LA's Slow Streets Program Is Growing And Could Become Permanent

The Slow Streets program first launched in the Del Rey and Sawtelle neighborhoods in mid-May. (Courtesy office of L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin)

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L.A's Slow Streets program was launched in mid-May to give Angelenos the room they needed to get fresh air and exercise in their neighborhoods.

It was billed a temporary step to give people more outside space to safely use amid stay-at-home orders. In participating neighborhoods, LADOT workers place signs to indicate certain residential streets are closed to cut-through traffic and urge drivers to slow down and share the road.

Now, L.A. City Councilmember David Ryu wants the city to study what it would take to make the Slow Streets program a permanent fixture in L.A. neighborhoods that want it.

Ryu filed a motion today, asking LADOT and other city officials to begin a feasibility study on expanding the program to develop "a permanent network of Slow Streets to enable wider access to open spaces for all Angelenos" for interested neighborhoods.

"Since the start of the Slow Streets program, we have seen Angelenos find greater enjoyment and a closer connection to their neighborhood," Ryu said in a statement. "People are getting outside, the streets are safer for kids and families — I don't see why we wouldn't make this permanent."

If the motion is approved, navigation apps like Google Maps would have to reroute users to avoid cars cutting through designated Slow Streets neighborhoods, according to Mark Pampanin, a spokesperson for Ryu's office.

Communities can apply to bring the program to their streets, but that requires a sponsoring organization, such as the local neighborhood council. Nearly 200 applications were received as of late May.

So far, the Slow Streets program has come to the following L.A. neighborhoods (you can check out the maps here):

  • Del Rey
  • Sawtelle
  • Mid-City West
  • Eagle Rock
  • P.I.C.O.
  • Koreatown
  • Watts
  • South L.A.
  • North Hollywood

Even before Ryu's motion, some residents were asking the city to make Slow Streets a permanent part of their neighborhoods, LADOT spokesperson Colin Sweeney told me recently.

"Based on our feedback form and emails, about 2/3 of comments are positive," he said.

But not everyone is a fan of the program, namely people driving cars. Sweeney said workers have been regularly fixing or replacing damaged signs.

(Courtesy James Askew)

HICCUP IN NOHO

The initiative came to North Hollywood over the weekend, but there was minor setback on Monday.

James Askew, a NoHo resident and member of its neighborhood council, was in the middle of a family breakfast that morning when he learned on social media that barriers and signs were being pulled off the street by city workers.

He ran outside in his pajamas and flip-flops (plus a mask) to figure out what was going on and caught up with the workers, who were with the Bureau of Street Services. "Nothing is ever easy with this city," he wrote on Twitter that morning.

"I was frustrated that after weeks of work and negotiations the barriers were being pulled within 48 hours," Askew told me later that day.

But after a round of emails and texts, Askew said he learned the signs were removed by mistake and would be reinstalled shortly. As of yesterday, Slow Streets is back in NoHo.

I reached out to the city's Department of Public Works, which manages the BSS and asked what happened. A department spokesperson said only that the barricades and signs "were removed in error on Monday morning, [and] were delivered back to the neighborhood the same day."

Askew said community reaction to Slow Streets in North Hollywood has been largely positive and he's noticed a difference in how residents are using the streets — and how they're talking about street safety.

"A lot of the local conversation around [the program] so far has been more about the immediate impact on driver behavior — people no longer driving at unsafe speeds, people stopping at stop signs," he said. "I'm hoping more people start to make the connection to how these simple, passive changes to our street design can empower them to more confidently utilize our streets in ways outside their cars."

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