The Other Figueroa

The local news lately has been full of stories about famous Danish planner Jan Gehl’s visions for Figueroa Street downtown…wide sidewalks, bike lanes, tree-shaded medians, and even rationalized motor traffic. Steetsblog LA has a tasty rundown of the treats that could be in store for downtown and the area around USC. And it seems as though downtown businesses and the city bureaucracy are becoming interested. There’s even a website for “My Figueroa” touting the upcoming redesign.

But what about the our Figueroa? The one that runs in front of Flying Pigeon? The one you ride on every day?

Why should this Figueroa be forgotten?

Especially when it might be even easier to sweeten for the communities it serves. Because this Figueroa has a lot of wasted asphalt just waiting to be put to better use.

North Figueroa Seen from Montecito Heights width=North Figueroa Corridor, seen from Montecito heights
Thanks to Pigeon Master Josef’s tedious labor that extracted some statistics from chaotic city files, I looked at the actual motor vehicle counts for Figueroa between Avenues 26 and 60, taken over eleven days, and averaged them. The counts occurred on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays in the fall and winter between 2001 and 2008, and avoided holidays. The average daily traffic for the street is 21,515 motor vehicles.

Yet the street is designed for 30,000 to 50,000 motor vehicle trips per day.

In other words, as Josef so often points out, Figueroa through the Avenues is either grossly overdesigned, or pathetically underemployed. And, with its wide lanes and broad visual expanse, it encourages speeding, which is not only dangerous, but bad for business–people who are speeding through a neighborhood are unlikely to consider giving up their emotional momentum to stop at an interesting store or restaurant.

The traffic on Figueroa is depressing our local economy! Not to mention our immune systems and our very pleasure in life in this “underserved community” it passes through.

Fortunately, there is a very simple way to rectify this situation, one that Josef has been eloquently promoting: a road diet.

Yes, Figueroa needs to slim down. A narrowing of the present traffic lanes would make room for bike lanes on both sides, not only accommodating the many neighbors who already ride their bikes along it, but encouraging more locals (and commuters, too, perhaps) to get out of their steel cages and onto two wheels. It would make room for wider sidewalks, maybe some trees, some benches, newsstands, sidewalk cafés–places to be yourself.

There would still be plenty of room for motor traffic, but it would move more slowly–this is a recognized effect of road diets, as LADOT points out. Slower traffic is safer, more neighborly, more likely to drop out of the stream and visit a local business.

And bike traffic is slower still, more neighborly still, and even more likely to stop and shop, or grab a bite to eat or a cup of coffee. And cyclists don’t require much in the way of parking facilities, either. A few racks, maybe a bike corral or two, instead of bleak concrete expanses…twelve bikes fit in the space it takes to park one average car.

Why should Eli Broad and the financial wizards downtown (the ones who helped bring you the Great Recession) have all the good streetscapes? Don’t get me wrong; I love downtown, I enjoy riding through University Park, I often lead rides through both areas. It’s a great place. But it’s not the only place.

The Avenues have had their problems–as has downtown. But just as much as Bunker Hill, they are Los Angeles!

Let’s transform Figueroa into a showplace of community! It may only be a dream right now…but come on in–yeah, you, come on in–and talk to Josef; with your help he can make it a reality.

Furthermore, there are meetings on February 8th and 10th where the CRA asks “community members” for input. Should be a good place to speak up for the “other Figueroa.”

Are you with us? Let’s hear it in the comments now!

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  1. Posted February 2, 2011 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    North Figueroa was recently added to the “top 10” projects list by the Bike Plan Implementation Team (BPIT). It’s one of the 10 streets DOT will be aggressively creating options for in the coming months. Make sure to get involved early and often to steer the it towards the type of project you want.
    I don’t have solid info on the BPIT yet (they met for the first time yesterday), but the meetings will be held on the first Tuesday of each month, are run by City Planning, and are 100% open to the public.
    When I get more solid info on how the “top 10” projects will proceed, I’ll put it up on the Bike Blog.

  2. Posted February 2, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    LADOT Bike Blog–

    Is there a web page or other easily-accessible clearinghouse for information on this project? There’s a lot of interest in it in NELA, but the obscurity of he doings keeps stakeholders out. Although LACBC mentioned that “meetings would be publicized on City websites,” the only references that I found in a quick Internet search were announcements of the announcements on LACBC’s blog and by Bikeside, but no actual announcement of meetings themselves.

    Since they are regular 1st Tuesday meetings and “100% open to the public,” would you mind publishing the venue, so people can show up? So far–and this appears to have been in process since at latest early December–no on else has that I could find.

  3. Posted February 2, 2011 at 7:05 pm | Permalink


    I’ll be sure to provide all the information as soon as possible. It’s a great opportunity for people to impact the way the City carries out the bike plan.

  4. Posted February 3, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    I’d love to know when and where this “BPIT” “BTAC” “BAC” whatever the hell it is called meets as well. You guys have the greatest pseudo-military acronym thing going on.

  5. Posted February 10, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    Okay, got some word back from the Powers that Be: the BPIT meetings are open to the public and are used to coordinate actual implementation of the bike plan (as their name implies). They are not broadly publicized, but they are supposed to operate on a regular schedule, which is as follows:

    First Tuesday of every month
    City Hall (downtown), Room 721

    No appointment necessary–just show up!

  6. PC
    Posted February 17, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    What about the “other other Figueroa”? Contrary to popular belief, Figueroa Street doesn’t stop at USC; it goes all the way down to the harbor. And until it reaches Imperial Highway, which is well south of 41st Street, it’s just as much an urban corridor as Figueroa downtown or Figueroa through the Avenues.

  7. Posted February 17, 2011 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    Good point about the “other other Figueroa.” While I’ve ridden down there frequently, it’s not part of my regular rounds, so I don’t have a feel for how much cycling goes on there. I’ve seen plenty of cyclists down the full lengths of Vermont and Western and the other N/S streets I’ve ridden, so no doubt there are plenty on Fig too.

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  1. […] that as long as city leaders are planning to turn Figueroa into a complete street, they should extend it to the complete street, suggesting a road diet for the under-utilized Highland Park stretch. Because poorer neighborhoods […]

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