Today Los Angeles Walks learned about a dangerous and irresponsible anti-road diet motion that will go before the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition at a meeting tomorrow, December 1, 2018 (agenda item 2.2). The following is a comment letter LA Walks submitted to LANCC in response.
The meeting will be held on Saturday, December 1 at 10am at LA DWP Headquarters on Hope Street. For information see here.
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To appointed Neighborhood Council representatives, other Neighborhood Council members, and members of the public,
We at Los Angeles Walks are extremely disturbed with the placement and contents of item 2.2 on tomorrow’s LANCC meeting agenda, a motion that seeks to stake out a position for the LANCC on roadway reconfigurations (or “road diets”) that is radically different than adopted City policy and the policy choices of individual Neighborhood Councils.
Simply put, roadway reconfigurations that reallocate roadway space to a variety of travel modes, commonly referred to as “road diets,” are a long-proven street safety measure that help make streets safer for all, and especially for people walking. The motion listed for item 2.2 in tomorrow’s meeting agenda is misinformed at best, and maliciously mendacious at worst. Its passage would be terrible for people who walk in Los Angeles.
We urge the appointed representatives of the LANCC to reject this dangerous and irresponsible motion on its face.
Los Angeles Walks is a pedestrian advocacy organization that seeks to make walking safe, accessible, and fun for all Angelenos. One of the most dangerous factors for people walking in LA is vehicle speed. According to reports from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) cited by Los Angeles’ Vision Zero initiative, people struck by a vehicle travelling 20 mph face a 10% risk of death -- if struck by a vehicle travelling 40 mph, walkers face an 80% risk of death.
That’s why roadway reconfigurations are such effective safety improvement measures: they reduce prevailing speeds, leading to fewer, less serious crashes and less risk for serious injury and death, especially to people walking and biking. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) knows as much, stating clearly:
Why consider a Road Diet? Four-lane undivided highways experience relatively high crash frequencies — especially as traffic volumes and turning movements increase over time — resulting in conflicts between high-speed through traffic, left-turning vehicles and other road users. FHWA has deemed Road Diets a proven safety countermeasure and promotes them as a safety-focused design alternative to a traditional four-lane, undivided roadway.
According to the FHWA, roadway reconfigurations can have crash reduction factors of 19 - 47%. They have also been around a very long time, with the first installation in 1979 in Billings, Montana (the first road diets in Los Angeles being implemented in 1980). Lastly, roadway reconfigurations have resulting ancillary benefits including but not limited to:
- Space for expanded sidewalks and/or transit and bicycle lanes, creating safer and more pleasant experiences for users and also closing network gaps;
- Reducing crossing length for people walking, reducing the amount of time they are exposed to auto traffic in the roadway;
- On 4-to-3 lane conversions (reconfiguring from two lanes of auto travel in each direction to one auto lane in each direction plus a center left turn lane), the creation of a continuous center turn lane which enable protected left-hand turns (99% crash reduction factor) as well as space to install pedestrian refuge islands for midblock crossings (46% crash reduction factor);
- The creation of a center left turn lane also creates a street easier for emergency vehicles to navigate by creating a generally open lane as well as giving space for cars to pull over;
- Also, on 4-to-3 lane conversions, the elimination of passing lanes, eliminating the possibility of a passing car passing a stopped car and hitting a pedestrian crossing the street;
But how about Los Angeles’ recent history? A 2016 study of Los Angeles road diets looked at a group of five corridors where a roadway reconfiguration had occurred and compared before and after conditions on those corridors with control streets that corresponded to the road diet corridors. For these streets, a 32.4% reduction in crashes occurred as compared to an 8% reduction for the control group. Injury rates were reduced on the road diet corridors by 36.7% as compared to an 8% reduction for the control group.
Local residents of Silver Lake have calculated that the Rowena Avenue roadway configuration has also had a demonstrably positive effect on street safety, with injury collisions down 21.5% and sever injury collisions down 33% over a five year period after installation of a road diet in March of 2013. For the same timespan for the City of Los Angeles as a whole, injury collisions were up 8.5% and severe injury collisions were up 12%.
Again, simply put, roadway reconfigurations, or road diets, are a proven tool to help reduce prevailing speeds, calm and organize traffic, enable safer turning movements, and make all road users safer. They especially can help people walking by reducing crossing distances, slowing traffic and enabling safer turns.
Lastly, LADOT already has a policy of conducting local outreach before any project, including any roadway reconfiguration project. Local residents deserve to have a say to potentially support roadway reconfigurations in their communities if they so desire without the LANCC having issued a general advisory prohibition. As projects come up for design consideration, that is the appropriate time for individual communities to work with LADOT on the best street safety measures to implement.
To conclude, the motion on the agenda is a misinformed stance of the efficacy of roadway reconfigurations that seeks to put words in the mouth for each individual Neighborhood Council. Please reject the motion on its face and leave discussions about roadway changes to communities to decide for themselves.
 FHWA: Accessed on 11/30/2018: https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/road_diets/
 Martinez, Severin: Who Wins When Streets Lose Lanes? An Analysis of Safety on Road Diet Corridors in Los Angeles. Pg 7. Accessed 11/30/2018: http://bike.lacity.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/SeverinMartinez-WhoWinsWhenWeLoseLanes-2016.pdf
 Ibid: Pg 29
 Ibid: Pg 30
 Keep Rowena Safe. Accessed 11/30/2018: https://www.keeprowenasafe.com/safety-research