Looking into Los Angeles Draft Bike Plan Implementation Strategy

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The city of Los Angeles is in the process of releasing the components of its 2010 draft Bicycle Plan,
available at the city’s website. The plan’s chapters and most of
its maps were released in early June 2010. On Thursday July 22nd, the
city released its "Five Year Implementation Strategy."
Still remaining unreleased is the actual listing of bicycle facilities
contained in plan. Despite "1633 miles" of bikeways being stated on the
plan’s cover, and touted by the mayor, the Planning Department has yet
to release a list of the facilities that total those 1633 miles.

Streetsblog overviewed the initial and revised facilities maps earlier. This article focuses on the "Five Year Implementation Plan."

One criticism that bicyclists had of the city’s 2009 draft plan was
that it made no commitments toward specific deliverables on any kind of
time-frame. This criticism is also valid for the city’s 1996 Bicycle Master Plan, currently in effect. Hence, the very existence of a list of specific 5-year deliverables is a step in the right direction.  

On first blush, the city of Los Angeles’ Bike Plan 5-year
implementation looks like a big improvement compared to past
performance. The implementation plan shows about 40 miles of new bikeways each year, starting in 2010, going through 2015.

2010 STARTS WITH A BANG

2010 starts it off with what could be a record-breaking year for bike
lane implementation: according to the draft plan there will be 33.6
miles of new bike lanes this year*! Plus 6.3 miles of sharrows, and 7 miles of bike path*. (*See caveats below) Here’s the listing:

Bike Lanes
Anaheim Street – from Gaffey to city of Long Beach (4.48mi)
Devonshire Street – from Reseda to Hayvenhurst (2.41mi)
Exposition Blvd – from Motor to National (0.45mi) and from La Cienega to Vermont (4.68mi)
Main Street – from Windward to city of Santa Monica (0.90mi)
Martin Luther King Blvd. – from Crenshaw to Marlton (2.1mi)
Plummer St – from Desoto to Winnetka (0.99mi) 
Reseda Blvd. – from Valerio to Devonshire (3.63mi)
Rinaldi Street – from Mason to Tampa (1.29mi)
Rose  Ave. – from Pacific to Lincoln (0.73mi)
Sheldon Street – from Wentworth to Glenoaks (0.33mi) 
Sepulveda Blvd – from Skirball to Bel Air Crest (0.94mi)
Tuxford Street – from Lankershim to Glenoaks (1.16mi)
Vermont Ave – from Gage to Century Fwy I105 (3.83mi)
Wentworth Street – from Sheldon to Foothill (4.1mi [sic])
Winnetka Ave – from Nordhoff  to Gault (2.25mi) and from Devonshire to Plummer (1mi)
York Blvd – from Avenue 56 to Figueroa (0.79mi)

Sharrows (these are all done)
4th Street – from Wilton to Commonwealth (1.65mi)
Abbot Kinney Blvd. – from Main St. to Venice Blvd.  (0.73mi)
Adams Blvd. – from Vermont to Figueroa (0.97mi)
Fountain  Ave. – from Western to Vermont (1.00mi)
Reseda Blvd. – from Vanowen to Valerio (0.75mi)
Westholme Ave. – from Santa Monica Blvd to Hilgard (1.26mi)

Bike Path
Los Angeles River – from Fletcher to Barclay (7.33mi [sic])

Looking closer, there are a few discrepancies: the new stretch of
the river bike path is only 2.6 miles instead of 7.33, Wentworth is only
3.37 miles instead of 4.1, and the portion of Anaheim doesn’t match
what’s mapped. Even with corrected totals, it’s still nearly 44 miles of
new bikeways,  including 35 miles of bike lanes, in year "2010" – see
below for a caveat on what "2010" means.

Since the 1996 Bicycle Master Plan was approved, the city has
implemented a total of 66.7 new miles of bike lane (in addition to the
88 miles already existing in 1996.) Dividing the 66.7 miles by the 13
years that the plan has been in effect, the city implements an average
of about 5.1 miles of bike lane each year. So, the total of 35 miles
represents about 7 times what the city typically has done each year. It
sounds almost too good to be true. … then again it is… because the
city Bike Plan draft has a peculiar way of defining a year.

