On Broadway

Thanks to LA’s most progressive and responsive council member, José Huizar, we’re getting some actual commerce- and community-friendly streetscape changes in CD14.

The York Boulevard road diet, with its attendant bike lanes, is a grand success—at least, if you count the disappearance of empty storefronts, the refurbishment of existing establishments, and the crowding of sidewalks with shoppers and eaters to be a success. Some terminally crabby souls are still complaining about alleged “traffic jams” that seem to be so camera-shy that no one can photograph them, but those of us who live in the real world are mighty glad that York isn’t the gray and shabby speedway of the recent past.

Now it’s Broadway’s turn: in the heart of Downtown, but still in CD 14, the city’s old theater district is getting a makeover, starting with a road diet for its iconic boulevard. But not your everyday road diet: this one focusses on pedestrian space, in a district where sidewalks are jammed from early morning to the wee hours.

The four lanes of the old Broadway are now three, with one of them the essential two-way left-turn lane, but instead of bike lanes flanking them, we have, for much of the street, extended parklets! The travel lanes are sharrowed, inviting bicyclists to ride them and discouraging motorist bullying, and pedestrian plazas have been added, complete with planters, tables and chairs, umbrellas, and plenty of added bike racks. You can see some of this in the photo, taken in front of Grand Central Market.

In blocks that are more commercial than retail, painted loading zones keep trucks out of everyone’s way, facilitating both industry and mobility. But it’s the people-first bits of street that are the most interesting—and the most vibrant, in both the social and the economic sense. Grand Central Market is booming, as are independent stores and eateries all up and down the street, as folks crowd in to enjoy the park-like ambience of LA’s busiest blocks.

It’s a great project, and there are plenty of changes still to come. You can read about it all at the “Bringing Back Broadway” website….

Mr. Huizar deserves our thanks for pushing the envelope, because on LA’s Broadway…you’re the star!


To TOD, or Not to TOD

Transit-Oriented Development is one of the watchwords of the new urbanism, and the progressive development world in general. You know the drill: mixed-use, mixed-income buildings, Complete Streets, access to transit, bicycle facilities, reduced parking requirements, etc etc.

So what happens when the suits grant you a giant mixed-user in Los Angeles? One that looks like a typical TOD development in America? And one that is in the Miracle Mile, an area that wins a WalkScore of 94? (Yes, in Los Angeles!)

You get…business as usual! With a side order of questionable aesthetics. Here’s a snapshot of the new luxury condos and apartments at the corner of Wilshire and La Brea:

Despite looking like a convention center more than a domicile, and besides offering only “luxury” units—studio apartments start north of $2000, and while a cat or dog is allowed, a critter companion will cost you $50 a month extra, after a $500 deposit—this shiny lump will indeed feature ground-floor retail, and even has a tiny park way in the back, open to the public and featuring genuine AstroTurf! Be that as it may, poor people need not apply. (They do, though, feature “Hipster Design Scheme” apartments, as well as “Organic,” in the web gallery.)

If you yourself are transit-oriented, you’re in luck (assuming you can afford to move in): the bus routes assigned to Wilshire Boulevard already move more people down the corridor at rush hour than all the private cars combined; the La Brea lines connect to Hollywood and South Los Angeles (and the Expo Line); there are now rush-hour bus lanes on Wilshire that also allow bicyclists to use them; and a Metro Purple Line subway station is a-building as we type.

But is this massive new forward-looking development in itself in any way transit-oriented?

Here’s a clue: for 478 units and a few shops, this building holds 997 parking spaces.

Yes! It is a traffic generator, right on the corner of LA’s most walkable neighborhood! Across the street from what will soon be a major subway stop! The main garage entrance, on a hapless sides street, is not only ugly but nearly one hundred fifty feet wide! They are, to quote their website, “ROAD READY We’re close to Highway 10, which connects to highways 405, 110 and 101. Travel to the beach or wherever your mood takes you.” Just be sure you drive.

The words “transit,” “bus,” “subway,” Metro,” or “bicycle” don’t appear on their website.

They also claim to be “CENTRALLY LOCATED Wilshire La Brea sits at the center of the city, surrounded by Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Santa Monica and downtown Los Angeles.” Apparently Koreatown and Leimert Park don’t exist, though they are closer than the other burgs mentioned….

In other words, another glittering fraud in a city famous for getting it wrong. The Wilshire and La Brea’s website (you can see that they’ve appropriated the intersection’s name for this building) says, “L.A. is always humming, always pushing the boundaries of what’s next.”

Just not here.


Shop Closed until Friday, July 24, 2015

The Flying Pigeon LA bike shop will be closed this coming week and will re-open on Friday, July 24, 2015 at 10 a.m.

You can follow our escapades on Twitter and Instagram by following @flyingpigeonla on either platform.

