Protesters Say Mayor Garcetti Hasn't Delivered Safer Streets For Cyclists

Demonstrators create a human bike lane buffer as they protest L.A.'s Vision Zero traffic safety plan. (Photo by Caleigh Wells/LAist)

By Ryan Fonseca and Caleigh Wells

Cyclists converged outside a high-profile transportation conference Tuesday morning to criticize Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's program to eliminate traffic deaths, saying it hasn't had the desired effect.

"Our sad experience is that you can't really rely on drivers to not hit cyclists," said Cristy Stiles.

Civic leaders and transit officials from dozens of North American cities are in L.A. for this year's National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) symposium, where they're sharing ideas and insights into urban mobility and transportation practices.

Outside the InterContinental Hotel downtown, demonstrators donned bright green shirts and formed a human bike lane buffer. Their shirts read "L.A. needs safe streets not lip service."

The protesters were speaking out against Vision Zero, which they say hasn't done nearly enough to protect cyclists and pedestrians in our car-centric city. The signature program for Garcetti was launched with ambitious goals of reducing to zero the number of people killed by cars in L.A. while walking or biking.

His aim was for no fatalities by 2025. But the plan has been falling behind.

From 2012 to 2017, a total of 71 cyclists died on Los Angeles streets, according to city data. Cyclist deaths were down last year, according to the city's statistics, but pedestrian deaths rose 80 percent in the first two years of Garcetti's program.

Within the first four months of 2018, six cyclists were killed in traffic collisions, up from two deaths during that time period in 2017, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

"We attribute a lot of that to Mayor Eric Garcetti's failure to take any political risks to implement the policies that are necessary," Stiles said at the protest.

A protester holds a sign outside the NACTO conference in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018, as demonstrators call for the city to do more to reduce cyclist and pedestrian fatalities in the city. (Caleigh Wells/LAist)

Speaking at the conference Tuesday, Garcetti said the city has implemented "over 1,200 Vision Zero improvements" but said he recognizes that not all of them will work out as planned.

Garcetti allotted roughly $91 million for traffic safety improvements in L.A. in the current city budget, with about $37 million of that for Vision Zero.

During a Q&A session at the NACTO conference, Garcetti addressed the criticism lobbed at the intiative and defended his plan.

"They're like, 'Oh, it's not done yet, people are still dying'," Garcetti said. "Well, we had a 7 percent reduction last year (and a) double-digit reduction in pedestrians this year — those are real people that are still living. You can't quantify who they are, but that is worth it ... because those are people wo are going to be alive for decades from now because of those improvements. So our reach must always exceed our grasp."

According to the mayor's office, Garcetti was referring to LAPD statistics, including a report released last week that noted a 10 percent decrease in fatal vehicle-pedestrian collisions.

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation reported overall traffic deaths were down 6 percent in 2017 from the previous year. But the number of pedestrians killed rose to 135 last year, up from 115 in 2016.

UPDATES:

1:27 p.m.: This article was updated with additional quotes from the protest.


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