Looking into Los Angeles’ 2010 Draft Bike Plan

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The new draft 2010 City of Los Angeles Bike Plan was released on Friday June 18th 2010. The draft is available online at labikeplan.org.
That website is also where interested parties can sign-up for bike plan
webinars tonight at 6pm and 7:30pm. At tonight’s webinars, the city
will explain the already-released 2010 draft and will release a
new piece: its 5-year implementation strategy.

While the 2010 draft is, in some ways, an improvement over the
disappointing 2009 draft, it’s still incomplete and problematic. This
article reviews the bike plan process, then begins to analyze what’s in
and what’s missing from the 2010 draft, as released so far.

BACKGROUND

The city of Los Angeles’ bike facilities and bike policies generally flow from the city’s approved 1996 Bicycle Master Plan,
currently in effect.  State law requires that the bike plan be approved
every five years for the city to remain eligible for state bicycle
funding, so the 1996 plan was re-approved essentially unchanged in 2002
and 2007, and remains in effect.

In 2007, the city began the process of updating its bicycle master plan. It hired consultants, held meetings, set up a website.
Last year, in May and September, the city released different versions
of its 2009 Draft Bike Plan. Though it had a few promising aspects, the plan met with a great deal of criticism. At Streetsblog, Stephen Box wrote that it lacked vision, substance and teeth, and this author called it non-committal and sloppy. The L.A. County Bicycle Coalition and C.I.C.L.E. joined forces to campaign for a better plan, with some focus on the lack of bike lanes. Where the 2009 draft plan stated that it contained 125 miles of new bike lane, lists and maps only showed 28 miles.

THE 2010 DRAFT

The 2010 draft bike plan as initially released remains fairly sloppy
and non-committal. The 2010 draft includes a lot of numeric assertions.
The cover boldly states "1633 miles" of bikeways. This compares to a
stated existing total of  "approximately 339 miles" of existing
bikeways, which break down into "58 miles of bicycle paths, 157 miles of
of bicycle lanes, and 124 miles of bicycle routes." (all Chapter 3,
Page 40)

The 2o1o draft shows new facilities broken out into two networks: the
Citywide Bikeway Network (CBN) and the Neighborhood Bikeway Network
(NBN). The CBN is pretty clearly based on the L.A. Bicycle Working Group‘s Backbone Bikeway Network. The NBN is mostly the bike-friendly streets carried forward from the 2009 draft.

The plan shows various total mileage. The CBN is 660 miles long, the
NBN is 672 miles long – so the two total 1332 miles… which leaves 301
miles unaccounted for in the 2010 draft 1633 miles. This author refers
to these extra 301 miles as the Remainder Bikeway Network (RBN.)

Unfortunately, the plan contains no listings of what facilities
belong to each network, hence there’s no way to tell exactly what counts
toward what totals. The only way to discern this is to read the maps.
Unfortunately, there are quite a few errors on the maps, and many
discrepancies between various different versions of maps showing the
same area, and quite a few streets and facilities not clear and/or not
labeled. When facilities from the maps are totaled, they don’t add up to
the totals in the text. With all these errors and discrepancies, it’s
very difficult to tell the actual extent of what’s actually planned, and
whether it’s worth supporting.

ERRORS ON 2010 DRAFT MAPS

The maps are the substance of the facility plan in the absence of any
facility listings. They include plenty of errors. For example, here’s a
detail of the map of existing bike facilities in the south east portion
of the San Fernando Valley:

7_22_10_map1.gif

The above map detail shows two existing bike paths (solid green
lines): one path on the Orange Line right-of-way from Coldwater Canyon
Avenue to Lankershim Boulevard and another path on the Los Angeles River
extending from Woodman Avenue to Colfax Avenue in the east San Fernando
Valley. Neither of these bike paths exist in the locations shown.

The same Existing Bikeways map shows non-existant bike lanes
(including lanes on Vermont Avenue from 135th Street to Gardena Blvd),
and other missing and erroneous paths, lanes, and routes.

