Sixth Street Shuffle

WHOSE ROADS ARE THEY ANYWAY?--Sixth Street in Mid-City Los Angeles is, plain and simple, a dangerous street. From Fairfax to Rossmore, it’s four lanes with no center turn lane and few left turn pockets. Motorists use it as an alternative to Wilshire and, as most of them are typical scofflaws, they speed, swerve, and blow lights with abandon. Several pedestrians have died on that stretch, many have been injured and light poles have been regularly knocked down by out-of-control cars. It is common to pass by debris fields indicating a recent wreck -- all along this stretch. 

I know this. I live on a block abutting Sixth Street and, most days, I travel it several times a day, usually on foot or by bike, sometimes in a car. I have seen bodies lying in the street. I have seen drivers speeding at over 70 mph on this neighborhood collector. 

The city’s approach to Sixth Street has been unequivocally hypocritical: a road diet has been planned for it -- but only from Fairfax to La Brea. One LADOT engineer I spoke to about this several years ago stated that, east of La Brea, Sixth was “too narrow” for a road diet..

But yesterday, during a personal survey of the road, I noted that the entire stretch from La Brea to Rossmore forbids parking entirely, thus making that segment of the street effectively wider. 

In other words, it would be very easy to install a 4-to-3 road diet with bike lanes on the entire distance from Fairfax to Rossmore, and thereby win the road design trifecta by: 

1) Slowing speed-demon drivers with a narrowed lane space

2) Moving the numerous left-turning drivers out of the way of through-travelers 24/7

3) Providing an alternative to driving by making bicycle travel more comfortable through the district 

Road diets, as has so often been shown, will often increase the average speed of motor traffic on a street, even if incrementally; and it will vastly increase its throughput of foot and bike traffic. This is no longer a matter of hope or conjecture; it has been measured repeatedly. Average speed is what counts. Peak speeds between traffic clots mean nothing – that is, except danger and delay. 

So what is happening with Sixth these days? Ha! The road diet has been put on hold because of fears that subway construction on Wilshire will send “too much traffic” over to Sixth. Yes, rookie Councilmember David Ryu has wrapped himself in the mantle of term-out Tom LaBonge by declaring that cars shall be your only god in the Miracle Mile. So he continues to hold back a simple painting project that could add capacity to this deadly street while preventing the carnage that has become typical in my neighborhood.

It’s a damn shame, especially in a city that loudly proclaims its adherence to the principles of Vision Zero. 

Perhaps Ryu and the rest of the council’s Neanderthals think that that means zero cyclists on the road with no one ever crossing the street on foot. You could be excused for thinking so. This “malign neglect” of Sixth Street is but one more example of LA’s backwards thinking.

 

(Richard Risemberg is a writer. His current professional activities are centered on sustainable development and lifestyle. This column was posted first at Flying Pigeon.)  Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.