The Battle Over Rowena Avenue

Disputes over the future of the Silver Lake street symbolize citywide growing pains

About 200 people packed Ivahoe Elementary School on Monday night to discuss the recent “road diet” on Rowena Avenue, which reduced car lanes for a half-mile and added bike lanes to the street.

While some in the community are not pleased with the change—which was prompted by the death of a young woman crossing Rowena—the majority of people expressed support for the road diet, reports Streetsblog LA. Supportive residents said they wanted to encourage alternative transportation, as well as reduce car speeds and collisions.

LADOT staff told the crowd that Rowena is still carrying the same amount of cars before the change, but those vehicles are not racing through the neighborhood like before. There was concern with “cut-through” traffic; i.e., commuters careening through nearby residential neighborhoods to avoid the altered Rowena, often aided by apps like Waze. Criticism was also lobbed at dangerous drivers blowing through stop signs, with residents pushing the police to step up ticketing. An 11-year-old also garnered much attention for an anti-driver speech that contained bon mots like, “I don’t understand why driving a car makes you think you’re more important than someone else. You’re not.”

Whether the road diet will remain is still anyone’s guess. While the Silver Lake meeting was mostly diplomatic, the vocal differing of opinions on how L.A. streets should operate is something that’s just begun. The city’s new Mobility Plan calls for more of the city’s streets to be placed on diets like Rowena, and for pedestrians and cyclists to be allowed more room. The city council approved the mobility plan earlier this month and—wouldn’t you know it—there’s already a lawsuit against it.

Bikes Mean Business on Rowena Ave. from bruce chan on Vimeo.