Traffic Calming Gets Coopted

Call it the Law of NIMBY Assimilation: any urban planning or street design concept will eventually be adopted into the NIMBY Cannon as a justification for opposing development.

The LA Times has an article up today about the turning restrictions at National and Motor in my neighborhood, Palms. The restrictions always seemed strange to me, but now they make perfect sense: wealthy people in Cheviot Hills demanded these traffic calming measures. . .

Wait, what? Traffic calming? Turning restrictions like these can be used as traffic calming measures in places where drivers are trying to get around congested arterials by cutting through small neighborhood streets. Whip out your favorite mapping app and take a look – that doesn’t describe Motor, which was pretty clearly always intended to be an arterial from Culver City to Century City (or Sony to Fox, if you prefer). The developers who laid out Cheviot Hills weren’t idiots – they designed the side streets with an irregular curvilinear grid so that they wouldn’t be logical routes for through traffic. What we have here is not “people are turning onto our side street and doing 45 mph”, but something entirely different: “the city has grown and we don’t care for the results”.

Livable streets advocates might be inclined to support resident efforts to reduce traffic, but this is like the Bus Riders Union backing Beverly Hills lawsuits against the Purple Line: in general, it’s not a good idea to give your support to people who fundamentally disagree with your principles, even if they’ve somehow reached the same conclusion as you.

The mindset that lets people in Cheviot Hills think they shouldn’t have to deal with traffic on Motor is the same mindset that lets them think that Expo Phase 2 should be stopped because of obviously specious safety concerns, hyperventilating about the bike path, and a technicality on traffic analysis. It’s the mindset that says Cheviot Hills and Rancho Park should forever remain SFRs despite enormous investment in infrastructure (the 10, the 405, Expo Line, Purple Line) and enormous growth in employment in the surrounding areas. It’s the mindset that says bike lanes must never reduce the availability of street parking. In short, it’s the same mindset that says that existing neighborhoods must be insulated from any change in the city at large. And it needs to stop.

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