Me and my sidekicks are heading to Washtington, DC to ride Bromptons, play, cart wheel on as many lawns as the Secret Service will let us, visit an Arlington bike co-op, stop in at The Daily Rider, and take pictures of Capital Bike Share.

Make sure to put Gil Cedillo on blast while we’re away! Don’t let that hack get away with anything while we’re away! He’s only in it for the pension. Chale con Cedillo!

Any questions? Email them to info@flyingpigeon-la.com

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Flying Pigeon LA inventory on July 17, 2015

A suuuuper long video of what is in stock at the Flying Pigeon bike shop right now, on Friday, July 17, 2015.

From a Babboe cargo tricycle to the Yuba Boda Boda, Yepp seats, and Micargi kiddie bikes we have family cycling needs covered. We also have a nice selection of Nutcase helmets for the whole family.

Brompton biycles are in the front of the shop next to the Brooks saddles and a 16-speed road bike.

A bunch of other stuff in the shop as well. This is a long video (12 minutes!) but hopefully this will answer the eternal question: “Whatcha got?”

Any questions? info@flyingpigeon-la.com

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Room for All

The rush-hour bus-and-bike lanes on Wilshire work quite well, after all. I rode the eastbound on my way home from a medical appointment yesterday, and it was clear sailing along a normally turgid street. Most (but by no means all) of the cars stayed in their designated lanes, which accommodated them handily despite road construction that roughened things up a bit. The buses rolled by with priority, as they should—Metro’s buses move 25% more people along the Wilshire corridor at rush hour than all the private cars put together, helping clear the air and the roads both—and my own pedal down the lane was far more peaceful than it usually is in the barroom brawl that the Miracle Mile resembles when it’s the usual free-for-all. Traffic was more orderly, and everyone kept moving at a reasonable pace, instead of jackrabbiting from jam to jam.

Of course, there were scofflaw drivers—I’d guess about one out of twenty-five. But most of the motorists behaved, which was surprising.

However, during this morning‘s rush hour, when I was out snapping pictures of the scene, I saw a lot more delinquency among the steering-wheel set. What I saw very little of either time was police presence. A black-and-white motorcycle or two would be very nice to help ensure rush-hour civility.

Bicyclists still aren’t quite used to the idea, though bus/bike lanes have proven safe in Germany, in congested London, and in our own downtown. Still, I logged a number of them, but (because in my laziness I was depending on a phone camera, which just doesn’t work for really fluid situations), the relaxed young man in the snap above is the only one I actually managed to pixelize.

So I say that, if you’re having to roll along Wilshire anywhere between Beverly Hills and downtown at rush hour, try the bus lanes. It’s something Metro’s gotten right, and something bold at that. A rare thing for Los Angeles!

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Glendale-Hyperion Bridge: have a lane; in fact, take two!

The Vision Hyperion coalition filed suit yesterday against the City of Los Angeles over its recent city council decision to retrofit the Glendale-Hyperion bridge complex in the Atwater Village neighborhood of Los Angeles. The city plans to retrofit the bridge without including two handicap accessible sidewalks and two safe bike lanes. The council went forward with a plan dubbed “Option 1″ which would seismically retrofit several interconnected bridges crossing over the Los Angeles River and the Glendale Freeway. Option 1, however, did not included a pair of handicap accessible sidewalks nor did it include a pair of safe bike lanes (Option 1 does include bike lanes, but one of them is a death trap). These pedestrian and bicycle amenities, along with all the seismic work, were part of “Option 3″ – an option to remove a single car lane from the existing four lanes on the Hyperion Avenue portion of the bridge complex in order to make space for two sidewalks and two bike lanes. Option 3 was created through a robust community outreach effort begun in 2013; an effort which created the Vision Hyperion coalition. The Vision Hyperion group has gathered over 1,200 local stakeholder signatures, and dozens of letters of support from local businesses.

Much of the controversy over removing a single car lane from Hyperion Avenue has revolved around the assumption that taking a single car lane away on this bridge, in exchange for sidewalks and bike lanes, will bring traffic to a standstill.

How closely does this assumption hew to the facts? What is this “controversy” really about – is it a concern over traffic delays and congestion; or is it merely an emotional concern, by motorists, that their priorities must always be the most important consideration in designing the streets? Are we dealing with a windshield-perspective temper tantrum or a case of bike-hippies trying to run amok?

Let’s find out.

Removing a lane from the bridge? Chaos! How about removing TWO lanes from the bridge?! No matter the final outcome, during construction the Hyperion bridge will be narrowed to only one lane of travel in each direction. A four lane street will become a two lane street for 11 months.

What will the impact on traffic be?