All the facilities listed above are listed as "Project Year 2010"
which sounds a bit like they’d be built in 2010, right? Unfortunately,
not really. The plan also lists an "Estimated Completion" range of years
for each project. Most of these projects are estimated to be complete
in "2011-2012", though a few are listed as "2013-2015." Looking at the
Estimated Completion for the "5-year" plan, project completion estimates
stretch out to 2018… perhaps the plan should be called the "Nine Year
Implementation Plan" (2010-2018.)

On the city website, this document is called the "Five Year
Implementation" plan, but within the document, the title is shifted to
the "200-Mile Implementation Strategy." Still, overall, about 200 miles
in about nine years sounds quite good. For the implementation plan’s
"2010" or "Year Zero," if the city actually implements the specified 35
miles of bike lane by 2012, they’ll be implementing bike lane facilities
at about double the average of the past few years. (10.2 miles/year vs.
 5.1 miles per year through 2009.)

8_11_10_five_year.jpgCropped image of the five year implementation plan. See a larger image here.

OVERALL NUMBERS PROMISING

For each of the six years in the Five Year Implementation Strategy
(Year 0 –2010 through Year 5 – 2015), there are significantly more
on-street facilities than the city has done in recent years. Overall the
Five Year Implementation Strategy plans about 120miles of bike lanes and about 65 miles of "bike friendly streets" which is the city’s way of saying bicycle boulevard while avoiding the common terminology used by most bike-friendly cities. The Implementation Plan also includes about 19 miles of bike paths (due to the long advance timing for funding, these are all already in the works) and about 40 miles of bike routes.

In the details of the 5-year strategy, there are quite a few
additional issues, which this article will enumerate… though,
generally, the overall quantity and quality of the facilities in the
implementation does represent a significant step forward from what the
city currently delivers. With some proofreading, public input, and
sensitive revisions, the implementation plan may become a worthwhile
roadmap for the years ahead.

LACK OF PUBLIC INPUT ON IMPLEMENTATION PLAN

The Implementation Plan was released in full just over two weeks ago.
It was not part of the earlier 2009 draft, and is just being examined
by the public for the first time. Alex Thompson of Bikeside
has noted that some of the facilities prioritized do not necessarily
correspond to cyclists’ priorities within various parts of the
city. Thompson cites the example of a planned 3.6-mile "bicycle friendly
street" route that includes Federal-Granville-Inglewood which
takes bicyclists into hilly areas they would normally avoid.

The City Planning Department appears to have spread out the
facilities more from a mapping perspective, than an on-the-ground local
cyclist one. The Implementation Plan has quite a few excellent
top-priority very useful cyclist choices (including Silver Lake,
Devonshire, Woodman, 4th Street, York, and Central) and then some
questionable ones. It’s just a draft, and the Planning Department has
asked for further input: online here
and in to-be-announced meetings likely in September. Hopefully the
implementation priorities are not set in stone, and the city will adjust
their choices based on input.

SLOPPY ERRORS

The plan includes facilities on "Cadilac," "Grammercy," "Bellvue," and "Silverlake."

On year zero, it adds bike lanes to portions of York Blvd, then on
year two it apparently takes away the bike lanes, and downgrades them
to a sharrowed bike route.

The implementation plan adds bike lanes to portions of Zoo Drive,
Western Heritage Way, and Anaheim Street where there are already existing bike lanes.

DOWNGRADED LANES TO ROUTES

Followers of Streetsblog will recall that the city’s draft bike plan
includes two designations for on-street bike lanes: proposed and
potential. No other plan in the known universe makes this distinction,
but this one does. "Proposed" seems to mean more-or-less "these will
probably get built." There are about 45 miles of proposed bike lanes in the plan.

"Potential" bike lanes, on the other hand, were, in an earlier draft,
labeled "infeasible." "Potiential" seems to mean more-or-less "these
probably won’t get built." There are about 500 miles of potential lanes in the plan.

The Five Year Implementation Plan seems to confirm cyclists’ concerns
that the  potential designation is not going to result in many bike
lanes being implemented. About 30 miles of "potential bike lanes" are
shown as being downgraded to "enhanced bicycle route" – which means
instead of 5-foot wide lanes, they could just get little green signs…
and/or perhaps sharrows. This downgrading is shown for portions of
Laurel Canyon, Main, Spring, Venice, Western, York, and others.

