LADOT: A Mile of New Reseda Boulevard Bike Lanes in September

8_21_09_reseda.jpgAerial shot of Reseda Blvd. via Wikipedia
At last night's meeting of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council (NENC,) the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) announced their plans to install nearly a mile of new bike lanes on Reseda Boulevard in September 2009. The announcement was made by LADOT's Principal Transportation Engineer for Valley Traffic Operations, Alan Willis. The new bikeway will extend from Devonshire Street to San Fernando Mission Road.

The NENC's agenda included possible action regarding the LADOT's plans for Reseda Boulevard. Comments from the public and from the council were unanimously against LADOT's plan for peak hour lanes. Neighbors cited the need for parking, and desire to make Northridge more of a university town where "visitors and residents want to slow down and stay in the area rather than speed up and get out!"

About a dozen cyclists were in attendance, including California State University Northridge (CSUN) staff and faculty, and folks from the L.A. City Bicycle Advisory Committee, the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition, the Valley Bikery, Midnight Ridazz, and others. The NENC board was very receptive and had already formed their "NE/W Vision" committee to resolve these sorts of traffic and livability issues.

Then LADOT's Alan Willis took the stand; LADOT Bikeways' Paul Meskin and West Valley District's Ken Firoozmand were also in attendance, though commented little during the meeting. Willis declared that "this [Reseda Boulevard peak hour lanes] is not happening." He continued that he had "good news today" and the LADOT will "do our darndest to make the bike lanes work" for the nearly 1-mile stretch of Reseda Blvd from Devonshire to San Fernando Valley Mission, which is being resurfaced in September. The cheapest and best time to add bike lanes is when the street "goes dark" during resurfacing.

Willis stated that the mile planned for September is the "most challenging" stretch of Reseda Blvd. He stated that LADOT already has a draft bike lane striping plan for that new mile, but that there are "design issues" due to some constrained stretches where adding the bike lanes will result in some "loss of parking." Willis continued that LADOT is coming up with "a safe balance" that will ultimately need the blessing of decision-makers, which, for this mile, means L.A. City Councilmember Grieg Smith.

This "good news" was met with some skepticism. While Willis sounded upbeat and genuine in declaring that the new lanes would be striped in September, he consistently used language with some wiggle room, conveying just a hint of doubt. It wasn't quite a promise; more like we're trying really hard. Even when that mile is done, the 4-mile gap from Devonshire Street to Vanowen Street will remain. Willis, even when directly questioned on extending the bikeway below Devonshire, didn't respond with even a rough time frame. LADOT Bikeways Paul Meshkin later suggested that the entire gap could be closed within "about a year." 

When bike-commuter and CSUN math professor Al Sethuraman asked how to raise the priority of the Reseda bike lanes, Willis responded that this had already been "handled on the internet" with "trash talking about DOT." Bike lane supporters and other livability advocates can take Willis' remark as a compliment. He's seems to be saying that L.A. Streetsblog and many others have been effective at using the internet to foster greater communication, transparency, clarity, and participation. A truer compliment will be bike lane stripes on the ground next month.