About a month ago, City Heights got its first road diet. We’ve had a drought of road diets in this city since the 4th and 5th Avenue buffered bike lanes were installed in 2014 so this has been a welcome change. The status quo as you can see below, was just awful and dangerous, and in a school zone to boot!
This road diet came after a unnecessarily controversial vote at the City Heights Planners Committee (the advisory board to City Council on all land use matters) back in August this year. Fairmount Avenue was scheduled to be repaved and city staff presented a plan to put Fairmount Avenue on a diet between Redwood Avenue south all the way to Home Avenue, by installing a buffered bike lane. Georgette Gomez (currently running to replace Councilmember Marti Emerald in 2016) made the motion to approve the restriping project along with additional lighting, traffic signals and signage to make the new striping safer for all users.
The vote was close and passed 8 to 6. Committee member, David Nelson, broke the previous tie breaker by voting to support the project. He doesn’t care for pop-outs, and only wanted to support the buffered bike lanes. Nelson initially thought that the vote to support bike lanes also included a vote to support pop-outs. His vote was critical to ensuring the implementation of City Heights’ first buffered bike lane. The City Heights Committee members who voted against the buffered bike lanes and against public safety were: Jessie Sargent, Mark Kassab, Mazda Mehraz, Samuel Supranovich, Abdullahi Yusuf and Bob Lief. If this close vote doesn’t speak to the importance and power of getting involved in your local community, nothing will. Thanks to city staff in overseeing the project and implementing it, and much thanks to Councilmember Marti Emerald who showed up in person to speak in support of the road diet on Fairmount Avenue as it was (and is) a public safety issue.
Back in 2010, the City Heights CDC prepared a Walk to School Report identifying the dangerous corridors in City Heights that prevented safe walking and biking to schools. They then worked to ensure that projects like the Fairmount Avenue bike lane would get passed.