As I mentioned in a post here last year, North Figueroa is a severely underused street. Designed for 30,000 to 50,000 car trips per day, it sees an average of only about 21,500. These figures are from several years leading up to 2008; now that the Gold Line’s in place, the numbers may actually be lower.
In fact, the street often looks as it does in this photo I took a few days ago:
Unfortunately excessively wide lanes and long empty vistas inevitably make drivers feel that they can “safely” speed. And they do, making Figueroa a difficult and often deadly street to cross—or to bicycle along.
Now, LADOT is planning bike lanes along North Fig—and even a bike corral in front of the Mighty Pigeon!—but it seems to me that a full-on road diet is what’s called for.
After all, there’s plenty of room, and not much traffic to use it. Broad-shouldered, healthy bike lanes—maybe even buffered or physically separated lanes—accompanied by a narrowing of all the motor vehicles lanes would improve safety for all. Road diets have repeatedly been shown to reduce not only car/bike and car/pedestrian crashes, but car/car crashes as well. The same document explains how they often increase motor vehicle throughput, despite fewer lanes.
Of course, that’s fewer lanes for people who want to speed through your neighborhood leaving nothing but clenched teeth and exhaust fumes behind them. What a road diet means is more lanes for neighborhood residents, and visitors from adjacent neighborhoods, who can now pedal over quietly and roll (or stroll) through at a pace that lets them explore neighborhood businesses—discover that cozy bar or clever coffeehouse, try out a new restaurant or a new type of cuisine altogether, or drop in at that little store or boutique that you never quite noticed bombing through at 50 per.
Curiously enough, by narrowing the lanes, you make more room on the street.
AFter all, a person in a car takes up a lot of space but doesn’t spend any more than a person on a bike. (Actually, it’s such a hassle to drive and park that motorists spend more per trip but less per year in local shopping districts than do cyclists!)
So let’s shoot for a real road diet on North Fig. In this case, thinking small is thinking big.
After all, the old kind of thinking big just got us empty lanes, empty sidewalks, and empty cash registers.
There’s plenty of room. Let’s put it to use.