DISCREPANCIES BETWEEN VARIOUS 2010 DRAFT MAPS

There are also differences between the maps. Here are two maps, both
from the 2010 draft, showing the Sunland area in the northeast San
Fernando Valley:

7_22_10_map2.gif

The map on the left above shows the CBN (purple) and the NBN (gold.)
The map on the right shows all the facilities in the plan: CBN, NBN, and
RBN, with bike paths (green), bike lanes (red) and bike friendly
streets (light blue.) Theoretically, the map on the right is supposed to
include all the bikeways on the left map, possibly with some additional
ones. The map on the left shows the vertical line between the words
Peoria and Sunland (which is more-or-less part Stonehurst Avenue and
part Clybourne Avenue, unlabeled) connecting to Sunland Boulevard. That
network bikeway should be explained on the right map… but it’s
missing. Which map will be used to implement these facilities?

The plot thickens when one compares these current maps to the 2010
draft maps originally released on June 18th, and even what actually
exists on the ground. Here’s the same Sunland area as mapped above:

7_22_10_map3.jpg

The city has been updating its 2010 draft maps since the June 18th
release, without notice or any explanation of what has changed, and
without leaving prior versions available on-line. New maps appeared on
the labikeplan.org
website, indicating that they had been updated June 25th, with no
explanation of what had changed. The analysis for this article began
with the June 18th map version shown above left, which has been
since updated.

When comparing these conflicting versions to the existing
on-the-ground conditions, the Network map connections become even less
clear. From the Google aerial map, it turns out that there’s no road
connecting Clybourne with Sunland… so perhaps the city is planning a
bike path there? a new road? Impossible to tell from the 2010 draft.

This discrepancy is one among many. The 2010 draft maps don’t match
each other, so it’s difficult to tell what bikeways are planned.

MAPPING BIKE LANE MILEAGE

Bike path mileage and bike-friendly street mileage will tend to be
limited by available funding. It’s important that these facilities
are in the plan, but the number of miles of these facilities will
generally be limited by the city’s ability to obtain outside funding,
mostly through the Metro Call for Projects.

On-street bike lanes are very cheap, so the plan’s total bike lane
mileage is a barometer of the city’s political will to commit street
space to bicycles.

The text of the 2010 draft continues the unfortunate distinction
between "proposed" bike lanes and "potential" bike lanes – as found in
the 2009 draft plan, but not in the current city plan. Earlier in 2009,
the lanes labeled "potential" were labeled "infeasible," which, though
disheartening, was at least truth-in-advertising.

The 2010 draft states that potential lanes are "considered
speculative." (Chapter 5, Page 94.) It seems pretty clear that, unless
there’s a major pardigm shift in the way that the city approaches its
streets, approximately none of these "potential lanes" will actually be
implemented. "Potential" likely means "never." This author hopes that
this proves untrue. Perhaps the city will show its commitment by
including plenty of the "potential" lane facilities of the city’s
5-Year Implementation Strategy to be released later today.

Given the "speculative" nature of the "potential" lanes, much of the
substance of the plan is shown in the city’s commitment (or lack
thereof) to "proposed" bike lanes. The initial June 18th 2010 draft
stated total mileage for "proposed" bike lanes, but included no listing
nor mapping of where the "proposed" lanes were; all the maps
merely lumped together "proposed" and "potential."

Subsequently, on June 25th, the city released (unannounced,
unnoticed) additional "Bikeways Engineering" maps, which show which
lanes are "proposed" vs. "potential."

The 2010 draft (Chapter 3, Page 41) states that the plan contains 56
miles of "proposed" bike lanes. Based on total mileage shown on the map,
totaled by the author with the assistance of Ramon Martinez and Stephen
Villavaso, the maps show only 46.65 miles of new bike lanes. See totals on spreadsheet here.

So, the 2010 plan states that it has 56 miles of bike lane, but only
maps 46 miles of those. This discrepancy is sloppy and deceptive, but it
actually compares favorably with the 2009 draft, which stated it had
125 miles, but only mapped/listed 28 miles. These both compare
unfavorably with the existing 1996 plan, which designates 190 miles of
future bike lane. There’s very little reason for bicyclists to support
the new 2010 draft when it scales back the city’s commitment to new bike
lanes from 190 miles, already approved, to only 46 miles.

