Ventura’s Road Diet Deception

 

 

By Matt Decker

The Mayor of Ventura, Matt LaVere, in his May 6thWeekly Update’, informed us that the city has closed off a lane in each direction along Telephone (between Kimball and Victoria) to use as a bike path. This is a trial run to see how traffic is impacted by the removal of a road lane. In short: Ventura wants a ‘road diet’. For the uninitiated, a road diet is where the city removes a traffic lane, replacing it with a lane dedicated to buses or bicycles. Before any discussion is had concerning the road diet itself, the deceitfulness of this ‘temporary bike lane’ timing must be acknowledged. As everyone is ‘sheltering in place’ and ‘staying at home’ the city is monitoring vehicle speeds to determine how traffic flow is affected. LaVere claims no data is being collected, but if speeds or traffic information are recorded, then it is data. The massive reduction in traffic caused by coronavirus reverse-quarantining will no doubt shift the outcome in the city’s favor, showing little to no difference in vehicle speeds or congestion. This sneaky attempt at justifying a road diet is characteristic of the lack of transparency in Ventura’s city government.

Road diets are often promoted on the basis of increased public safety (one of LaVere’s justifications). The outcomes have discredited this claim. An extreme example occurred in Paradise, CA, the site of the deadly Camp Fire. Multiple roads were narrowed. One of these roads was the evacuation path for those fleeing the inferno. Sadly, the road had been halved from four lanes to two in a road diet. The removal of lanes on this thoroughfare increased congestion, which undoubtedly resulted in more deaths. The city officials in Paradise have blood on their hands for this grotesque act.

In Los Angeles, where road diets have become far too commonplace, the results have been unfavorable. Traffic fatalities in LA doubled between 2015 and 2017, and residents got to spend even more time in smoggy traffic jams. In the LA neighborhood of Mar Vista, the road diet was found to cause increased gridlock, a substantial decrease in business traffic, and more drivers attempting to circumnavigate slowdowns by cutting through neighborhoods. This last point is important. If road diets are about safety, then increasing traffic flow through residential neighborhoods full of kids is completely at odds with that goal.

In Ventura, drivers will likely avoid the Telephone traffic jam by using the residentially-lined Ramelli and Ralston to transit between Kimball and Victoria. The city should focus its efforts on minimizing traffic through this area to protect children, families, and anyone else who would like to safely use Barranca Vista Park. Bicyclist safety is important too. Thankfully, there is an alternative to riding the car-laden Telephone freeway, and that is where the real kicker to this story lies: There is already a dedicated bike path, sans cars, connecting Kimball and Victoria just North of Telephone!

Under the umbrella of public safety, ‘unsafe speed’ is frequently cited as a leading cause of car and bicycle accidents. Road diets are successful in reducing speeding because nobody can speed in gridlock. A motorist advocacy group,  Keep The US Moving, investigated accidents, “that resulted in the death of a pedestrian or cyclist in the city of Los Angeles in 2017” They found that unsafe speed was only “a factor in just 4% of these accidents.” However, “Pedestrian Violations: are by far leading the factor in these fatal accidents, accounting for 56% of the total.” With pedestrians causing the majority of accidents, road safety could be improved by keeping pedestrians off the roadways.

The city of Ventura has already made a fumbled attempt at limiting incidents of ‘unsafe speed’. In November of 2019, a woman pedestrian was accidentally struck and killed crossing on Telephone west of Ramelli. The driver turned across the crosswalk, blinded by the setting sun, hitting the pedestrian. This unfortunate accident had nothing to do with unsafe speed or reckless driving. The city’s response; however, was to lower the speed limit on Telephone from 50 to 45 mph. As anyone could guess, this would not have prevented the discussed accident, and will not limit accidents in the future. Removing lanes on Telephone will be yet another mistake in Ventura’s traffic management.