OVER-RELIANCE ON BIKE ROUTES, SHARROWS

Overall, the Five Year Implementation Strategy relies somewhat excessively on bike routes. The city has prioritized nearly 40 miles of bike routes in the initial years of the plan, though most L.A. cyclists know that bike routes are nearly meaningless.

The city of Portland uses sharrows to mark streets in advance of creating bicycle boulevards.
They serve as a sort of phase 1 for future planned enhancements. The
city of Los Angeles appears to be doing something similar in a few
cases, including on 4th Street, which will later become a bicycle
boulevard… but, in the Implementation Plan, the city plans on doing a
lot more of the opposite. For the pilot sharrows on Reseda Boulevard,
the city downgraded the street from approved bike lanes to just
sharrows.

If the city is going to designate "potential" lanes then it’s a
reasonable expectation that they should be implemented as bicycle lanes,
not just sharrows. Otherwise, the city’s designation is misleading.
Perhaps it would make sense to implement fewer overall miles, but to do
them as meaningful facilities – ie: prioritize very few to no bike
routes, reallocate those miles/funds to creating lanes and/or bike
boulevards. Where the city creates routes and/or adds sharrows, they may
be more meaningful on quieter streets, as a prelude to later traffic
calming. 

AN AMBITIOUS IMPLEMENTATION PLAN

The city’s draft 5-year implementation plan, despite a few flaws, is
actually relatively strong, even a bit ambitious. The city can work with
cycling communities to fix the mostly-minor flaws, and to create an
implementation plan that will step up the pace of facility
implementation… making the city safer for all road users.

  • We can quibble about the specifics of this plan, but the heart of the City staff’s pussy-footing around the installation of bike lanes and cycle tracks is this:

    If you remove car lanes, you have to “study” what it’s going to do to car traffic according to CEQA. This “study” will require an Environmental Impact Report, which will take a $1 million (or more) and take a minimum of one to two years to be prepared and approved.

    To make L.A. bike friendly, we need to remove space on the right of way for cars and re-dedicate it to bicycles (or other modes to calm traffic). Why don’t staff confront the issue? Just deal with it already! Try something, and measure what you’re doing to auto traffic!

    Many of L.A.’s arterials are NOT clogged. Many of them are wider than they need to be. We can reduce lanes on many arterials and actually see average travel times and delays improved. North Figueroa Street is a great example of a street that is too wide, and can be narrowed an still support the same (or better) Levels of Service for automobiles.

    What does this particular street get in the bike plan? A “potential” bike lane that requires the removal of car parking! Gah!

    We need to produce a set of findings that allow an engineer to remove a travel lane for bike facilities. CEQA requires us to measure the impact on the Level of Service, but so many other laws require cities to reduce Vehicle Miles Travelled, to improve air quality, make streets safer, etc. On the right streets, in the right way, we can remove travel lanes and maintain LOS.

    We need this issue addressed specifically in the plan! Otherwise this ridiculous “potential” “probable” “maybe, maybe not” bike lanes stuff will ensure that a full-scale civil revolt will take place.

    Hey … maybe that won’t be such a bad thing?

  • @Josef ubrayj – It’s funny how, when a cyclist reads “potential” we see that it’s non-committal and, based on our history with the LADOT and the plan (remember in 2009 they were called “infeasible” – truth in advertising!), we know that the vast majority just aren’t going to happen. (And there’s all kinds of signals pointing to this, including the Implementation Plan’s whacking of ~30 miles of them, referred to in the article.)

    Yet, in meetings with city staff, they say “oh we’re going to do those… don’t worry.”

    There are a few of these “potentials” in the Implementation Plan that are good (where the city is committing to a half-million dollar EIR to implement a $100K project) – including Silver Lake – from Sunset to Beverly – a very useful place where I bike often. But overall, the implementation plan sends more of them into the bike route category than it does into the implementation category.

  • Jon Raspa

    Until specific routes can be confirmed by the “non-political” staffers at any City of LA agency, don’t count on much. Based on the amount of time it takes for the City to paint a wall, or fix a broken door, having a Street Services crew stripe a lane or install a sign will be something for our children, and not the current generation.

