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Los Angeles Finally Comes Up With A Serious Plan For People Who Don't Drive

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Bike lane love (Photo by Gary Kavanagh via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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A new plan to make L.A. roads safer and offer more alternatives to driving was just approved by the City Council. The massive new transportation plan aims to add hundreds of miles of bike lanes, bus-only lanes and other major road redesigns across L.A over the next 20 years. Known by the snoozer-of-a-name Mobility Plan 2035 (.pdf), the longterm plan navigates a new approach to public streets that focuses on offering more alternatives to driving and ambitiously seeks to reduce fatalities from collisions to zero, reports the L.A. Times. In a city that has been so car-centric for so many decades, a plan that would encourage more motorists—even a small portion—to choose alternative transportation could have a significant impact on the overall miles driven around town.

Councilman Mike Bonin, who strongly supports the plan, tells the L.A. Times, "This is a document that helps us prioritize public safety, so that those who are walking and bicycling and trying to get around [without] a car don't get killed." Bonin sees the plan as a way to address the city's "legacy of shame" when it comes to auto collisions involving children and the elderly. By taking steps to reduce traffic speeds the plan would help to save lives he explains, "Right now, only 5% of those hit by a car going 20 miles per hour die. Over 80% of those who are hit by a car going 40 miles per hour die."

The council voted 12 to 2 to approve the plan to the pleasure of many business groups, transit advocates and groups seeking to increase bike lanes. But of course there were others who were not as stoked about the plan. Opponents, many of whom are on the Westside—ahem, Beverly Hills and Westwood—are preparing to sue, arguing that the city's own analysis shows that loss of roadways for cars will increase congestion and reduce response times for emergency vehicles.

To approve the plan, the council had to sign a legal declaration that says the benefits of the plan outweigh potential downsides. The city's Environmental Impact Report for Mobility Plan 2035 indicated that adverse impacts could include increased congestion, noise, cut-through traffic, and potentially reduced access for emergency vehicles. On the other hand, another part of the report says the plan will cut the number of vehicle trips by 1.7 million miles per day.

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The council did delay for a month a decision on whether to drop some streets from the plans for bike lanes, including Westwood Boulevard, Lankershim Boulevard and Central Avenue.

The two opposing votes came from council members Paul Koretz and Gil Cedillo. Cedillo has had a history of opposing plans that reduce lanes for motorists in favor of bike lanes.