Friday, May 22, 2009

CityWatchLA - Street Safety: Disconnect Between ‘Walk’ and ‘Talk’

cCityWatch, May 22, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 41

Rhode Bloch sat in the front row of City Council chambers, having arrived early in order to claim his 60 seconds of Public Comment time. This was Monday when he challenged the City Council on its commitment to a greener LA, a healthier LA and a safer LA, concluding by urging them to join him in working to make the streets of Los Angeles safer for everybody. That night, Rhode Bloch lay on Glendale Boulevard, dropped by a hit and run motorist traveling 45 -50 mph who came from behind and hit him at speed, braking only after Bloch was already on the hood of the car. The motorist didn't stop to see if the cyclist was dead or alive, the motorist didn't call for assistance, the motorist simply left him in the street where he landed.

The incident took place alongside Echo Park Lake, just a 100 yards south of the location where Jesus Castillo lost his life a month ago, also riding home alone at night on Glendale Boulevard. Rhode Bloch is a blessed cyclist, he survived the incident and he is recovering quickly.

On Tuesday morning, just hours after the hit and run incident on Glendale Boulevard, the City Council convened with an agenda that included speed limit increase proposals for Zelzah and Balboa Avenues. This huge disconnect between "talk" and "walk" could not be more exaggerated if it were staged.

The debate over the "science" of the establishment of speed limits is old. The City Council claims their hands are tied and the critics claim it's not science it's simply an opinion poll for motorists who use their gas pedals to cast their vote.

Over the past year, it seemed that the leadership of Los Angeles and the community members who are clamoring for safer streets that are walkable, ridable and livable had begun to agree that the State's "Speed Trap" law needed revising.

Along came Assistant Majority Leader Paul Krekorian with AB766, the Safe Streets Bill, and it was clear that the leadership of Los Angeles was behind a movement to revise the State's antiquated "Speed Trap" law. At least that's how it appeared.

Transportation Committee Chair Wendy Greuel and Councilman Richard Alarcon stood alongside Assemblyman Paul Krekorian and announced their support for the Safe Streets Bill which went to Sacramento last week, purportedly with the support of the Mayor and the City Council.

All of which is in stark contrast to the reality of the State Assembly Transportation Committee hearing where bike activists showed up to testify in favor of the bill, where neighborhood council representatives showed up in support of the bill and yet nobody from the City of Los Angeles stood in support of the Safe Streets Bill.

One might argue that Sacramento is a long way from Los Angeles but keep in mind, the LA Department of Transportation had a representative sitting in the room to testify in support of another bill. The City of Los Angeles had a lobbyist sitting in the room to stand in support of another bill. Both individuals clearly identified themselves as speaking on behalf of the City of Los Angeles and yet neither of them spoke in support of the Safe Streets Bill.

This failure to represent is in stark contrast to the stated support for safer streets that we receive at every turn in the debate.

As for this past Tuesday, I took the time to trek downtown and I stood prepared to protest the speed limit increases but it was for naught. Councilman Smith pulled the Zelzah proposal, asking for 30 days, so it is tentatively scheduled to return on June 19.

As for the Balboa Avenue speed limit proposal, it somehow made it to the City Council agenda without stopping at the Transportation Committee for the obligatory rubber stamping that is part of the assembly line like process for increasing the speed limits throughout the City of Los Angeles. It was also pulled from the agenda.

I took the opportunity to speak of Rhode Bloch's testimony the day before and his near tragic experience on Glendale Boulevard. I concluded by calling for a moratorium on speed limit increases for the streets of LA and asked that the City instead get behind AB766, the Safe Streets Bill.

As for Glendale Boulevard, the debate over speed traps and the state law is irrelevant, at least for now. Glendale is certified and posted for 35 mph and the speed zone survey is valid through July of 2010. Nobody's hands are tied!

All of which begs the question, "What kind of body count is necessary before we get speed limit enforcement on Glendale Boulevard?" (Stephen Box is a transportation and cyclist advocate and a contributor to CityWatch. He can be reached at

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