The 10-mile discrepancy between the plan’s stated total and the
actual facilities mapped throws the prominent "1633 miles" of bikeways
number into doubt. This author did not have time add up all the miles in
the plan, but from the bike lane mileages exaggerations, it’s unlikely
that the 1633 number could be correct. But the public will never know
until the city actually releases the list of facilities that they used
to arrive at their 1633 total.

NEXT STEPS FOR THE BIKE PLAN

If the city expects bicyclists to support a new plan, it should have
at least as many bike lane miles as the existing plan. There are
190 miles of approved designated new bike lanes remaining on the current
plan. If the new plan commits to only a small fraction of these 190
miles, then bicyclists should just support keeping the existing plan in
place.

In both 2009 and 2010 drafts, the stated bikeway mileage totals are
exaggerations. The 2010 draft lacks transparency by publishing mileage
totals with no corresponding listings of the facilities mileage that
were totaled. Were these totals done on the back of a napkin, then
discarded? If the city is serious about getting public input on its 2010
draft plan, and building support for the plan’s passage, then it needs
to publish the lists of planned bikeways facilities, not just as lines
on maps.

The 2010 draft text and maps released so far contain many errors and
inconsistencies. The city needs to proofread and publish a new draft
with clear accurate maps, totals, and texts.

There remains a lot of potential for good things to come out of  this
Bicycle Master Plan update. It will be a sad day if the city’s
sloppiness, lack of transparency, and backpedaling result in good
elements of this plan being discarded due to its faults. It’s only a
draft, there are still additional draft documents being released,
and further rounds of public input. Perhaps the city’s planners will
arrive at an improved next iteration of the 2010 draft. The jury is
still out.

  • As long as the lane mileage is written (i.e. “From X Blouveard to Y Boulveard”) I don’t have as much of a problem with this stuff, since it’s some graphic work that is missing.

    This map is a lot better than what came out back in 2007 and 2009.

    There are obviously things to be improved, but that is what is so great about the process we’re all involved with: they’re actually going to work with everybody to improve the plan instead of presenting it to us and saying “Now submit your legally required comments for us to ignore”.

  • Some of the impetus behind the webinar was to present both the draft plan and the comments from the community in a more transparent and egalitarian manner. We hope every reader of Streetsblog has signed up for both sessions.

    Sign up here:
    http://www.labikeplan.org/public_involvement/

  • One of my biggest concerns about the bike draft plan is that if it is decided that a bike lane cannot be implemented on a given arterial street then that street will be dropped from the plan without making any improvements for bicycling safety, comfort or useability. That it will be a bike lane or nothing approach.

    There is an increasing amount of tools in the tool box for LADOT to use to improve bicycling on a arterial street. If a lane cannot be installed then how about giving bicyclists their own light at the intersection to give them a head start before motorists are allowed to to through. That should be at the top of my list for an improvement along Lankershim Blvd, where it intersects Vineland Ave, between the two subway stops in the valley. There is also bicycle boxes, a green shared lane, sharrows, etc.

    You simply cannot get past the 405 freeway on a bicycle in the valley without using a arterial street (with the exception of the Orange Line path), there is no alternative. As it is now only with a lot of experience riding the streets and a lot of luck can get you safely past many freeway on-ramps.

    LADOT must stick to the final plan and not abandon making any attempts to improve the safety of some arterial streets due to the infeasibility of implementing a bike lane. That to me is a easy out and LADOT may simply continue to only make upgrades to the least congested areas like the west end of the valley, the river path or some upcoming rail projects.

    LADOT must double or triple their efforts at improving arterial streets for bicyclists in the highest population areas with the most congested streets. This is where the biggest pay off will be in encouraging people to commute by bicycle. Not many people want to move by bike at 12-18 miles an hour in the West end of the valley when you can get in a car and go 40-50 miles an hour with a convenient parking space waiting for you at your final destination. In the more congested areas of Los Angeles a bicyclist is more competitive in terms of travel time, convenience and costs compared to traveling by car.

  • Dennis,

    A lot of things you describe (bike boxes, green-lane Sharrows, bicycle lights at intersections, etc.) currently aren’t in the CA MUTCD and the Caltrans highway manual, making them non-standard treatments. That’s not to say that we can’t do them; we can implement them on a pilot project basis after applications through the CTCDC and NCUTCD (a lot of alphabet soup, I know). It just means we’ll have pick our battles on the where/how/when of non-standard facilities.

