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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  1. Wes Reutimann
    Posted April 28, 2014 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    If LADOT’s determination that a full road diet and buffered bike lanes was the most prudent treatment for all road users given existing traffic volumes, average speeds, and safety considerations, why did they need or even seek out the approval of South Pasadena’s Public Works Commission, which is composed of residents who were not involved with the South Pasadena Bike Master plan?

    Also, it should be noted that there is much broader support for Complete Street improvements on the South Pasadena City Council than on some of the City’s Commissions. In a recent election there was even a former Council Member who included an anti-bike lane/bike plan item to his campaign platform.

    The City’s Monterey Rd Task Force, which provided recommendations for the 4 lane stretch of Monterey between Pasadena Ave/Gold Line Crossing and Fair Oaks, also was very divided on the issue of accommodating bicycle access on the thoroughfare. Several members of the task force strongly supported a full road diet to add center turn lane and bike lanes, but were ultimately outvoted by the other members in their selection of a formal recommendation that does not include Class II lanes.

    In hindsight, it really is a missed opportunity that the local cycling public was not made aware of this presentation, as I have no doubt they would have at least provided official comment and support for LADOT’s original proposal. Had LADOT moved forward with a full road diet, it also would have underlined the benefits of the treatment and helped support those who have and continue to support the continuation of Class II lanes all the way to Fair Oaks Ave, where they would meet up with proposed Class II lanes on Fair Oaks south to Huntington Dr.

  2. J
    Posted April 28, 2014 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    South Pasadena doesn’t invest squat in fixing it’s roads much less allocate money for bike lanes. For all it’s wealth, it’s littered with pot holes due to everyday, congested commutes through it’s residential neighborhoods. But hey, let’s keep dragging our feet on the 710 tunnel too.

  3. Posted April 29, 2014 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    South Pasadena spends a big chunk of its tiny budget on opposing the 710. It is something of a cottage industry in this small town and the result is that Public Works gets starved for maintenance dollars to fight the behemoth freeway project that would kill this small burb. So long as that Sword of Damocles hang above its head, South Pasadena’s not going to have any problem starving road maintenance budgets, and firing people like Dennis Woods, until the voters decide they’ve had enough cronyism and lobbying in opposition to the 710.

  4. Posted April 30, 2014 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    If the 710 projects are bullied through as Metro and CalTrans hope to do, in spite of decades of community opposition, South Pasadena will indeed be effectively destroyed. Not only that, but any bike infrastructure installed in NELA generally will be rendered ineffective by the increase in traffic that freeway expansions always result in. Unless you consider Carson, Maywood North Long Beach and other 710 corridor cities currently afflicted by the freeway to be bicycle paradises, you too would want to oppose the 710. Freeways, even underground ones, need feeder roads, and NELA would be a nest of congestion were the freeway expanded. I’d say opposition to the 710 is more important that bike lanes for bicycling in the corridor.

    In fact, pushing back the freeway, and pushing forward a multi-modal travel matrix in its place, could do more for bicycling (and community) in the 710’s target zone that haranguing all the city councils of the area. Most of the people opposing the 710 expansions are also actively or passively supporting transit, walking, and cycling networks–you can see this in the detailed four-part series on the issue that I produced with a grant from Here’s the online version:

    And a PDF:

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] Risemberg points the finger at South Pass for blocking a road diet on the York Blvd bridge. And directs your attention to an in-depth […]

  2. By Streetsblog Los Angeles » Today’s Headlines on April 29, 2014 at 12:31 am

    […] More on the South Pasadena Gap in the York Blvd Bike Lanes (Flying Pigeon) […]

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