Venice Neighborhood Council Will Discuss Main Street Road Diet/Bike Lanes Tomorrow

The LACBC prepared this graphic to show the road configuration and potential changes.

Tomorrow night, the Venice Neighborhood Council will debate, and possibly approve or reject a proposal by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation to remove travel lanes on Main Street in Venice in an effort to calm traffic and create space for bike lanes.

The LADOT’s plan for the area would basically match the layout of Main Street in Santa Monica which already is a three-lane road with bike lanes and street parking.  However, if you’re riding south on Main Street in Santa Monica, the road loses its bike lane at the border with Los Angeles.  If LADOT gets their way, and they won’t without the support of the Venice Neighborhood Council, Main Street in Los Angeles would go from four lanes to two with a turning lane in the middle.  Car parking would remain, and a pair of 5 foot bike lanes would appear on the street.

Colin Bogart has been working on the Main Street Road Diet project for the LACBC now that he’s not full-time in Glendale believes the Road Diet is a natural extension of the road configuration already on the ground North of Venice in Santa Monica.

“Main Street is great for cyclists and pedestrians in Santa Monica. We see extending the same road configuration to Windward Circle as continuing an already successful complete street that encourages healthy, active lifestyles and is simultaneously good for business and safer for everyone.”

Not that the plan doesn’t have critics.  When the diet was first discussed, some members of the Neighborhood Council expressed concern that the new configuration would create more car congestion on local streets while others worried that the street would actually be less safe for cyclists.

The proposed bike lanes run adjacent to the car parking with little to no buffer between the cars and the bikes.  The bike lanes are only 5 feet wide and some cyclists, notably Bikeside President Alex Thomspon, worry that the “door zone bike lanes” create a hazard for cyclists.

“I’m unimpressed with the road diet plan,” Thompson, who also is an elected member of the neighboring Mar Vista Neighborhood Council, writes.  “This is all LADOT can come up with to address the issue?  Herbie Huff wrote that 5 foot bike lanes next to 7 foot parking are not a big deal because the door zone on 85% of vehicles is inside of 9.5 feet (the dead center of a 5 foot bike lane next to 7 foot parking.)  Another way of saying that is that 1 in 7 doors covers more than half the bike lane.  How many parked cars do you ride past?”

The post diet car travel lanes are 11 feet wide each, prompting Thomspon to argue that the car lanes should be shrunk to 10 feet so the bike lanes could be widened to six or so that a foot buffer could be placed between the cars and bike lanes.  This would push a larger portion of the lanes out of the door zone.  LADOT staff responds that the street is used by buses and that a 10 foot lane would be too small for the buses to maneuver.  SM Spoke’s Gary Kavanagh recommended back in January that the LADOT consider a road diet and Sharrows over the bike lanes.

Earlier this year, LADOT conducted a bike count on Main Street in Venice and counted  730 cyclists in a 6 hour period. Yet, one Venice Neighborhood Council Committee still rejected the LADOT’s proposal because of concerns the diet would create cut through traffic congestion on other local streets.

Kent Strumpell, the appointed representative of Bill Rosendahl to the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, has been a long time supporter of the diet and argues that traffic is already so bad in Venice that cut through traffic won’t be more of a problem under the new plan.

“One of the concerns we’ve heard is that the project will cause cut-through traffic on adjacent streets,” Strumpell adds.  “But when traffic is bad in Venice, those nearby streets already get saturated with congestion.  Making Main Street more inviting for cyclists will give frustrated locals a great way to get around town without getting stuck in their cars.”

Note:

WHO:  Venice Neighborhood Council Board of Directors monthly meeting
WHEN:  Tuesday, Sept. 20th, 2011, 7:00PM
WHERE:  Westminster Elementary, 1010 Abbot Kinney (just south of Main), Venice.

If you can’t make the meeting and wish to comment, email board@venicenc.org

  • I hadn’t written much about this since my post quite a while back, but I I would say my view now would be more toward bike lanes than sharrows, however I would agree with Alex that more space should be allocated to the bike lanes to address door concerns, and narrow other vehicle lanes as needed to do so. The Main St. bike lanes through Santa Monica has a lot of bike ridership, but it is also door impact town. The level of parking turn over on Main St. is so high it is a real and constant hazard, and the level of bike traffic means there is lots of cyclists passing other cyclists as well.

    The new bike plan shaping in Santa Monica calls for more “buffer” space from parked cars on Main St. in the future. Since this project through Venice is a brand new project, it could learn from the short comings of Santa Monica road diet and do what Santa Monica will be doing next, or it could just do more of the same. More of the same may be viewed as an improvement to some from what we have now, but I would consider it a missed opportunity to do better. With the high ridership in the corridor both in Venice and Santa Monica, I think there is self evident support to justify better than minimum bike facilities.

  • It’s very discouraging that this project was ready to be put on the street in January.  It’s now September and we’re no closer to implementation.  If this is what we should expect for every project that requires a road diet to implement bike lanes, I have great reservations about the City’s ability to implement 40 miles of bike lanes a year, as is called for in the Bike Plan.  If we hope to get to 40 miles each year for the next 5 years, something needs to change.

