Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Westwood Boulevard: UCLA claims its Great Street

Main Street UCLA: A Timeline

May 2008 In his inauguration speech UCLA Chancellor Gene Block outlines a plan to "transform the life of our campus" by building staff and faculty housing on and near the campus to "reduce traffic, cut commuting costs and bring a new vitality to Westwood."

June 2010 First elections held for the Westwood Neighborhood Council. A group called Westwoodbruins (Brozen, Freedman, Matute) does not receive enough votes. Since then the elected NC has aligned itself very closely with homeowner groups in the neighborhood and has repeatedly voted against any bicycle infrastructure on Westwood Boulevard. They say: "We support bicycles, but it is just not safe on Westwood Blvd."

March 2011 The 2010 Los Angels Bike Plan, adopted unanimously by all members of the LA City Council (including Koretz). The plan includes a backbone bike network along major arterial roads. The entire length of Westwood Blvd is designated as a Backbone Route and marked for priority implementation.

Feb 2013 Ryan Snyder of Ryan Snyder Associates prepares a number of road design options for the LACBC, including one which involves a flexible use of road-space (floating bike lanes) in some areas.

LADOT public hearing about planned bicycle infrastructure. It has been called "the single most unpleasant bike meeting". The convenience of drivers and the safety of cyclists collide head-on. Since then, the tone and level of understanding at such meetings has much improved.

May 2013 Calla Wiemer puts out the first of her studies on Bicycle Endangerment on Westwood Blvd. She also conducts an analysis of parking on Westwood Blvd which shows that on-street parking constitutes only a small percentage of overall parking supply on this street.

Nov 2013 After much agitation by homeowner groups, Koretz "kills" the study necessary to install bike facilities. Such direct intervention by a City Councilman with LADOT has been traditionally tolerated by the city council. Some familiar with administrative policies call this an undemocratic and ineffective procedure. Because strategic transportation decisions require a much wider vision than the limited scope characteristic of localized homeowner groups.

Autumn 2013 LACBC starts the Ride Westwood Campaign and organizes a series of meetings of the Bicycle Ambassador Program

Nov 2013 Connecting UCLA, a web-site produced by Mark Vanwenendal, highlights the barriers faced by cyclists trying to reach UCLA

Bicycle supporters speak at LA City Hall against Koretz's decision and demand a fair and honest study about implementing bicycle infrastructure on Westwood Blvd.

UCLA Bicycle Academy and Bicycle Coalition at UCLA meet Keith Watson, the Vice-Chancellor for Government and Community Relations, discussing the need for bike lanes for UCLA commuters.

Jan 2014 UCLA Bicycle Academy and Bicycle Coalition at UCLA meet with Jay Greenstein, Transportation Deputy for Koretz, at the office of the Chancellor for Government and Community Relations, again discussing the need for bike lanes for UCLA commuters.

Bicycle Coalition at UCLA conducts Bike Counts

Jan 2014 Letter by Prof David Eisenberg addressed to Chancellor Gene Block requests the establishment of a Healthy Campus Access Committee. The letter has been signed by two UCLA Nobel Prize winning scientists and about 100 additional faculty, staff and students.

Jan 2014 A Public Records request yields documents from Koretz office which throw some light on how the homeowner groups pressured the elected politician. The opposition is led by the leadership of the Westwood South of Santa Monica HOA, Comstock Hills HOA, Holmby Westwood Property Owners Association, the person elected to the UCLA Faculty / Staff seat on the Westwood NC, etc. Some notes on how the bike lane was killed have been presented here.

March 2014 Offer Grembek et al publish Safetrec Berkeley report A Comparative Analysis of Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety Around University Campuses. It includes data for Westwood collisions involving people on bikes for which no police reports were generated.

June 2014 Mayor Garcetti includes Westwood Blvd (between Wilshire and Le Conte) in his Great Streets Initiative, which represents a broader agenda to activate public spaces, provide economic revitalization, increase public safety, enhance local culture, and support great neighborhoods. Additional funding for Great Streets is made available.

Nov 2014 In response to Koretz' intervention against bike lanes, Ryan Snyder of Ryan Snyder Associates develops the "Remove Nothing Plan." This plan was not commissioned by a local agency. It was "donated" to the Westwood community and has since helped to overcome the absence of an official planning process, since Koretz stopped LADOT from proceeding.