    The City currently operates on a slack-shouldered, minimum effort basis. Getting any significant work done will involve direct embarrassment of council members, the mayor (and his overpaid staff), City planners, and the maintenance crew that operates on the ground level of these services. Anything less will result in a foot-dragging, minimum effort race by public officials to see who can spout the most “community relevancy”, while getting next to nothing done for their constituencies.

    Just look at the RAP (that’s division #7903) workers that work at Lincoln Park, Yosemite, Pecan, and Highland Park recreation centers. If napping and drinking on the job are justifications for continued city employment, shouldn’t the mayor be sniffing cocaine off the tits of yet another news anchor (but this time in public)? Public workers in the oldest part of the city can’t perform basic functions? Well, forgive them, it’s hard up-keeping parks that the City has deemed not worth promoting or maintaining to a decent standard that local communities deserve). Not to mention the full time benefits that they receive while sleeping on the job and falsification of hours worked on their paper time sheets filled out by themselves.

    More important that specific plans, accountability by City workers is at an all time low. I can count on all twenty fingers and toes the number of City workers I encounter on a daily basis who are working fewer hours than they report on their time sheets. The accountability of the City is breaking down, from the Mayor’s office, to the most part time of workers. The average City half time employee is more interested in finishing his or her day with a minimum of work done, rather than achieving some goal for the bettering of the city as a whole for it’s citizens.

    Oh, forgive me, I forgot that only Hollywood, the Valley, and the WestSide get results from their councilmen because they represent significant tax revenue for the City. Until Northeast LA can achieve upper-middle class status, we’ll just be another cross to bear for councilmen on their way to achieving consultant status in the private sector.

    Demanding investigation in Council is the surest way to make sure that nothing moves ahead. 14 years for a bike plan? With excess staffing, budget, and time? Sounds like intentional incompetence to me, and foot dragging to ensure full-time employment by substandard part time employees trying to make a career out of paper-shuffling and staff reports.

    Pardon the rambling; I’m just a longtime resident of the city who’s fed up at seeing the lower tax brackets ignored.

  • Will Campbell

    Minor point to be sure, but I’m fixated on the cover. Using a photo of the Braude Bikeway — which is well known for its chronic and hazardous misuse by beach-going pedestrians — tells me there’s more style than substance inside.

    Go ahead and tell me to “get over it,” but if there was ever a document that needed to be fronted not by some misrepresenting fantasy but by a realistic BIKE ON THE STREET, it was this one.

  • Chris L

    Just a reality check: this is what other cities are doing while we beg for sharrows.

  • Cory

    The City of Los Angeles does not have to do an EIR to remove lanes. There is plenty of literature available to support a 4 to 3 lane coversion on streets with ADTs less than about 18,000. That literature will allow the city to draft a defendable Negative Declaration. The City can even take it one step further and move forward with a project as a “pilot” with a mitigation monitoring program. Where the project is implemented for a 6 months or a year monitoring period. The mitigation is to remove the project if SIGNIFICANT traffic impacts occur. During that monitoring period bicycle and vehicle counts can be collected, travel time data can be collected, and LOS analysis can be done. Also the traffic signal staff can make adjustments to the signal timing to improve conditions. If after all of that the project is still shown to create massive vehicle congestion and the City Council wants to take it out they can. This is precisely what Janette Sadik-Khan was talking about last March.

  • N. Figueroa St has three or four intersections with volumes approaching 30,000 ADT, but the rest of the street is below 15,000 ADT, and many stretches are 10,000 ADT. The busiest intersections are next to the 110 freeway entrances (duh, no surprise there are cars there).

    Yet, Michael Uyeno said we’d need to do an EIR for the Bike Plan AND an EIR for any bike lane/project that removed a travel lane on N. Figueroa St. A large stretch of this street has two travel lanes in each direction, a middle turning lane. There are parts of the right-of-way that narrow to under 80′ and there are parts that are over 90′ (CICLE.org’s got this data).

    The DOT wants to remove car parking (a sure fire loser in this area, with so many small businesses struggling to get by) to install a bike lane. They are choosing an engineering option that removes parking for political reasons – they know that small business trumps bike interests in city hall (as it damn well should in this crooked town).

