Bonin touts a statistical drop in Venice Boulevard crashes following traffic lane reductions

By Gary Walker

Protected bike lanes are a lightning rod for controversy in Mar Vista
Photo by Michael Kraxenberger

Under threat of a recall campaign fueled by opposition to a reduction of traffic lanes on Venice Boulevard, L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin has released new city-generated statistics indicating a reduction in crashes on the boulevard since its reconfiguration.

The numbers conflict with assertions by recall organizers and road diet opponents, who not only challenge the accuracy of those figures but argue that Venice Boulevard has become less safe than before.

In a letter to constituents dated Oct. 9, Bonin cites LAPD traffic collision data and Los Angeles Department of Transportation vehicle speed data that shows average monthly collisions on Venice Boulevard are down 22%, injuries from collisions are down 10%, speeding is down 15% and the average commute time has increased less than one minute.

The data was compiled over July, August and September — after the launch of a pilot program to reduce vehicle collisions that replaced one lane of vehicle traffic in each direction with a protected bike lane between parked cars and the sidewalk.

“This three-month data builds on the early success demonstrated in the one-month data, and it is a strong indication that Venice Boulevard is getting safer, vehicle speeds are being reduced, and that the pilot program is working as intended,” Bonin’s letter states.

Alexis Edelstein, who is leading the recall effort and accused Bonin of “purposely misleading people” by claiming Venice Boulevard has become safer, challenges the integrity of Bonin’s data.

“We’ve had people look at the raw data and the numbers that they’re claiming aren’t statistically significant because
the sample is so small,” Edelstein said. “In fact, Venice Boulevard is more dangerous after the treatments. The injury collision per capita increased 7% based on the department’s own website numbers. The average daily traffic went down from 37,000 to 31,000 and the injury rate is higher.”

Edelstein added that he’s game to debate Bonin on the numbers “anytime, anywhere.”

Bonin countered that the city’s statistics are the product of professional data collection and analysis.

“The data comes from LAPD, LADOT and [global transportation analytics company] INRIX — one of the most respected traffic data agencies in the world. They base their analysis on hard, objective numbers rather than anecdotal evidence,” he said.

Independently verifying conclusions from city traffic data will require digging deeper than Bonin’s letter, which doesn’t delve into the raw numbers or specify the “before” period that the three-month “after” data is being compared against.

But an advertisement in the Sept. 14 issue of The Argonaut purchased by a Mike Bonin for City Council campaign account (not taxpayer funds) cited earlier LAPD data showing a monthly average of 4.3 collisions and 2.7 injury collisions from May through August (after the road diet) versus a monthly average of 5.5 collisions and 3.0 injury collisions from May 2016 to April of this year (before the road diet.)

A handful of critics were quick to criticize the ad as comparing a four-month average to a 12-month baseline, and another reached alternative conclusions based on the California Highway Patrol Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System reports that could not be independently verified at press time because the online portal to that database had crashed.

Although critics of traffic lane reductions appear unwilling to relent, Bonin’s letter promises the city will soon implement several changes to Venice Boulevard’s new configuration based on constituent feedback.

These include installing more visible right turn signs by the end of October; creating “clearer, less-confusing striping for the bike lanes” pending the purchase and application of new paint; and equipping fire trucks with transponders to override traffic signals on Venice Boulevard.

“The data is incredibly encouraging, but we’re not done making improvements to this project. [The city Department of Transportation] and I continue to seek out input from Mar Vista neighbors and collect suggestions on how we can make this project safer and even less impactful to traffic. Over the last two months, we’ve called, texted, or knocked on the doors of more than 9,000 Mar Vista residents, and we’ve already started to implement some of your suggestions,” Bonin’s letter states.

For the moment, those who would prefer to see all traffic lanes restored show no signs of giving up — but neither do supporters of the protected bike lanes.

On Oct. 10, the Mar Vista Community Council voted for the third time this year to reject motions by some members demanding that Bonin reverse the lane changes on Venice.

“The fact that they came up again is really upsetting and intensely frustrating,” said Yvette Roman, a Mar Vista resident and avid bicyclist.