incorrect? Let’s clarify, please provide the data or facts (and not your personal opinions or “feelings”) on the contrary to what was written above (since you seem to know how to use the internet, Google might be helpful):

        1. Are the majority of constituents in Westwood not renters, students, and workers in Westwood as opposed to homeowners and businesses?:

        2.”The minority of homeowner and their allies have turned the council into a pseudo homeowners association.”- do the minutes show that issues the WWNC takes on are mostly in the interests of Westwood homeowners? Does the WWNC site not say that the council’s role is: “to make a difference in Westwood through outreach, grants to non-profits, and representation of our stakeholders to the Los Angeles City Council.
        We strive to represent the views of our stakeholders who live, work, or own property within our neighborhood boundaries.”
        3. When I wrote and asked “Is this not a place for people first and foremost?”, doesn’t this align with the Westwood Village Specific Plan which states:
        Did you not write “you are a coward” on a comment above? How is that NOT online bullying. No one on these comments has pulled out name calling like you.

        • Michael Cahn

          The question about how successfully WWNC directors Lisa Chapman (UCLA Staff) and Aurelia Freedman (UCLA Students) connect with their campus constituency is important. The WWNC as a whole has a diffuse and wide constituency, but my sense is that the UCLA denominated seats should listen primarily to the campus community. As secretary of the Bicycle Academy I have invited Lisa Chapman to one of our meetings in the past, so that she could listen to our reasons for bike lanes on Westwood Blvd, but she did not attend. Rather than listening, she continues to say that riding a bicycle on Westwood Blvd is just too dangerous. This danger talk, especially when it comes from a person who sees cycling mostly through the wind-shield of a car, can become quite a distraction.

          It should also be noted that her own opinion on bike lanes may be influenced by the fact a member of her household has a business interests in Westwood. Her husband Philip Gabriel owns and operates Scrubs Unlimited on 10930 Weyburn. In the political domain that could perhaps be construed as a conflict of interest. As with all potential conflicts, they should be declared. Transparency is especially important here because the campus community and some voices in the business community (not all – see Bicycle Academy Blog) have different views about the future of Westwood Village. As a holder of UCLA denominated seat Lisa should primarily listen to the voices of UCLA staff. She should explain how manages these conflicting alliances.

          Gabriel, by the way, is listed as Alternate Board Member, representing Westwood Village Commercial Property Owners, for the Westwood Community Council. Attending one of the recent meetings, he has been seen handling a rusty and laid back beach cruiser. He wore a bright high-viz vest and was pretty uncomfortable with this two-wheeled commission. While USC campus is crowded with beach cruisers, Bruins seem to know better. Such weekend bikes are indeed a great rarity in Westwood and on UCLA bike racks.

          How difficult is it to educate cyclists to avoid such “toy bikes” when riding in traffic? How difficult is it to to educate drivers to the presence of cyclists by striping a few lanes and sharrows? Not very, I would say.

          I say again: Calm down, WWNC, let the experts from LADOT do their work, its not going to be the end of the world, it is happening all over the world, it will happen in Westwood too.

          • Lisa Chapman

            Michael, my opinions are my own. I am not influenced by my husband, and I don’t think it is fair for you to call me out in this way, it is incredibly unprofessional of you. I do not represent UCLA, my opinions are mine. I do consider UCLA in many of my Council votes, and usually side against the Westwood Homeowners on most subjects dealing with the Village and UCLA. This is one where I do not support the University’s decsion on bike lanes, and actually find their position quite disingenuous, as UCLA has done almost nothing on their campus to make it a bike friendly campus in any way. My husband’s business is not a conflict of interest in this case in any way, as it is not on Westwood Blvd. The bike lines do not affect him, or his business in any way. How dare you insult my husband riding his bike to his Rotary Club meetings, that is incredibly childish. Also, I have in an email to you, that I was not able to attend your meeting, because I was out of town, happy to share that if you have misplaced my earlier response to you. You are misinformed if you think everyone outside of the WWNC supports these bike lanes, they do not. Even Mayot Garcetti, during his debate at Sinai Temple last year stated when asked, that WW Blvd. might not be the best place for bike lanes, as Wilshire and Westwood is the busiest intersection in LA, and the amount of bus traffic. But I’m sure you’ll call him out as well. Stop pretending that you know me, or any of us, because you do not. I am appalled at your response, and disappointed that you have chosen this immature tone.

