Soup, hot or cold, is the best medicine to calm anyone. A hot chicken soup or minestrone in the winter or a tangy, cold raspberry soup in the summer is just what the doctor ordered. Soup doesn’t have to be made or eaten quickly; you can just relax and savor it. While riding to the Virgil Village Traffic Calming Plan meeting, I had an epiphany: If only drivers would slow down, calm down, there would be fewer collisions between them and pedestrians or bicyclists. When I arrived at the meeting, the community members had already reached that conclusion: Cars move too fast along the Virgil corridor, and we’re not putting up with it anymore.
Nate Baird, Bicycle Coordinator for LADOT, opened the meeting with a presentation of the new traffic calming on Virgil between Santa Monica and Melrose. The current configuration has parking at the curb, two travel lanes in each direction for cars, and no bike lanes. The new configuration would have parking at the curb, one bike lane in each direction, protecting the parked cars and one travel lane in each direction for cars.
“After studying the traffic impact of this project,” said Baird, “We decided it only has safety benefits. We expect that auto collisions will go down 30-50%. Bicycle and pedestrian collisions with cars will go down 30-50% also.”
Baird explained how, along with the safety benefits, there are social benefits. Since bicycling is on the rise, investment in bike lanes creates a better bike network, which invites new people to ride. Some of those riders can replace a few of their car trips with a bicycle since many errands are within 3 miles of home.
“Survival rates are higher with reduced speeds plus the bike lane make it easier for pedestrians to cross the street, because the traffic is slower,” said Baird.
Then it was time to take questions from the community. I began calming myself from the usual screeds complaining about bike lanes: No one ever uses them; Bicyclists run stop signs. It’s the usual nonsense that always ends with the same conclusion–don’t take away our car lanes.
The first woman to stand asked about parking, “Will you remove parking on Virgil, because right now it’s hard to find a place to park?”
“No,” said Baird. “In fact there will be more parking because there will no longer be peak travel lanes when the bike lanes come.”
“Why doesn’t the bike lane go up to Fountain?” asks another man.
“There’s nothing stopping us from doing further analysis about extending the bike lanes,” said Baird. “But we want to wait and see how these lanes play out.”
A man who owns a barber shop on Virgil said, “I support the bike lanes, because no one cares about blowing through red lights. I have a business and most of my employees arrive by bike. I want the street safer for them. Can we get more enforcement?”
Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who arrived from a previous meeting, said, “We’ll request officers to write tickets as soon as we re-stripe the street.”
A woman who owns The Squirrel restaurant said, ”40% of my employees commute by bikes can we get speed bumps on Lockwood?”
O’Farrell replied, “We can look into it.”
Sensing there was no opposition from the community to add bike lanes, residents wanted more and better safety measures – measures that would keep a community safe and were geared towards pedestrians and cyclists, not cars and drivers.
“Can we get green bike lanes?” ask another community member.
“We’re still evaluating them,” said Baird.
“Will there be green bike boxes?” asks another.
“Haven’t planned to have them,” said Baird.
Then he explained the concept of bike boxes and how they work. Green bike boxes tell the cyclist where to wait while the light is red. The green box is in front of a line of cars. It is designed to prevent a car from making a right hook in front of the bicyclist, thus preventing a collision.
“But we can be more strategic on the crosswalks,” said Baird. “The city now paints continental style crosswalks. You can see them at Santa Monica and Virgil’s intersection.”
O’Farrell sensing there was no opposition asked the audience, “By a show of hands who lives ½ mile from here?”
The majority of hands were raised.
He then appealed to the audience by asking if there was anyone against this project. No hands rose. O’Farrell continued by saying that “If anyone feels intimidated or scared to speak against this project, you can come and talk with me alone after the meeting.”
I don’t know if he had any takers, but it seemed like the community was fed up and tired of drivers speeding and whose only thoughts seemed to be for arriving at their destination as fast as possible, to the exclusion of the safety of anyone in the community.
Realizing that he had no takers who opposed the project, O’Farrell concluded the meeting by saying, ”This is a very pedestrian oriented neighborhood. We want to do anything we can to make the pedestrian experience safer.”
Like the Virgil Village Community wanting to slow the traffic in the corridors surrounding them, there is also a movement in the food community for slowly cooked, real foods. It’s called the Slow Food Movement. One of the slowest and easiest dishes to fix is, you guessed it, soup. With fall’s arrival and fresh ingredients from your local farmers market you can fix any type of soup. However, it’s nothing you have to speed through.
Start by making a vegetable broth. Sauté chopped onions until lightly browned, then add minced garlic and any chopped vegetable you plan to put in your soup. Continue to sauté until they are slightly browned. Then add nine cups of water and any herbs and spices you plan to put in your soup, like oregano, bay leaves, thyme, and salt and pepper. That’s it. Lower the heat and let it simmer for 30-45 minutes. Unlike meat-based soups, once vegetables give up their flavor there’s nothing more that you can do.
Now use the broth in whatever soup you plan to make. I made a lentil, vegetable minestrone with spinach.
Taking life at a slower pace cannot only save your loved one’s or someone else’s life but also your health. Instead of rushing to get to the next processed food drive through–slow down. If that’s impossible for you to do in a car–start riding your bike.