Nov 2014 Deans of the UCLA medical school (Prof Eugene Washington, Prof Linda Sarna) co-publish letter in Huffington Post arguing in support healthy and sustainable modes in the vicinity of UCLA, especially on Westwood Blvd

Dec 2014 UCLA Bicycle Academy requests that the statement by the deans of the Medical School be discussed at a meeting of the Westwood Neighborhood Council. Report here.

Prof Linda Sarna, Dean of the School of Nursing, addressing Westwood NC 

Jan 2015 Westwood Community Council hosts a well organized meeting around Ryan Snyders proposal ("Remove Nothing Plan"). The meeting remains respectful and collaborative. Objections become more technical, focus on difficulty on how to mix bikes with buses, right turn movements etc

Feb 2015 Westwood BID holds two public meetings to hear from the community in the village. In each case, Ryan Snyder outlines the proposal, followed by questions and expressions of support. Jay Greenstein, transportation deputy for Councilmember Koretz, is present and expresses Koretz's interest in a equitable solution.

March 2015 UCLA Graduate Student Association and Undergraduate Students Association adopt unanimously a resolution calling for bike safe Westwood Blvd. The Sierra Club, West Los Angeles Group, adopts a resolution calling for a Bike Safe Westwood Boulevard 

Local Business which support bike lanes in Westwood:

(as of 5 March 2015)

"Bike lanes are very beneficial. It is less pollution than driving and bike lanes make it safer for our employees and for our customers. It is easier to park a bicycle. Also, five or six of our employees commute by bike - and they are always on time."
Michael Long, Manager, 800 Degrees Pizza, 10889 Lindbrook Dr 

"I think it would be a good thing because a lot of students ride their bikes and it would insure their safety going through traffic."
Arron James, Manager, Nekter Juice Bar, 10912 Lindbrook Dr

"I don't like to see Westwood Blvd narrowed, but I do like the idea of bike lanes."
Michael Newman, Dixon, Howell, Westmoreland & Newman, 924 Westwood Blvd

"It would be nice if we had bike lanes."
Jay, Chilly Ribbons, 1135 Westwood Blvd

"It would be much safer if there was a bike lane"
Rick Hartman, Owner, Westwood Sporting Goods, 1065 Gayley Ave

"Of course, we need more bike lanes, especially on the major boulevards, so people don't have to ride on the sidewalk. They also need to return all these bike-racks. All the trees and parking meters have bikes."
Paysa Fong, Designer, Gene Fong Associates, 1130 Westwood Blvd

Ferri Fathi, Executive Director of 
"I, personally, and Vintage Westwood and its parent company, Vintage Senior Living strongly believe in healthy and safe living alternatives.  Adding bike lanes on Westwood Blvd. would give everyone a safe alternative to driving a car and makes the side walks safer for pedestrians. Many of the seniors living at Vintage Westwood enjoy having the freedom to walk around the village and be able to run errands, go to doctors’ appointments, restaurants, and theaters and museums without having to depend on someone to drive them.  Safe side walks on Westwood Blvd. will make their walks around the village much safer and stress free." 
Vintage Westwood Retirement Community,  947 Tiverton Ave

Prof David Heber, Director, Nutritional Medicine and Obesity, founding director Risk Factor Obesity Weight-Loss Program, Weyburn Place
"I am very supportive of bike lanes. They are a proven health benefit. Physical activity on a daily basis is very important to stay healthy and avoid metabolic disease like diabetes."

Gizelle Strohkendl, Muriel Chastanet Jewelers, 1111 Glendon Ave "would like to endorse the marking and creating of bicycle lanes to and from this university town to help alleviate traffic and parking and to make our roads safer for all."

Matt Canale, Manager of Helen's Cycles Westwood, writes:

1. We deal with multiple car-bike related accidents every week.
2. Sales and repairs at our store are up significantly over the past two years. 
3. We work with Whole Foods employees and help them purchase and maintain their bikes. We also work with California Pizza Kitchen, the Sushi place at Gayley and Le Conte, Hotel Palomar to name a few. 
4. Helen's Cycles Westwood supports bike lanes on both Westwood and Gayley. 

