City Has a Plan for Expo Bike Path, But What About Complete Streets?

5 20 09 expo_1.jpgCyclists on the Expo Exposure Ride take a break in front of Dorsey High.

It finally appears as though the Expo Bike Path, the path that is going to run parallel to Phases I and II of the Expo Line is going to be built.  After the Expo Construction Authority punted on taking the lead on the project earlier this year, leaving the federally funded path to Los Angeles, Culver City and Santa Monica to complete the environmental reviews; it appeared the path might not happen.  After all, if construction couldn't begin by the time Phase II of the Expo Line began construction, the path would become unaffordable.  

However, the LADOT and City of Los Angeles seem poised to rush through the environmental review so that the path is ready for construction by the end of the calendar year.  Soon, a final design for the path will be available for public review as part of the NEPA process required before any federal dollars can be spent.

While a lot of work has gone into getting the path to this phase, and in addressing the areas where teh path will temporarily turn into bike lanes; there is still criticism of the path which will come up as the review process moves forward.  Of chief concern is the design of the path which has cyclists moving parallel and next to the I-10 for on portion of the ride and moves cyclists onto bike lanes on National for another stretch.  Despite the planner's intent that the path would connect the Downtown to Santa Monica, there has yet to be a public presentation of any plan to provide a feeder network into the path for cyclists looking to get in off local streets.

For example, the plan calls for bike lanes on Exposition Boulevard as it crosses Western, home of the controversial crossing of the Foshay Learning Center.  If you look at an overhead map of the area, you'll see that the Expo Line will run down the middle of Exposition and the bike lanes will run one-way parallel the car traffic.  That means that any student, teacher or administrator that lives west of the learning center would either have to ride in the wrong direction on Exposition Blvd, walk their bike or take a half-mile detour to safely enter the center at the start of the day.  The opposite is true for those living east of the school that want to bike home at the end of the day. 

My guess?  Most students will ride in the wrong direction on Exposition for the last leg of their ride, against the grain of traffic and contrary to what we're trying to teach them about safe cycling.

So if the planned bike path isn't the perfect solution, what is?  Last week on the "Expo Exposure" ride, the third annual "Bike Not to Work Day" ride, a group of thirty cyclists rode path of the future Expo line from Vermont Ave all the way into Culver City.  As the group of cyclists snaked down the residential areas of Exposition Boulevard, a similar thought was expressed by nearly every cyclist I spoke with: this street, running parallel to the light rail, would make a perfect Bike Boulevard or complete street.

The concept of a Bike Boulevard is a street that is designed not only for cyclists, but to give a community control of its streets and open space.  A great explanation of a Bike Boulevard can be found on the Bicycle Transportation Alliance of Portland's webpage.

Turning Exposition into a Boulevard would not impede residents from getting to and from their homes but would instead tie the community better in to the light rail line and encourage residents to embrace the rail and their local streets.  Such treatments would also make for safer crossings near Dorsey High School and the Foshay Learning Center by reducing commuter traffic near the schools.

It would take some work, but creating a series of complete, protected and community-controlled streets connecting the Downtown to Santa Monica, to provide cyclists a series of safety and equality while biking on our streets can be done.  However, it would take a major investment of time and brainpower by planners in all three cities.  The first step in getting that investment is asking and then demanding it.

The good news is that the bike path is on its way; but that still leaves the question of whether or not the bike path is the best thing the three Expo cities should be doing for cyclists and for their community.