Saturday, November 13, 2010

Death Déjà Vu on Pacific Coast Highway

CityWatch, Nov 12, 2010
Vol 8 Issue 90

The City of Los Angeles is preparing to engage in a construction project on Pacific Coast Highway that has cyclists up in arms, claiming that the intermittent lane closure, K-rail placement, and prohibition on cyclists is a violation of the law and a demonstration of poor planning. The project in question is the Bureau of Engineering "Coastal Interseptor Relief Sewer" that runs from Will Rogers State Beach to the City of Santa Monica Border.

Cyclists claim that the proposed traffic mitigation plan violates the law by banning cyclists from PCH and is reminiscent of the Caltrans permitted construction site of five years ago that was the site of the tragic deaths of two cyclists.

At 10 am on October 31, 2005, Scott Bleifer, 41 and Stanislav Ionov, 46 were riding north in the shoulder of PCH when they encountered K-rail that blocked the shoulder, forcing them into the adjacent travel lane at a high speed.

They were then hit from behind and killed by the driver of a catering truck who ran over them and then continued without stopping until farther down the road.

The driver was charged with two counts of felony vehicular manslaughter and two counts of felony hit-and-run in their deaths. He told investigators that he didn't see the cyclists until it was too late to stop.

The flyer that the City released last week details a traffic mitigation plan that includes banning cyclists from PCH at Will Rogers State Beach, requiring them to exit through a construction site in the parking lot and then ride to Santa Monica before returning to PCH.

Cyclists have engaged in animated discussions with both the Pacific Coast Highway Task Force and at the Caltrans Bicycle Advisory Committee, protesting the permitting process of Caltrans and the traffic mitigation plans of the City of LA.

PCH has a long legacy as a congested and conflicted route, not just for cyclists but for pedestrians and for motorists.

In 2008 Caltrans created "Encroachment Permit Protocols" to address this conflict but detractors claim that it demonstrates a motor vehicular bias and fails to support the needs of pedestrians, mass transit passengers and cyclists on PCH.

On a per-mile basis, the fatal crash rate for motorists on the two-mile stretch of PCH running through West Los Angeles is considerably higher than on the twenty-one miles of PCH that runs through Malibu.

If the City of Los Angeles is serious about safety on the streets of LA, it will seize this opportunity and work with the community to make PCH safer for all road users.

(Stephen Box is a grassroots advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at: Disclosure: Box is also a candidate for 4th District Councilman.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It cannot be legal to bar one type of traffic from the road and not others. Sure, if you bar 4 ton trucks but smaller vehicles may proceed, but a bike is about the smallest vehicle type there is.

Someone must sue the City over this. Alternatively, wait to ride on it, get stopped then sue. The City loves to pay out tax dollars in lawsuits anyway.