Susan Shelley: Los Angeles won’t be a walkable city any time soon

Last week, an Asian woman in her 50s was “beaten up,” in the words of L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn, on the Metro Blue line train near the Compton station. The two suspects got away. Hahn is demanding to know where all the law enforcement officers, security guards and “Metro ambassadors” were during his attack. “With this many layers of security, why didn’t anyone come to this woman’s aid?” Hahn asked.

Also last week, a group of 10 teens on bicycles swarmed a man in a pick-up truck on Hill Street in downtown Los Angeles and viciously, brutally kicked and punched him for an extended period of time. KCAL News reported that witnesses said blood covered the victim’s face, and also reported this: “People who work in the area said violent attacks like this are nothing new in downtown.” One witness said, “I thought somebody was getting robbed because it is very common out here.”

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but Los Angeles is not becoming a “walkable” city where people will give up their cars for some urban planner’s dream of multi-modal transportation. It’s going in the opposite direction, toward more people driving in their private cars with the windows rolled up and the doors locked.

In March, voters in the city of Los Angeles will have the opportunity to vote on an initiative called Healthy Streets LA. It’s a sledgehammer from bicycle advocates who are tired of waiting for the city to implement an aging piece of hypocrisy called Mobility Plan 2035.

“This is a concept,” the City Council’s then-president, Herb Wesson, told his colleagues in 2015 as they considered whether to adopt the plan. “If you choose to vote on this today, it will not be put in place tomorrow.”

And true to his word, it wasn’t.

There’s good reason for that, of course. Mobility Plan 2035 calls for 1,500 miles of road construction for the general purpose of turning lanes that are used by cars into lanes that are used by bicycles. The plan also envisions construction of pedestrian paths and traffic-slowing measures. As of last August, the city had completed only 3% of the mobility plan.

“That is shameful,” said then-Council President Nury Martinez.

Is it? A tiny fraction of Los Angeles residents are interested in using bicycles to get from place to place, even fewer if you don’t count the teen muggers out for blood in the middle of Hill Street.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Those teen muggers wouldn’t be on bicycles in the middle of Hill Street if union construction workers had built them a bike lane.”

Well, then, Healthy Streets LA is the initiative for you. Backed by a coalition of interest groups who make good money pretending that bicycles prevent climate change, the measure will require the city to add the required mobility “enhancements,” such as a new bike lane, whenever at least 660 feet of a street is repaved or otherwise modified.

But wait, there’s more.

If passed by voters, the Healthy Streets LA initiative gives anyone the right to sue the city of Los Angeles for failing to comply with the requirement to implement Mobility 2035 to its full extent.

Just as the city was sued for trying to enforce an ordinance that bans sleeping on the sidewalk, and then was sued for trying to limit how much furniture people could store on the sidewalk, and then was sued for letting people live on the sidewalk, the city would get sued for not removing traffic lanes fast enough.

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Does anybody think that slowing traffic even more is going to persuade L.A. residents to give up their cars?

This is where the public safety crisis enters the picture. As always, the picture it enters is one of those beautiful artists’ illustrations that transit agencies show the public when they’re scheming for a tax increase: lovely train platforms and bus stops dotted with happy people going about their watercolor daily lives, car-free.

Without public safety, you don’t see those people in real life. Instead you see empty trains, deserted bus stops and long lines of cars—with doors locked and windows rolled up—many of them leaving Los Angeles.

Write and follow her on Twitter @Susan_Shelley

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