Who’s to blame for Santa Monica’s traffic hell? Readers weigh in.


Santa Monica’s cyclist-friendly “urban village” planning, according to 29-year resident Bruce R. Feldman, has made the city a commuting hell for those who drive or don’t live near the urban core. And by the way: Cyclists are rude, routinely break traffic laws and have a general sense of entitlement.

Understandably, Feldman’s article Sunday touched a nerve. For frustrated car commuters around the region and others dismayed by high-density development, his piece confirmed their belief that it’s insanity to remove vehicle lanes while cramming more residents into smaller spaces. Some cyclists made the case that cars are still the biggest drivers of congestion and that cyclists deserve to be accommodated in transportation planning just as motorists do. Last time I read them, the comments online have come down pretty decisively on Feldman’s side; the letters have been more balanced, though they tilt in Feldman’s favor.

As a sometimes-cyclist (though not in Santa Monica), it goes without saying that I reacted pretty negatively to Feldman’s observation-based swipes at cyclists — which, as I’ve written before, are often used by motorists who try to come up with excuses for why someone riding a bike might have invited serious injury.


But I also think there is a truth underlying Feldman’s frustration over gridlock that sometimes goes unacknowledged when progressive planners and activists make their case for things such as “traffic calming” and road diets: Removing highly used car lanes has real impacts on the lives of decent, well-meaning people who happen to rely on their cars.

Yes, more people riding bikes means less pollution and better traffic on the whole, and cyclists deserve to be far better accommodated than they have been. But that doesn’t mean the objection of a motorist whose commute has become noticeably slower — which affects all kinds of everyday chores, like making it to work on time or picking up a kid from daycare before an expensive late charges kicks in — deserves to be dismissed.

Enough with me. Here’s what readers have to say (and some of these reactions may appear in the paper later this week).

San Gabriel resident Patricia Doyle says Pasadena, like Santa Monica, has turned into a traffic hell:

“Feldman was spot on in his assessment of the potential unintended consequences, including overcrowded road conditions, if Pasadena narrows Colorado Boulevard, the main drag through Old Town Pasadena. My family and I have lived in the San Gabriel Valley for 17-plus years and we frequently shopped, dined and attended movies, plays or concerts in Old Town.

“We watched in dismay and bewilderment as Pasadena approved several building projects that have resulted in a dramatic density increase near Old Town. We have spent less and less time there due to the increased crowds, lack of parking and traffic congestion. Traffic on Colorado is often at a complete standstill. I can only imagine that such a scenario would increase in frequency with fewer lanes for cars. It does not take too much imagination to envision that the traffic will back up even farther along Colorado.


“We have taken our business elsewhere and found alternative places to spend our discretionary income.”

Santa Monica resident Kristina Schauer says it’s not so bad in her city:

“With all due respect to Feldman, as a busy Santa Monica mom who has driven, biked and walked the city every single day for the past seven years, I don’t agree with his dismal assessment of our living conditions here.

“Yes, traffic and housing prices are terrible. But I’m excited for the Expo Line extension to downtown Los Angeles; finally I can make an evening show at the Walt Disney Concert Hall during the week. I go to the Promenade regularly. Even during rush hour, it generally takes me no longer than 20 minutes to get from one side of town to the other on surface streets.

“As for cyclist behavior, I have flatly no idea what Feldman is talking about, and I love the new bike lanes. It’s not as difficult as Feldman suggests to go about your daily business here.

“What I do recognize in his tone is a common reaction among people who have lived here more than 15 years: a profound sense of anger and disappointment at how Santa Monica has changed, how busy and wealthy it is, how they don’t feel they fit in anymore. Elected officials should listen well to the alienation and frustration their well-intended policies are producing. I’m all for reining in developers and making traffic reduction a planning priority.


“But I’m not living in a ‘nightmare’ — I’m living in a well-functioning, gorgeous seaside city that is trying to grow into the future the best it can.”

Keith Johnson of Los Angeles says cyclists don’t deserve most of the blame for congestion:

“Feldman’s a keen observer, that’s for sure — the bicycling community is growing big time. There are a lot more cyclists these days than in years past, and events such as CicLAvia are hugely popular.

“But I don’t believe we pedal-pushers in general ruin anyone’s commute. Instead, look to the cars ahead of you (and behind you), and there’s your problem.”

Santa Monica resident Bob Burket warns the denizens of Pasadena’s and downtown L.A.:

“Feldman’s article nearly brought tears of relief to the eyes of this 40-year resident of Santa Monica. I have the happy fortune of living exactly at the boundary of the city and can slip out of the urban planners’ deadly embrace in a heartbeat.


“I would caution the folks who today actually live in Pasadena and downtown L.A. that the forces creating these ‘urban villages’ are mostly the wealthy citizens who will be right at home in these compact, ultra-high-rent districts, and if they want to preserve any livability in their hometowns, they had better prepare for a formidable battle.

“The costs of losing have been vividly and accurately described by Feldman.”

Marty Wilson of Whittier agrees with Feldman’s characterization of cyclists:

“Thanks to Feldman for his words on bike riders and the increasing accommodation of them.

“I believe it is unlikely that cyclists will ever make much of an impact on easing traffic. Indeed the efforts to create more bike lanes will only cause more problems. It’s going to be the racing and training bikers on the street that cars have to deal with. I’m not the only one who has had experiences with arrogant bikers who seem to think everyone else on the road (or the bike path) is in their way.

“I’ll share the road with them, but is it too much to ask that they look out for me in my car rather than assume they are guaranteed safety and that it’s up to me to provide it?”


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