Strange Changes

The extension of the York Boulevard bike lanes almost to South Pasadena has illustrated some peculiar transmutations in the Los Angeles County planning world….

We knew from our first ride that there was a gap between the end of the LA lanes and the beginning of South Pasadena’s. Or vice-versa, of course, if you were heading from SoPas to LA, when the gap is considerably more problematical.

The first impulse, which Pigeon Master Josef acted upon, was to lay the blame on the LA side of the line. This is natural, as the county’s biggest city has a history of building scattered, disconnected, and uncoordinated bicycle facilities.

But in this case, the natural procedure felt a bit wrong.

For one thing, LADOT engineer Tim Frémaux had told me not long ago that the bridge that carries York over the Arroyo and the 110 freeway didn’t really see much traffic, and that a full road diet would be no problem there.

For another, the majority of the gap was on the South Pasadena side of the line. The fresh paving laid down by LA stops at the border, of course, and the gap is east of that.

So I emailed a contact in the South Pasadena city government, and he revealed something that surprised me: it was South Pasadena who scotched LADOT’s plan to road-diet the bridge from four motor lanes to two, leaving room for bigger and safer bike lanes. In other words, South Pasadena wanted two full-width lanes going west across the bridge—even though motor traffic volumes don’t merit it, and apparently never have. I quote my sources response below:

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.

In other words, SoPas is okay with completing the eastward-bound bike lane, but is crying poverty; and it was “concerned” about westward-bound traffic, so kicked LADOT in the teeth and prevented an effective road diet that would have given bicycle users wide, comfortable lanes without impeding measured motor traffic in the least. “Concerned” sounds like that old planning devil, “gut feelings”—nothing more than an admission of ignorance.

The other big surprise, as Josef discovered and wrote about yesterday: John Fisher, who was much vilified by the bicycle community when he was part of the LADOT, seemed to be championing the road diet and bike lanes that South Pasadena’s commissioners cut down—an impression strengthened by a quote from Tim Frémaux on Streetsblog LA a few days ago.

So South Pasadena, which had seemed so much more progressive in its bike plan than LA, suddenly closes its eyes, puts its hands over its ears, and starts chanting “Na-na-na-I-can’t-hear-you” as it lurches towards a Beverly-Hills-like intransigent pandering to diminishing motor traffic, while John Fisher is pushing bike lanes and road diets!

Strange changes, indeed….

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