"At the Hammer, we support healthy and alternative modes of transportation that make the museum even more accessible to local audiences. Many of our visitors and employees bike to the museum regularly, and we are interested in making this option both safe and appealing to those that want to pursue it."
Kathleen Shiroma, Associate Director, Hammer Museum

"I think bike lanes are always good to have. I don't see why there should be an issue."
Ben Keith, Manager, Urban Outfitters, Westwood Blvd

"We shall be very glad to have bike lanes everywhere."
Shoba Basabanag,  Manager, Ahhs, Westwood Blvd

"I think bike lanes in Westwood and in the city are a good idea. We have a new bike parking corral on Broxton and we encourage cycling."
Emmanuel Bautista, on site manager, Westwood Village Farmers Market

"I don't see why not."
Michelle Rhine, Managing Partner, California Pizza Kitchen. (CPK operates a bicycle delivery service in the village)

"We need bike lanes, yes, but I don't think Westwood Blvd is the best street for it. I think bike lanes are better on Gayley."
Fred Silver, Manager, Bel Air Camera

"A great idea."
Linda Goss, UCLA Blood & Platelet Center, Gayley Ave

"I just wish there was a bike lane."
Joe, Westwood Wireless

"One of our employees comes to work with a bike. He would be much safer with bike lanes."
Luis Benites, Radio Shack, Westwood Blvd

"I see the buses and the cars here and I have to say Westwood Blvd is not an ideal street for cyclists. It sees quite a bit of traffic. The side-roads are probably safer. But the cyclists are not going away, so we better make some bike lanes to make it safer for them"
Andrew Olson, Mayhem Smoke Shop, Westwood Blvd

"We would love any kind of help in Westwood. If it was safer to go down Westwood Blvd with a bike we would also profit from it."
Veronica Clarke, Owner, Capelli Lounge, Gayley Ave

Opinion and coverage in Daily Bruin by Nate Holmes (Walkable Street Culture), Julia McCathyDylan SmithSam Hoff (2013), Sonali Kohli (2010, "Lack of Bike Safety prompts Protests")

Additional Resources:
Daily Bruin Editorial - March 12, 2015
UCLA GSA Bike Safe Westwood Blvd Resolution
USAC Bike Safe Westwood Blvd Resolution
Sierra Club Resolution Calling for a Bike Safe Westwood Boulevard
Westside Today on Bicycle Mobility
Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition
Velo Club La Grange
TIMS based collision data
Bike Counts:

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Porta Potties and Space Planner Unite, Embarrass UCLA

UCLA Health is the best in the West. And it is big. Real big. In 2012, exactly half of all FTE positions at UCLA are Hospital/Health Science funded (Chart 25). Its operations are formally part of UCLA, but because of its size, its budget, its fundraising, the Health System is a very special player on a very special campus. In terms of the campus pecking order there is little which stands above UCLA Health.

So when the Deans of the Medical School and the School of Nursing recently published a statement in the Huffington Post arguing that Westwood Blvd should become a Great Street, a street with bike lanes, the neighborhood and the campus pick up their ears.

What started as a series of good looking cyclists on UCLA health adverts has now became a real political program. If anyone, UCLA Health knows, the school of Public Health knows, the nurses and the doctors know that the built environment greatly impacts public health and wellbeing. With experts and advocates like these, we are on the path to something really big.

But then. But then UCLA Health needed a new building. It is called the Teaching and Learning Center (TLC). It sits below the Dental School, the corner of Tiverton Rd and Le Conte. To give the builders a bit of space, Tiverton Rd road was closed for all traffic. A precarious serpentine path for pedestrians was set up. Wheelchair (ADA) access was removed for the entire area. Houston, we have a problem.

What is so special about Tiverton for cyclists? It was a very popular entry to campus because

  • it is the direct access to campus from the Tiverton Bike Route
  • is offers a comfortable grade 
  • it avoids the steep hill on Charles E Young where cyclists struggle uphill without a bike lane
  • it has very little car traffic
  • is is much shorter than the alternative route
Based on these geographical factors, Tiverton is scheduled to become a bike and pedestrian only entry, once the TLC building work is complete. This is a great plan. But for the next year or so of ongoing building work, we request that the Architect Robert Mahterian (Director, Space & Capital Planning, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine) work with the Fire Marshall and the Site Manager to find a solution which can improve campus access for those who do not drive. See plan below.

We wrote to the Dean Eugene Washington, asking him to reconsider the closure of Tiverton for the duration of the work. The Dean instructed Mahterian to deal with this. Mahterian met us at the site and found nothing could be done. He suggested removal of the No Bikes sign to allow cyclists to walk their bike on a path.

However, the path is clearly to narrow to push bikes here. We are told the Fire Marshal and the site manager would not budge. Cyclists have to take the other route. We wrote again, suggesting a workable solution. There was no answer in writing. On the phone we were told that describing the "push your bike" suggestion as "unacceptable" would have ended the conversation. Mahterian clearly has a fine sense of his place in the campus pecking order. He would not budge for a few excited cyclists, would he?

