Tag Archive for traffic planning

Pico-Olympic: The 10% Solution

One thing you seldom see in Los Angeles is bold action from elected officials.

You might see it in the private sector — especially from corporate jerks vying for the title of the city’s biggest bunghole. But from the government, no so much. At least not since the city’s last great mayor.

That’s why I was stunned to get up one day around 18 months ago, and discover this in my morning paper — an exceptionally bold, if flawed, plan to reconfigure Olympic and Pico Boulevards into near one-way streets through much of the Westside. (Note that the story was written by the much-missed Steve Hymon, one of the latest victims in the slow decline of the once great L.A. Times.)

As anyone would expect with such a radical transformation of city streets, local residents and business owners had some legitimate concerns. And as usual, rather than sit down with the concerned parties — or the city council, for that matter — and negotiate out a solution that could work to everyone’s benefit, the mayor responded in typical L.A. fashion.

He tried to ram it down the city’s throat.

And in typical L.A. fashion, a lawsuit ensued. As a result, the brakes were applied, just as they are countless times every day by frustrated drivers stuck endless Westside traffic.

The sad part is, it could have been a great plan. Had the mayor and his minions looked at the plan as more than just a means of increasing traffic flow and reducing commute times, these streets could have become tremendous assets for the city.

But nowhere in this plan was there any suggestion of creating livable streets that would improve the neighborhoods they pass through. No mention of walkable streetscapes or any measures to accommodate cyclists. No beautification plans that would draw people to the area, increase property values and create new business opportunities.

Nothing to address the concerns of business people over the loss of street parking, or resident’s worry over difficulty getting in and out of their homes. Let alone concerns that the plan could backfire and actually increase traffic and congestion by drawing even more drivers are drawn to these streets.

Now, after repeatedly scaling back the once-bold plan, the Department of Public Transportation is holding hearings on what’s left of it. Which basically consists of three lanes in each direction, with a turn lane in the middle, prioritizing traffic in the direction of traffic flow, and eliminating street-side parking at rush hour.

Which may succeed in improving traffic flow somewhat. But continues the focus on vehicular throughput that the city has employed for the last 60 years — the same failed focus that got us into this mess in the first place.

And squanders a rare opportunity to do something that could truly transform L.A. streets for decades to come.

So the question is, do we settle for a mere fraction of the original plan — which itself was just a fraction of what it could, and should, have been?

Or insist that they go back to the drawing board, until they come up with a complete solution that works for everyone — cyclists, pedestrians, transit users, residents and business owners alike.

And not just drivers looking for a faster route from here to there.

Thanks to Damien Newton of LA Streetsblog for the complete refresher course on the Pico-Olympic plan. And for most of the links I’ve used on this post, as well.


One week after being invaded by drunken, rampaging cyclists and the cops who love them, Hollywood once again finds itself infested — this time by mopeds. New York cyclists need better PR; evidently, they need better bike locks, as well. Louisville cyclists get a new Downtown bike center with their stimulus dollars. It looks like Colorado will get a new bike safety bill this year, despite the objections of the bike-hating sheriff. Green LA Girl profiles the founder of the Bikex Database. The best-named bike shop in town gets a new home, with plans for a “soft-opening” party this weekend. And finally, my brother and his dogs survive wind chill factors of -50 degrees Fahrenheit to arrive safely in Nome.

Just poor planning? Or are they trying to kill us?

When I ride my bike, I tend to stick to routes I know, and take side streets whenever possible.

That gives me an intimate knowledge of the danger spots; because I know the streets, I know where I’m likely to run into trouble, so I can be ready for it.

For instance, when I take the bike lane on Main Street in Santa Monica, I know I’ll have a long, straight route where I can get up a good head of speed, often approaching — or sometimes exceeding — the speed of traffic. But I keep a close watch for taillights and drivers behind the steering wheels of parked cars, so I can avoid getting doored. And I have to be prepared for cars that suddenly cut in front of me and stop in the bike lane to back into a parking space.

If I keep a close watch on the oncoming cars behind me, though, I can easily cut out into traffic and take the lane for as long as it takes to avoid any obstacles.

Closer to home, I often take Ohio through Westwood, which gives me a nice, relatively quiet street to ride. East of Westwood Blvd, I look out for cars that dart out from the side streets without looking for bikes coming downhill at 25 or 30 mph; west of the boulevard, I know that cars tend to pass too closely. Sometimes intentionally.

