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Westwood Without the Wheels : Car Ban Draws Mixed Reaction, Fewer People

June 29, 1986|EDWARD J. BOYER and GREG BRAXTON | Times Staff Writers

Cecil Mayes, a 32-year-old Los Angeles painter, gazed out at the Westwood Village street scene Saturday night in near disbelief.

The fender-to-fender car traffic that usually jams the boulevards was gone. Instead, strolling pedestrians shared the streets with the pedicabs.

"It used to be so noisy around here and the streets were so packed with cars it was ridiculous, but it's 100 times more pleasant without all the cars," he said. "It's even pleasant to walk or just stand on the street now. I like this a whole lot."

Mayes said he had nearly eliminated weekend visits to Westwood because of the traffic. Now, he said, maybe he will come back more often.

For anyone familiar with Westwood's usual near-gridlock conditions on Saturdays and Sundays, the first weekend without traffic was indeed remarkable.

Within a 10-block area bordered generally by Le Conte Avenue on the north, Lindbrook Drive on the south, Gayley Avenue on the west and Glendon Avenue on the east, pedestrians were able to stroll without muscling their way through phalanxes of teen-agers out "checking the scene."

Between 8 p.m., when police barricades went up, and 1 a.m., no cars were allowed in the area as part of a summer-long experiment to reduce congestion. Motorists parked at UCLA lots or at the Federal Building on Wilshire Boulevard, where shuttle buses carried them to Westwood Village. Police said the experiment went smoothly.

For the most part, traffic was confined to pedicabs, except for the occasional car that had been parked before 8 p.m. and was leaving the area.

While traffic on Wilshire Boulevard and other streets bordering the area usually moves at a snail's pace, traffic on those streets was unusually light.

Los Angeles City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, who proposed the traffic ban, said he was "ecstatic" about the results, saying he had feared traffic jams and parking problems in adjacent residential neighborhoods. "If it works as well through the summer as it did Friday night, I think the public will demand we keep it," he said.

Others' assessments of the experiment, however, demonstrated a distinct generation gap.

The absence of cars "cut down on that, shall we say, upper-teen-age sidewalk traffic," said Rodney McCormick, a salesman at San Remo Shoes on Broxton Avenue.

"Merchants couldn't get customers inside because teen-agers were blocking the store," he said. "I'm looking for the experiment to be a benefit."

Robert Rodriguez, a flower vendor, also thought banning cars would be an improvement because there wouldn't be so many teen-agers driving around "playing loud music or hanging out of the windows of limousines."

Paul Weinberg, 21, a UCLA junior who drives a pedicab, said a lot of youngsters seem to be staying away because "they can't come down and show off their cars." But he was worried by what he considered an absence of people, as well as cars.

"It's usually a lot busier now," he said shortly after 9 p.m. "It should pick up. I hope so. My livelihood is at stake."

The only business that teens seemed to be concerned about was meeting others their age, and Eric Von Bastian, 18, looked around at the reduced crowds and pronounced the village "a disgrace."

"Westwood, to me, is a place for activity," he said. "Does this look like an active place? Normally, people would be out and poppin.' "

"It's depressing," moaned Tod Walker, 19. "There are no girls driving around."

An ice cream vendor said his business was off by half, and a parking lot attendant at Wilshire and Westwood, where cars were permitted, said business was down even more. But Andrea Wintroub, a saleswoman at the Jazz'd shop on Broxton Ave., said Saturday night business seemed "just as busy as last week."

Restaurants also appeared to be doing a brisk business.

Los Angeles salesman Jay Chavkin, out with his wife Joyce for a stroll Friday night, said he had initially opposed the traffic ban when it was proposed by Yaroslavsky. "Now I think it's great," Chavkin said. "It's remarkable."

One teen-ager, however, pointed to a fresh deposit made by a mounted policeman's horse and said: "Want to know what Westwood's like? That's it."

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