Eagle Rock Residents Pushing for a Slimmer Colorado Boulevard

A new Colorado Boulevard?  Rendering by SALT via ##http://bipediality.wordpress.com/2010/11/22/colorado-boulevard-in-eagle-rock-as-a-green-street/##bipediality##

A new Colorado Boulevard? Rendering by SALT Landscape Architects via bipediality

Calls for a Road Diet on Colorado Boulevard are growing, and beginning to become too loud to ignore.  For those not familiar with the layout of the road, it currently spans six car travel lanes, provides on-street car parking, and features a seventeen foot median that occasionally features live grass.  Eagle Rock residents have been puzzled about a road configuration that is designed for many more cars than actually use it.  The result is that the traffic that does use the street, tends to drive above the speed limit.

However, recently the idea of putting Colorado on a diet has begun to gain more traction, thanks in large part to Scott Wilson, who formally drove on Colorado daily for almost six decades but now travels on an electronic tricycle.  Wilson proposes a diet that would reduce auto capacity from six lanes to four, create a rainwater cistern to support greenery, slow traffic and even add some bike lanes.  Wilson’s proposal began to gain notoriety after articles in the Eagle Rock Patch and Bipediality.

As it exists now.

As it exists now. Rendering by SALT Landscape Architects via bipediality

Traffic counts for Colorado, provided by the LADOT but laid out by Josef Bray Ali and viewable here, show that outside of the areas immediately surrounding freeway entrances that Colorado is actually a tremendously underutilized road.  For example, at the intersection with Eagle Rock Boulevard, less than 10,000 cars travel through the intersection over the course of a day, or roughly one and a third car every minute.  However, near the intersection with the Golden State Freeway, that number is five times as high.  Of course, during peak hours those numbers are much higher.

If you believe that there are other factors in determining whether a street is successful than just how many cars can be flushed through, then Bray-Ali shows how Colorado is a complete disaster for Eagle Rock in addition to how much space it wastes:

There is absolutely no measurement made as to the effects this has on the social fabric, local commerce, noise pollution, etc. – suffice it to say that these streets are generally detrimental to traditional human contact and social ties, they degrade local commerce (auto parts, repair, nail salon, discount store, auto parts, repair, nail salon, fast food discount store, etc.), and they are really, really, loud.

Despite placing Wilbur Avenue in the Valley and James M. Wood Blvd. in the Downtown on diets, the LADOT seems disinterested in fulfilling Wilson’s vision.  Colorado is listed as a Bike Route currently, despite its reputation as a dangerous place for cyclists because of the speeding car traffic, and is a “potential” street to receive bike lanes in the current Draft Bike Plan.  However, Councilman Jose Huizar tells the Patch that there is no interest in putting Colorado on a Diet:

The Department of Transportation, given that Colorado Boulevard is a major thoroughfare between Glendale and Pasadena, is trying not to slow down traffic. Otherwise there will be bottlenecks. We have had a couple of accidents on Colorado not too long ago.

Huizar goes on to say that his office would be interested in proposals that would reduce the capacity from six lanes to four.  But its really sort of amazing to hear that LADOT doesn’t want to slow down traffic on the road when residents aren’t just asking for slow traffic, but complaining that traffic is regularly speeding.  Huizar himself explains how this can happen:

As people get off the 2 freeway and head west, they go downhill and speed naturally without stepping on the gas.

Severin Martinez, author of Walk Eagle Rock, echos Huizar’s rationale for how easy it is to speed on Colorado.  However, Martinez shows a lot less compassion for the speeders than his elected leader:

Slowing is exactly what we want. While I don’t drive, I have traveled on Colorado with several different people behind the steering wheel, all exceed the 35mph speed limit. Usually drivers unconsciously and unconcerned reach 40mph. Forget about cars yielding at the one unsignalized crossing for pedestrians at Hermosa Ave.

But despite the community outcry, and the strong case that Colorado is crying for a diet, it doesn’t appear to be in the cards anytime soon.  The possibility of even adding a bike lane would require removal of a car travel lane which the city would study endlessly before implementing.  And has the city begun to study that possibility?  Nope.

With the LADOT absent on the issue, the next best hope for change would seem to be Huizar’s office.  However, Huizar sent mixed messages in his interview in the Patch.  On one hand, he seems to believe that “striking a balance” between the needs of the community and commuters is accomplished through off-peak light de-synchronization.  On the other hand, he seemed open to at least talking about a diet.

If LADOT won’t step up as it did in other parts of the city, it’s time for the Councilman to show some leadership.  Your community is waiting.