Already in April, when the closure was implemented, the Daily Bruin spoke of the mixed reaction from the community. At the time the student journalist did not even notice that a large area suddenly became inaccessible for people with disabilities. Tiverton House is a hotel right across the road from this campus "entrance". The hotel is operated by UCLA Health. Guests used to be able to check out a bicycle for the trip to campus, but the closure makes a simple trip a much less viable option. The path is very narrow, it is marked "slope exceeds 1:12" and is partly without protection towards a steep hillside. Would it pass a health and safety inspection?

Now that the foundation of the building has been constructed, it would be a very good time to rethink the design of the Tiverton entrance for the remainder of the work. Mahterian probably believes himself to be entirely justified to tell cyclists to get real and push their bikes on a narrow path, to get real and ride up that hill and get over with it. He does not see how his view (and, importantly, the built environment he is responsible for) is firmly caught inside the good old Cars First universe of Southern California (and its extreme garages here). If there was a heart surgeon who needed to park his vehicle in a hurry, that would be another story. But those Bruins who ride a bike? Tough luck!

Is that the tip of the iceberg? Back in 2006, the UCLA Bicycle Masterplan did not list the health sciences as a participant in the process. My own survey of some sites occupied by the UCLA Health System in Los Angeles and Santa Monica discovered a conspicuous absence of facilities that would project expertise and accommodation for those who do not drive. Bike parking? Don't ask. What about the projected bike connection between the hospitals in Westwood, at the VA and in Santa Monica? Another victim of car-think perhaps. Was it really OK to remove the bike rack at UCLA Rehab to make space for a valet parking service? Why do they make it so hard for us to identify that special effort to attract and support cyclists?

Valet Parking has replaced Bicycle Parking at Rehab
The school which is home to such pioneers as Richard Jackson and Michael Goldstein, the school that has brought us the very successful Healthy Campus Initiative, it apparently relies on the services of an unreconstructed space planner whose work exhibits little expertise in how to make a place safe and welcoming for active and healthy modes. The outcome is a cognitive dissonance, an embarrassment that the campus really does not need. The Deans of the medical school can not be seen to argue for bike lanes in Westwood, but fail to provide for a reasonable accommodation on their own turf.

Those who follow the money say that UCLA is a campus attached to a hospital. This is why it is so important that Mahterian, Director of Space & Capital Planning at the Health System, follows the lead of his Dean and becomes our champion for healthy and sustainable transportation. Therefore we have asked the Los Angeles County Bicycle CoalitionCalifornia Bicycle Coalition, and the League of American Bicyclists, who awarded UCLA a bicycle friendly campus distinction in 2011, to address these concerns with Mahterian and to point him to the resources he needs. We are also seeking legal advice relating to the Americans with Disabilities Act. We are also preparing a Public Records Request aimed at identifying the expertise, in-house and out-sourced, UCLA Health System has had at its disposal relating to building, planning and providing for those who do not drive. We are specially interested if and how the good people of UCLA transportation have been silenced when interacting with the Big Big Bear which is UCLA Health. UCLA transportation knows a thing or two about prioritizing healthy and sustainable modes, thank you very much, and they deserve to be heard.

And we ask faculty and staff and students to take a minute and remind Mahterian   that his extra effort towards improving bike and pedestrian access at the Tiverton campus entrance during the building work is really appreciated. To remind him that he not only has the support of his Dean, but that of his Chancellor and that of the UC Office of the President

That's why the series of blue porta potties placed bang in the middle of Tiverton Rd are now ready to move to a more decorous location and allow healthy bicycle circulation to resume.

Porta Potties currently located on Tiverton Rd should be moved to make space for a wider path at the Tiverton entrance

And then, when these blue porta potties have made space for people on bikes, then we can sit down together and look at the plans for the new TLC Building to make sure it embodies all the Tender Loving Care those pesky UCLA cyclists deserve. So that UCLA Health can really become The Best in the West.

In Green: Proposed temporary Tiverton access path wide enough for pedestrians
 and bicycles to share, also serving as emergency access path

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Distracted Policing @ UCLA ?

Erin and her husband are both UCLA staff. She works for the dental school, he works in research admin. Even Junior, their one year old son, attends UCLA, daycare that is, a few days a week. They live in Santa Monica, Ocean Park and they ride their bike to campus whenever possible.