What those who wish to enact road diets seem to have forgotten, is that California is the epitome of car culture; Californians drive to work. Bicycling might be a nice way to get to the office, if your office is down the street, but when it is on the other side of the county, driving is the only way to get there. Ventura’s bike path is a safe way for cyclists to transverse between Kimball and Victoria, without impeding commuters. Mayor LaVere seems more worried about keeping his Bronze award from the League of American Bicyclists than he does about keeping its city streets safe and moving. Thankfully, wherever road diets have been enacted, logical individuals have fought their implementation and existence. In LA, some road diets have been removed when the culprit Councilmen were faced with serious threats of recall. If the Ventura City Council wants to increase roadway fatalities, increase commute times, and increase the chances of recall, then the road diet is the path forward. If you would like to stop the road diet in Ventura, let Mayor LaVere know about these unintended consequences, here.

Screenshot Google, Telephone/Victoria/Kimball

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal

Matt Decker is a Ventura resident


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Vic Shay

Telephone Rd. not Telegraph on the Diet Survey. But you knew that!

Vic Shay

Why not use the thousands of dollars the City is paying to rent the delineates, cones and electric signs on Telegraph Rd. for the last 3-4 months for the diet survey and use it to FIX the Roads? HELLO!

Pete Dinkler

I have no idea what Ventura City was thinking , but now by shutting down the lanes on telephone road, and putting up the NO U-TURN signs that FORCEs traffic onto Bristol rd. They also make a MAJOR congestion problem at the intersection of Kimball Rd where cars want to turn left onto Kimball. They cut out the lane to get buy those cars. This is stupid at best. There is no place to get into the strawberry stand, or Orchard Church. When this virus issue is over there will be PROBLEMS !

Mike Dodge

Recall This SO CALLED MAYOR, who is ruining our city. Allowing apartment buildings to be built all over the place increasing traffic and doing absolutely zero to fix the infrastructure look at our streets. our streets are horrible and we have the highest taxes in California. Why because the politicians are putting it all in their pockets.

Matt T

Beware this has ruined many of businesses in LA County. Actually causing more traffic congestion where they are implemented. This is nothing short of grand PC B.S. trying to look eco friendly, with every intention of grabbing that crowds vote. They ruin communities and complicate emergency responders from being able to rescue people in need. If Ventura people don’t stop him now you’ll be in a position where the “road diets” can’t be reversed. They suck and so do the people who advocate them…

Lester Tunigold

I agree with Mike Dodge, fixing the roads should be an absolute priority. Victoria going North from telephone to the light at 126 is atrocious. There are other places I’m sure that need repair as well. Doing a half- assed study on traffic when folks are stuck at home goes to show city council needs to wake up. Fix the roads, make it easier on our vehicles so we’re not having higher repair bills.

Maira cazares

I live on Mockingbird and Robin, just to get out of my Neighborhood on to Telephone Rd it’s very hard. All the cars that go to the Government center cut through Ralston on to Robin on top of that there’s the private school college Height in the corner. So now with that lane closed it’s going to be even harder to get out, not even taking into consideration the crosswalk for children that go to Portola. Pls consider not removing that lane instead stop all the traffic that passes by my neighborhood.

Mike Dodge

I’m sorry I didn’t know how to edit my last post. You know since the roads are very light right now right now would be an excellent time to fix Ventura’s roads while there’s no traffic. You could literally close lanes down and repair roads and you wouldn’t have huge congestions. That’s what you should do. That’s what I would do. Because our roads are horrible.

Michael Naoum

Does Maricopa Highway need 4 lanes in this section? The City wouldn’t be doing this project if traffic studies didn’t indicate the lanes could be removed. Installing bike lanes and bulb outs will make this section of highway safer and enhance the rural nature of the area. Some people think there are never enough lanes for cars. The fact that there is a high school and hospital along the road are further reasons to install bike lanes as more people can then safely commute by bike.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t sound like an option Mr Weinstien want to pursue.

Mike Dodge

If we have extra time and money on our hands instead of doing traffic diets the city had better fix the roads. Do not spend any money on anything else but fixing the roads. Did I mention fix the roads. hey you know what would be a really really really good idea for the city fix the roads.