    Discussions about the proper design or configuration aside (Gary making the salient points for me) – the City, advocates, and the communities where these projects will be implemented need to find a better way to vet these projects in a reasonable timeframe.  Including design work, it could be an 11-12 month window between prelim work and implementation.  That’s simply not a feasible model to get the number of bike lanes that we need and deserve in this City in the timeframe that we have set for ourselves.  I’m a strong supporter of the NC system, but they can’t be allowed to table projects like this for months on end; the implementation of the bike plan needs to be a priority for them, too.

    (My personal opinion; I don’t work for LADOT anymore.)

  • It’s very discouraging that this project was ready to be put on the street in January.  It’s now September and we’re no closer to implementation.  If this is what we should expect for every project that requires a road diet to implement bike lanes, I have great reservations about the City’s ability to implement 40 miles of bike lanes a year, as is called for in the Bike Plan.  If we hope to get to 40 miles each year for the next 5 years, something needs to change.

    Discussions about the proper design or configuration aside (Gary making the salient points for me) – the City, advocates, and the communities where these projects will be implemented need to find a better way to vet these projects in a reasonable timeframe.  Including design work, it could be an 11-12 month window between prelim work and implementation.  That’s simply not a feasible model to get the number of bike lanes that we need and deserve in this City in the timeframe that we have set for ourselves.  I’m a strong supporter of the NC system, but they can’t be allowed to table projects like this for months on end; the implementation of the bike plan needs to be a priority for them, too.

    (My personal opinion; I don’t work for LADOT anymore.)

  • Kent Strumpell

    Let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good.  I, too, would be interested in shrinking the travel lanes to 10 feet to add a foot to the bike lanes to see what would happen.  But that’s not something DOT is comfortable with.  There are well over 100 buses a day on Main St. plus large trucks.  They believe 10′ lanes would put the squeeze on the large vehicles who would inevitably encroach into the bike lane occasionally, endangering cyclists who could have a false confidence that they are safe within them.  

    Sharrows are a good option where there isn’t room for a bike lane, but there IS room for bike lanes here.  Remember, this is a road diet, which REMOVES TWO TRAVEL LANES.  That will be a huge accomplishment if we can get it!  Road diets have been shown to improve safety by reducing travel speeds and reducing accidents caused by motorists dodging around left turning cars.  In fact, this road diet will be an improvement over the one on Main St. in Santa Monica.  It will have a full-length second stripe to designate the parking area, which should cause cars to park closer to the curb, putting more room between cyclists and opening car doors.  Personally, I experience more danger on Main St. from the moving vehicles than the parked ones, and I believe this project will be a big improvement in that regard.  

  • Anonymous

    Agreed. As a bike rider, I feel the ride is more safer when there are bike lanes AND parked cars compared to just a striped bike lane; as cars feel they’re able to drive much faster as parking is not available. Street parking is GOOD as a calming device. For liveable streets, this is actually good. Keep the street parking, lose the 2 travel lanes and let’s see some new bike lanes!

  • From my observation when drivers of over sized vehicles feel a lane is narrow, they error on the side of encroaching on the center turn lane in a road diet configuration. I ride down the Broadway Ave. road diet pretty much every single day, at all different times, including the busiest times. It seems to me most drivers are not comfortable passing a cyclist too closely at speed, and so I constantly witness drivers veering their left wheel into the center turn lane space to give more passing room, and that center lane spends the majority of it’s time empty and doing nothing.

    I just talked to a co-worker of mine this morning who came in with bruises after being doored this weekend riding one of Santa Monica’s minimum standard road diet bike lanes. He was looking for legal advice for the damages to his bike and how he could better avoid it happening again. Striping bike lanes so the majoirty of the space is where drivers open their door, when we are in a society where drivers are not taught or forced to know better, is giving cyclists false confidence they are safe within them.

    The moving cars are more dangerous, but being hit from behind is less common than being hit at intersections, and being doored. Getting the center of the bike lane further from parked cars both improves positioning and visibility at intersections and driveways, and creates separation from car doors. Additionally, the most dangerous door impact scenario is being hit and then falling into the path of oncoming cars, which is how some people get killed in dooring incidents.

    I would prefer minimum standard road diet bike lanes over the existing condition, but I am also sick and tired of settling for these minimum standards being considered good enough.

  • Mark Elliot

    We could probably get a decent betting pool going given the unpredictability of that council.

    I agree with one poster that the lanes can’t go to 10 feet, not with buses and trucks. The point of the lane, of course, is that road users know where they belong. In this case, that means that we belong half in the door zone. 

    I’d suggest to use this opportunity to apply the green lanes (just approved, I think) and other distinguishing characteristics and/or signage to alert drivers. The more drivers are conscious of the bike lane, the less likely they will be to open their door into a cyclist. That’s the goal, after all – motorist attention. Were we Danes we could hug the parked cars knowing that drivers know to look.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, it’s the absurd time frames like this that make me glad my stay in this city is temporary. I used to be excited that I won’t be too far from Expo line, but now I just assume it will be open years in the future.

