Yesterday I had occasion to pedal from South Pasadena to Boyle Heights, so I chose a route I rarely indulge in—partly for variety’s sake, partly because it was the least roundabout way to get from A to B. I dropped south from Mission and Meridian, where I had been lounging about at Buster’s Coffee with a friend, and took Huntington Drive to the awkward connection with Soto Street, which would take me the rest of the way into Boyle Heights.
I always find this portion of Huntington Drive baffling. No matter what time of day I’ve pedaled it, I’ve never seen much car traffic. yet this must be one of the widest streets in LA County. The photo above shows only half the roadway, the westbound side. What appears to be a curb on the left is a median, and what you see in the picture is duplicated beyond it: three mixed-traffic lanes, dominated of course by cars; a bike lane; a right-turn lane that is at least two standard lanes wide, and, finally, parking. The median narrows for left-turn lanes at intersections.
In other words: six lanes for through traffic, two lanes for bikes, four lanes of space used for two right turn lanes; the periodic left-turn lanes in the middle; and two lanes of parking, sometimes parallel, sometimes diagonal.
The bike lanes are not entirely comforting, as speeding traffic regularly merges across them to and from the double-wide right-turn lanes, which drivers also use as a phantom frontage road; bike riders end up with cars passing on both sides.
And can you imagine trying to cross this monster road on foot? Especially if you were, say, old, or on crutches, or pushing your kid in a baby carriage? You may as well have a whitewater river a football field wide between the two sides of the street.
Even cagers aren’t safe: although yesterday was uneventful, in other trips I’ve seen a number of near misses between cars as drivers apparently closed their eyes and prayed their way across intersections. Screeching tires, blowing horns, litanies of foul language.….
This street is decidedly obese, and in dire need of a road diet. It should really be two streets, with businesses in the center. Or at least the light-rail line that it used to have, back in the day. That was a four-track line, which would be more than what is needed with modern trains.
As I left El Sereno, which is not very serene near Huntington Drive, I saw an old light rail bridge off to one side…not currently in use, but waiting to be called back to duty. Maybe its time has come.