    I am certainly willing to acknowledge that just because some of the infrastructure is difficult to get built doesn’t mean it’s not worth fighting for. I hope to see you online at the webinar tonight.

  • You know Dennis I think that those other facilities will get rejected by the LADOT (see comment above) for the same reason that a bike lane will: it will affect Level of Service or will reduce the capacity of the road for private automobiles.

    The LADOT uses those two pillars of legal (LOS reductions require mitigation per CEQA law) and policy (the LADOT will fight to the death to maintain or expand auto capacity) to shoot down all sort of good stuf, bike lanes included.

    If we can’t get at least one, safe, bike lane under/past the 405 in the Valley, then what is the point of this whole exercise? The DOT had better gird their loins if they think this stuff isn’t going to happen. There are plenty of us willing to fight like hell to see that bike lanes get done, and done right, in L.A.

  • @Josef/ubrayj – You say “As long as the lane mileage is written (i.e. “From X Blouveard to Y Boulveard”)

    It’s not. There’s no mileage written in the draft. There’s no list of facilities. No from X to Y – anywhere in the plan.

  • Thank you for the in depth review of the document

  • So… a few (some quite Kafkaesque, some good news) post-webinar notes:

    1. The city doesn’t intend to include any list of bike facilities. It’s “too complicated” and “the map is the list.”

    2. Oh, but those maps that we put on the website… don’t pay attention to those, because those aren’t the maps that we’re talking about. The “official” definitive map (which, in the absense of a list, is the only place where the facilities are shown) is really a GIS file available on request by emailing Jordann Turner at the City Planning Pepartment. (slaps forehead, groans) “Jordann.Turner [at] lacity.org” So much for public input… we’re supposed to request a file that’s never been publicized if we actually want to see the planned facilities… which aren’t listed anywhere. Do they really want bicyclists input??

    3. The 5-year implementation stuff actually looks pretty good (at least the big picture – I expect that I may have some critique of some details) – see documents at http://www.labikeplan.org/fiveyear/

    4. The city will do FIFTY miles of bikeways (paths, lanes, routes, bike-friendly streets) every year – STARTING IN 2010!

    5. Here are bike lanes that the city is doing in 2010, yes, 2010!: bike LANES on Rinaldi, Plummer, Devonshire, Reseda, Woodman, Tuxford, Sepulveda, Rose, Main, Martin Luther King, Exposition, York, Vermont and Anaheim. Coool!

  • Man, screw these guys.

    I read this document trusting the competence of the authors. I stuck to the policy section and thought “This is alright, but there are some big holes in these policies.”

    You’re telling me the maps are weaker than the written policies.

    How can this be more “complicated” when this type of legal written description is done for the boundaries of every [Q] zone in the city in specific plans? I had assumed that legally describing the facilities is trivially easy once they’ve been mapped.

    Are we being stuck with City Hall’s back benchers? Is this the short bus crew being brought out of exile-due-to-incompetence for one last hurrah, a chance to show the world they suck at their job?

  • Eric B

    There’s also the issue that it’s not striping 50 miles per year, it’s putting 50 miles “in the queue” each year. They were very clear to wiggle out of any actual accountability. We can’t hold them accountable for paint on the ground, because apparently “implementation” doesn’t mean that.

    Also, maps don’t have the force of law in the City. The only way for the City to be held accountable is to list the facilities in text. They know that, we know that. If it’s an issue of staff time, then I hope they are willing to release the GIS, then endorse the work of an advocate who goes through the effort to make it “official”.

  • Cory

    Without a comprehensive list of bikeways detailing starting and ending point and prioritizing the individual projects I do not see how this bike plan is consistent with the requirements outline in the California Streets and Highways Code 891.2:

    891.2. A city or county may prepare a bicycle transportation plan,
    which shall include, but not be limited to, the following elements:

    (c) A map and description of existing and proposed bikeways.

    (j) A description of the projects proposed in the plan and a
    listing of their priorities for implementation.

