Road Diet Displeasure Spreads Beyond Broadway: "Peninsula Corridor Group" Forms On Facebook Citing Problems From Termino Ave. to 72nd Place
Amnesia file: Opposition first surfaced nearly three years ago, preceding Broadway "road diet" controversy, and others.
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(July 24, 2019, 12:05 p.m.) -- Although the Broadway corridor "road diet" (narrowing vehicle lanes/adding curbside bike lanes that push parked cars streetward) between Alamitos/Redondo has thus far received the most public pushback (2nd dist.), LBREPORT.com has learned that a number of eastern shoreline/Peninsula area residents (3rd dist.) have now launched a Facebook page "for discussion of the current traffic problems on Ocean from 72nd Place to Termino Avenue -- the road diet lanes -- and how it has impacted residents and visitors." It's along-simmering issue with neighborhood concerns that preceded the Broadway road diet.
A Peninsula Corridor GroupFacebook page now visible at this link invites comments on "your traffic experiences, possible solutions, videos and pictures" and says "We are here to work together for a "cure." Personal attacks, sniping, or bullying comments will be removed. Let's worth together to solve this traffic problem. We solicit your input, your pictures and video, and especially your proposed solutions."
Although the Peninsula Corridor Facebook page is new, public pushback on the Ocean Blvd. road diet began nearly three years ago. It prompted the first (and to LBREPORT.com's knowledge only) Council discussion to date of vehicle lane/parking/bike lane reconfigurations now being implemented in multiple areas including Marina Dr., Studebaker Rd., Bellflower Blvd., Orange Ave. and Artesia Blvd.)
As separately reported with extended VIDEO by LBREPORT.com, city management has indicated (July 22) that it plans to expand the road diets -- citing City Council voted approvals of road repaving contracts and Mobility and Bicycle plans -- as part of a forthcoming overall "Vision Zero" plan (aiming to reduce serious traffic accidents to zero.) LBREPORT.com coverage here.
A September 20 2016 item placed on the City Council's "consent calendar" (with no planned public discussion) turned into a half hour of discussion on the Ocean Blvd. road diet. It happened on after residents from three key Belmont Shore areas plus a veteran ELB community advocate waited nearly three hours to speak three minutes each in opposition to Council allocation of funds for the changes.
Susan Miller (Shoreline area), Elaine O'Neill (Belmont Heights), Jennifer Cameron (Peninsula) and Ann Cantrell (ELB) variously cited a lack of City transparency as well as substantive aspects of the measure in urging the Council not to allocate funds for it. (LBREPORT.com coverage coverage here.,
Following public testimony, 3rd dist. Councilwoman Suzie Price spoke approvingly of the funding and noted that the concept was the City Traffic Engineer's recommendation.
To hear the Council's Sept. 20, 2016 agenda item (quick launch audio), click here. (24 mins, MP3 file)
[Scroll down for further.]
No residents or businesses spoke in support the "road diet" and no other Councilmembers apart from Price spoke to the issue. Accordingly, city staff went on to implement the Broadway "road diet" (that multiple Alamitos Beach residents charge has led to accidents and businesses say has damaged their businesses) as well as a number of traffic-slowing (city officials says "traffic calming") street reconfiguratons.
In her Oct.1, 2016 Council news letter, Councilwoman Price included an article on the issue by her Chief of Staff, Jack Cunningham:
Ocean Boulevard Road Diet - from 39th Place to 54th Place
After years of concerns about traffic and safety along Ocean Blvd. Our office asked the Traffic Engineering Department to develop a measure that would reduce traffic speeds and improve safety for pedestrians, drivers, and cyclists. Based on the results of a traffic study the Traffic Engineering Department developed a proposal that takes in to account police capacity to enforce traffic, emergency vehicles' need for access, the high number of pedestrians who access the beach, the actual number of cars that travel this roadway, and the limitations that exist in other proposed speed reduction measures. The solution that Traffic Engineering developed is called a road diet, meaning it is reducing the number of lanes on Eastbound Ocean Blvd. from 2 lanes to 1 lane. This will not only reduce the speed of traffic along this corridor, but also reduce the number of lanes a pedestrian must cross creating greater safety and visibility for pedestrians.
