Politics

LA City Council committees approve 20 year 'mobility' plan - but Westwood bike line in limbo

Bicycle lanes on Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles.
Bicycle lanes on Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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A joint meeting of Los Angeles City Council committees approved a 20-year plan for transportation in the city Tuesday, but left lingering questions about a contentious bike lane on Westwood Boulevard.

The Mobility Plan 2035, a comprehensive blueprint for laying out bike lanes, transit routes and roadways in the city, had its first hearing in the city council since it was approved by the Planning Commission in April. It will be part of the city's General Plan and serve as a guide for officials' decision-making and project-planning on transportation issues.

At the heart of the proposal is a concept known as "complete streets," an effort to make roads safe for bikes and pedestrians as well as cars. The plan envisions three continuous networks of roads - each prioritized to best-serve a different mode: bikes or pedestrians, cars and pubic transit.

In recent months, debate has arisen around a bike lane planned for Westwood Boulevard between Santa Monica Boulevard and the UCLA campus.

Critics, mostly wealthy homeowners in Westwood and West Los Angeles, are concerned that adding a bike lane will further slow car traffic on the busy street. They want the bike lane moved to an alternate street.

"Would you vote for a mobility plan that states up front that reducing congestion is not it’s goal," said Laura Lake, who held up a sign enumerating the potential detrimental effects of a bike lane, including delays for emergency vehicles traveling to UCLA Medical Center.

She was one of more than three dozen people who showed up at City Hall to give their opinion during Tuesday's meeting, which went on for hours. The majority were in favor of the bike lanes.

"Any changes to the plan will destroy the connected network we're trying to create," said Tamika Butler, Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Bike Coalition, which has mobilized support for the plan.

The joint Transportation and Planning and Land Use Management Committees voted to approve the Mobility Plan in its current state, which includes the bike lane on Westwood Boulevard.

But Councilman Paul Koretz, who represents the Westwood area, introduced an amendment that would strike the lanes. The committees agreed to vote on that and other amendments in later meetings.

UCLA graduate student Daniella Ward delivered a stack of postcards to the committee collected from fellow students urging for more safety measures on Westwood Boulevard.

Thousands of students and employees of UCLA already cycle on Westwood Boulevard because it is the most direct route, a point alluded to by L.A. Department of Transportation General Manager Seleta Reynolds.

"Just because you draw a line on a map or erase a line on a map doesn’t change the fact that people will walk, bike or drive there," she said.