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Within the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, large cities throughout the nation closed roads via main public parks to present individuals extra space to bike, stroll and recreate safely. And a few of these cities, together with San Francisco and Washington, D.C., discovered the closed routes have been so standard and properly used, they’ve continued to ban vehicles on sure park roads.
Now Los Angeles is testing road closures within the nation’s largest city park, and it’s a most welcome experiment that ought to grow to be everlasting.
Final week, town blocked a portion of Griffith Park Drive from Journey City to Mt. Hollywood Drive to most vehicles to scale back dashing and cut-through visitors on a route shared by cyclists, equestrians and hikers. (Emergency and licensed autos can nonetheless use the road.) The closure is indefinite to see whether or not park customers prefer it and to evaluate the impression on different park roads.
If the pilot undertaking is a hit (and it’s positive seems prefer it, based on early reviews,) then not solely ought to L.A. preserve the route closed, however the metropolis also needs to block off much more roads within the park.
Griffith Park is an L.A. gem — an unlimited, pure panorama shared by individuals and wildlife, smack in the midst of a metropolis. It’s a beloved group asset, not a freeway bypass, and it’s excessive time town prioritizes park customers over commuters. Which means slowing automobile visitors and, in some areas, eliminating vehicles altogether.
Park officers have been contemplating make the roads safer for a number of years, together with hiring a guide to develop a plan to reduce cut-through traffic and gradual dashing vehicles. The work took on new urgency this spring after bike owner Andrew Jelmert, 77, was killed on Crystal Springs Drive. Jelmert was nearing the end of a 67-mile coaching experience when he was hit from behind by a driver, who police say was making an attempt to move one other automobile and should have been ingesting.
The park’s roads are presently designed for the motion of vehicles, not the protection and delight of cyclists, walkers and equestrians. Drivers deal with Griffith Park Drive and Crystal Springs Drive as shortcuts to keep away from visitors on Interstate 5 and the 134 Freeway. The velocity restrict on park roads is 25 mph, nevertheless it’s routinely ignored by motorists. The routes aren’t secure for pedestrians or cyclists. Crosswalks and bike lane stripes are light. Key roads are lacking sidewalks for pedestrians and boundaries separating cyclists from vehicles.
It’s no surprise Griffith Park principally attracts solely “robust and fearless” bicyclists, in keeping with a guide’s report. Councilmember Nithya Raman, who represents the world, mentioned she desires the roads redesigned so households and youngsters really feel snug using their bikes within the park.
Apart from the closure of Griffith Park Drive, officers are contemplating further adjustments over the approaching months, together with proscribing the hours that drivers can entry park roads from the I-5 or 134 Freeway — to scale back cut-through visitors — and narrowing highway lanes and putting in raised crosswalks to gradual dashing vehicles. Finally, park managers could look to shut freeway ramp entry into the park altogether, flip the higher highway of Crystal Springs Drive right into a completely car-free route and enhance transit entry so it’s simpler for individuals to get to the park with no automobile.
The pandemic confirmed cities throughout the nation what’s doable after they select to reorient public areas from vehicles to individuals. Park area is just too valuable to cede to motorists. Whereas the primary highway closure is comparatively small — lower than a mile — it’s an essential first step towards returning to the imaginative and prescient of benefactor Col. Griffith J. Griffith, a public park for the needs of recreation, well being and pleasure. Not a freeway bypass.