A Slimmer, Faster, Kinder 7th Street

Seventh Street Cycle TrackLet me indulge in one more post on the 7th Street road diet, which I’ve enjoyed pedaling along several times now.

I use 7th all the time, since I often have meeting either in Downtown itself, and on the far side of the city center, and I live in the Miracle Mile. So 7th is a sort of natural habitat for me–especially as I’ve been riding the streets of Los Angeles for over forty years. Yes, way back in the ‘Sixties I started riding an old three-speed to junior high school (what middle schools were called back then), and I never left off for very long, despite the tempations of motorcycles and the nagging to drive a car one encountered ceaselessly in those Bad Old Days.

So I know 7th. And let me tell you, the new 7th is noticeably more comfortable to ride on!

The road diet divvied up the asphalt in a way that really does benefit all users. We cyclists have a nice, wide bike lane with little exposure to dooring danger–that’s obvious. But in changing the old four-lane configuration to the new one comprising two car lanes, two bike lanes, and a two-way left turn channel, LADOT did everyone a favor. Now that drivers are able to turn left into driveways and alleys without blocking a lane, as they had to before, that means no backups behind them, and no madly swerving drivers lunging into the inner lane (where cyclists were often traveling).

This means that despite fewer lanes, car traffic moves more smoothly–and drivers can relax, because they are never suddenly stopped by someone waiting for opposing traffic to clear. They aren’t driven by their own frustrations to speed down whatever space they can find, or crowd us over to the curb so they can go by.

The white stripe does seem to keep them in their lane and out of our way. To my eye, car traffic is smoother and less congested than before.

But there’s more than that (which is standard for road diets) to this kinder, gentler 7th Street: there is also a brief segment of “cycle track”–a bike lane separated from motor traffic not just by a six-inch stripe, but by a wide, well-marked buffer–right there in the photo.

True, it’s not a physical barrier, just paint–but it’s pretty unmistakeable paint. It’s not really necessary there–the street is very wide, and there is no parking on that block–but I suspect LADOT put it in because they could, and because now they have a cycle track of their own to observe and evaluate. (LA hates to learn from other cities’ experiences–sad to say.) It may just lead to more of the same.

So get out there and enjoy it–I hear there are more on the way. I’ll see you there!

If you want to learn more about how the 7th Street Road Diet came about, ride to the press conference at MacArthur Park on September 8th, 2001.

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One Comment

  1. Margaret
    Posted August 31, 2011 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    Richard,

    I wish that the city of Hawthorne, Ca had put Inglewood Ave., a four lane street through a business district, on a road diet. Instead, they recently ‘beautified’ the street by adding islands with fancy street lights!

    There are many cyclists who use this street. I am on it every Friday evening. Without fail, three out of four Fridays you can count on two cars mangled together after colliding. The cause of the crash appears to always be the same; your above referenced madly swerving drivers lunging into the inner lane.

    Click here:
    Inglewood Ave & 131st St. before street ‘beautification’

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  1. [...] back — or before it was right-sized, to use the current, more PC planning term — 7th felt more like the wild west, as impatient drivers took to the lightly utilized street to zoom past more heavily congested [...]

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