Their commute is not without hurdles, of course. Two freeways to cross, for instance. Also the lack of welcoming bicycle routes in Westwood itself, which forces those on bikes into dangerously close vicinity with vehicles where texting, facebooking, tweeting, hand-held phones, loud music, eating, drinking, applying make-up etc is very common. But on 8/22/2014 a new hurdle appeared in the form of an UCPD patrol car, light flashing, with an officer on a special detail for a "distracted driving" crackdown. At the corner of Westwood and Le Conte, as Erin was entering the campus, the officer intercepted her, and duly issued a ticket for distracted driving. CVC 27400: A person operating a motor vehicle or bicycle may not wear a headset covering, or earplugs in, both ears.

Distracted driving by cyclists? Scientists point to the fact that "windows up" impairs hearing more than a pair of earbuds would, but the law is the law. Not being "all ear" while in traffic can indeed be a problem. On the bike, I personally use all my senses, especially those ears, to recognize the environment around me.

When her husband contacted us about his wife's adventures with the California vehicle code, he expresses it well: "The whole reasoning behind applying identical laws to cyclists and drivers just infuriates me. It is also frustrating that UCPD would penalize a cyclist so severely for such a minor violation when the campus is presumably trying to encourage more sustainable and healthy methods of coming to campus."

Given that driver distraction is involved in a large percentage of traffic fatalities, it is problematic that the enforcement seems to make no distinction between those who may harm others, and those who may harm themselves. Still more worrying is the suspicion that UCPD may use the wrong tools when enforcing distracted driving. These tools seem optimized for ticketing cyclists and fail to reach those whose distraction can do most harm to others. Those who ride a bike already feel very poorly served by the existing road system, second-class citizens on the roads of LA. Should they now also enter the cross-hairs of misguided enforcement?

The ticket will set our cyclist back some $ 197 and may involve two court dates. But how does such punitive enforcement fit with our bicycle friendly campus designation? Is there a bias against cyclists in UCPD police work? How?

An insidious anti-bicycle bias seems embedded in the tools the campus police used here. Compare a vehicle patrol and a bicycle patrol. Each tool offers a different view of the road. The elevated view of the cycling officer and the ease which which the officer on the bike can pass multiple vehicles in stationary or slow traffic, all this makes the bike a perfect tool to detect unsafe activities of drivers as they drive around campus. But put the same officer into a patrol vehicle, and send him on the roads of Westwood, he will complain that you make his work hard or impossible. He just can't observe the multitude of distractions going on around him.

When the cycling policeman can pass and inspect 50 vehicles, the colleague in the driving patrol car may only able to get a view of three or four. Seated inside a patrol vehicle he can barely see what is going on in front and behind his vehicle. His presence is quickly noticed. He may be able to scan the vehicle beside him, but not much more. The car-based officer is virtually blinded with regard to potential distraction occurring near him. But those lovely snow-white ear-buds Erin was wearing when she listened to NPR, these he can spot with ease. If a distracted driving crackdown is conducted from a patrol car, then cyclists suddenly become the perfect target: Easy to spot, easy to stop, easy do deliver the required number of tickets. Distracted policing occurs when the agency fails to recognize the bias inherent in their tools.

In order to learn more about this enforcement activity, and in order to find out how the choice of patrol vehicle can lead to institutional prejudice, we have asked UCPD a few questions:
What was the nature of the distraction crackdown? Was it supported by special funding or outside police officers? 
How many tickets for distracted driving were issued? 
How many of these to cyclists?
How many traffic tickets are written by officers on bicycle patrol?
In order to avoid the bias outlined above, what is your policy of using officers on bicycles to police vehicular traffic and issue tickets for moving violations?

Which still leaves Erin with her $197 citation. UCLA is about education, not punishment. This is why UCLA should have a court approved Bike Education Program that could dismiss a ticket when the recipient of a citation attends an educational course. The benefits of such citation diversion programs are compelling: They allow officers to ticket cyclists more freely, because they know that the program will produce better educated and safer cyclists. Some of these programs are delivered on-line, others require attendance, all should be designed with input from local bike advocacy organisations. Many universities offer such a programs already, including UC Davis and UT Austin. Is it not time for UCLA to have its own? Erin tells us she would love to help to bring this about. Therefore we added a few more questions to UCPD:
Would UCPD be interested to develop a citation diversion program with the local jurisdiction? 
Does the UCPD have a Bike Liaison officer?
Is this officer be prepared to have a meeting with the UCLA Bicycle Academy and other agencies to discuss the establishment a ticket diversion program?
Would you be interested to develop a pilot program on the use of cycling officers to police vehicular traffic?

Some Links:

(Nov 24) The Judge dismissed the case
Still waiting for a substantial answer from UCPD