Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics ... and the Venice Blvd Reconfiguration

ALPERN AT LARGE--About 20 angry folks gave up watching the last game of the World Series Wednesday night to attend the Mar Vista Community Council Transportation/Infrastructure Committee meeting.  Their only solace appeared to be that it was no fun watching the game, since the Dodgers were losing big time from the get-go.   

But the REAL anger seemed to be the ongoing "big lie" that the expen$ive mailed flyers all reported that the Venice Blvd reconfiguration was going ‘juuuuuuuust fine’. 

So my colleague, neighbor and engineer-friend Elliot Hanna was on-mark by quoting one of my favorite lines--stated over 100 years ago by British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, and popularized by our own Mark Twain-- that "there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." 

The ongoing kerfuffle remains loud and angry over Venice Blvd reconfiguration, which from my perspective is the sudden and unpredicted kidnapping and distortion of 15 years of work to revitalize Venice Blvd in a manner that was unwanted and rejected by those who oppose the reconfiguration but fought for a true Venice Blvd upgrade ... 

... and which is akin to painfully ripping out the arm of a person and then beating that person over the head with that arm. 

Those who fought for a true "Great Streets" and business-friendly upgrade of Venice Blvd repeatedly rejected the lopsided reconfiguration we now have over the past 15 years, so the rape and pillage of our years-long efforts to have better sidewalks, crosswalks, a business-friendly commercial corridor amenable to cars, pedestrians, bicyclists and bus riders is particularly painful. 

And the "data", we've been told, showing everything is just "greeeeaaaaaat" is therefore all the more hurtful when it's limited, is skeletal, and references data that both mined and manufactured to ignore the actual number of accidents versus the actual number of drivers on Venice Blvd over a given timeframe. 

Similarly, when it was reported that the very closely-observed number of bicycle accidents were going UP considerably based on the on-the-spot reporting that local volunteers have been performing, that reporting was strongly questioned by Mr. Hanna and the others because: 

1) it was anecdotal, and not necessarily similar to the type of reporting done by transportation officials, so the actual "apples to apples" comparison could not be done. 

2) not able to be compared to prior months or years because that type of reporting was not available in the past, again confounding the conclusion that there were any changes in trends. 

Accordingly, the approach of the MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee was (despite the overwhelmingly opposition of those present to the road diet on Venice Blvd in Downtown Mar Vista) both scientific and cautious.  As data and data-interpretation is supposed to be. 

As co-chair of the meeting, I came away with the following conclusions: 

1) The MVCC, and its constituents, are very blessed with the many volunteers who do the work that we normally expect (and pay for) from City workers and engineers. 

2) The MVCC is consistent with its ongoing approach to wanting data, and accurate data, and comprehensive data, in order to best promote policies that are both rational and compromising ... and fair, to boot. 

3) The glossy and expen$ive flyers getting mailed out, with its skeletal and rather nebulous data and "conclusions" comes across not as proper, rational, and scientific conclusions based on proper, rational, and scientific data-gathering.  The flyers come across as a load of CRAP (forgive the vulgarity, please) that's not worth the money vomited out to promote this propaganda. 

4) Neither the police/fire or other approachable officials have anything more than the anecdotal reports we have, and that requests for data by the MVCC stakeholders remain unanswered.  The City officials we have spoken to, with the exception of the propagandists promoting the current Venice Blvd reconfiguration, are straight arrows who neither decry nor support what is going on in Downtown Mar Vista.   

No data since the spring of 2017; they don't have it; we don't have it. 

All we have is--on the face of it--the "propaganda" that is more data-mining than science, and which is appears to be promoted and not scientifically presented.  And a big, fat "trust us" from a few politically-motivated, top-down officials from the Mayor's office...who I frankly don't believe even THEY believe what they're promoting. 

So, at the MVCC T/I Committee we'll continue to work on building a better mousetrap for mobility and safety on and around Venice Blvd, and work on an overdue series of bicycle paths and bus-friendly amenities, in addition to a host of pedestrian-friendly improvements to Downtown Mar Vista.


(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud father and husband to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)