The Other Bridge

We’ve paid a lot of attention to the Glendale/Hyperion bridge, connecting Silver Lake and East Hollywood to Atwater Village and Glendale. This is only right, as the bridge is a vital connection for cyclists (and pedestrians) needing to cross the river and freeway between the two areas, which are already bike-rich neighborhoods with attractive shopping streets. It’s also been threatened by plans to turn it into a mini-freeway, something that would kill users and commerce alike along the route. Fortunately a massive and fervent tsunami of community outrage has at least shaken if perhaps not yet obliterated the speedway plans…but this is no time to become complacent. It ain’t over till it’s over.

However, there’s another bridge to consider, and one much closer to Flying Pigeon LA. That’s the Riverside-Figueroa bridge, where the two boulevards that give it its name meet over the Los Angeles River. The old bridge is in pretty bad shape—broken, lumpy pavement, with a sharp bend at the west end of it; while there are legitimate concerns that the smoother curves of the new bridge now being built will lead to speeding (indeed, that is likely the intention in car-addled LA), the current bridge is both uncomfortable and unsafe for pedalers. According to Streetsblog‘s Damien Newton, the new bridge appears to include a bikepath. Though anyone on Earth would pardon us for being skeptical of promises given by the Bureau of Engineering, who seem to see their mission as hurrying drivers at the highest possible speeds through every neighborhood in the city, soft fleshy obstacles be damned (along with local commerce—herd ’em into malls if they wanna shop, yeah!).

There has been an alternative suggested by a local architecture firm (PDF), which suggests preserving part of the old bridge as a combination park and bikeway to connect Cypress Park and Highland Park to the river itself and to Elysian Park—as well as to the homes and businesses in Elysian Valley between the river and Riverside Drive. This plan would inevitably grow community and retail activity in an area long dominated by speeding traffic and a foul and looming freeway.

It would also provide a direct connection to the LA River bike path—in fact, it would be a segment thereof itself, and probably a more pleasant one than the hypothetical Bureau of Engineering path along the highway bridge now being built.

Unfortunately, as Newton points out, the Bureau of Engineering claims the plan would be “too expensive,” even as it admits its financial figures are imaginary. Any excuse will do for the BoE, if it serve to block non-motorized travel and local community building, or so it seems….

To make matters worse, it looks as though Confluence Park, established a couple of years ago where the Arroyo Seco meets the LA River under the bridge, and a spot of delight in an otherwise bleak hardscape of freeway and rail bridges and storage yards, is now threatened by the exigencies of the bridge project itself, as KCET reported last April. The Arroyo Seco Foundation is now in talks with new council member Gil Cedillo, but their petition has been closed. Things seem to be up in the air.

At any rate, just as we have been fighting to make the Glendale-Hyperion bridge a true bridge rather than a wall of noise and speed, we must fight for a Riverside-Figueroa bridge that likewise supports human life over the harsh metallic protocols of driving. And the petition in support of a community-friendly Riv-Fig bridge is not inactive; you can sign it here.

Your signature could be the one that saves the bridge, the bikepath, the river, and several long-suffering neighborhoods from having their hearts cut out to feed the gods of “traffic flow”….

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