    Essentially the “description” of proposed bikeways is “look at the map”? By not meeting these requirements the city would not be eligible for many of the outside funding sources most cities use to leverage against local funds. Having written a Bike Plan myself, the process or organizing facilities into individual projects and prioritizing them is the meat and potatoes of the plan, arguably this draft does not constitute a Bicycle Transportation Plan at all.

  • Cory – I agree – the plan as published, with no facility listing is not only anti-participatory, but could be in violation of state funding requirements. It occurs to me that it’s going to be difficult to implement, too – if the public can’t tell where the facilities will be, then how will the city employees know where they are??

  • In the bike plan draft it is mentioned that the LADOT bikeway dept has a annual budget of 7-10 million dollars. If you look at the total capital costs for bike paths just released for 2010-2015, or six years, it totals 62 million dollars. That’s more that LADOT bikeways has in their budget. Michelle Mowery last night mentioned that the bike paths are the easiest to implement due to the land not having other uses currently. That tells me that the bike path projects could very well be favored over the bike lanes.

    It is mentioned in the five year construction plan that LADOT plans to construct a L.A. river bike path starting at the far west end of the San Fernando Valley. This is about 1 1/2 blocks away from the Orange Line bike path that will run parallel to it. That to me is a complete waste of scarce resources. I would put that way on the back burner, maybe in the year 2035.

  • The LADOT loves a bike path because there is no affect to the precious surface streets they love to destroy with car-only design. Bike lanes and traffic calming aren’t just about bikes – these measures can help a business district immensely, and can make residents measurably more connected and safer.

  • To all – in my comment above, I made a math error – the city implementation plan does 200 miles in 5 years – which is 40 miles/year – not 50 as I stated above. Compare this 40 miles with the current city output which I would guess to be around 5 miles per year – and it’s a pretty good implementation plan.

    @Dennis Hindman – I am, of course, biased in favor the LA River as someone who advocates for its restoration and renewal… but I would differ with your comment regarding not building the river bike path just because it’s within 1.5 blocks of the Orange Line. Would we use this criteria for car facilities? There are plenty of streets out there just blocks from each other. It’s great that cyclists would have multiple choices just blocks from each other.

  • @Joe Linton-It’s nice to be for everything, but with a finite amount of money available choices have to be made.

    If we use all of the maximum ten million per year that LADOT bikeways receives for bikway projects and spend it only on the LA river path, which is estimated to cost 263 million dollars to complete, then it will take approximately 26 years before it would be finished.

    Take that same ten million per year for the LADOT bikeways department and use it exclusively on constructing bicycle friendly streets and lanes. The cost for the bicycle friendly streets are estimated at $19.5 million and the lanes are about $16 million which is a total of $35.5 million. Divide that by the ten million per year and it would take approximately three and a half years to complete all of the bicycle street infrastructure.

    The total miles for bike street projects is 1,080 divided by the 3 1/2 years to complete would be at a pace of about 300 miles per year.

    Compare that to the total cost of 69.2 million dollars to construct 255 miles of bicycle infrastructure in the five year bike plan for 2010-2015. Bikeways may only get a maximum of 60 million dollars to complete it. Something would have to give, either less construction or more money will have to be found. Even if the full 10% of Measure R ped/bikes funds were used exclusively for bicycle infrastructure there still would likely be less than 255 miles completed at the end of 2015. If bikeways starts all of those proposed bike path projects then likely some street projects would be canceled or moved to another year.

  • Nathanael

    “Would we use this criteria for car facilities? There are plenty of streets out there just blocks from each other”

    Well, *actually*, yes. There is no logical reason for the super-dense street grid. In many European cities, the car streets are spaced out further, with walkways taking the place of streets in the in-between blocks. (Look for “roads” with names like “passage”, “walk”, and “mews” in the UK, for instance.)

  • Joseph E

    Why would the LA River bike path cost that much? I though a lane of road cost about $2 million to grade, pave and stripe; a bike path is usually about 12 feet, or one lane wide. Isn’t there already a maintenance road or flat area on top of the river levee along most of the length of the river?

    $263 million is a good deal compared to a new bus rapid transit or rail line of similar length, but still seems too expensive for 12 feet of flat pavement along an existing levee.

