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Almost two years ago, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a Green New Deal for the city. He then said that tackling climate change was not only a moral imperative but an environmental emergency and an economic opportunity. In a recent article, Spectrum News 1 followed up with Garcetti about the current status of LA’s Green New Deal. But as BikinLA pointed out, when it comes to transportation, he doesn’t have much to say about beyond transitioning to electric cars.
Adopted in 2019, the Green New Deal calls for a zero-carbon electrical grid, transportation system, and buildings, and zero waste by 2050. The ultimate goal is to combat climate change and create equitable economic opportunities simultaneously.
But according to BikinLA, the mayor’s answers regarding transportation in the city “confirms suspicions that he’s abandoned once ambitious plans to reshape how we get around the city, from adding a network of safer bike lanes to installing bus-only lanes throughout the city.”
When asked what the plan to reduce emissions from transportation was, he responded: “Everybody in this car culture of L.A. expects to go to a gas station, fill up your car, and keep going. It’s just as easy to have an electric car. You can just charge it at night, and it takes two seconds to plug it in, but that draw on our grid will be immense. We have to double the amount of electricity we generate and make sure that it’s renewable.”
Instead, Garcetti focused on talking about how COVID-19 has accelerated the accomplishment of some targets and slowed others laid out in the Green New Deal, including the importance of creating an electricity grid that has no carbon emissions. But he is right about saying that the coronavirus pandemic has brought a lot of changes surrounding transportation across the city — and Los Angeles slowly becoming a more bike-friendly city.
Coronavirus emptied out Los Angeles’ roadways, so bicyclists took advantage of this. As more cyclists have hit the roads, September 2020 had the fewest bicycle-vehicle collisions since the city began releasing data in 2012. Per data from the Los Angeles Police Department, there were 18 bike-vehicle collisions recorded in the city that month, down from 185 during the same period in 2019 — making it the lowest number ever recorded. Consequently, the number of cycling trips in the city logged by Strava Metro, which tracks data on bike usage in urban areas, rose by 52%, to 191,010.
It is well-known that California at large, and Los Angeles in particular, are infamous for being bike-unfriendly. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, California was the second state with the most pedalcyclist deaths in the country in 2018. The year prior, the city of Los Angeles experienced a total of 1,918 bicycle accidents that resulted in 17 fatalities, according to the California Highway Patrol’s Annual Report.
The September milestone is part of a trend that began as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic began. With less people out on the roads because of quarantine, through Nov. 2020, the total number of bike collisions has fallen by 70% to 496. That’s down from 1,655 during the same period in 2019.
With more people biking it in the city, it would’ve been sensible for the mayor to adopt a strategy concerning bicycles in the city that go beyond only Slow Streets Programs — which have been criticized by activists because they only seem to benefit white, affluent neighborhoods and not the black and brown ones across the city.
Moreover, the coronavirus pandemic also triggered a steep drop in pedestrian fatalities, falling to 1,135 from the 3,733 collisions reported the year prior.
The bike boom and decrease of pedestrian fatalities highlight the need for reform when it comes to automobiles beyond their carbon emissions.