York Boulevard Bike Lane: 528 feet of a failure to communicate


This one stretch of road, 528 feet long, merges 35+ mph cars with bike riders heading to the newly striped York Blvd. bike lanes.

528 feet, .1 miles, 160.9 meters. Anyway you write it, the distance between the newly striped York Boulevard bike lanes in Los Angeles and the bike lanes on Pasadena Avenue in South Pasadena is a full measure of a failure to communicate.

The York bridge has been a no-mans land for anyone on foot or on a bicycle for several decades. Poor street design has kept the communities of Highland Park and Garvanza in Los Angeles culturally separate from South Pasadena. The installation of a safe bike lane across the York bridge has the potential to turn South Pasadena’s derelict commercial corridor, and the lonely Ostrich Farm development, on Pasadena Avenue around. Those same bike lanes can help bring weekend bicycle tourists, and weekday bicycle commuters riding through to Downtown LA, into Highland Park’s many cafes and shops. Most importantly of all, Garvanza residents would only be a short bike ride away from beloved Trader Joes on Mission in South Pasadena.

So why didn’t this 528 feet of Pasadena Avenue have any amenity for bike lanes connecting to Los Angeles? It wasn’t helped by the City of South Pasadena’s decision to fire the talented Dennis Woods, the former Transportation Manager for the small city. Woods is responsible for the quick turnaround in bike planning, projects, and state bike project aid that came to an abrupt end with his sacking in October of 2013.

Pasadena Avenue should have had it’s four lanes narrowed from 11 feet down to 10 feet, taking the spare space and adding it to a westbound bike lane feeding into the York Bridge. 300 feet of Pasadena Avenue should have lost “car parking” (which I have never seen used in the 10+ years I’ve passed by this stretch of road) to connect the bridge with eastbound bike lanes laid down under Dennis Woods’ supervision a few years ago.

[UPDATE on April 21, 2014: The City of Los Angeles Department of Transpotation made numerous efforts to communicate its desire to remove two travel lanes on the York Boulevard bridge in order to connect Pasadena Avenue's bike lanes with those on York Boulevard. The South Pasadena Public Works Commission voted 3 to 2 to keep this stretch of road dangerous and to allow the danger to be multiplied by the enticement of a bike lane 528 feet beyond a deadly bend in the road leading up to the westbound bike lane on the bridge.]
As for the City of Los Angeles, where to begin? How hard is it to pick up the phone and call the tiny staff in the South Pasadena Public Works or City Manager’s office? Email works too. The city council office responsible for the project, the very bike-friendly office of councilman Jose Huizar, didn’t have the time or resources to connect with the road designers in South Pasadena to say, “Hey, can we help scrounge $10,000 to help you guys pay for 528 feet of lane restriping?”

I visited the South Pasadena Public Works department last week to ask them for a comment on the project and was treated to the delightfully frustrating experience of talking to someone, who shall remain nameless, with a low grade version of Aspergers syndrome who’d clearly been blasted by enough “constituent concern” over the years to be unable to answer the simple questions I posed (i.e. “Are you aware that the City of LA is going to connect bike lanes to Pasadena Avenue and what is your city going to do?”)

The bike lanes across the bridge are barely an amenity, and serve more as a gutter lane for broken down cars than as a safe means of travel between South Pasadena and Los Angeles. They do represent a brightening flame of community connection – but that flame is still weak. Two car lanes should have been removed on the bridge. A buffered lane on each side of the bridge should have been installed. Traffic volumes leading up to the intersection of York and North Figueroa are shockingly low.

I am not going to address the huge design flaws of the bike lanes at the intersection of York and North Figueroa. I’ll leave that to the LAPD responding to what I am sure will be numerous fresh car vs. everything collisions.

Just a short gap in lane striping keeps LA disconnected from South Pasadena.

Just a short gap in lane striping keeps LA’s new bike lanes disconnected from South Pasadena.

So, 528 feet. The full measure of professional incompetence. The York Boulevard bike lanes are a huge leap forward from where we were, but still come up dramatically short. The good news is that the money required to restripe 528 feet of Pasadena Avenue is quite a small sum. The political will and the ability of two dysfunctional city planning apparatuses to execute that restriping is what has got us here, and has me still worried for my life, and the fate of our civilization, when riding between the two cities.

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6 Comments

  1. Herbie Huff
    Posted April 16, 2014 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Just FYI, City of LA DID try to coordinate with South Pasadena on this. It was discussed at the last Bicycle Advisory Committee – Bikeways Subcommittee meeting in March.

    Your harsh words about “how hard is it to pick up the phone” are uninformed, and a pretty rude presumption. I love that you are calling out how ridiculous this lane gap is, but do your homework first. Josef, you are the one that needs to pick the phone and call Michelle Mowery or Tim Fremeaux or heck, you’re always free to call me as BAC Bikeways Subcom chair.

  2. Posted April 16, 2014 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    South Pasadena has an impressive plan but is implementing it very slowly–even more slowly than LA. Nevertheless, there is now an excuse for them to extend their own bit of bike lane on to meet the LA lanes coming off the bridge.

