Recently, opponents of Westwood bike lanes have used “safety” as a specious argument to why they are opposed to them.
Perhaps BikingInLA author Ted Rogers said it best: “Why is it that people who oppose improving safety for bike riders always seem to stress how concerned they are about the safety of bicyclists, while doing absolutely nothing about it?”
LA City Councilman Paul Koretz argues that if the bike lanes are installed, “traffic will be obstructed and safety will also be risked.”
The Westwood Neighborhood Council President announced his concern about the “safety of bicyclists and adverse impacts resulting from such lanes” in a Daily Bruin Letter to the Editor published in March.
Here are the top three reasons why bike lanes will improve safety on Westwood Boulevard:
- Bike Lanes Reduce Injuries: Between 2009 and 2013, 36 bicycle crashes were reported along the 2.7-mile stretch of Westwood Boulevard, according to the Transportation Injury Mapping System of UC Berkeley. Four of the cases were felony hit and runs. Of the 36 crashes, only three of them were caused by bicyclists. In all 36 cases, the bicyclists were injured while the motorists suffered no injuries.
As it turns out, having bike infrastructure really matters when it comes to safety. Numerous studies have proven that bike lanes make it safer for cyclists. In fact, with bike lanes, the risk of injury can drop by a whopping 90% in some cases.There’s this study, published in the American Journal of Public Health. And this one, conducted by Harvard’s Dr. Anne Lusk. And let’s not forget this unprecedented study based on 204 hours of video footage across five U.S. cities, capturing the movement of 16,000 bicyclists and 20,000 cars.
“Westwood Boulevard is a very dangerous stretch of roadway for bicyclists,” said David Karwaski, UCLA Transportation’s Senior Associate Director of Planning, Policy & Traffic Systems. “How is it acceptable to not study the viability of bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard when so much research says it increases safety for cyclists? Arguments to the contrary are simply incorrect.”
- Narrower Lanes Improve Safety: There’s the contention that narrowing traffic lanes to add bike lanes creates a dangerous environment for transit buses, trucks and other vehicles. Various studies prove otherwise.
“Narrowing travel lanes is now common practice to reduce speeds and improve safety,” Karwaski countered. “Especially on streets like Westwood Boulevard, a shopping and dining, commercial neighborhood that should serve all modes and encourage pedestrian traffic. To suggest that wider lanes are safer is the polar opposite of reality.”
- Plenty of People Will Use It: Whether you believe the Westwood Neighborhood Council President when he states that “many cyclists avoid cycling” on Westwood Boulevard, the fact remains that it is the only direct north/south route through the area—and up to 800 UCLA students, faculty and staff bike on that route every day, according to UCLA Transportation officials. With more traffic comes the need for an upgraded infrastructure in order to ensure the safety of all travelers.
Furthermore, the number of riders on Westwood Boulevard will only increase once the Westwood Expo Line station opens, after which the Boulevard will become the primary direct route between the station and the UCLA campus.
So when we talk about the “safety” of cyclists, we have to really look at the facts. Clearly, the status quo isn’t working. Neither is crying wolf. Something must be done to protect the safety of all travelers on Westwood Boulevard, and installing bike lanes is a step in the right direction.