I first wrote about the road diet on Rowena here. I likened the diet on Rowena to an actual diet in which most Americans seem to fail. As anyone who has been on a diet and reached a goal, they quickly discover losing weight is not the hardest part, but maintaining the new weight defeats even the hardiest dieters. Which brings me to Rowena. She lost weight by losing a car lane in both directions from Hyperion Highway to Lakewood. Councilmember Tom LaBonge stated that he planned to revisit the diet in 90 days. Thursday was a neighborhood community meeting to discuss Rowena’s road diet.
LaBonge came in with several deputies and someone from LADOT. He said, “We’ve received many letters supporting the diet and asking for more bike lanes. However, we cannot do a road diet on Glendale Boulevard and Hyperion because they’re bus routes.” With that off the table, LaBonge began talking about the sling shot on Hyperion Highway and Rowena next to the dry cleaners.
Many in the room complained how cars take the right at that corner doing 30 mph and above. “No one yields at the sign. Can we get a stop sign there?”
“We did have a stop sign, but it was universally ignored.” said LaBonge.
After listening to a litany of complaints about the sling shot, it was time for Rowena to get on the scale.
One homeowner near Rowena said he was once a proponent of the diet, because he thought there would be a pedestrian island on Rowena. “There are many close calls with children using the crosswalk at Herkimer,” he said.
“There’s a fire station there so we cannot put a median on Rowena,” LaBonge responded.
Deborah Murphy, Pedestrian Advisory Committee Chair, asked for more enforcement on Rowena. LaBonge said that he would look into more of a police presence on Rowena.
Then LaBonge asked for a show of hands who supported Rowena’s diet and who was against it. Half the room raised their hands against and half raised their hands in support of the diet.
LaBonge said, “I believe that the road should stay as it is for now. Now that we started
the dialog, we’ll have another meeting to revisit Rowena’s diet.”
Most everyone complained about scofflaw drivers and drivers who used Armstrong, Angus and Waverly as cut-throughs just as Rowena had been. People suggested speed humps and signage to alleviate cut-through traffic on Waverly, Angus and Armstrong. However, living across from Effie near the Junction as I do, I know none of those treatments work.
Through all of this, there was only one complaint about bicyclists. David Wheatley said that no one used the bike lanes; the bicycle lobby is too demanding. He had seen cyclists run stop signs, ride 18 mph on sidewalks and that he was almost hit by a cyclist. He brought the same rant to a Silverlake Neighborhood Council Transportation meeting last month as well. Wheatley seems like someone who wants to return to the old habits. Maintaining a diet is too hard for him as there are too many unanticipated changes.
I couldn’t believe that someone would want the old car lanes back. The original goal was to slow traffic – the bike lanes are working. I was livid. Wheatley’s tirade prompted both Gary, a bus commuter sitting next to me, and me to raise our hands simultaneously. Gary stood and spoke eloquently about how the diet had affected him, while acknowledging homeowners’ complaints.
I stood and I began with, “I am a highly risk-adverse female. I ride a 1986 Bridgestone and I am lucky…,” I turned and stared at Wheatley, “I am lucky if I can get to 10 mph…” I said a lot of things addressing his and other complaints about the diet, but I can’t remember much of what I said. With my voice cracking I remember saying, “Safety is paramount. It trumps being delayed in traffic every time.”
After I took my seat, I worried if I had been over emotional or too passionate. I listened as more people who lived on Armstrong, Angus and Waverly wanted the car travel lanes back. Believing like most Americans after reaching a weight loss goal, that you can go back to the same poor choices and behaviors that caused you to gain weight in the first place. This is how diets fail.
As I took my seat and listened to the complaints, I realized that these people are dieters themselves. They wanted a change – slower traffic on Rowena. They have seen a change for the better, but maintaining that change seems too hard. They went into this project thinking the diet was temporary – lose a few pounds (aka slow the traffic on Rowena), but they didn’t realize what a permanent change in lifestyle this was going to be. Now, they want to return to the old ways. It’s not healthy, but the alternative seems to be too much for them.
To be fair, the homeowners and business owners have legitimate complaints – cars using the residential streets as cut-throughs are dangerous. However, the local residents need to make changes too. The people who live around Rowena don’t want others using their streets as a secondary thoroughfare, but they, themselves, want complete, unfettered access. No one suggested using street furniture as a bulwark against cars moving through side streets, because that means a change for the local residents.
The old adage about change beginning at home applies here. For diets to work, everyone needs to be involved and be willing to make permanent changes. It hurts, and of course it’s inconvenient because of the way you’ve been living all of these many years. The process begins by making better choices. Make the choice for safety in a neighborhood above the convenience of driving a car down every street. Make the choice for safety on Rowena by keeping the bike lanes in order to reduce the speed of traffic. The choice starts with you pushing yourself away from the table.