Drivers push back against losing lanes to bikes on Venice Boulevard

By Gary Walker

The removal of traffic lanes to accommodate protected bicycle lanes on a mile-long stretch of Venice Boulevard is facing organized resistance from some of Mar Vista’s four-wheel commuters.

As part of the city’s pedestrian-focused Great Streets program, the number of eastbound and westbound lanes between Inglewood Boulevard to Beethoven Street recently dropped from three
to two.

Now, instead of bicycle traffic flowing between parked and moving cars, curbside bike lanes are now separated from traffic by bollards and parked cars.

As of Wednesday, a change.org petition titled “Stop Unsafe Streets Project on Venice Boulevard” had collected more than 1,000 electronic signatures calling on Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin to reverse the road diet.

The petition states concerns about increased traffic gridlock — one signer claims it took 45 minutes to reach Beethoven from Centinela Avenue — that could force more traffic onto adjacent residential streets.

Selana Inouye, who lives south of the boulevard on Coolidge Avenue, is concerned that gridlock could hinder firefighters and police from responding to an emergency.

“I’m worried that first responders will have a hard time being stuck in traffic now and response time might go up. So it’s also become a public safety issue,” said Inouye, who signed the petition.

“There should have been public hearings about this so we didn’t have to find out this way,” she said.

But Mar Vista Community Council member Robin Doyno, who sits on the council’s Great Streets Ad Hoc Committee, noted that Great Streets has already been one of the community’s most talked about initiatives in recent memory.

“It was publicized many times at numerous community meetings,” Doyno said. “My thinking is that any delay or inconvenience is aggravating, but that the problem is being exaggerated.”

Bonin’s office, various city agencies and the Mar Vista Chamber of Commerce have distributed surveys about possible changes to Venice Boulevard and held Great Streets pop-up forums throughout Mar Vista, including an information
booth at the Mar Vista Farmers Market for more than a year. In January 2015, Bonin and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti knocked on doors along the boulevard and adjacent streets to discuss the program.

But was it enough?

Inouye, for one, took the survey but didn’t hear back from anyone, she said.

“No matter how much notice you do, there are always some folks that don’t always hear about what you do,” Bonin said. “That just means that we have a responsibility to communicate the objectives about what the project will be.”

According to a fact sheet published at lagreatstreets.org, more than 48 bicyclists or pedestrians have been injured in crashes along Venice Boulevard since 2011. The city also recently installed lighted midblock crosswalks on Venice at Meier Street as well as Boise, Ocean View and Mountain View avenues.

In nearby Playa del Rey, recent traffic-calming lane reductions along Vista Del Mar and Pershing Drive — in part a response to crashes that have killed pedestrians — have also provoked the ire of South Bay commuters.

Bonin has described both efforts as pilot projects, with changes to Venice Boulevard to be reevaluated in three months. Meanwhile, the new bike lanes in Mar Vista will be painted green and traffic signals will be resynchronized to mitigate traffic congestion, he said.

“Feedback is going to be very important,” Bonin said. “Anytime that you make changes to traffic, it always takes 30 to 45 days for folks to adjust.”

gary@argonautnews.com

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