And now, a not-so-simple adjustment in biking infrastructure

Let’s take a look at something a little more involved that just changing signage.

Like changing attitudes, to start.

As Joe Linton noted in a recent comment, a bike boulevard can be a pretty hard sell. The name alone is enough to enflame rampant NIMBY-ism among local homeowners. And leave city officials reluctant to take on a similarly enraged mob ever again.

The simple fact is, not many people want a bike boulevard on their street. At least, not until they understand what it actually means.

And that’s our fault. As I’ve noted before, cyclists don’t have to be sold on the concept. The name alone tells us everything we need to know. Problem is, we expect everyone else to be as excited about it as we are.

It just doesn’t work that way.

On the other hand, the solution is simple. Instead of speaking in terms of our interests, we need to look at it in terms of what’s in it for people who don’t bike.

And there’s a lot in it for local homeowners.

By diverting traffic onto other streets, local residents can finally free themselves from the headaches of high-speed traffic in front of their homes. No more heavy trucks or hot-rodding hooligans in the middle of the night. And no more commuters taking a shortcut through a quiet residential neighborhood to bypass congested boulevards, turning a formerly peaceful street into a mini-throughway.

Eliminating through traffic can give residents a quieter, more livable neighborhood, where children can play outside and families stroll along peaceful sidewalks. It can also mean a more attractive place to live, as homeowners take advantage of the opportunity to clean up their streets, and the barriers themselves provide opportunities for beautification projects.

After all, nothing says barriers have to be k-rails; they can just as easily be planters, artwork, fountains or any number of similarly property-value enhancing enhancements. And that’s another key, because property values often go up as the newly peaceful neighborhood becomes more desirable to home buyers.

Then you tell them the best part. It won’t cost them a dime. Because one feature of this wonderful new street plan is something called a bike boulevard — a gap in those barriers that allows bikes and pedestrians to pass through — the DOT will pick up the entire tab.

They don’t even have to make a commitment. The whole thing can be installed on a temporary basis to prove how well it works before they agree to a permanent installation.

Now how many homeowners wouldn’t beg for something like that? And once people in other neighborhoods see it, chances are, they’ll beg for one of their own.

All you have to do is identify a street where homeowners are already fed up with traffic. Which pretty much means any street with speed bumps.

Military Ave. looking north from National Blvd.

Military Ave. looking north from National Blvd.

Like Military Avenue, for instance, which runs between Pico and Palms just a few blocks east of the 405 Freeway.

Since the street parallels busy Sepulveda and Westwood Boulevards, it’s often used by drivers looking for an easy way to bypass traffic. At least two rounds of speed bumps have already been installed to reduce and slow traffic; when the first didn’t have the desired effect, the response was to install more and larger humps — with little or no apparent decrease in traffic.

Which means they’d probably jump at the chance to block their street to through traffic, while providing full access to local residents. Even if it meant putting up with more of those damn cyclists.

And Military would make an ideal bike boulevard.

Military between National and Palms

Military between National and Palms

It’s straight and flat for most of the way, other than a small hill on the south end. The northern section is more than wide enough for bikes, cars and parking on each side, while the narrower southern section is lightly traveled and easily shared.

A bikeway on Military could also be extended south to connect with the existing bike paths on Venice Blvd. And it would only require a few new stop lights on Butler Avenue at Pico and Olympic to provide an easy link from Venice to Santa Monica Blvd.

Evidently, I’m not the only one to notice this.

The new bike plan shows Military as a “Bike Friendly Street” from Pico to Venice (page 67) — whatever that eventually ends up meaning.

Maybe that means they’re planning to make it a bike boulevard, but don’t want to use that name; maybe it means nothing more than sticking up a few signs indicating it as a preferred route for bikes. Or maybe they have no idea what they’re going to do there, but recognize that it’s an ideal place to do… something.

Then again it could just be a line on a map. One that never results in anything on the street, like so much of the previous bike plan.

That would be a lost opportunity for everyone.

Including homeowners.


More on bike racks, or the lack thereof: good and bad placement in West Hollywood; LAPD ignores Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design. The next Dim Sum Ride rolls through Old Town Pasadena this weekend. A proposed new development in the Valley straddles the Tujunga Wash and could interface better with transit and a proposed bikeway. Burbank cyclists will get a new route connecting with the popular Chandler Bikeway. Cynergy Cycles offers a free lecture on Heart Rate Specific Training tomorrow night. The LA Times discovers Critical Mass — in Chicago. Tips on how to lead your own themed ride. A NY pedicab driver gets into an altercation with an impatient cabbie. Dave Moulton finishes his look at the history of frame design. Actor/musician Jared Leto leads fans on a bike ride through an unnamed city. Proof that not all drivers hate cyclists. Finally, as if cyclists don’t have enough to worry about, Alaska riders have to watch out for bear attacks.


  1. david p. says:

    military is one of my favorite roads to ride in la. used it every day on the way to school. it’s recommended in the la plan as a “bicycle friendly street.”

    despite being wide, i’ve rarely run into more than a few cars on there, and i’ve ridden it every time of day. i hope we continue to keep it a secret.

  2. timur says:

    just to echo david – i’ve only been on military once, but it’s a dream to ride. smooth, wide, and pretty car-free. two thumbs up from me.

  3. Joe Linton says:

    Another excellent article – I feel like an authority when I get quoted!

    One nuance, though, and nothing you stated really contradicts this – I would suggest that we cyclists actually do need to be sold on the concept of a bicycle boulevard. I think most bicyclists in L.A. don’t know what a bicycle boulevard is… because there just aren’t any examples locally. I very much agree with you that we need to educate drivers, residents, businesspeople, folks-who-breathe… but we also need to educate cyclists as to what tools are available.

    As far as I can tell L.A. County’s first bicycle boulevard will be in Long Beach on Vista Street from Temple to Nieto – expected to be built in the first half of 2010.

  4. […] from Biking in LA, some thoughts on how to sell the idea of bicycle boulevards to non-cycling […]

  5. […] from Biking in LA, some thoughts on how to sell the idea of bicycle boulevards to non-cycling […]

  6. Yokota Fritz says:

    In Santa Cruz, CA, People Power (the local advocacy group) have done a great job explaining the bike boulevard concept to residents on King Street, which cyclists would like to convert into a bike boulevard. King roughly parallels Mission Street / Hwy 1.

    The only real pushback has been from the city of Santa Cruz and, specifically, the public works department. The concern (and it’s a valid concern IMO) is that diverting traffic from King (which is a designated arterial) will make Mission Street even more of a traffic sewer than it already is.

  7. […] like Biking in LA’s suggestion to encourage Bike Boulevards as a form of traffic calming – rather than the typical treatment […]

  8. PlebisPower says:

    Great post. It’s safe to say that we’re closer to the beginning of the revolution than the end. Not surprisingly, then, there’s need all around for greater awareness about bike boulevards and much else.
    I think visualizations have a key role to play here. Visually communicating traffic diversions on a bike boulevard, for example, very effectively presents the concept in practice.
    I’ve mocked up a few improvements for Beverly Hills. Photoshop magic!

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