This isn’t even about car delay. This is really all about the appearance of not keeping motorists foremost in our street designs. That is it. Because narrowing this bridge for cars will not impact average travel times for cars.


Yes! In fact, I do. Well, we all do, really. It is on pages 2-31 to 2-33 of the Glendale-Hyperion IS-EA document prepared by the city and their consultants for Option 1.

It goes like this:

The city hired an engineering firm to do a traffic count on Hyperion Avenue. Hyperion at peak hours (6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. for morning peak hours, and 3:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. for evening peak hours) has 1,295 cars heading South and 805 cars heading North. At evening peak hours Hyperion has 1,070 cars heading South and 1,325 heading North.

Table 2.4-2 from page 2-33 of the Glendale-Hyperion IS/EA.

Table 2.4-2 from page 2-33 of the Glendale-Hyperion IS/EA.

From the IS-EA: “With these peak-hour traffic volumes and the standard traffic requirements, one lane in each direction would be able to adequately accommodate this traffic flow. [emphasis added]

The report goes on:

“Construction site traffic would be regulated at 25 miles per hour. At this speed, the capacity of one uninterrupted lane could be as high as 1,500 vehicles per hour with an average gap of 65 feet between vehicles. This would provide operating conditions of LOS D or better.

“Actively promoted Transportation Management Program elements would be able to reduce peak hour vehicular traffic by at least 5%; therefore reducing the demand to about 1,260 vehicles per hour in the peak direction.”

So, what, exactly is all this bitching and whining about from the pro-Option 1 side?!

The whole argument that “bike lanes and sidewalks can/will/might cause traffic” is baloney.

This is about the sense of entitlement that motorists want to feel. They want to know that their self image as someone worth every possible consideration by street designers is more important than the lives and fortunes of those not in cars. There is no factual basis for the statement “removing a single lane from Hyperion Avenue will cause traffic delays”. The car centric engineers at the LADOT and Bureau of Engineering showed through direct observation and modelling that you can remove TWO lanes and still not impact vehicle throughput.

Of course, the time for public rhetoric is mostly passed on this issue. The papers have been filed in court. Still, this is a salient point that belongs at the forefront of the discussion about the Glendale-Hyperion project. Take away one lane? Nah, you can take two! It won’t hurt travel times and we’ll get a bridge that works for everyone.

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And Then There’s Maintenance….

Yes, even half-baked efforts such as sharrows or the city’s numerous Door Zone Bike Lanes (known widely as DZBLs), all need to be kept up. The photo shows one such lane on York Boulevard in Highland Park.

This lane was installed as part of a road diet, a retuning of a street to reduce speeding. Bike lanes are seen as an essential part of such projects; they provide visual narrowing of the lane space, which slows drivers down without the need for signs and cops; they add capacity by encouraging street users to switch from cars to bikes for their local travel; and they improve safety for pedestrians by reducing the distances one must walk through motor traffic lanes to cross. In fact, the Federal Highway Administration touts road diets as a “proven safety countermeasure,” saying that “The resulting benefits include a crash reduction of 19 to 47 percent, reduced vehicle speed differential, improved mobility and access by all road users, and integration of the roadway into surrounding uses that results in an enhanced quality of life. A key feature of a Road Diet is that it allows reclaimed space to be allocated for other uses, such as turn lanes, bus lanes, pedestrian refuge islands, bike lanes, sidewalks, bus shelters, parking or landscaping.”

Road diets often even shorten travel times for drivers, believe it or not, by moving left turners out of the way and preventing drivers from hurrying themselves into jams under the mistaken belief that driving hard gets them through busy commercial areas faster. There have been hundreds of studies now proving that road diets reduce crashes, boost biking, enhance street life, and support local merchants far better than untrammeled four-lane highways, cutting through neighborhoods, can ever hope to do.

But if you let the paint fade away, none of that happens.

Los Angeles, when will you grow up? You can’t just throw down a stripe and walk away. That weary dribble at the top of the photo is all that’s left of the outer boundary mark of the bike lane. The visual narrowing no longer works; cyclists, walkers, and drivers are no longer safe; and even while I was pulled over to snap the picture, I saw motorists drifting over the almost-vanished line and into the bike lane.

Pant it afresh, LADOT! That is your mandate: keeping the streets safe and effective. Likewise the lost striping on the Venice Boulevard bike lanes, the sharrows on Fourth Street, and the deterioration of dozens, perhaps hundreds, of other facilities in our city. This is not major reconstruction work; this is the same cheap paint jobs you did before because they were cheap. Well, they’re still cheap, so do ’em again!

Readers, post comments listing your own local faded bike lane, since the DOT doesn’t seem interested in checking up on them itself.


Lagging Behind

Intersection in Los Angeles. Go ahead, cross it—I dare you!

