Will Burbank Cheat on Its Diet?

The new Verdugo.  Photo: ##http://lacbc.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/verdugoafter2.jpg##LACBC Blog##
The new Verdugo. Photo: ##http://lacbc.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/verdugoafter2.jpg##LACBC Blog##

Last March, the City of Burbank repaved Verdugo Avenue and repainted the street to remove a car travel lane and add a bike lane.  While the plan had been on the books since the passage of the city’s bike plan in 2003, the Burbank City Council only approved the road diet for a six month trial period.  To make certain policy, not funding issues, would decide whether or not the diet stays; the Council passed approved enough funds for the diet and, if necessary, funds to remove the diet all at once last year.

Verdugo was chosen because it was a four lane road without a significant amount of automobile traffic.  After the diet, one of the lanes has been converted to a bike lane, and a turn lane was added at many intersections.  One planner in the City of Burbank Community Development Department referred to the new road design as a “thing of beauty.”

Next week, the Road Diet goes on trial.  The City Council will hear this item at the regularly scheduled meeting at 6:00 pm on Tuesday November 2nd 2010 in the City Council Chambers 275 East Olive Avenue Burbank, CA 91502.

As we’ve seen elsewhere, people who value the ability to drive quickly on local streets are rallying to get the diet removed.  A petition has been circulating amongst commuters asking the Council to re-stripe the street back to its former four lanes of glory.  However, the bike lane and road diet are also receiving supportive calls and emails, often from cyclists or people that live along the avenue.

But putting aside the politics, the real question that the City should consider is whether or not the road is functioning better after the diet was installed last March.  Unlike the diet on Wilbur Avenue in the Valley, the goal of this diet is to increase the number of cyclists using the road.  Based on traffic studies taken before and after the diet, here’s what we know.

Traffic moving the length of Verdugo Avenue are not seeing more delay than they were before the diet.  The average time difference for a car traveling from one end of Burbank to the other on Verdugo is a full one second slower than it was before the diet.  In other words, the difference is negligible.  The distance between cars is reduced, but the drive time is pretty much the same.

However, there have been some difficulties for drivers as a result of the diet.  Motorists turning left on to Verdugo are having a tough time as those reduced distances are making left hand turns more difficult.  Not all is lost for those left-turning drivers.  There are plenty of traffic lights on Verdugo, but there has been a slight uptick in traffic on local streets.

The next question is whether or not the bike lanes are helping.  Burbank completed bicycle traffic counts along Verdugo last Spring and this fall and found nearly 200 bikes on one count and 220 on another between 6:00 A.M. and 11:00 P.M.  While this might not sound like a lot, it is roughly 2% of the total traffic on Verdugo, well above the city average.  Since the goal was to improve the number of cyclists using the road, it would appear that the diet, and new bike lane, are a success.

  • No traffic delays, a larger percentage of cyclists using the roads … is it safer? Will property values increase along this road? Did local residents along the road approve? Did local retailers (if any) see an uptick in sales? Is there more noise from traffic or less noise, or has the noise moved to different places or to different times of day?

    So many questions! I want the full story!

  • We don’t have the full story yet. I will say that the locals were supportive before it went in, we’ll see if they still feel that way.

  • Kevin

    Those interested in showing their support for the Verdugo bike lane can check out (and express their opinion) by using the following link:

    http://burbanktownhall.com/working-for-a-living/make-biking-and-streets-safer-with-bike-lanes-like-verdugo-s/

  • graygears

    The extra room afforded by the bike lanes and the center turn lane make things safer. If people slow down a bit, isn’t that a desirable result — after all it is a residential not a commercial street. Riding a bike lane made me feel safer (50+ female) on Verdugo and completes a loop between my house and the library.

  • Nick

    This street configuration is effectively the test program for Burbank. If it is successfully made permanent on November 2, it represents the beginning of a comprehensive bicycle master plan, designed to make getting around Burbank easier, safer, healthier, more enjoyable, and smarter than a configuration that has remained essentially unchanged since the 1950s…It’s time Burbank caught up with other cities, and took pedestrians, cyclists, resident motorists, families, children, the elderly, the disabled, and so many others in to more than just passing consideration.

    Support is needed on November 2nd at City Hall, and express your support for keeping Burbank’s “small town” character, by ensuring that we can ALL get around town safely and enjoyably: http://burbanktownhall.com/moving-around-town/complete-streets/

  • Steve

    I used to use Magnolia on a regular basis, at least several times per week. Things have become much better with the road diet on Verdugo, and that’s my route of choice now. Not only am I safer, but it feels more community-like than the four lane roads did.

  • The staff report is now available:

    http://burbank.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=6&event_id=27&meta_id=89587

    If you have any questions about this project please feel free to contact staff at (818)238-5270 ask for David or Cory

  • I wish more cities were adding bike lanes!

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