Something has been lost in all the anti-bike controversy that has pulsed through community meetings in North East Los Angeles the past four months. At their best, Neighborhood Council and community meetings can generate good suggestions for public and private projects. Our local meetings have stalled as we hash and re-hash the same tired anti-bike rider tropes time and again.
Red herrings about scofflaw cyclists, trunk loads of pro-Happy Motoring rhetoric, and vague and inaccurate anti-bike “safety” talk have prevented our community from developing a good set of recommendations for this bike lane plan. As a result, the LADOT proposal to install bike lanes on 5.5 miles of North Figueroa Street is missing a lot of important stuff.
We like the bike lanes because, as designed by the LADOT, they will make the street safer. Similar bike lanes gave nearby York Blvd. an immediate 20% reduction in reported traffic injuries. On some sections of N. Figueroa, local businesses will have curb parking spaces added. However, the proposal to simply install bike lanes must be modified to include some small pedestrian improvements. Some intersections need curb ramps. Other intersections need crosswalks (we like the continental variety). The intersection of Avenue 26, in particular, needs a lot of special attention. We would also like to see plans to re-anchor a few traffic islands to the sidewalk or medians they’ve drifted away from.
The primary reason we like the bike lanes as planned by the LADOT is they would slow down the top speeds of automobiles. Average drive times through the area would be untouched outside of two brief rush hour periods during the day. Bringing down the top speeds of automobiles with this “road diet” does one important thing immediately: it reduces the number of crashes on a street like N. Figueroa.
Hooray for safety! Yet N. Figueroa St. needs more. Bike lanes that went in on 1/2 of York Blvd. dropped reported injuries on that street by 20%. We can do better than that with some basic curb ramps and crosswalks. With more community outreach and some grant funding, we can do even better by re-anchoring a few traffic islands.
There are a few corners that desperately need curb ramps: Avenue 26; Amabel; Avenue 52. These cost at least $1,500 per ramp.
We need regular crosswalks, or the safer continental variety, on every corner of the following streets: Avenue 26; Avenue 28; Loreto Street; Ulysses Street; West Avenue 37; East Avenue 43; Woodside Avenue; Sycamore Terrace; South Avenue 54; North Avenue 54; Arroyo Glen or Piedmont; La Prada. Continental crosswalks cost LA $2,500 each.
The intersection of Avenue 26 and N. Figueroa Street is not just a freeway on-ramp to the 5 South and the 110 North. The MTA’s Cypress Park/Lincoln Heights station is nearby and lots and lots of bus riders board or depart buses at this busy intersection. The LA River Center (and its employees) are close by. The Riverside Drive bridge and LA River bike path will introduce lots of cycling through traffic once their links to Avenue 26 are completed (around 2015). This intersection is currently over-run with single occupant vehicles – and there needs to be more planning and design work done to deal with the anti-human aspects of this important crossroads.
Finally, with some special grant dollars and outreach through our local council offices, there are some traffic islands that should be re-anchored to medians or sidewalks at: Marmion Way/Pasadena Ave adjacent Greayer’s Oak Park; York Blvd. beside the Veterans Memorial and Senior Center; La Prada where the median stops 20′ short of intersection w. N. Figueroa St.
In a community that is not being spiritually torn apart by yellow-journalists (see: Boulevard Sentinel) and fear mongers, this would be a starting point for discussion. The plans to install bike lanes on N. Figueroa Street are good – they will make the street immediately safer for all road users. We think the bike lane plans should be not just be good, but great. To achieve that, we need to install curb ramps and crosswalks, address Avenue 26 specifically, and find money to re-connect three traffic islands.