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New no-car section of road inside Griffith Park aims to block cut-through traffic

To prevent cars from using it as a commuter cut-through, a three-quarter mile section of a main road through iconic Griffith Park in Los Angeles recently was closed to private vehicle traffic.

Pedestrian and bicycle safety groups, who’ve advocated for the change for nearly a decade, celebrated Saturday, July 2, the closure of an L-shaped section of Griffith Park Drive roughly between Travel Town, near Zoo Drive, through the eastern rolling hills to the park’s composting facility.

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By prohibiting cars along this section of a main park road, it allows pedestrians, hikers, bicyclists and equestrians to travel on the road in safety, while enjoying the park’s natural surroundings instead of looking over their shoulders for speeding traffic, advocates said.

“This is not a closure. It is an opening to everyone outside of a car,” said Michael Schneider, founder and executive director of Streets For All, speaking at the gathering at the closed section that attracted about 100 people, mostly cyclists.

Though still a pilot program, Damian Kevitt, founder and executive director of Streets Are For Everyone (SAFE), said the closed portion will be transformed into a path for active users, connecting up with Mount Hollywood Drive, which is already car-free.

During peak commute times, motorists would exit from Forest Lawn Drive off the 134 Freeway onto Griffith Park Drive and cut through the park, avoiding the congested 5 Freeway, he said.

“It is a park. This is not a community corridor. It was never meant to have corridors for cars that are dangerous for bicyclists, pedestrians and families,” Kevitt said on Friday in an interview. Griffith Park is the largest park in the United States that still allows cars to drive through it, he added.

On April 16, cyclist Andrew Jelmert, 77, was hit and killed by a drunk driver going 80 mph through Crystal Springs Drive, another park road used as a cut-through for motorists often directed by GPS apps. The tragedy launched a petition drive and resulted in the closure on June 27 by the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, led by City Council member Nithya Raman.

The no-car ban is officially a pilot program. Advocates are hoping it becomes permanent, said Kevitt and Schneider. They support other changes that would make the park less dangerous to cyclists and equestrians, such as barriers between car lanes and cyclists and better walking and cycling access to the park.

“My long-term vision is to close off all of the park to cars,” said André Goeritz, of Silverlake, who was Jelmert’s husband and attended the rally on his bicycle. The two men were married in 2008 and had been together for 28 years, he said.

Jelmert was finishing a 67-mile training ride in preparation for the 545-mile AIDS Ride from San Francisco to L.A. benefiting the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center. Jelmert had completed five rides in his life and was just 0.3 miles from finishing the training ride when he was killed, said his husband.

Cyclists, pedestrians and equestrians all have stories of near-misses and some have been hit by vehicles while riding or walking. They let out a holler when the inaugural ride began shortly after 9:30 am.

Cyclists inaugurate a portion of Griffith Park Drive that recently was changed to prohibit motor vehicles. Safe streets and bicycle advocacy groups celebrated with a ride in Griffith Park in Los Angeles on Saturday, July 2, 2022. (photo by Steve Scauzillo/SCNG)
Cyclists inaugurate a portion of Griffith Park Drive that recently was changed to prohibit motor vehicles. Safe streets and bicycle advocacy groups celebrated with a ride in Griffith Park in Los Angeles on Saturday, July 2, 2022. (photo by Steve Scauzillo/SCNG)

An anonymous rider came through the closed-off section early Saturday, exclaiming: “Good morning! I didn’t get killed by a car today!”

Diane Bernert, of Culver City, and her horse, Sage, were looking forward to riding the no-car section. “It is so fantastic,” she said. Often, horse riders have trouble crossing the road to reach dirt bridle paths. “A lot of times cars will not stop for us.”

Kevitt himself survived a serious vehicle collision while riding his bicycle in Griffith Park on Feb. 17, 2013. He was struck by a mini-van and was dragged a quarter mile onto the 5 Freeway. He lost his right leg and broke more than 20 bones. After a lengthy recovery, he finished the ride in 2014 and that launched the nonprofit SAFE group that advocates for safer streets.

State Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, who rode his bicycle to the event, said on the way he was nearly hit by a car. He said politicians in Sacramento need to pay attention. “For so long, we have been focused on car safety and not on bike and pedestrian safety,” he said.

Casey Schreiner, author of “Discovering Griffith Park: A Local’s Guide,” said he is supportive of reducing car traffic inside the city’s largest park. “I am excited to see where this goes,” he said during an interview Saturday. “I hope they can add more traffic calming. Crystal Springs Drive could use speed bumps or reduction of traffic lanes.”

About 6,500 pedestrians and 900 bicyclists are killed every year in the United States as a result of vehicle collisions, according to the Federal Highway Administration. The FHA estimates 90,000 pedestrians and 600,000 bicyclists are injured in motor vehicle collisions every year.

Los Angeles has a pedestrian fatality rate that is four times the national average, according to the SAFE group.


Source: Orange County Register

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