    I would hope that the City could find an extra $20 million a year (compared to the billions spent every year on highways and transit) for bike improvements, so we could have everything in the plan finished in the next 20 years, but I hope we can save money by keeping down the costs on new bike paths.

  • @Joseph E: well… The bike path – flat – at grade – basic – isn’t the biggest expense. That runs at most about $1m/mile.

    The trick is the grade crossings – in the West Valley, these are dips under bridges – about $1M/undercrossing. In the East Valley, the bridges are low and the walls are vertical, so those crossings are more difficult/expensive – like $2-4M per bridge. There’re also some crossing under Freeways (the 134 Freeway right next to Griffith Park is going to the key to getting into the Valley) – so it ends up pretty costly.

  • Joseph E

    @Joe Linton: “The trick is the grade crossings…”
    Okay, so $2.5 million per mile (as listed in the 5 year implementation plan documents, which I have now read) makes sense. I don’t think it will be $260 million total, however, unless some other section (Downtown?) are going to cost $30 million per mile.

    It makes sense to spend $2.5 million per mile on a bike path, if people use it; a new 10 acre park or neighborhood library costs more than that, and a new street would be much more expensive for about the same theoretical transportation capacity.

    I think the key will be to grow the pie of money devoted to walking and biking (and transit), at the expensive of road expansions, and thru new dedicated funding.

  • Joseph E

    To Umbrayj20 and other citizens of North-East LA.

    In the new LA Bike plan 5 year-implementation documents (http://www.labikeplan.org/fiveyear/ see projects by year and the 5-year map), North Figueroa is supposed to get bike lanes in 2012. Yay! Right?

    Well, the “implementation” in the chart (http://www.labikeplan.org/index.php/download_file/-/view/69) is “parking removal.” These 5 miles of N Figueroa are the only parking-removal bike lanes in the 5-year plan. I don’t know why they can’t just narrow the roadway; it seems plenty wide for street parking, bike lanes and 3 car/center lanes.

    I wrote about this to Umbrayj20, who hadn’t heard anything about it yet, but was understandably annoyed at the potential loss of on-street bike parking (his shop, Flying Pigeon, on North Figueroa, has no off-street parking that I know of).

    Some of the parts of the 5-year plan look great, like bike lanes on the whole length of Vermont (!!!), Venice, and most of Broadway. In the Valley, Reseda will get lanes the whole way. And many of the “bike boulevards” could be amazing, if implemented well.

    I hope Streetsblog can do another in-depth post on the 5-year plan, which is much more concrete and immediate than the vague general plans. If we get this part done right, the rest of the plan can be changed for the better later.

  • Joseph E

    Despite the generally good choices in the 5-year implementation maps, I notice a big lack of connections to transit stations.

    From the perspective of a transit supporter, it is disappointing that the city of LA is not planning a specific bike-sharing program. Bike sharing near train and bus stations could be very helpful for finishing that last 1 mile of your trip.

    I’m also disappointed by the lack of bike routes or lanes at most stations. For example, on the Purple Line, only Wilshire/Vermont, Century City and Westwood will have bike lanes or routes to the station; the other 6 stations will have no bike infrastructure on surrounding streets. On Expo (excluding the portion in the city of Santa Monica), only Vermont, Palms and Westwood stations will have intersecting bike routes (though there will be a bike route parallel to the train the whole way). Worse of all, the Blue Line will still have ZERO bike routes at all of the LA stations.

    The long term plans are a little better, but who knows if those “potential bike lanes” on major streets will every become a reality.

    In contrast, Long Beach is in the process of studying walking and biking routes to Blue Line stations in our city, and plans to add bike lanes and bike boulevards at appropriate locations to improve connections to stations. They may also add secure bike parking at more stations.

  • Cory

    A major reason for the success in Long Beach (besides strong political support) is that City staff aggressively pursues outside funding sources to leverage against local funds. Imagine what could be accomplished if the Measure R allocations were used only as a 20% local match. While 80% of the cost were covered by outside funding sources.

  • I’m sure most of you have read and fully scrutinized all the documents by now, but the “5 year” section of the LA Bike Plan website has not only the maps for the 5 year plan, but also a full list of facilities, their limits, and the treatments being applied to each.

    http://www.labikeplan.org/fiveyear/

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