Amid the Westwood bike lane tug-of-war, we’ve heard arguments from both sides all circling around the issue of safety. A handful of anachronistic curmudgeons and an LA City Councilmember pitted against transportation experts, UCLA and many Westwood businesses.
But what about our students?
College life often results in cash-strapped students. They can’t afford cars, and in a densely populated community like Westwood, cars are both inconvenient and unnecessary. Biking to campus is their best option. In fact, hundreds of students bike to UCLA via Westwood Boulevard. Many are unseasoned cyclists, which mean they’re the most vulnerable to injuries and collisions. By refusing to put bike lanes in place, the City of Los Angeles is making it more dangerous for them and hindering their access to campus.
Shouldn’t the city be doing everything it can to protect the safety of its citizens, including our students? Simply telling them to “find an alternative route” isn’t going to work.
You don’t have to take it from us. We asked our students how they feel about biking on Westwood Boulevard. Here’s what they had to say:
Michaela Bathrick, 2015 graduate: Biking on the streets of Westwood is the equivalent to running laps through a busy parking lot. Drivers are not expecting you, aren't looking for you and are mad you're there. The bumpy, pot-holed roads are a problem on their own, but coupled with drivers who have no awareness or respect for bicyclists, Westwood streets are a nightmare in the form of a morning commute. After four years biking to, through and around Westwood I know to be wary of suddenly opened car doors, quick, signal-less swerves, and slow to abrupt stops as drivers search for non-existent curb parking. Bicyclists everywhere need bike lanes, but in a college community where many residents don't own cars at all, bike lanes are absolutely essential. It is fair for bicyclists to demand personal safety, and it is necessary that that they be heard.
Danny Quian, sophomore: I was in a bike accident last February. A car was backing out and stopped for me, but this car didn’t see me and was making a left. I basically got t-boned by a car. Bike lanes will mean not fighting with cars for a path because there’s street-side parking. When there’s traffic, it’s even more of a pain. You can get doored and sometimes it’s too narrow to get through. Realistically, there’s a lot of space on Westwood. So to narrow the traffic lanes a bit is not a big deal. I feel a lot better coming into campus when the bike lanes start on Westwood Plaza because I don’t need to fight for space. People are getting forced into the gutter, and some bikers don’t feel like they have a right to be there. And when I ride the side streets, up Gayley or Hilgard, I still get aggressively forced to the side.
Joey Cañas, 2015 graduate: I use Westwood Boulevard all the time. Bicycles are vehicles too, and they’re entitled to a lane. Especially if it’s just a matter of narrowing traffic lanes to standard size, and cars don’t lose a lane. Without bike lanes, cars are just right next to you. I’ve seen drivers yelling at cyclists: “Pull over to the right!” They’re bullying them. And when they honk, you could lose your balance. I feel like there’s a general exasperation with cyclists. Bike lanes are a solution because then there’s no debate over who owns the road. Cars have their lane and bikers have theirs. There’s no gray zone. And bike lanes will make people a lot more willing to start riding their bikes because they don’t have to be scared of being bullied. I feel more comfortable biking when there are lanes. The key is compromise, and this is a great example of that.
Joanna Forde, senior: Westwood’s diversity in students and residents provides a great opportunity to promote personal health and environmental consciousness through biking, but this cannot be done if a lack of safety is a concern looming over everyone. The absence of bike lanes within Westwood discourages people from biking, while putting those who do bike in fear for their well-being. As a frequent biker, riding without bike lanes anywhere in LA is a terrifying experience which causes anxiety and pushes me away from cycling regularly because, in the end, safety is the most important factor. Not having bike lanes in Westwood strongly opposes people’s desire to cycle, which in turn pushes against any encouragement for environmentally friendly transportation and living a healthy lifestyle.
Are you a UCLA student who bikes to campus? If you have a story to tell about biking, we want to hear it. Let us know what you think about installing bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.