When I wrote about South Pasadena’s newest bike lanes on this blog a few weeks ago, I mentioned a bit wistfully (okay, a bit irritably) that the mighty City of Los Angeles should continue the planned extension of the York Boulevard lanes beyond the planned termination at Figueroa so that they could join up with SoPas’s brand new lanes and growing bike network.
But of course that would entail crossing the York Boulevard bridge over the Pasadena Freeway and the Arroyo. That bridge, as you can see in the photo below, is considerably narrower than the rest of York Boulevard:
It was, after all, originally built to handle primarily tram traffic—bits of track are still visible through breaks in the asphalt—and so could be narrow and still have high capacity. (The Brooklyn Bridge carried two and a half times as many people in 1907 when it ran primarily trolleys than it does today serving cars.) I thought at first the only answer there would be sharrows, given that the bridge gets pretty busy during rush hour.
But yesterday I looked again, and thought, Why not a road diet?
It could work—if you rethink the way you use the lanes just a little bit.
In the usual road diet, you make room for bike lanes and sidewalks by turning a four-lane road into a three-lane road, with the center lane being a continuous left-turn channel. This removes cars waiting to turn left into side streets or driveways from the traffic flow, greatly reducing accidents and often actually improving automobile throughput, since the smoother, albeit slower, traffic doesn’t jam up any more.
Now, no one who isn’t suicidal is going to turn left on the bridge, so you’d think a road diet makes no sense at all there.
But: What if the center lane were a reversing traffic lane instead of a left-turn lane?
After all, rush-hour traffic goes one way in the morning, and the other way after work. So one of those lanes is barely in use even at peak hour!
More famous bridges use reversing lanes all the time. You do have in invest in a pair of signal bridges showing people which way is which at any given time, but the technology is well-tested and in wide use, and on a small narrow bridge such as York shouldn’t be too expensive. Lane markers with embedded lamps that change color in synch with the traffic direction would add to user-friendliness.
That would leave plenty of room for real bike lanes, which would in turn help bring about real interjurisdictional connectivity between the two cities. Given that there’s already a good deal of bike use in that particular corner of the county, a little extra acommodation would likely boost ridership enough to reduce car traffic on the bridge, on York Boulevard north of the bridge, and throughout South Pasadena. Replacing the cars that zoom past local shops and wear out local roads, with cyclists—who don’t lay the burden of frequent road repairs onto municipalities and who have been shown to be far more likley than motorists to stop at local merchants and support the economies they commute through—would benefit everybody. And be well worth the cost of a couple of signal bridges and some stripes.