Opinion: Griffith Park is a bit safer for cyclists and pedestrians. That’s worth celebrating

A cyclist passes a "road closed ahead" sign.
A cyclists passes a city worker enforcing a vehicle closure on Griffith Park Drive in Los Angeles on June 29.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, July 9, 2022. Let’s look back at the week in Opinion.

I hope you’re wearing sunscreen, because there are a few rays of sunshine poking through all the doom and gloom of late. (And dark it most certainly still is — we’ll get to that later.) After weeks of bad and worse news from the U.S. Supreme Court, and indications that more trouble is on the way, there is an uplifting development right here at home, a tale of a public servants responsive to the people’s needs: The city of Los Angeles is making Griffith Park safer for cyclists, runners, walkers and anyone else not encased in thousands of pounds of moving metal and glass by closing a road segment to cars.

Vehicle road closures in a local park might strike some as the kind of hyper-local “area man bites dog” story that shouldn’t lead off one of the gloomiest weekly reads around (sorry, but the real-time decline of democracy will do that to an opinion journalism newsletter). But as a cyclist, hiker and lapsed runner whose preferred method of exploration is bipedalism, I cannot be happier about a local news item than this. For all of its adulation as one of this country’s largest urban parks, Griffith Park remains largely inaccessible to anyone who’d rather not golf, drive or bike on dangerous roads or hike over mountains. Its primary entry points include traffic-choked roads and, yes, an interstate freeway offramp.

Make no mistake: Griffith Park is still that. Of course, this being L.A., the closure of a segment of Griffith Park Drive to cars isn’t some forward-looking transportation overhaul, and it may not even be permanent. Rather, it’s a temporary change that comes on the heels of something that should never have happened: the death of a well-known cyclist on Crystal Springs Drive, which remains open to cars and dominated by speeding commuter traffic. And we’ve seen what happens when windshield-biased residents complain about a much more meaningful, permanent slowing of traffic, such as when the city reversed course on the Vista del Mar “road diet” near LAX.


But this change, notes The Times editorial board, is indicative of more cyclist- and pedestrian-friendly experiments to come and will, one hopes, lead to more permanent, meaningful adjustments in a park and a city that prioritize automotive throughput at the expense of human safety:

“Besides the closure of Griffith Park Drive, officials are considering additional changes over the coming months, including restricting the hours that drivers can access park roads from the I-5 or 134 Freeway — to reduce cut-through traffic — and narrowing road lanes and installing raised crosswalks to slow speeding cars. Eventually, park managers may look to close freeway ramp access into the park altogether, turn the upper road of Crystal Springs Drive into a permanently car-free route and improve transit access so it’s easier for people to get to the park without a car.”

Cyclists need this. Runners and walkers need this. Los Angeles needs this. And frankly, I need this.

The Supreme Court is poised to cut the heart out of majority rule. I told you things were still bad. Harvard law professor Laurence H. Tribe and former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut explain why the Supreme Court legitimizing the nutty “independent state legislature theory” could spell the end of representative democracy in America: “Going into this November’s elections, 30 state legislatures are firmly in Republican hands, including in most of the battleground states that determine presidential election outcomes. Adopting the independent state legislature theory would amount to right-wing justices making up law to create an outcome of one-party rule. Take Arizona. In 2015, a 5-4 Supreme Court decision upheld the state’s nonpartisan redistricting system, which voters adopted by initiative, empowering an independent body to draw electoral districts. Now, under the independent legislature theory, the court could strike down Arizona’s nonpartisan scheme because the state’s Constitution allowed voters to make election law.” L.A. Times

Clarence Thomas earns our scorn. Opinion contributing writer Erin Aubry Kaplan explains the distrust of the Supreme Court’s second Black justice in the African American community: “It’s one thing to be a Black conservative who touts self-reliance and thinks evidence for systematic racism is overblown — that’s embracing a certain ahistoricism embedded in the broader American culture. Deplorable, but understandable. But to be a Black ‘originalist’ Supreme Court judge who believes he must adhere to a document that was designed to exclude and dehumanize people like him is just surreal. That’s not about conservatism, it’s about defying reality because you can. It’s about indulging in the worst kind of American arrogance, the kind Black people are almost never in the position to exercise, not that we want to. Thomas is making the most of the opportunity.” L.A. Times

It’s emotionally draining to live in America right now. Columnist Robin Abcarian aptly sums up the agony of any responsible citizen who’s been paying attention the last few weeks: “I was tired. Physically and emotionally exhausted. COVID-19 had recently knocked me down. The current state of this country is keeping me there. The Supreme Court has yanked away the right to bodily autonomy that Americans have enjoyed for nearly half a century, making it possible for states to force 10-year-old girls who have been raped to carry pregnancies to term. The court has made it plain that it is hostile to any limits on gun ownership. It has knocked the wind out of the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate polluters. And if past is prologue, it will almost certainly further defang the Voting Rights Act, outlaw using race as a factor in college admissions and blinker the Clean Water Act.” L.A. Times

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She’s officially reclaiming the U.S. flag from the fascists. As a child, columnist Jean Guerrero proudly wore the red, white and blue and embraced what she and her family understood our flag embodied. Then 9/11 happened, and patriotism was weaponized against anyone who was (or was thought to be) Muslim. Then Donald Trump happened, and the flag became wrapped up in his personality cult and brand of anti-immigrant fascism. Now, Guerrero says, it’s time to take the flag back: “The U.S. flag should not belong to the fascists, who fail to grasp our strength. The flag should belong to the people carrying the boulder of this country on their backs. They’ve been giving and giving and giving. They have every right to take back the flag.” L.A. Times

Free Brittney Griner. It’s clear that the WNBA star is a political prisoner in Russia, but her unjust detention is about more than just a strongman looking for a high-profile American to punish during wartime, writes the editorial board: “There is such an astounding gender pay gap among professional basketball players that the lowest-paid male players (who make about $1 million a year) earn roughly four times as much as the highest-paid women players (who make about $230,000 annually). Top NBA stars fetch more than $40 million, but even middling players make millions. While the median NBA salary is about $6 million, the median WNBA salary is about $73,000. The lower pay has led many WNBA athletes to play two seasons — one at home and another abroad, where they can make more than at home. Russian teams reportedly pay WNBA players more than $1 million a year. Which brings us to WNBA star Brittney Griner, who arrived in Moscow on Feb. 17, just a week before Russia invaded Ukraine, to play with a Russian team.” L.A. Times

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