We have received some concerns from residents on this as to if this project will create traffic back-ups, and the study found that the volume of traffic that travels Ocean Blvd. daily is less than half as much as the road was designed to transport. Originally Ocean Blvd. was meant as a main thoroughfare for traffic traveling up and down the coast up until the bridge at the end of the Peninsula that led to Seal Beach was removed. This means the road is wider than is necessary for the realistic amount of traffic it receives. Wide roads and wide lanes make drivers feel like they are free to drive more quickly, and pay less attention to other cars, intersections, driveways, cyclists, and pedestrians which leads to decreased safety. With only one lane, cars cannot weave around other vehicles to speed through traffic, and narrower lanes mean cars drive more cautiously in order to remain in their lane.
In the long term, engineering projects like this are more cost-effective and safer than posting a police officer to enforce posted signs. This is important to note as currently the Police Department is operating at 200 officers below what it needs to, so prioritizing traffic patrols is difficult when there are higher priority crimes that require rapid police response. Also, these engineered lane reductions will be present 24 hours a day, unlike even the most dedicated police officer. Further, lane reductions affect all drivers, not just the ones that police officers stop and ticket. Additionally, the road diet provides over 150 new diagonal parking spaces along the south side of Ocean Blvd between 39th Pl. and 54th Pl., leading to additional relief for the parking impacted Belmont Shore. The additional road space that would be available also creates enough space for a buffer zone to be included between the diagonally parked cars and the bike lane in order to provide additional distance for parked cars to navigate in and out of a spot before entering a traffic lane or bike lane.
These diagonal parking spots are a benefit not only for those looking for spaces, but they improve safety by calming traffic on Ocean Blvd. The diagonal parking gives the road a narrower feel which leads to people driving slower. It also eliminates the problem of potentially opening your car door into a passing cyclist which is a frequent issue for parallel parking.
Also, we certainly acknowledge the number of special events that occur at the beach which often result in traffic congestion, however these events are special, and not the normal everyday traffic conditions. Although traffic may be affected during special events, the benefits to safety will be felt 24 hours a day 365 days a year. Some days of increased congestion are being considered in exchange for long-term constant increases to safety. Too often the city gets criticized for being reactive when they wait until there is a tragic car crash to address speeding concerns, so we are being proactive to resolve a known speeding problem before there is a serious collision.
That being said, in order to mitigate the impacts that the road diet may have during special events the Traffic Engineering Department has committed to working with event staff and reviewing the traffic plan that all events are required to submit for approval by the Police Department and Special Events Department prior to the event. This approval process has many factors that may be required including requiring special event promoters to increase communication with the public about when parking facilities are nearing capacity and to turn away excess vehicles, incentivizing attendees to take alternate modes of transportation to the events, temporarily removing some diagonal parking spaces to allow for more efficient traffic entrance or exit from beach lots, requiring staff to direct traffic, as well as requiring crossing guards to decrease pedestrians from causing significant traffic stoppages.
All of this project is being done with paint. There is no construction occurring, so in the event that this project results in a negative impacts it can be changed relatively easily or returned to its previous design. Traffic Engineering has committed to studying the effects of the road diet once installed and have agreed to install any changes that may become necessary.
On March 23, 2017, Councilwoman Price held a public meeting at Fire Station 14 attended by roughly 50 people at which city traffic engineers displayed, explained City Hall's reasoning and fielded questions on the upcoming implementation of new configuration for Ocean Blvd. From LBREPORT.com detailed coverage:
...The "road diet" -- intended to slow traffic for safety reasons -- will eliminate one lane of vehicle traffic in each direction and replace the erased vehicle lanes with bikeways along the entire length of the Peninsula to 72nd Place.