    The plan needs to address each of its projects not as “potential” “promised” or “perhaps”, but to actually … I dunno … plan to do them realistically and find a way to do what needs to be done: LANE REMOVALS.

  • 5, 10 even 15 miles a year is garbage for a city the size of LA

  • @Will Cambell – yes – the cover needs revisions, anyway, given that the facilities definitely don’t add up to 1633… it’s difficult to get an exact total, given the missing facilities list… but I’ve already found enough discrepancies to bring it down to about 1620. (Perhaps we can also take away the 500+ “speculative” [infeasible] miles, too? They don’t belong on the cover!) I think it would be great if the cover showed a young Latina/o transportation cyclist (carrying something – panniers and/or messenger bag) bicycling in a Los Angeles urban setting… not an old white male recreational rider at the beach.

    (And, isn’t that white railing thingie behind him in Santa Monica, not L.A.?? Help me out, folks who ride that beach bike path. Where was that picture taken?)

    @jass – Perhaps I am jaded… but I think that if the city actually does 15+ miles of meaningful on-street facilities (ie: not bike routes) each year, it would be a big improvement over past performance. I think we’d actually see a bike network emerging. It’s not easy for the city to go from 5 to 15+, but I think it’s possible. Though it’s justified and desireable and needed and safe, they’re just not going to go from 5 to 100 overnight. In the Implementation Plan, they’re promising ~40 miles of bikeways, including 30+ miles of what I think are worthwhile on-street facilities each “year”… which I think is pretty good. Rather than asking for the impossible, I’d like them to commit to 30+ miles, then we can do the community-organizing/political-will work to make that a reality.

  • Cory

    @Joe The 5-year Implementation Plan has a list (Chart 2 Project by Year) but it only shows 256 miles of facilities … by that won’t look nearly as sexy on the cover, now would it?

    @Josef/ubrayj02 I am assuming that the intersection ADTs include the cross street? Usually ADT counts are conducted mid-block for 24 hours with a tube counter, where as intersection counts are conducted manually for turning movement purposes during a 2-hour peak period. Either way Figueroa is a long street and a facility connecting from Colorado all the way into Highland Park would be substantial, although I would love to see it connect over the river to Riverside Drive. I would love to see some ped, bike, and transit counts for Figueroa. Based on my subjective perception I have to assume that the non-motorized/transit mode-share in that corridor is pretty high.

  • The LADOT released their hand counts of traffic and their calculated ADT’s.

    http://ladot.lacity.org/tf_hist_auto_counts.htm

    It’s clear from their own data that North Figueroa (like a lot of arterials in L.A.) never gets close to it’s designed minimum except near freeway entrances.

    Yet the DOT’s solution to this excess capacity is to claim that a lane removal will trigger an EIR, that traffic calming doesn’t work, or that we’ll be hurting “jobs”, or blah blah blah. The reality is that they have an institutional bias against even considering this idea, playing their own political game (ca. 1930).

    The LADOT’s hand counts of traffic include counts for pedestrians, cyclists, buses, and motorcycles along with car counts:

    http://ladot.lacity.org/tf_hist_manual_counts.htm

  • Cory

    Am I missing some crucial piece of data? Here is what I am seeing for Figueroa in the historic data (there isn’t much under current):
    Colorado – 24,690
    York – 24,589
    Marmion – 20,216
    Ave 60 – 21,383
    Ave 54 – 28,854
    Ave 45 – 23,471
    Ave 41 – 20,539
    Ave 26 – 30,364
    San Fernando – 15,556

    Is there other data you are looking at? These are kind of high and would probably result in pretty heavy congestion if converted from a five to a three lane configuration, but perhaps a four lane configuration might work with some red curb at the intersections to allow for left turn pockets. The widths you mentioned, are those curb to curb or property line to property line (are sidewalks included)?

  • @Josef / Ubrayj – That “Parking Removal” on North Figueroa (to install bike lanes – in year 2 of the implementation plan) – 5.12 miles – all the way from San Fernando Road to Colorado Blvd does seem like a non-starter.

