Cities across the US are putting their roads on a diet. Trying to meet increasing environmental and public health goals, city planners have adopted a “road diet” platform that aims to increase bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure while limiting car traffic.
In Los Angeles, City Councilman Jose Huizar has been a major political force behind such projects, including an upcoming project that will reduce a lane on a stretch of Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock, and another upcoming project on Broadway Boulevard in downtown Los Angeles. That project, part of the larger Bringing Back Broadway initiative, starts this summer with a temporary “dress rehearsal” that includes a reduction of six traffic lanes to three, expanding the sidewalks and adding public space amenities.
Road diets have been championed not only by researchers and city planners but often by local residents, businesses, and especially bicycle advocates. But not everyone in LA is thrilled about the changes. These projects tend to maximize car traffic thresholds and delay drive times, and some people feel like the city has taken on an advocacy role at the expense of practicality.
What are the factors that determine when a city street is ripe for a “road diet”? Is it exclusively to meet environmental and health goals, or are other factors like improving local business considered? And how does the city government go about informing the public of the changes and the costs? Have road diets in other cities been successful?
Nathan Baird, Bicycle Coordinator with the LA Department of Transportation
Tom Topping, founder of the Eagle Rock-based newspaper, the Boulevard Sentinel, and an advocate for auto lanes