    It would be nice to extend them past the Gold Line tracks on the other end. I believe that’s in the works, but when?

    You might try contacting Samuel Zneimer if you haven’t already (and if he’s still there). I found him quite responsive on another cycling issue in that town:

    SZneimer@ci.south-pasadena.ca.us

  3. Posted April 16, 2014 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    Herbie, I can’t believe that this bike lane setup was the result of a working relationship with South Pasadena and the City of LA! I mean, what would it look like if they hadn’t talked at all?! Machine gun nests and spike strips? The portion of South Pasadena feeding into the lanes, the fact that LA went with 2 westbound lanes of traffic – all of it smacks of some pretty horrible planning. I wasn’t going to take such a negative tone until I rode the lanes on Tuesday afternoon with my kid on my bike and had a near death experience trying to make it from the light on Arroyo Verde to the bike lanes. It is a crappy, crappy, dangerous road segment. I don’t understand why LA went with 2 westbound lanes when it implemented this road diet when the right of way on South Pasadena’s side has zero space for a bike lane unless a car lane or the cement median is removed (both of which are more expensive than paint.

    You’ll have to pardon me for not doing enough research and attending the BAC – I work my rear off here in the shop and the community and I am as on top of bike lane issues as a non-paid member of the public can be. An in person visit to the tiny South Pasadena Public Works Department while my kid took a violin class across the street is pretty much all I can manage. In fact, I wrote this post in the hour between getting up to go to the bathroom and rush out the door to my day job. I am not a professional road designer nor a professional advocate – but I can call out a crappy design like this when I see it.

    Am I going to lose the special privileges I once had as a very special extra sweet bike person before I posted this blog? I can’t recall ever enjoying such privileges. In fact, I can only recall being ignored, rebuffed, and openly lied to by the public figures in city hall and even in the local bike nonprofit sector. Like any rational person, my support for a cause and the team implementing it is based on the work done. Judging by the work done on these bike lanes, I’d say that this is a pretty bad job as far as access to South Pasadena is concerned.

  4. Posted April 17, 2014 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Here’s an update to the situation:

    Apparently South Pasadena scotched the removal of the second lane going into the bridge from their side, so LADOT pretty much had to keep the second westbound lane on the bridge itself.

    But LADOT had in fact said they would continue the eastbound lane to the SoPas border, then did not.

    Details below, quoting from my source in the SoPas administration:

    The City of LA presented to the City of South Pasadena Public
    Works Commission, those plans included a westward bound lane drop as you
    talked outlined in your e-mail and would have connected the South
    Pasadena bike lanes and the City of LA bike lanes. The Public Works
    Commission was concerned about traffic bottleneck so they did not
    approve the dropping of the westward bound driving lane and the City
    of LA change their plans to no longer have the westward bike lane
    connect but to have the eastward bike lane to connect which was
    approved. Upon implementation of the project to our staff’s surprise the
    eastward bike lane wasn’t connect and when South Pasadena City
    staff inquired they were informed that the connection was not going to
    be completed by the City of LA as part of the project.

    The City of South Pasadena would still like to complete the eastward
    bike lane, as the lane geometry would allow it, but we currently do not
    have identified funding for that project and would need to contract out
    to strip the bike lane.

  5. Herbie Huff
    Posted April 17, 2014 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Call it a crappy design, fine. But be careful about where you place the blame. Coordinating with adjacent cities is something the City of LA has done really well over the past few years, and I’ve seen them get paint on the street in Inglewood, Carson, Beverly Hills – just to name a few. By sharing designs and being in touch with public works and transportation departments in other cities, LADOT has gotten the bicycling public miles of bike lanes *outside* LA. I can tell you for a fact that LADOT told South Pas about their plans and encouraged them to continue this lane into South Pas. It was South Pas who said no.

    No criticism from me for not doing more research – I know and completely understand that time is scarce. My criticism is about your incorrect assumption that City of LA didn’t do their coordinating duties, which they did. (“How hard is it to pick up the phone and call the tiny staff in the South Pasadena Public Works or City Manager’s office? Email works too.”)

    Look – I have no problem with you being hard on the City of LA and I think you should continue to do so. Demand results – fuck yeah demand results. But don’t assume when you don’t know. LADOT does work hard to coordinate with adjacent cities, often resulting in bike lanes where there would have been none.

  6. Posted April 17, 2014 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Herbie,

    I am going to edit the blog post to take into account your comments. My buddy Rick Risemberg emailed me over some more details about the issue.

2 Trackbacks

  1. By Today’s Headlines | Streetsblog Los Angeles on April 16, 2014 at 9:30 am

    […] New York Ave. Bike Lanes Have Sad South Pasadena Gap (Flying Pigeon) […]

  2. By Streetsblog Los Angeles » Today’s Headlines on April 17, 2014 at 6:00 pm

    […] Flying Pigeon Loves the Recent York Blvd Bike Lane, Hates the Gap […]

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