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.