Debate on Main Street Road Diet Proposal Takes Unexpected Turn

To see their proposal, ##http://ladotbikeblog.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/main-street-bike-lanes-final.ppt##click here.##

To see their proposal, click here.

After experiencing a community backlash over the Wilbur Avenue road diet and bike lanes project in the Valley, LADOT developed an improved outreach plan for a proposed road diet for Main Street in Venice.  The project would mirror the road configuration on Main Street in Santa Monica, and in the words of the LADOT would “complete” the street by providing seamless connectivity on Maon Street throughout the Westside.

But Venice isn’t the Valley.  Instead of fighting off locals concerned about the loss of street capacity, the LADOT is instead facing complaints from cyclists concerned that the configuration in Santa Monica isn’t all that great and Los Angeles shouldn’t replicate Santa Monica’s mistake.

Put briefly: the early debate is about how to give cyclists more space on the road to further slow down traffic, not how to justify taking away space from cars.

At Tuesday night’s meeting of the Venice Neighborhood Council, LADOT staff and the local representative to the Bicycle Advisory Committee, Kent Strumpell, presented a plan to take the four-lane Main Street and turn it into a two-lane street with a center-turn lane and two bicycle lanes.  The plan will go through the VNC Committee structure before coming back to the full council for a final vote of support.  Coverage of the meeting can be found at the popular news site Yo Venice! and the LADOT Bike Blog.

The main issue, that the parking lane is only seven feet large and the bike lane another five feet.  Thus, the majority of the bike lane, if not all of it, would be in the “door zone.”  For example, an SUV that is more than seven feet wide will be partially in the bike lane as almost no drivers park flush with the curb.  When you factor in the amount of space that could be taken up by an opening door, the entire lane would be taken up forcing the cyclist into the street.  Complicating matters, cyclists that were once allowed full use of the lane would now be required to ride within the bike lane, within the door zone.

So what can be done to fix the design issue?  After calling the lanes “substandard” Tuesday night, I talked to Alex Thompson of Bikeside yesterday.  The design solutions we discussed included bumping the bike lanes another foot away from the parking lane to give cyclists more space.  In a letter to the VNC, Gary Kavanagh, a Board Member for Santa Monica Spoke, recommended Sharrows and traffic calming over another door zone bike lane.

As for the LADOT’s position, staff stresses that the presentation given last night was the first step in the process and hasn’t ruled out the possibility of redesigning the plan for Main Street to give more safe, and a safer lane, to cyclists.  The early indications are that this time the LADOT is going to take heat for not giving cyclists enough space in the design.

In other words, the Main Street controversy has already become the anti-Wilbur