But when I drive my car, I don’t have to be concerned about things like that. So I frequently find myself driving down streets I seldom, if ever ride.

Like Pico Blvd, for instance.

According to the most recent Metro Bike Map, it’s designated as a bike route between the 405 freeway to Century Park East.

Evidently, they assume a lot of cyclists are going to ride along the 405, then sling their bikes over their shoulders and climb down from the overpass, since there’s no exit ramp there. Or else we’re going to ride Pico to Cotner — just before the freeway — and then take the onramp for a nice, exhilarating ride over the Sepulveda pass.

And who knows, that could happen. Because anyone crazy enough to ride through all the traffic and potholes along there is probably crazy enough to ride the freeway.

The next section, just east of Sepulveda, offers two narrow lanes in each direction, bounded by parked cars on either side. And there’s no room to ride in the parking lane, even if you did manage to avoid any swinging doors.

Which means that any rider there would be forced to take a lane on one of the Westside’s most crowded streets. Then try to dodge all the cars pulling in and out of all the various driveways, parking lots and valet stands, as well as one of the city’s busier shopping centers.

I suppose that explains why I’ve never seen a cyclist on that particular bike route. And I can only assume it was designated as a bike route in a blatant attempt to thin the herd, since I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone without a death wish.

Then I find myself driving down other streets, such as Centinella, which was recently repaved and widened, leaving plenty of room for a bike lane now, in an area that desperately needs one. Instead, they put in nice, wide lanes and a center divider lane. The newly rebuilt Santa Monica Blvd, where they could easily extend the bike lane through Beverly Hills — or at least far enough to accommodate the route Will recently attempted.

Or Jefferson, which has three full lanes of traffic leading to and from the new Playa Vista development, yet no bike lanes to help move those people in and out of the area, or get riders to and from all the work places that have opened up in the former warehouse district south of Ballona Creek.

Maybe they assume riders will take the Ballona Creek bike path to get there. Except that it runs on the north side of the creek, with little access to the south side. And it presents it’s own set of problems.

I could go on (and on… and on…), but you get the idea.

Pick virtually any street in West L.A. If it’s a designated bike route, chances are, it shouldn’t be. Or if it could safely accommodate a bike lane, it doesn’t. And if by some miracle it actually has a bike lane, it usually doesn’t go anywhere, and dumps riders off in the most dangerous spot possible.

I think Timur hit it on the head. (If you haven’t read his blog, drop what you’re doing — once you finish reading this, of course — and check out one of the most intelligent, insightful and beautifully written sites in local cyberspace.)

The problem is that our entire bike system shows every sign of being designed by people who have never ridden a bike in their entire lives. Or at least, haven’t been on one that didn’t training wheels, streamers on the handlebars or playing cards attached to the spokes.

It’s a system that was designed to move cars with maximum efficiency, though little evident efficacy, with no thought paid to any other form of traffic or the effect it will has the surrounding community — like the mayor’s plan to turn Olympic and Pico into one-way streets, for instance. And whatever minimal effort was made to accommodate cyclists or pedestrians was obviously nothing more than an afterthought.

That why we need to add our comments to the new bicycle master plan, which the city is updating right now. (Yes, there actually is one now, believe it or not.) Then contact your council member to insist on adoption of the Cyclist’s Bill of Rights — and do something concrete about it by insisting that Metro include a 1% each set-aside for cycling and pedestrian projects in the proposed 1/2 cent sales tax increase.

You don’t have to look very had to see the failure of bicycle planning around here.

And no one’s likely to do anything about it unless we stand up and make them.

 

The Times’ Bottleneck Blog’s questions SoCal bike routes, including one on a Ventura highway in the sunshine; you’re gonna go, I know. Once again, the city breaks the law by banning cyclists from the holiday light display in Griffith Park. Maybe we should get a group together and go anyway. LACBC celebrates it’s tenth anniversary with a potluck party. Thankfully, only Will Campbell’s shadow bites the dust, courtesy of a non-stop driver, then encounters the owner of these road we ride on. Back from vacation, Gary catches us up on the Brentwood Grand Prix, and urges us to support the subway to the sea. But who won the Manolos? Alex says goodbye to Spook. And finally, New York has over 3600 reports of vehicles blocking bike lanes; L.A. zero. Somehow, I don’t think that means it never happens here; maybe we just don’t have enough functional lanes that anyone out here thinks it matters.  

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