LA at Loose Ends

Los Angeles’s approach to its putative bicycling network is sometimes incomprehensible—except, of course, when the city is facing outright stonewalling, such as on North Figueroa, as NELA knows all too well.

But even when there seems to be a clear field, the efforts it makes are often…well, you might say lazy, if you were feeling uncharitable. The LADOT’s famous “low-hanging fruit”—the agency’s own phrase—has mostly been plucked, peeled, and eaten. Now, its time to cook: because certain things are just not digestible without an effort.

LADOT tends to set up charts-and-graphs technical presentations, given in halting speeches by engineers who’d rather stay behind their desks. And the LACBC’s presentations seem dedicated to inoffensiveness, even when dealing with NIMBYs whose greatest delight is using extravagant shows of indignation as a way to shut up proponents of happier, healthier, wealthier street designs.

And no one seems willing to call rogue council members on their exercise of a veto power over street projects that is never mentioned in our burg’s charter.

Still, a few things do get done, though still, after all these years of meetings and input, in a piecemeal fashion. A case in point is illustrated by the header photo: a brand-new road diet on Oxford Avenue, between Beverly and Third. Well-done work, as you can see (even though it’s not quite finished, with no bike symbols in the bike lanes). There’s even a car using the center left turn channel the way it ought to be used, keeping itself out of the way of through traffic.

But for some reason, the facility does not extend one block further south to the heavily-used Fourth Street bike route!


There are orphan bikeways all over town. Crescent Heights has an odd one that runs from little Guthrie Avenue and aims at, but falls far short of, Pico and its wealth of shops. Los Angeles Street has fine bikelanes that begin at Union Station but disappear at First Street, which does at least have a bikeway of its own. However, the busiest parts of Los Angeles Street are in the Fashion District, and lanes continued south would connect to the well-used Seventh Street lanes. Of course they don’t. Hauser has two blocks of bikelanes that run through Park La Brea from Sixth to Third—which have no lanes of their own. (District Four’s weathervane council member, Tom LaBonge, first proposed a road diet with bike lanes on Sixth from La Brea to Fairfax, but now has them “on hold,” and has actively blockaded the road diet for Lankershim in NoHo.)

It’s almost as if los Angeles is allergic to connecting bikeway segments, perhaps out of fear that people will then actually use the network, and then we’d have to build more of it, and life would become better for all, and we can’t have that in LA, no sir!

I wish we weren’t so afraid of doing things right….

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  1. Posted October 1, 2014 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    It really is strange how many of the city’s newest bike lanes stop just short of actually connecting to existing ones. I’ve been baffled for months at the newish lanes on 1st St between Vermont and Commonwealth that are so frustratingly close to the New Hampshire Ave sharrowed route.

  2. Phillip C
    Posted October 3, 2014 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    I think this is a feature of an early stage bicycle network, and a bureaucracy that measures progress by miles of bike lanes completed, rather than trying to figure out how useful they are for getting from one place to another. It is too common a situation (random stops, starts, missed connections, and so on) just to be a mistake – or overlooked opportunity.
    But, our bicycle infrastructure has been under construction for quite some time, and it is now time to start filling in the gaps to produce an actual network that can be used.
    Once that happens (in my lifetime?) I believe, the number of people using bikes for commuting, errands, and recreation will skyrocket. I could be wrong, but the current bits and pieces of lanes and sharrows has got to discourage use.

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