Jeffrey Weinstein

At 11pm Tuesday 12/11, the City Council voted to move forward eliminating a vehicular lane in each direction on Maricopa Hwy to be replaced with a bicycle lane separated by a parallel lane of trees and parking, plus 13 curb extensions between the ‘Y’ and El Roblar Drive (referred to as the Active Transportation Program or ATP). Despite the recent firestorm in Paradise CA, where traffic jammed the main evacuation route out of the City, residents sat in traffic while flames besieged their cars, and the worsening gridlock caused fire fighters to rescue stranded motorists rather than saving the City, our City Council chose to reduce the roadway’s capacity for evacuation purposes with a Class IV bike lane with trees and parallel parking. The explanation for this dangerous decision is found on pages 3-4 of the 100+ page “Administrative Report”, which states that any significant change or reduction in scope to the concept plan (developed years ago in private meeting held at 2:30pm on Wednesday afternoons) will jeopardize all $2.8 million of State funding for pedestrian and bicycle safety.

Most residents I have spoken with have no knowledge of the City Council’s utter capitulation to bicycle (special) interests and some local retirees. Working residents, and those with commutes or children to dropped off at school be damned. Maricopa Hwy serves the greater Ojai Valley Community with a regional shopping center, Ojai Hospital and medical offices, Nordhoff High School and 3 community churches, yet the 4-lane road that serves as gateway to the Los Padres National Forest must go on a “road diet”, says our City Council. At the same time, the Ojai Valley Municipal Advisory Council (MAC) has put forth its own plan for vehicle and bicycle lanes along El Roblar Drive in Meiners Oaks, yet to date there has been no coordination between City or County.

I remain unwilling to stand by and allow the safety of those who live in the Ojai Valley be jeopardized by an ideology that reduces the capacity of much needed infrastructure. The decision to put our lives at risk during an emergency, to make our daily lives more stressful by sitting in traffic, and spoil the view corridor into Los Padres National Forest is unjustified and undemocratic. Consequently, I will pursue all (legal) means necessary to stop this affront to our quality of life and values either by litigation or a voter referendum to overturn the City Council’s decision. Please look for our table and pamphlets soon at your nearby Von’s.

Jeffrey Weinstein

If you missed it, I want to tell you about the Virtual Public Workshop conducted via Zoom about (and in support of) Maricopa Hwy lane reduction and the “Demonstration Project” arranged by the City Council. This “workshop”, in reality a public relations “dog and pony show” was an attempt to create an appearance of public support for replacing vehicle lanes with trees, parking and dual bike lanes in each direction on Maricopa Hwy. This marketing, advertising and media presentation is necessary because the City Council has already decided on Class IV bike lanes, the most ambitious and opportunistic scheme despite its negative impacts to the local natural environment and vehicle users, with absolutely no compromise.

The presentation was conducted via internet by StreetPlans.org, a NYC and Miami-based “tactical urbanism” consulting firm whose website urges cities to use COVID-19 as an opportunity to transform urban environments, as exemplified by last week’s virtual presentation. Our City Council retained JP Marketing, a marketing agency based in Fresno to sell the lane reduction project. Also hired by the City Council (we are paying for all of these consultants), is Toole Design, an urban design firm with offices throughout the US, whose website extols the fact that “90 percent of staff bike, walk and take transit to get to work”. Ojai is a rural agriculture and arts community, a bedroom community for many, where driving is a necessity not a choice, and mobility is crucial to our economy (several City Council members are retired).

Numina Technology was also hired by our City to “deploy a network of sensors” along Maricopa Hwy (“intelligence without surveillance”) to track our driving habits. The City Council is more interested in traffic counts than preserving our natural rural environment. They have invited a full contingent of marketing, public relations, urban design, technology and digital platforms that intend to “transform” Ojai into something more to their liking, using a blueprint developed for urban environments. Finally, the City Council has retained Prism, an event planning firm to help make the demonstration project a “special” event. I don’t know about you, but it sure seems the City Council is out of control, they intend to change Ojai to suit their desires not ours, and I believe their are others who feel just like me.