Power Point slides displayed at the meeting (held at Fire Station 14) indicated the result would look like this:
City staff slide displayed at Mar. 23 meeting
City staff slide displayed at Mar. 23 meeting
The changes will be implemented in the coming days by restriping/repainting the roadway, effectively extending the "road diet" (actual traffic management term) implemented in late 2016 and early 2017 along Ocean Blvd. from Livingston Dr. to 54th Place. Diagonal parking was added on the south side of Ocean Blvd. between Livingston-54th Place (producing about 150 new parking spaces) but parallel parking will remain on the Peninsula.
City traffic engineers recommended the changes to Ocean Blvd., citing a need to slow traffic for safety reasons, and the changes are supported by Councilwoman Price. Near the end of the meeting, a resident asked bluntly if the matter would be put to a public vote...and Councilwoman Price responded at some length. Speaking extemporaneously, Councilwoman Price acknowledged the issue won't have a public vote, and explained how and why she reached her conclusion to support the recommended road change, ending with this:
Councilwoman Price: My commitment to all of you, and this is only as good as my word, but my commitment to all of you is that this is a job that's going to take place with paint, OK, and if after six to eight months you feel that it's a disaster, you feel you absolutely don't like it, I will be listening to you...If we get an overwhelming request to repaint the road and make it the way it currently is, we will do that. We have set that money aside. The only thing I would ask is that you give it six to eight months...Please give it a chance; we don't make traffic decisions in this city by vote...[Says she spoke in detail to city traffic engineers who apply traffic science, she says they told her they feel strongly this will be good for the Peninsula]...If it's a disaster, I promise you...I will repaint the road [restore the previous condition], just give me six months. Give me six months and let's talk about it. Put a note in your calendar in six months saying 'Call Suzie' and tell me what you think about the road diet, six months after it's implemented, OK? And we will take it from there as a community but change is hard and I get it, and it just is, but let's just give it a try. OK? That's all I ask of you guys." [applause]
City traffic engineers said results on the Ocean Blvd. section between Livingston and 54t5h Place have reduced speeds (a show-of-hands by audience members agreed) while only increasing average travel time by about 15 seconds (an audience member disagreed, saying she's seen traffic backing up, see below), reduced free flow speed by about 10% and improved traffic "pace."
The biggest issue raised by residents at the meeting wasn't the road diet; it was bicycles, with multiple residents saying bicyclists (adults, not children) are riding recklessly, endangering themselves and pedestrians, risking collisions with vehicles and violating various traffic laws. (There appeared to be room consensus on this, with no audible disagreement by meeting attendees.)
A city staffer separately noted that the Ocean Blvd. road diet wasn't an excuse for extending bike lanes; it was implemented on its merits...and added that it's hoped bicycle riders will use the bike lane to avoid encounters with pedestrians.
Councilwoman Price said the City is implementing bicycle infrastructure citywide, calling it part of a "movement" nationally.
LBPD's East Division Commander said it has a bicycle educational campaign for young people and adults and always does "a campaign at the beginning of the summer on 2nd St. where we do more enforcement and education on bicycles," but noted that LBPD has limited resources and deploys them as needed, adding "there's a lot of other places in the city that are asking for the same resources that you're asking for."
Opinions on the vehicle lane-erasure were split, with some residents supportive (one explicitly commended Councilwoman Price for "a well thought out solution to improving safety for both pedestrians and vehicles and exiting side streets onto Ocean Blvd.") while others voiced skepticism and cited various reasons for their doubts and opposition. City staff responded to each issue..but some responses left some audience members unpersuaded (quietly shaking their heads "no.")
What about rapid fire and police access in emergencies? An LBFD rep said the Department had thoroughly examined the design and noted that the space itself has not been reduced and the single lane of traffic has the ability to move over towards the bicycle lane. With the buffer toward the middle "we didn't see any concerns and maybe we even see this as a better solution because you do have one lane of traffic as opposed to two trying to get over into the same space at times and we know the congestion that can cause...so we see no concerns regards to our response times getting to you." LBPDs East Division Commander said, "Ditto; our cars are smaller than theirs, and if theirs can fit, ours can fit."
What about resident-attested traffic backing up in some places for one-to-two blocks? A city traffic engineer said he doesn't think that happens on a regular basis, acknowledging it could happen during holidays and special events but not regularly; the resident disputed this; the staffer replied they'll take a look at this.
