VOICES: (Re: CityWatch article, “Hey , Councilman Koretz … Westwood is for Bikes Too”) I consider myself an environmentalist, though for certification of one I do not hold a college degree in any science. My degree is in music composition. I do, however, consider myself an authentic environmentalist due to my deep concerns on the health of the environment.
Right now my greatest concerns are for climate change and global warming through the burning of carbon gases. These gases come from a variety of sources. The burning of coal is a very significant contributor, but since there are no coal burning power plants in Los Angeles, vehicle exhaust is our major source of carbon gases.
I ride my bicycle, but I do not know if the time I now spend riding my bike makes me an avid cyclist. I support bike riding, and making sure cyclists are protected and can ride safely and securely on Los Angeles’ streets. Lately my bike riding is reduced due to the time constraints I now live under; I’m nearing sixty-years-old and I just don’t move as nimbly as I once did; and the increasing number of bicyclists being hit by vehicles makes me very, very nervous.
I do, however, consider myself a transit advocate. I ride transit whenever I can. Mostly buses since there is no light rail nor subway close to me nor in my work routines. For pleasure, and some business, when I go to DTLA, and elsewhere that is served by Metro Rail, I ride the Expo, Green, and Blue Lines and subway connections whenever I can. I’ve been riding mass transit since 1992, prompted out of my concerns for the environment.
Back then my motivator was air pollution. I try to can make less air pollution by driving less and taking transit more. Now, in addition to air pollution, of which Los Angeles remains the reigning champion for the worst air quality in the nation, my worries are global warming. The predictions from the majority of scientists on global warming-the extremes in weather, the changing of climate, the melting of snow masses, rising ocean levels, and so forth, are coming true.
It is imperative that major, immediate changes are made in our life styles to reduce carbon gas output. In this light, for Westwood Boulevard between at least the Expo Line Westwood Station and up to and into UCLA, I believe the better alternative to making bicycle lanes is to make bus only lanes.
I frequent Westwood Boulevard and the Westside Pavilion waiting for buses at all hours of the day and into the late evening. I see bicyclists on Westwood Boulevard, and in my opinion when compared to the numbers of transit riders, there are not a sufficient number of cyclists to support bicycle lanes. During one hour of the morning and evening commuter hours, there are probably more people on buses than there are bicycle riders for the entire day. Far more.
UCLA/Westwood Village/is served by Metro-at least four bus routes; Culver City Bus-one route; and Santa Monica Bus-three bus routes. During commuting hours some of these routes will have three buses each hour, full with people. In my many trips to Westwood Village by bus I have never seen a number of bicyclists which remotely equal the number of bus riders. I was in Westwood Village this past Saturday, getting there from Santa Monica on a standing room Metro Rapid 720 on Wilshire Boulevard, to transfer to a Culver City Bus in Westwood Village to go the Westchester. I did not see one bicyclists in Westwood. I saw other Metro, Santa Monica and Culver City buses with passengers.
The numbers are not there: there are far more transit riders than bicyclists along Westwood and Wilshire Boulevards. It makes much more sense to have bus only lanes on Westwood Boulevard, particularly once the Expo Line Westwood Station opens.
A far greater number of transit riders will fill the train carriages than those riding with their bicycles which take up space. One bicycle takes up the space of one or two people, and it must be admitted, bicycles are difficult and clumsy to maneuver in tight places, such as a train carriage.
I have both ridden my bicycle and used transit in the rain. It is miserable to ride a bicycle in the rain, particularly in a downpour with slashing winds, and trying to navigate traffic. It is also dangerous as visibility is compromised, and the wet brakes take a very long time to lock in and stop the bike.
Hopefully Los Angeles will again see some rain, and when that happens, I know without question it will be much easier, and safer, to ride transit in the rain than ride a bicycle. Rains will dramatically reduce the number of bicyclists, particularly if the deluges from an increasing El Nino rain season occurs, nullifying the Westwood Boulevard bicycle lanes.
Transit riders do ride in the rain. It’s not the most pleasant, but it is done. In fact it can be pleasant if one prepares, thereby making bus only lanes more practical in all seasons. It is much safer and much less stressful to ride transit than drive in Los Angeles in the rain. I’ve done both.
There is another aspect of bicycle riding which is not being addressed: the aging population. A dramatic number of people are beginning to enter retirement and senior age, particularly the aging Baby Boomers. While they are a generation which relishes rebellion and not growing old, they will grow old, and physical skills and abilities will diminish.
This will create a tremendous problem with drivers on the road with age impaired driving skills and diminished reflexes. With lessening physical abilities, riding a bicycle-maintaining balance on two wheels, retaining the strength to not just ride but climb inclines and hills, and the reflexes needed to ride on city streets-is really not a feasible alternative for seniors. Mass transit is the alternative.
Currently there are seniors on buses, some mobile, others with walkers, but they get around town. I cannot ever recall seeing similar age senior citizens with walkers let go of them get on their bicycle and start pedaling.
To address the threat of climate change immediately, and the needs of an aging population, transit is the most sensible alternative to driving. This change of lifestyle away from driving to riding transit doesn’t have to wait for the opening of the Expo Line, but should be done now, indeed, it must be done now.
I support bicycle lanes, but instead of Westwood Boulevard side streets are the most sensible. Would WAZE make these side streets incompatible for bicycle riders? What is a good street for bicycles may not be good for cars. Once WAZE users realize certain streets are good for bicyclists and not good for a fast commute, the drivers will flee those streets. Having the bike lanes on Gayley and Midfield Avenues is a sensible alternative.
Another reason I’ve curtailed bicycle riding, particularly in the heavy traffic of commuter hours, is that pumping the pedals is a physical exertion with deeper breathing. I realized that with my bicycle in the midst of the gridlock, I was deeply inhaling the poisons from all of those exhaust pipes. It would not only be safer, but it would be healthier, for bicycle riders to ride on streets with less traffic.
To move the most people the quickest and easiest from the Expo Line Westwood Station to UCLA, Westwood Boulevard requires bus only lanes, not bicycle lanes.
(Matthew Hetz is co-chair of the Los Angeles Council District 11 Transportation Advisory Committee, a bicycle rider since 1965, a driver since 1975 and a dedicated transit rider since 1992. He is an occasional contributor to CityWatch and can be reached at: [email protected]) Secondary editor: Linda Abrams.
Vol 13 Issue 64
Pub: Aug 7, 2015