          • Michael Cahn

            Sierra Club: West Los Angeles Group: Resolution Calling for a Bike Safe Westwood Blvd

        • Lisa Chapman

          Guest of a guest. Let me answer your questions as you have them numbered.
          1). What is the point of this question? Our Council is made up of renters, business owners, homeowners, students, and many other positions, it is a cross section of all of these constintuents.
          2). You do not attend any of our meetings to hear our discussions, so how would you know what topics we discuss? We discuss a huge array of topics that cover all important issues in our boundaries. Any stakeholder can ask to have an agenda item added as well, and have many times. I resent your remark that we are working as a mini homeowner’s group, that is completely false. I disagree many time with the homeowner’s on our board, and support UCLA in most arenas. I do not, however support UCLA’s stance on these bike lanes. I think they have been incredibly disingenuous when they do not even make their own campus a bike friendly campus in any way.
          3). What are we doing that goes against the WW Specific plan? I am confused as to your question.
          4). Anyone who comments with such falsehoods under an anonymous tag is a coward. Anyone would agree with this. YOU began this, not me.
          5). The BID is not paying for sidewalk repairs, all of their $$ comes from the Westwood property owners, so THEY are the ones who are paying for sidewak repairs. The neighborhood council has no money to do this. What is so hard to understand here?
          6). You are entirled to your opinion. Luckily most people in our community do not agree with your opinion. We do represent all constintuients needs, and try our best to improve all their particular circumstances. My suggestion to you, would be to attend our meetings and get involved in helping our Westwood community, rather than just trying to bash the hardworking volunteers that serve on this board.

  • Roz Serrano

    Personally, i’d much rather they put in sharrows than bike lanes; bike lanes give a false sense of security to those who don’t know how to take the lane, and in addition, place the cyclist at risk for injuries caused by inattentive drivers making right turns, opening doors, left turns (as they are not looking towards the side of the road and those who are coming out of junctions. I would much rather take the whole lane (and have done so quite often). How can I be slowing traffic, when the cars are generally going less than 20 mph anyway?

  • Lisa Chapman

    The Westwood Neighborhood Council is not “disconnected” in any way. Let’s be very clear here, as Michael Cahn and others, including the DB Editorial board, have mischaracterized our stance on Bike Lanes. The WWNC supports bike lanes, we just do not support them on Westwood Blvd, between Wilshire, and LeConte. We have to listen and understand the interests of ALL of our stakeholders, not just bicyclists. We have heard the opinions of business owners, those that drive cars frequently in the village, pedestrians, and bicyclists. The incredible amount of bus traffic, and car traffic in and out of UCLA on a daily basis, makes this stretch of road incredibly dangerous for bicyclists, especially inexperienced ones. At our December meeting, even Dean Sarna agreed that alternative routes might be considered. The “take nothing” plans that have been proposed are ridiculous, of COURSE they take something, they shorten the lanes, or take parking away, either way, it does nothing but make that street MORE unsafe than it already is. There have been numerous counts of bus traffic, car traffic etc done in this area, and it is a real, and growing problem. With the expo lines coming soon, there will be even more impact on existing traffic with the use of shuttles, and increased pedestrian use to and from UCLA, clogging this particular artery even more. We believe in bike lanes, bike safety, and alternate forms of transportation, but we want this to be utilized in a safer area. There are alternate routes adjacent to WW Blvd. that would work just as well, would be much safer, and most likely more expedient. We are keeping an open mind, and doing our research before we speak… the bicycle coalition, and the Daily Bruin should be doing the same.

  • Lisa Chapman

    I also want to reiterate that I disagree with the Daily Bruin allowing anonymous posts on their site. Allowing people to post anonymously (as in “Guest of a Guest” below) just perpetuates cowardly comments without any substance, or truth. If you have something to say, Man up. Don’t hide behind an anonymous tag.

    • Guest of a Guest

      I also want to reiterate that I disagree with the Daily Bruin allowing internet bullies. I say that because “Lisa Chapman” seems to have a pattern of specifically singling out posters whom she doesn’t agree with or the opinions they express. Anyone commenting on the Daily Bruin comments section would be no different than someone writing an “anonymous” letter to the WWNC. Forbid anyone should disagree with the “work” of the council or express what people feel SHOULD happen– including her singling out of the DB Editorial Board because they don’t bow to the interests of Lisa and her crew. Perhaps you shouldn’t read the online version of the DB if it makes you so agitated. I hear they make it in paper form to go along with the antiquated mindset of the WWNC stance on issues that pertain to quality of life in the area.

      • Lisa Chapman

        As I said, you are a coward, guest of a guest. Thank you for proving it just now. No one puts any stock in an anonymous opinion. I can’t stop laughing at your ridiculous and false comments.

        • Guest of a Guest

          Nice way to bring it home, Lisa. Name calling and all. You only continue to prove the point of your tactics. WHY DON’T YOU ANSWER ANY OF THE QUESTIONS posted in the comments if you’re so adamant about making yourself a blowhard? Michael Cahn posted: “Lisa Chapman (Staff) and Aurelia Freedman (Students) both hold UCLA denominated seats on the WWNC. What about their connection with the campus constituency?” or what I stated below: “Is this not a place for people first and foremost?” therefore, why is the council so interested in supporting the homeowners and business interests and not that of their larger constituents (i.e., renters, students, workers)?
          You never answer the questions and only continue to name call and divert from the conversation. UCLA is a small world, you should always be careful who, and especially how, you talk to people on these forums– you just never know who’s on the other side. Nice way to be a liason for Westwood A fine job you do here online to promote Westwood, the council, or create allies. Continue your ways, it only further proves the points commentators make about the council. I’m sure they are proud of your “Outreach and Communications” as their chair of that committee.