While in Los Angeles, blood stains the asphalt as raging motorists take their cue from overbuilt streets, driving faster and faster, indifferent to the fates of any who might get in their way, the cities surrounding our retrograde Wild-Westward-Ho kind of town are changing their boulevards into spaces for a living community. Where once traffic groaned in ceaseless streams of overheated metal, and angry faces grimaced through the glass, now you can find happy people walking or cycling from shop to bar to eatery, meeting each other face to face, and even—odd though it may seem when you’re cowering on most of the streets of LA—enjoying a beautiful day right there on the sidewalk!

A particular case in point is Long Beach, once a grim industrial town and still, thanks to its port and an active manufacturing sector, a powerhouse of the US economy. In fact, the Port of Long Beach was just named “#1 in North America” by Asia Cargo News, which recently polled 15,000 shipping industry pros for their opinions. It’s not some sleepy little tourist town, but a muscular, hard-working business center.

And it has ambitions to be even more: the city’s new motto is “The Most Bicycle-Friendly City in America,” and though it hasn’t quite reached that goal, it’s well on its way.

Protected bikeway in downtown Long Beach.

To the point that Citylab, an offshoot of the Atlantic Monthly dedicated to news of urban culture and development, featured it in a January 2012 article by Nate Berg. Besides exploring the bicycle boulevards, thousands of new bike racks, and protected bikeways in the heart of downtown, Berg’s article quotes mobility coordinator Charlie Gandy as saying:

“We had our conversations about killing businesses and killing downtown and all that crap, but the inverse has happened.”

Yes, while LA politicos cave in to reality-averse business owners who fear bankruptcy will result from making a little room for anything other than cars, Long Beach discovered that business has been booming and real estate sales—and selling prices—are up, despite the lingering effects of the Great Recession.

Of course, Los Angeles has long been averse to learning from the examples of other cities—I myself have heard city officials baldly state exactly that in planning meetings—but the rest of the county is not so egotistical. Or should we be fair and just say…not so stupid.

While LA residents die, and the city’s businesses founder, all in the name of the illusion of getting somewhere vaguely faster, the rest of the world is moving on towards a healthier and more prosperous future. Let’s hope that the county’s biggest city can wake up and get moving before the competition is so far ahead they’re out of sight.


Flying Pigeon LA inventory on June 27, 2015

More of me wandering around the shop talking about the stuff inside of the shop! Guest appearance: Yancey, the owner of the neighboring cafe.

You can check out our Babboe Curve in the very beginning of the video.

Questions? info@flyingpigeon-la.com

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Intuition Is a Lousy Guide to Policy

We all know that LA’s city Council members are both timid and intellectually lazy. When it comes to the progressive transportation infrastructure the city so desperately needs to free it from the tentacles of ever-more-jammed streets and freeways—jammed with cars, of course—they almost invariably opt for doing nothing that could reduce space for driving and parking cars, even if it would increase the capacity of the street.

Not even if it would, as road diets generally do, reduce point-to-point travel time for cars as well as boost safety, speed, and convenience for biking, walking, and transit. This has been proven so many times by real-world observations in actual American cities that only a fool or a pawn of automotive interests could think otherwise.

But in LA we do things by “gut feelings,” and so spend, for example, nearly two billion dollars adding a couple of lanes to the 405 over Sepulveda Pass—only to find that, for our expense and efforts, we’ve actually increased congestion on that stretch; and on the roads that feed into it.

“Induced demand”: it’s not a theory; it’s an observation. We’ve been building more lanes for seventy years, and congestion has gotten progressively worse, not better—while congestion-inducing sprawl has grown far faster than the populations it (dis)serves.

The council and its cohorts in the Bureau of Engineering can’t even be bothered to read the literature showing that Americans (including Angelenos) have been driving fewer miles per person, and fewer miles in total, every year for over ten years.

This flat-earth mindset persists to this day, with neanderthal council members such as Koretz, La Bonge, Cedillo, and, to our surprise, fresh face O’Farrell, fighting to give cars primacy, even as cars batter both the city’s residents and its economy.

But motorheads aren’t the only ones to suffer from gut feelings that are nothing more than gas: so can cyclists.

I remember the worries that filled blogs and comments pages over the rush-hour bus & bike lanes on Wilshire: how on earth could it be safe to share a lane with a gigantic articulated bus? It had been done with great success in other countries, including safety-conscious Germany. But, just as LA’s council won’t condescend even to look at the experiences of other cities, so many of our cyclists fretted endlessly about the bus & bike lanes.

Like the one the fellow in the photo is riding. Like the ones I ride whenever I have to head east or west during rush hour. Like the ones my wife uses to get to her hair salon on occasion.

Forget intuition, and just see what really works. It’s easy—especially when the rest of the world has done your homework for you.

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