Los Angeles’ ban on cars along part of Griffith Park Drive will become permanent
After a hit-and-run driver killed a bicyclist, the city of Los Angeles temporarily closed a section of Griffith Park Drive to vehicles. Now, citing ongoing road safety concerns, officials have made the ban on cars permanent.
The Board of Recreation and Park Commissioners approved the measure in a unanimous vote Thursday, about four months after Andrew Jelmert, 77, was struck from behind by a car during a training ride through Griffith Park.
Roughly two-thirds of a mile of Griffith Park Drive, from the Travel Town railway museum to the Griffith Park Composting Facility, had been closed to personal vehicles last month in a pilot program. The move to improve safety for cyclists, runners, hikers and equestrians caught momentum after Jelmert’s death.
In a statement Thursday, L.A. City Councilmember Nithya Raman, whose district includes the park, praised the decision to make the closure permanent.
“I am so excited to bring the road revolution home to Council District 4,” Raman said. “Our office, in partnership with the Department of Recreation and Parks, worked with lightning speed to make this closure along Griffith Park Drive a reality, and we have been overwhelmed with the outpouring of support from the community.”
Los Angeles’ Griffith Park closed one of its main roads to traffic, the latest city to open a car-free zone for cyclists and pedestrians.
Raman said the permanent road closure was the start of “a series of transit improvements” her office is facilitating throughout the park. Her office previously commissioned a study of the park’s transportation infrastructure.
The road closure is among a series of recommendations from the study.
In addition to eliminating cut-through traffic, the study addresses recommendations to lower driving speeds and to improve bike and pedestrian infrastructure with upgrades such as protected bike lanes and raised crosswalks. Many of Griffith Park’s roads lack bike lanes, and some of those that exist are obstructed by parked cars or have faded over time, consultants noted in a presentation of the study’s early findings.
Eli Akira Kaufman, executive director of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, also praised Thursday’s vote.
“At a minimum, our parks must prioritize the well-being of people who visit for a peaceful walk or bicycle ride without fearing for their lives,” Kaufman said. “The decision to reduce the number of vehicles speeding through the park is a good step toward preventing the next needless traffic violence tragedy.”
Activists want to push the city to carve out more street space for cyclists and pedestrians. But many drivers fear more congestion with loss of lanes.
The closure “follows in the footsteps” of decisions to close Mt. Hollywood Drive and Vista Del Valle in 1992, said Gerry Hans, president of Friends of Griffith Park.
“Soon after, these roads were transformed and became safe meccas,” Hans said.
Griffith Park, among the largest urban parks in the U.S., sees roughly 8,500 cars travel on its roads each day, according to the city’s Department of Recreation and Parks.
Many drivers use the park’s main roads — Griffith Park Drive and Crystal Springs Drive — as shortcuts to avoid traffic on the 5 and 134 freeways.
Raman, the office of Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) and the Department of Recreation and Parks will host a community event from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday to celebrate the permanent closure on Griffith Park Drive.
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