They’re At It Again

Council Member O’Farrell’s car blocking pedestrian access to the press conference—Freudian slip?

Yes, our so-called representatives on the city council are at it again: trying to keep the Hyperion/Glendale bridge complex a speedway for cut-through drivers, at the expense of anybody hoping to walk or bicycle across the great chasm caused by the I-5 and the LA River between Atwater and Silver Lake. What will be in effect a one-mile freeway between the two communities will dump road-raging motorists onto two popular shopping streets, with predictable results. So, yesterday council members Tom LaBonge and Mitch O’Farrell held a press conference at which they grandly announced a “bicycle and pedestrian bridge” over the river on the old Red Car trestles, roughly paralleling the soon-to-be-rebuilt Hyperion/Glendale road bridge.

The problem is that the two have no functional relationship. The bike/ped bridge is an access point to the bike path on the right bank of the river, and as such is very nice. But: it doesn’t cross the freeway, and if you do manage to wind your complicated way through various half-hidden paths, and then cross a number of busy lanes with bad sightlines, you find that it doesn’t even provide decent access to or from Silver Lake. Unless you climb several long flights of stairs, it dumps you onto a bleak section of Riverside Drive. It’s fine for Atwater-based roadies who want to work out on the river path, but useless as a transportation facility.

In other words, pretty much a Bridge to Nowhere.

In exchange for this short stub of concrete, we are to surrender protected bike lanes on the real bridge, and make do with floppy plastic bollards to guard us from speeding motor traffic. And at that, cyclists will be lucky: pedestrians will lose an entire sidewalk from the popular Option 3 plan that the latest LaBonge/O’Farrell proposal hopes to replace. Yes, our bikeless brethren would have to cross four lanes of speeding traffic to the north side of the bridge, and then all too often cross back at the other end to reach their destinations. Crosswalks, by the way, are not included (so far) in the plan, so walkers would have to trudge to the nearest traffic signal to get across in one piece.

All so drivers can imagine they save a few seconds while crossing the bridge at 55mph instead of the 35 that fewer and narrower lanes would mandate.

And they might not even be faster with all that: studies of road diets have shown that, while top speeds decrease, transit times are often faster than they were with more lanes, since people now drive more rationally and don’t hurry themselves into mini-jams. (See page 8 of this PDF studying a Kentucky road diet, just one of many.)

But LaBonge and O’Farrell can only think of “cars” when they see roads. And they know the community disagrees—after all, the Option 3 folks have dozens and dozens of letters and petition signatures from residents and businesses in both Atwater and Silver Lake supporting a fully multi-modal, traffic-calmed bridge. So they scheduled the press conference at 9AM on a workday…at the same time as the popular “Blessing of the Bicycles” at Good Samaritan Hospital miles away. They directed news crews to interview only the four opponents of Option 3 who had shown up, ignoring the much larger crowd of Option 3 supporters. And they hustled themsleves away before anyone other than the fatuous broadcast agencies could confront them with questions.

So the fight against the Death Bridge concept is not over. In fact a big battle may take place this Friday, when the city council reviews a “Mitigated Negative Declaration” that will somehow claim that drawing more and faster traffic to the bridge won’t harm the communities at either end of it, nor the remnants of natural environment it crosses.

The meeting is at City Hall downtown, Friday, May 15th, at 10AM. Take a day off from work and be there. It’s your city. You can’t let them ruin it. Can you?

Here’s the Facebook page, courtesy of Don Ward: Huge Step for Hyperion.

Read more, and see the list of Option 3 supporters, in this excellent Streetsblog LA article by Damien Newton, who was there.

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