Data scientists say controversial Rowena ‘road diet’ actually worked

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Rowena Avenue in Silver Lake was placed on a “road diet” in 2013, where the street was reduced to one lane of traffic in each direction to make space for bike lanes and to slow down cars. It definitely had its detractors, but a Los Angeles Times op-ed penned today by a pair of data scientists argues the road diet achieved its goal of making the street less hazardous for everyone.

Angry Silver Lakers wouldn’t listen to the pro-road-diet pleas of an eloquent 11-year-old who called out their “whiny entitled behavior” last year, but maybe cold hard numbers will finally sway opponents.

The writers of the op-ed, who work with datascience.com, compared Los Angeles Department of Transportation data from the year before the road diet was installed (pre-2013) to the year after and found:

“Average speeds dropped from 39 mph to 35 mph, and safety has significantly increased on Rowena, with no effect on overall traffic volume.”

Speed is the primary factor in car-related deaths, which is why road diets are supposed to make streets safer—they force drivers to go more slowly.

According to the op-ed, collision data from the California Highway Patrol shows crashes on Rowena in 2013 and 2015 numbered less than crashes during those same time periods in 2008 and 2010—in 2008 and 2010, there were 16 and 15 total crashes, respectively. In 2013, there were 12, and in 2015, just eight. Instances of crashes where unsafe speed contributed to the collision dropped, too—from six crashes in 2008 and 2010 to zero in 2013 and 2015. Crashes involves people on bikes or on foot were also reduced.

Some residents who oppose the road diet have cited the claim that it was pushing cars onto side streets, where they’d speed and blow through stop signs. While the scientists admit that it’s more “complicated” to figure out how many cars are being diverted off Rowena and onto side streets, they also note it’s totally possible to keep the road diet while still addressing cut-through traffic concerns.

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