    My hunch is that the LADOT is looking at the parking removal that they did on the stretch between York and Colorado. Parking appears to have been removed from one side – alternating from side to side – and that allowed for an additional car lane. (I confess that this is a little speculative – it’s my reading of the existing configuration that I see today… I am not 100% sure how it got that way.) So, perhaps DOT thinks that this can be extended below York… remove half the parking and free up space for bike lanes.

    It seems like there may be some places where some parking removal might be feasible – but I tend to think that’s the case in areas where there’s plentiful off-street parking (such as Reseda Blvd from Chase to Napa in the Valley – a 2-block pinch point which could prevent easily extending the Reseda bike lanes), and not in “Main Street” areas like Highland Park – from York to Avenue 50. Generally the on-street parking favors locals – walking, local business – and the better thing to remove is the through-put capacity, which favors people just passing through.

    So… the question is: for Figueroa, for bikes, what should we be asking for instead of 5 miles of parking removal? Maybe a more context sensitive solution would look something like:
    – road diet above York (perhaps even with restored/increased on-street parking)
    – extend that road diet southward gradually…?
    – are there small stretches where some on-street parking removal makes sense? Maybe from Avenue 26 to San Fernando… which has huge parking lots for Home Depot, MacDonalds, IHOP?

    One interesting ironic thing about removing on-street parking – is that we can actually do it without triggering CEQA environmental review! It’s just that it certainly (understandably) triggers frustration from folks who park, and from local mom&pop business owners.

  • Ross Hirsch

    @Joe Linton, @Will Cambell

    By the look of the beach and mountains in the background, it looks to be just north of Santa Monica–in the Pacific Palisades area (which would be CoLA) around State Beach, where Chautauqua and Entrada hit PCH, or a beach or two further up the coast (might be closer to Jetty or even Temiscal/Will Rogers.

    And while we’re at it, that dude’s well-worn trusty steed has some fit issues: (1) either the frame is too small and/or he needs to raise up that seat post lest he’s looking for some knee issues (to which he gets big props if he hasn’t developed thus far), and (2) fix those bars and/or get a more appropriate stem that places the brake levers in a more appropriate position. How does he contort his wrists to even use those things? Youch.

  • Alright, I just got back from an informal chat with some of the planners working on the Bike Plan.

    A big holdup (apparently) is that the City doesn’t want to shell out the $1 to $? million for an EIR on this plan. They want to instead spend $1 million for each “potential” bike lane in the plan. That is what the “potential” is all about.

    Oh, and LOS is has been removed from CEQA project impacts. There are a host of metrics that a local agency can use now to measure the impacts of a project, and there is a lot of leeway afforded local agencies now in that regard.

    E I R.

    We need an EIR for this plan. I said it in 2007 and I’ve been reminded of it again today.

  • Joseph E

    “We need an EIR for this plan. I said it in 2007 and I’ve been reminded of it again today”

    I would be inclined to say, “let’s just do in and dare someone to sue,” but then again, I hear Rob Anderson and his lawyer have lots of time on their hands now that the San Francisco bike injunction is lifted.

    Yeah, we need to pay for the stupid EIR and be done with it. Since the EIR is only good for X number of years (5? 10?) this could encourage LADOT to front-load the bike lanes into the EIR and get a bunch done now, so we won’t have to re-study it again in a couple years.

  • The EIR is the big reason why they will not commit to significant roadway changes, and have created this bullshit “potential” designation for lanes.

    For some as-yet-unnamed “higher ups”, it’s all about getting an Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) for the plan.

    Why?

    If these potential bike lanes are ever going to get built, then we’ll be forced (under the current plan) to do an EIR for each bike lane! That is going to cost 20 times more.

    The potential bike lanes need to be removed, and an EIR needs to be done to authorize these changes in roadway design. If the designs aren’t enough politically, then let’s at least be honest.

    The only thing putting off an EIR for this plan will do for sure in guarantee city staff jobs processing all those EIR’s in the future – money that should damn well be going to infrastructure, planning, outreach, etc.

  • Just to clarify, the “potential” needs to be stripped from the plan. These lanes need to be included in the plan, the effects of this decision will (obviously) impact the flow of vehicles and our transportation system. So, do the bloody EIR already and let’s get this paper work out of the way.

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