We currently live in a city where speed rules the road, but change is coming faster.
My position – and one shared by growing numbers here in silver lake and across the nation – is that our streets ought to be a safe, shared community space for people of all ages to use and enjoy. Automobiles are guests on our streets and must be more respectful.
Having come to understand the tragic possibilities of living with a freeway speeding through our historic neighborhood – this month’s deadly example being the Rowena freeway – the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council has been advocating for the past several years to implement automobile calming on Rowena in the form of a ‘road diet’. Such a strategy while currently proposed for Rowena could save lives, and build up safer, more business friendly micro-communities across the neighborhood on Hyperion, Virgil, Glendale, Sunset and Hoover (to name a few of our least friendly roads, but not all).
The concept is simple and proves itself in study after study of successfully implemented efforts across the nation. When automobile traffic is calmed and asked to move in a steady stream at lower rates of speed, lives are saved, driving times do not change drastically, and neighborhood quality of life and economy is improved. The steady stream is created by adding a left turn lane and/or center medians (and I might add in some important areas expanding, or finishing the sidewalk) as well as generous bike lanes in both directions. The collective effect of the newly shared space is the limiting of automobiles to flow at a steady rate of speed in one lane each direction.
This steady rate of speed follows the most moderate driver – not allowing speeding. Because there is only one lane in each direction, would-be speeders must wait behind more temperate drivers. This might be frustrating for the few of us who care to bomb through the neighborhood at high rates of speed, but will be statistically much safer for all. Everyone who has ever been sped past knows you’ll meet the neighbor with the heavy foot at next light. Speeding doesn’t get us there any faster and exponentially multiplies our chances of hurting ourselves or someone else. A slower, safer rate of speed is ecological as well: starting and stopping cars over and over again at stop signs and lights wastes gigantic amounts of fuel annually that could be saved by slow, steady flow.
This approach has proven itself in our neighborhood already – on Silver Lake Boulevard where there’s a single lane in each direction - speeds are more moderate and quality of life in terms of living, vibrant, shared public space is increased. There is still traffic at rush hour, but this reality is not caused by the single lane. Other neighborhoods that have successfully calmed traffic are west Hollywood along Santa Monica, and York Avenue in Highland park. Both enjoy vibrant shared streets and booming new business activity with a combination of expanded, tree lined sidewalks, green medians, left turn lanes and bike lanes. We can do it all across our neighborhood and save lives.
Why has there been a foot dragging resistance from our city government to this simple, logical & life saving redesigning of our roads here in Silver Lake?
Last night – responding to the most recent auto-inflicted death on our streets - City Council Person Tom LaBonge hosted a community meeting at the Ivanhoe School – a community of parents and children directly abutting this deadly freeway. Parents are angry and afraid and with good reason. City officials are not responding quickly enough, and deeply enough to the call.
In the past two years – in defense of neighbors in that area - the silver lake neighborhood council voted twice to support the calming of traffic on Rowena, in the form of a road diet. Our requests as locally elected representatives of the neighborhood of silver lake went un-heeded and largely ignored – and this strong solution regarding our safety continues to be unimplemented. Now another person has been killed by this deadly highway & still, this evening this life saving plan was marginalized to the edges of Mr. LaBonge’s community meeting. Instead, neighbors were told they should be MORE scared when crossing streets, and perhaps hold hands and better educate the children too.
More fear is not the answer – we live with enough of that already.
The Neighborhood Council had asked Mr LaBonge’s office for 30 minutes to represent the sane, life saving road plan to the neighborhood and plan out the details with community members. First the council was told there would only be 5 minutes to present at the end of the meeting – and warned it was a packed agenda of city bureaus presenting (most presentations echoed why the status quo was so effective and why change would be so impossible) - then we were pushed off of even that. As a result, no formal presentation was given to represent a holistic plan for a better, safer organization of the road itself. This is all the neighbors wanted or needed – instead we were left with band aids, vague promises about more lighting, a promise to remove a parking space in order to build visibility at a singular intersection, and a lot of hot air. A missed opportunity, really, as all the city agencies we would need to marshal to accomplish our task of creating a safer, shared, living street were dutifully in attendance and could have heard our call.
Silver Lake, why would your locally elected representatives not be given space to present a well thought out plan to save lives starting tomorrow? Starting tomorrow, we could be painting a life saving traffic pattern on Rowena Ave from hyperion down past fletcher and onto Glendale past the silver Lake public library. But as of last nights meeting, we’ll be organizing to present the plan once again. Mr LaBonge – it was your meeting, you called it. But you missed an opportunity to let the neighborhood council pitch in. Now you want to meet with a few neighborhood council people and lay out the options for the neighborhood, but I think more appropriately the neighborhood ought to meet with itself and sort out the options for you. We elected you to work for us, after all. We are not children.
To earnestly support all the neighbors calling for calmer traffic starting tomorrow, I advocate the Community sponsor a ‘Safer, Kinder Silver Lake Road RE-structuring Starting Tomorrow Forum ’ upcoming in Early June, dates TBA. At this forum I propose we examine our roads holistically across the neighborhood & focus on plans to slow and otherwise calm traffic on Rowena effective immediately. I hope if you are reading this you will sign up for NC newsletters and all attend.
This new patterning for our streets has been spearheaded these past two years by silver lake neighbor Michael Grotzinger through the neighborhood councils Urban Design and Preservation Committee. Michaels Drawings are attached. Thank you kindly Michael for pointing the way so clearly and teaching us all so effectively.
Looking for more information? Search ‘road diet’, ‘traffic calming measures’ , ‘living streets’ and ‘city repair’ for countless studies and reports that show how this kind of thinking works.
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