Guest post: Los Angeles finally moves forward to support two national bike routes

A few years ago, longtime SoCal bike advocate Bill Sellin started copying me on emails in his fight to get various local leaders to support a pair of US Bicycle Routes across the region. 

It was, clearly, a hard battle. 

First one city, then another came on board. Santa Monica was no surprise; Beverly Hills was. 

But the holdout, for reasons that never really became clear, was the 800 pound gorilla in the process, the City of Los Angeles. 

Apparently, that’s changed. 

Let’s let Bill tell the story. 

………

Some time ago you asked about getting an update on the USBR progress and I had nothing — the City of LA was holding out and DOT staff made it clear they were being told to not designate any more streets for any kind of route designation.

But…

I want to let you know that after years of effort, the City of LA is being prodded to move forward on supporting the USBR (US Bicycle Route) designation of 2 national bike routes across the City.

Adventure Cycling Volunteers have been getting local jurisdictions to simply send a letter of support to CalTrans, so that CalTrans can apply to AASHTO for route designation.

I have been working on portions of USBR 66 from Needles to Santa Monica. Bike friendly cities like Santa Monica, West Hollywood, South Pasadena and Pasadena jumped right in. Even hold outs like Beverly Hills and Alhambra signed on support. The County has given support to USBR 95 around Marina del Rey and USBR 66 across East Pasadena.

The City of Los Angeles, facing law suits from cyclists crashing on our city streets, as well as political backlash for improving cycling infrastructure, has been resistant to doing anything toward the USBR support for fear of being blamed for designating a street as part of a route, if the pavement is in disrepair, until every street is cataloged for hazards.

Even though CalTrans previously established the Pacific Coast Bicycle Route along the older Bicentennial Route, along our coast from Oregon to Mexico across the City.

That existing route is proposed for National designation as USBR 95 across Washington, Oregon and California. To get it supported by the City of Los Angeles and a few other ‘hold outs’ is required to complete the process.

Segments of proposed USBR 95 in Los Angeles connect Malibu & Santa Monica, Santa Monica to Marina del Rey, Marina del Rey to El Segundo, Torrance to Carson and Carson to Long Beach. I have been working with the County, Santa Monica and El Segundo along with the City for those segments of USBR 95 as well as USBR 66.

The Proposed USBR 66 rolls west from the San Gabriel Valley on its way from Needles. It drops out of South Pasadena / Alhambra on Mission, then crosses LA on Historic Route 66 along Cesar Chavez / Sunset to Fountain and enters West Hollywood on Willoughby. It resumes on Santa Monica Blvd (historic Rt 66) from Beverly Hills across West LA to Ohio into Santa Monica on Broadway.

Every day cyclists ride these segments of roadways, and all are on the City of Los Angeles’ Neighborhood enhanced route plan from 2016.

Many adventure cyclists continue touring these epic routes by bicycle, the best way to be a tourist in Los Angeles for cyclists from all over the world.

Both of these routes are proposed and adjusted with local agency input prior to support, based on the existing Adventure Cycling route system. These maps and guides have helped cyclo-tourists find their way across our country since the 1970’s when it started as BikeCentennial.

These routes include everything from Freeway shoulders, un-improved streets, Class III on-street Bike Routes & bike boulevards — some with narrow lanes marked with sharrows and BMUFL (Bikes May Use Full Lane) signs, Class II on-street Bike Lanes, off-street Class I Bike Paths and shared use paths, and separated Class IV Cyclotracks where they exist (I don’t call them protected bike lanes because they are not lanes in California law!).

Now we have some strong political movement to resume talks stalled since 1916 to secure support from the City DOT.

Mike Bonin, Councilmember from District 11, submitted a motion on January 17th to direct the DOT to support both routes to CalTrans, install sharrows & BMUFL signs on streets not already designated or with bike lanes or cycle tracks, install USBR wayfinding signs and report back with options to further enhance bicycle tourism along the designated routes.

This Tuesday night, at the Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting, attended by Laura Crawford, U.S. Bicycle Route System Coordinator for the Adventure Cycling Association, there was unanimous support of a motion to City Staff —

Whereas, the segments of US Bike Routes (USBR) numbers 66 and 95 that pass through the City of Los Angeles are critical to completing these two important national bike routes, and

Whereas hundreds of touring cyclists need to navigate the city each year and have difficulty finding safe, convenient routes, exactly the guidance that the USBR network is intended to provide, and

Whereas the proposed USBR alignments make maximum use of existing approved bikeways in the city, and

Whereas if the USBRs are designated, the city will always have the opportunity to change and update the route with CalTans if better cycling infrastructure is added or better alignments present themselves over time, and

Whereas, despite years of engagement with the city, little progress has been made to approve alignments for the proposed US Bike Routes,

Therefore, the Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee encourages the city to move forward with providing a letter of support to CalTrans for the proposed USBR 66 and 95 alignments in Los Angeles, identifying alternative alignments if needed, to achieve submission for approval of these USBRs as soon as possible.

Given these powerful motions to support, we trust the LA City staff will promptly resume discussions to identify the best available alignment of the proposed route and support them to CalTrans, completing a missing link of these statewide projects to connect out the national network of bikeways.

Once Adventure Cycling volunteers get every city along the routes to support the route to CalTrans, CalTrans will submit it to AASHTO and, if approved, the designation will go into effect and we will see new USBR signs go up!

Interested cyclists can keep up-to-date on the USBRS by subscribing to Adventure Cycling’s quarterly eNews.

A few notes of appreciation to Mike Bonin and the Los Angeles BAC from the cycling community will also reinforce their good will.

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