A couple of weeks ago, I got an email about a “special meeting” at the Panorama City Neighborhood Council regarding the removal of the bike lanes on Chase Street between Woodman and Van Nuys. Usually, concerns like these cross my radar, but when the item was added to the agenda only the day of, you could tell what form of due process was taking place.
I found out about the news while I was heading for a flight to LAX, so I was taken out of the picture. Fortunately, one of the valley’s strongest bike advocates and LA BAC Vice-Chair, Glenn Bailey, made it out and gave this detailed account on BikingInLA.
The shortened version of his account is that pressure is being brought from neighboring Arleta, who claim these lanes add up to delays as much as fifteen minutes to their commute during rush hour.
Mr. CiclaValley is pretty well acquainted with Panorama City ,spending hours there in my orthodontist’s chair and having attended nearby Saticoy Elementary. I literally cut my teeth there.
First, this problem starts with Roscoe Blvd. There are a bevy of different factors why Roscoe clogs, but as an example, when I has headed to CSUN from the North Hollywood area during rush hour, Google gave me a couple of options that both required me to take the 170 north. The first told me to merge onto the 5, take the 118 west, then the 405 SOUTH, before taking Nordoff all the way over.
The second told me to exit Roscoe BEFORE heavy traffic on the 5, turn up Woodman, then take Nordoff all the way over. I took the former because Google told me it would be faster.
If you drive during rush hour traffic, Roscoe is normally bumper to bumper. The main reason comes for it being the last true east-west connection before the 405 and 5/170 almost converge up at the 118.
The area at issue around Chase Street is located within a usually mapped out pocket between Roscoe and Osborne to the north and south, and Van Nuys & Woodman to the east and west. Not only is this region a focal point between the freeways, but the northeast grid of the valley shifts at a 45 degree angle making some interesting bottlenecks.
I’ve tried cutting through this neighborhood by car before realizing that maneuvering through the side streets is an awkward way to go. I would never go this way again. In other words, it’s a good deterrent from cutting through.
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I decided to have another look at the bike lanes last week to investigate deeper. First, the section in question is just under a mile in length. The area is mainly residential with businesses bookending this stretch. It does not have the look of an arterial, but apparently that’s what Panorama wants.
One of the biggest divides the public understands about transportation planning is that adding lanes does not alleviate traffic, it just encourages capacity. Look at the 405 widening.
The false assumption is the belief that there is a finite amount of cars on the road and expanding lanes will naturally alleviate congestion. What actually happens is drivers who adjust their commute by leaving earlier or later will settle back into peak traffic times. People will also be more likely to take extra trips(especially short ones) during these congestion hours adding to the bottlenecks.
This claim that the lane reduction can cause fifteen minute delays is ridiculous. There is no study and is just hearsay.
To give a point of reference, the report for the killed Figueroa St. lane reduction, which would have taken place over a traffic filled two mile stretch in Highland Park, was only going to result in a 41 second delay. And that was a worst case scenario.
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Here’s the kicker about this whole debacle: this should not be over bike lanes!
If there’s anything this stretch needs, it need to slow things down, not speed things up. You can already see the tell-tale sign of not owning your own streets with the number of speed bumps on the streets branching off to slow down those cutting through. Encouraging more drivers in will only add to this behavior.
For the residents of Panorama City, what is there to gain for turning your neighborhood into a highway? It brings more noise, pollution and holds down property values. Wouldn’t you pay more to not live directly on a major street or the property adjacent? Yes, and so does everyone else.
You’re more likely to see more of this happen as well.
Chase Street is flanked by blocks of single family homes and contains the well-used Panorama Recreation Center in the middle of this superblock. This area has a strong neighborhood feel to it and promoting commuters to scramble through it can only hurt.
One more small thing.
Probably not of importance.
There’s an ELEMENTARY SCHOOL in the middle of this!
If you’re a parent, I can’t imagine you would sacrifice your child’s safety for a driver from a neighboring community getting to a red light faster. Even in the short time I was taking pictures, there were a number of cars that ran red lights or had to brake hard at the two stoplights flanking the school.
In my neighborhood, we had a similar instance where a lane was eliminated down Colfax along a stretch where three pubilc schools align in less than a mile. Does it get a bit more congested during pickup time? Yes. Do I want other cars zipping by? No. Does a five minute delay change my answer? No, again.
Besides all the aforementioned benefits, this is also an opportunity to beautify Panorama City.
Let’s look at Chase Street in two different ways: (I would apologize for this work, but I wasn’t going to give more than 10 minutes for this mockup unless someone paid me for it):
Chase Street Before Bike Lanes
Chase Street as a People’s Street
Which option would you prefer? I think even with my expedited photoshop work, it should be night and day.
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In the end, I don’t know what to say to the people of Panorama City. If you get your extra lane back, I’m sure there will be the “I told you so” period about traffic lightening up, but that will last a month. Drivers will adjust and the jam will be back. Harder. Stronger.
This is a great opportunity for the community to take their neighborhood back instead of ceding it to the cars that zip through. Los Angeles is on the brink of making the city more livable, but many are afraid to leave those policies of doubling down on car infrastructure over and over again.
Panorama City sits at a desirable nexus in the valley. With the potential of a North-South rail connection nearby and bike lanes coming on Parthenia, the future looks very bright. Let’s hope Panorama City becomes a cluster of activity, instead of a sieve.