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City Council To Vote On Controversial Westwood Bike Lanes For The Third Time

Bike lane love (Photo by Gary Kavanagh via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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This Friday will mark the third time, the Los Angeles City Council will vote on whether or not to approve proposed bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard and South Central Avenue this Friday. Despite continual support from the city's planning department—not to forget hundreds of public commenters—the lanes on the two roads have been repeatedly tied up thanks to the dexterous work of a few people who really don't want them.

At a meeting of the city's Transportation Committee yesterday, city officials voted 3-1 in favor of omitting the proposed lanes on Westwood and Central from the city's plan, and instead add lanes to peripheral streets close to the main road, according to Streetsblog Los Angeles. The choice to add peripheral lanes is an update to a previous decision to simply eliminate the lanes altogether.

If the proposed changes are endorsed by the L.A. City Council on Friday, the proposed changes to the city plan will be kicked back to L.A.'s Department of Planning for analysis. It's probably worth noting that the Department of Planning officially supports adding lanes to both Central Avenue and Westwood Boulevard, and have rejected past proposals to eliminate lanes on the roads.

Though the public comment session at yesterday's Transportation Committee meeting was nearly unanimous in its support for keeping the lanes on Westwood and Central, the respective L.A. City Councilmembers for the districts where the lanes supposed to be located are staunchly opposed.

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Publicly, both Paul Koretz, of West L.A., and Curren Price, of South L.A., have embraced a sort-of anti-logic that believes bike lanes lead to more collisions between bikes and cars. Price emailed Streetsblog L.A. late last year saying how "as a grandfather of small children," he "would feel uneasy riding our bikes along this busy thoroughfare knowing the dangerous implications."

The lanes are tied up in a greater citywide drama unfolding around the city's updated transportation plan dubbed Mobility Plan 2035, a fundamental reorientation of the city's transportation ideology. Instead of focusing on getting personal vehicles to flow across the city as quickly as possible (officially considered a lost cause), the city will work to transform L.A.'s transportation infrastructure into one where people can rely on to alternative and public transportation.

Mobility Plan 2035 includes bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard and Central Avenue. The plan follows that by giving people a chance to ride their bicycles in a designated space, they'll be more inclined to ride (not drive) along these dense commercial corridors. This hypothetically translates into fewer cars clogging up the roads and air, as well as healthier people.

But not everyone thinks this is right. Mobility Plan 2035 was challenged in court by a citizens group called Fix the City last year, which argued the city had failed to conduct the proper amendment process when it was first passed. The city rescinded and re-approved the plan, according to KPCC. The lanes were included in this first re-approval, entirely distinct of their tie up with Koretz and Price this year.

What will probably happen from here is the City Council will approve the proposed amendments on Friday, and the whole thing will get kicked back to the planning department to study alternatives. After a month or so, the planning department will return its recommendations to the city council, at which point the city council can decide whether or not to approve them or not. The City Council can also override the Department of Planning's recommendations with a three-fourths majority vote, according to Ted Rogers.

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Ahh, democracy.