What about summertime, special events and the crowds they bring? A city traffic staffer acknowledged summertime and event issues but said Ocean Blvd. has to be designed for the entire year. Councilwoman Price expressed empathy for residents, acknowledged that July 3rd and 4th are "horrendous" and "my advice would be try not to drive on those days if you live on the Peninsula," noting that "it's a very popular place and it's public beach and we can't keep the public from going there; whether it's two lanes or one lane it's just a horrific time...I have friends who live on the Peninsula who are on the bikes those two days completely because it's such a pain to travel in the cars."
A city events staffer said her office has worked to move out many of the events that had overgrown the area and "90% of those have been moved to downtown." The events staffer said she expects this year's Tiki Festival to be the biggest area event this year and her office has worked with public works and fire to see if we need to eliminate parking that day to have two traffic lanes in order to get the traffic moving, adding her office will do everything in its power to be good to residents...
center>Past / Prologue
Without City Council opposition, city staff has proceeded to implement a number of traffic slowing/calming and "complete streets" (bike/pedestrian friendly) measures across the city. Some have prompted more opposition than others.
In addition to the Broadway corridor and Ocean Blvd. issues, a Marina Drive street reconfiguration (which added bike lanes/pedestrian walkways adjacent to the under-construction 2nd/PCH commercial development) triggered concerns on two fronts.
Marina Drive: On May 9, 2019, LB's Mayor-chosen/Council-approved Marine Advisory Commission sent a letter to the Mayor and City Council -- signed by all eight of its members (chosen by the Mayor/approved by the City Council -- regarding the Marina Drive "road diet." It recommended that its present four-traffic lane configuration be maintained or, at the very least, plans for diagonal parking be removed from alongside the now-completing 2nd/PCH project.
The Marine Advisory Commission's concern was boat owner access, but other LB taxpayers voiced concern over the consequences for bird wildlife. The Marina Drive road diet entailed moving/removing or replacing palm trees that were the nesting homes for the area's greatly admired Great Blue Herons. LB taxpayers including Ann Cantrell have brought that issue to the Coastal Commission and CA's Division of Fish/Wildlife.
Studebaker Rd: A Studebaker Rd. bike lane (installed between Wardlow Rd/Spring St.) riled residents by installing less-than-aesthetic green bollards for a bike lane although both sides of the street already have completely isolated parallel access road alongside the busy main roadway.
Bellflower Blvd. A "road diet" installed from CSULB northward has also riled Park Estates and Los Altos area residents who now report that traffic backs up at various times of day.
Citywide issues: The bollard obstructed bike lanes citywide have also required purchase least one narrow-lane street sweeper to sweep the street along the curbside bike lane. On September 24, 2017, LBREPORT.com first reported that the City had purchased a narrow street sweeper that can enter/ sweep the narrow curb-adjacent bike lanes. We learned at that time that it cost roughly $100,000 per machine and could handle bicycle lanes as ell as open areas with an expected life span of roughly seven years. LBREPORT.com also reported that LB's FY18 budget added a new salary ($83,198) for a "Motor Sweeper Operator to provide Bike Lane and Median Sweeping. The FTE [full time equivalent] is budgeted in the General Fund, but will be funded from the Gas Tax Street Improvement Fund."
LB city officials have portrayed the new narrow street sweeper as a benefit for Alamitos Beach area residents, who no longer have to move their cars before dawn in the parking scarce area to accommodate street sweeping. However multiple Broadway corridor drivers have said installing the bike lanes along the curb and pushing vehicle parking further into the roadway has blocked drivers' vision and caused accidents (instead of preventing them.)
At a July 22 media briefing (LBREPORT.com coverage here), an LBPD Commander said accidents reported to LBPD along the Broadway east-west corridor from mid-April through June 2019 show reported accidents down roughly 20% from the street's five year average. City staff acknowledges that smaller (but costly) accidents such as fender benders and the like aren't always reported to LBPD [and thus not included in its accident data.]
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