Is the City Destroying a Bridge in Order to Save It?

As you may know, the city has long been developing plans to refurbish the Glendale/Hyperion bridge between Silver Lake and Atwater. But perhaps they’ve been working on them a bit too long: what they came up with represents the height of outdated car-only, streets-as-speedways thinking that has made so much of Los Angeles only marginally habitable. Wide, sweeping lanes, a 55mph limit that scofflaw drivers (that is, all of them) will universally exceed, and no room for pedestrians or cyclists on this vital connection over a river and a wide freeway between two walkable, bike-friendly, human-scale neighborhoods.

Here’s the letter I sent to various city entities (including the clueless council members, Tom LaBonge and Mitch O’Farrell):

The plans for the Glendale/Hyperion bridge revealed at the recent community meeting represent nothing less than a clumsy tumble back into the past of reflexive pandering to the car.

For decades we have built wider and faster roads, only to discover that they induce more traffic and congestion, degrade public health, and crush healthy commercial activity along their corridors.

While city after city in the US, following the lead of healthy and prosperous Northern European communities, has been emphasizing walkability and bicycling, with brilliant results, we in Los Angeles are repeatedly subjected to constant retrograde efforts to boost car speeds through our neighborhoods, replacing a salubrious street life with aggression, noise, fumes, crashes, and empty sidewalks.

Silver Lake and Atwater are little success stories in the drab blandscape that obsolescent traffic engineering has made of Los Angeles. Now, plans to rebuild the Glendale/Hyperion bridge—a bridge I traverse frequently by bicycle, and whose form and setting I know well—seem intended to result in a chopped-off snippet of superhighway, with wide lanes and banked turns that are guaranteed to induce speeding. The drivers swooping over the bridge will not be willing to slow down when they approach Rowena or Glenhurst, nor will they have much regard for cyclists or walkers trying to make their way to neighborhood shops—let alone cyclists on the bridge itself.

Everywhere else in the civilized world–from other West Coast cities such as Seattle and San Francisco, to the powerhouse towns of Chicago and New York, to planetary capitals that include Washington DC, Paris, Tokyo, and London, forward-thinking engineers have chosen to slow down and de-emphasize the car, and to support walking, cycling, and transit, which cannot co-exist with shrieking motor traffic.

It is well-known and thoroughly proven now that nurturing the cyclist and the walker results in more cohesive communities, less crime, healthier populations, and increasingly profitable businesses. Who wants to wander a shopping street’s sidewalk or sit at a sidewalk table when you need a gas mask and earplugs to do so?

If council members Labonge and O’Farrell and the ladies and gentlemen of CalTrans and the DOT let this unconsidered project move forward as presented, they will be remembered as the last, lost befuddled champions of an obsolete obsession with speed over people, with chrome-plated arrogance over prosperous communities, with the ignorant and presumptive past over the prosperous future the rest of the world is bounding into without us.

To learn more, and to find contact info for the fools involved, go to the LACBC’s Action Alert, look up the matter on Streetsblog LA, or join the new Facebook Working Group.

Don’t let them turn the Glendale/Hyperion bridge into a road-raging speedway!

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  1. Paul Motschall
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Really nice letter.

  2. Jake
    Posted October 2, 2013 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    I drive over the Hyperion bridge twice daily (work in Atwater, live in Hollywood), and I think the bridge plan is TERRIBLE. I’ve been vocal about my opposition to the bridge, and it’s one of the main things that would ever keep me from riding to and from work. However, I have to say that your toss-away comment about all drivers being scofflaws is silly and divisive. One might say the same thing about cyclists running red lights, and it would be equally unfair. It makes me sad to see the us versus them attitude in the cycling community, when making the streets safe for four wheels, two wheels, and two legs is in EVERYONE’S best interest. Just a little food for thought.

  3. Posted October 2, 2013 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    Jake, I put in the comment about “scofflaw drivers” to point out the very fallacy that motorists constantly propagate about cyclists. That’s precisely why I used the phrasing anti-cycling ranters have made into a cliche. And it is very nearly true when it refers to speeding; I rarely see a driver on any street anywhere driving at or below the speed limit when the road is clear. That is why roads with wide lanes are so dangerous, regardless of posted limit. (And of course the proposed posted limit on the bridge is already too high.)

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