A Letter to the Transportation Committee Members

On Behalf of | May 18, 2016 | Uncategorized |

I respectfully urge the members of this committee to support the bike lanes on Westwood Blvd and Central Ave proposed within Mobility Plan 2035.

I commute by bicycle. I am a father, a husband, a son, a brother, a car-owner, a homeowner and a taxpayer. And I am an attorney who represents injured cyclists.

Better cycling infrastructure would have prevented many of my clients’ injuries. Those injuries have had grave, physical and economic consequences on their lives.

Like a huge number of Angelenos, many of my clients cannot afford the expense of car ownership. The first mile, last mile precludes their reliance on transit. Cycling is the only feasible commute from where they can afford to live to where their jobs are located.

Countless cyclists rely on Westwood Blvd. and Central Ave. Both streets serve those who are unable to own and drive cars. One of my clients was injured on Westwood Blvd., exactly where the bicycle lane is proposed. But for a bicycle lane, that client would not have been injured. His injury had a tangible physical, emotional and economic impact on his life. It resulted in a legal dispute which exacted a cost of doing business. Many such cases burden the taxpayers. Like many of my clients, he could not afford to own and operate a car, eat and pay rent. Skyrocketing rents and numbers of homeless testify to the margins at which many Angelenos operate. The Expo line expansion promises to connect many UCLA students to areas more affordable than the Westside. Many such students will rely on bicycles for their commute. To subject them to sharing the roads with cars and no bicycle lanes would be nothing short of denying them safe passage to the means by which they intend to advance their station in life. This is tantamount to a denial of the American dream itself. The same can be said of bicycle commuters on Central Ave.

Bicycles are a lost-cost, low-maintenance, healthy and easy means of commuting. Bicycle commuting allows low-income residents to omit the cost of car-ownership from their constricted budgets, increasing their financial margins, allowing them to pay the opportunity cost of sending their children to college, paying rent, eating and obtaining medical care.

Infrastructure designed to protect cyclists is a huge factor in preventing injuries to cyclists. A city’s failure to implement and maintain proper cycling impacts taxpayers by burdening the courts, the medical system, the state welfare system, the cost of doing business, productivity and the economy overall. It imposes the economic burden of commuting onto those who can least afford it.

Injured cyclists and their families pay that cost with their lives and their bodies. Many have injuries which render them or their family members wards of the state. An ounce of prevention is worth far more than a pound of cure, which is rarely a cure at all.

The mobility plan balances high quality transportation options by providing complete, functional networks for people using ALL forms of transportation. Piecemeal bicycle networks defeat the plan’s goal to provide safe, accessible, and reliable transportation for all Angelenos.

Encouraging cycling also improves the environment. The more commuters who relinquish cars for bikes, the lower the per capita vehicular emissions. Los Angeles has recently earned the double distinctions of having both the worst air quality and traffic in the country. Both issues have grave environmental, economic and health consequences.

The State of California was a petitioner in Massachusetts v. EPA, in which the US Supreme Court famously ruled that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are a threat to the health and safety of the global population. SCOTUS affirmed California’s standing due to the irreparable harm it stood to suffer from sea level rise, drought, fire and more.

Vehicular emissions comprise between 35-40% of the State’s GHG emissions. The State legislature passed SB 375, the Sustainable Communities Act, which imposes on municipalities an obligation to meet regional targets for GHG emissions reductions from passenger vehicle use. A vast, truly-connected network of protected bicycle lanes will promote safe cycling throughout the City, which in turn will result in reduced emissions of GHGs and help the city meet its regional targets under SB 375.

The principle of induced demand asserts that we cannot build our way out of congestion, which has rendered Westside roadways impassible. Congestion also exacts a toll on its sufferers’ health and on the economy.

But induced demand also asserts that bicycle lanes will ultimately encourage more drivers to become cyclists, if only for one or two days a week. In New York, they have increased vehicular flow. There is no reason to believe that bicycle lanes on Westwood Blvd. will not similarly mitigate traffic on the Westside. The more connected and comprehensive the network is, the more likely commuters in other parts of town will leave their cars in their driveways and bike instead. Even now, a bicyclist beats a bus and a car in a cross-town commute. The City needs to make cycling so safe that otherwise reluctant cyclists will be encouraged to ride.

And cyclists experience multiple physical and emotional health benefits. Los Angeles, which is relatively flat, experiences an average of 330 days of sunshine in a wet year.

Merchants’ protestations that bike lanes will impact their revenues lack merit. In fact, protected bicycle lanes boost revenues. Cut-through traffic in neighborhoods adjacent to the proposed bike lanes can also be mitigated. A multitude of low-cost, highly-effective traffic calming techniques are available to restrict vehicular traffic to arterial roads. Urban planners are well-versed in their efficacy and implementation.

This discussion occurs at a critical juncture. This Committee has the opportunity to drastically alter this City’s trajectory, literally and figuratively. The bicycle is a simple, cost-effective solution to a multitude of the problems plaguing Los Angeles. Its early adopters are more vulnerable than drivers. A city as progressive as Los Angeles must protect its most vulnerable citizens. They are literally doing the rest of the world a favor.

Every Angeleno deserves a safe commute. Keeping these streets in the Mobility Plan demonstrates this City’s commitment to sacred principals. Removing the bicycle lanes from the Plan would defeat the crucial goal of making our streets safe for everyone who uses them. It would needlessly delay cheap, effective solutions to deadly and impending problems. This commission should ratify the recommendation of Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Planning Commission, and the Department of City Planning to adopt the plan with all supplemental amendments but NO network removal.

The import of these bicycle lanes cannot be overstated. They represent a crucial opportunity that the City cannot afford to squander. Mitigation of traffic and emissions are urgent, vital and convergent goals. Now is the time for bold leadership. It is time to put this debate behind us and move forward in implementing a just, equitable and comprehensive infrastructure that accounts for the needs of everyone, not just those who can afford cars. Whether or not they know it, everyone stands to benefit.

I urge you to adopt the wholesale Mobility Plan 2035 network so all Angelenos can travel safely on the streets of L.A.


Joshua C. Cohen
Attorney at Law
Law Offices of Paul F. Cohen
4929 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 510
Los Angeles, CA 90010