  • Eric B

    With a center two-way turn lane, I just can’t see how there isn’t enough
    room for buses to pass bikes safely, even if they have to drift left
    into the median lane.  It’s what they would have to do if the street had sharrows like Abbot Kinney.  10′ travel lanes and 6′ bike lanes make this
    project 150% better.  With door zone bike lanes, every inch counts, so even 10.5′ lanes and a 5.5′ bike lane is an improvement.  LADOT, can we just get a few extra inches please!?

    The Santa Monica side works OK, but I still end up riding the white line to avoid the door zone.  It certainly doesn’t feel safe and lulls new riders into a false sense of security.  Wasn’t the Santa Monica police chief doored on Main Street some time ago?

    San Francisco started piloting a door zone marking to get bike riders to ride farther from parked cars.  Maybe this project should include some of those.  (Or would that reveal just how narrow the bike lane truly is?)

  • Dennis Hindman

    There is a much greater amount of potential bicyclists than there are possible drivers in LA. You have to be 16 years old, have a drivers license and have access to a vehicle to drive. To cycle independently you probably have to be about nine years old and only need a easily obtainable bike. Which means most kids in K-12 could bike to school and most transit riders could bike an average of a couple of miles to the train station, shopping or work.

    If you put in unprotected bike lanes next to moving cars. you greatly diminish the irresistability of bicycling for most people. What’s the likelihood that many people under the age of fifteen will ride down a unprotected lane, on a busy street, next to moving vehicles? Or, how many women would feel comfortable riding down a bike lane on a street like this, or for that matter parents with young children?

    At some point we need to show that bicycles can have a huge impact on moving people distances of four miles or less, by installing protected bike lanes or paths along corridors where people want to travel. Venice would be high on my list for a place to demonstrate the viability of this.

    If you want to get a lot of quality bicycle infrastructure in a shorter amount of time you need a lot more money and one way to increase the liklihood of that is to show that bicycling can have a huge impact on transportation in this city. Unprotected bike lanes target the young risk taking male rider and so will never attract as wide a portion of the population as motorized vehicle drivers. It’s inherently limited in the volume of bicyclists that it will attract and will continue to make cycling look like a small niche.

    The next step up from a road diet with unprotected five foot bike lanes would be to eliminate parking on one side of the street and replace that with a buffered protected bike lane. The other side would have the parked cars moved away from the curb and a buffered bike lane would be installed. The amount of cycling along this street would make a large increase from just having unprotected bike lanes The obvious downside is the leap of faith that would be needed that the bicycling shoppers would more than make up for the missing parking for the cars. At some point in the near future we need to demonstrate that this would work, otherwise we are resigned to decades of slow growth in cycling modal share.

    Chicago’s new mayor is commited to putting in 25 miles a year of protected bike lanes in each year of his term. Since L.A. is about 50% bigger in population than Chicago, that would be over 37 miles a year for L.A. Compare the results of increased biking in Chicago in the next couple of years, in the areas where they put these in, to L.A. where we put in Sharrows and unprotected bike lanes in the same time frame. I’m betting the differences will be dramatic, both in volume of cyclists and a much wider range of demographics.

  • Jerard Wright

    So what about the buses like the 733 and Big Blue Bue Line 1 who travel on this corridor being impacted with one less travel lane? We’re pushing one mode of transportation in the sacrfice of the other which carries more people on this corridor. Couldn’t Pacific be a better street for this Road Diet configuration?

  • Another Alex

    Gary, please clarify that the “Alex” you are referring to in short hand is Alex Thompson. There are more than one persons who go by the name of “Alex” in the cycling community and it can be assumed that the majority would not want to be immediately confused with Alex Thompson. 

    Thank you.

    (Another Alex)

  • Kent Strumpell

    The 733 and BB 1 seem to negotiate Main St. in Santa Monica with its two travel lanes, center turn lane and bike lanes without too much difficulty.  The changes proposed for Main St. in Venice will essentially mimic this.

  • Kent Strumpell

    On streets with central turn lanes it is my experience, like Gary’s, that motorists commonly move towards the center of the road to give more clearance to cyclists.  However, the situation is different when there is a car stopped in the central lane.  Motorists are generally reluctant to wait and usually squeeze right in such cases.  A bus or large truck doing this in a 10′ lane could crowd or encroach into the bike lane. 

    Having said that, I’m also interested in exploring the feasibility of some modifications.  I’d be most interested in narrowing the central lane, where cars are stopped or slowing anyhow.  Perhaps that could be narrowed to 9′ to provide 5.5′ bike lanes.  Another improvement might be to color the bike lanes as someone suggested.  This might create more awareness but not more space for cyclists, of course.  However, we should consider whether it is better to save colored roadways for those areas with high levels of conflict rather than add this to bike lanes.  And a sharrow-like guide arrow might be helpful to encourage less-experienced riders to position themselves to the left.

    Ideas such as these are worth exploring.  But as Chris points out, this project is already overdue.  I’d like to see this project get approved in concept and then fiddle with whatever details we can to make it better.  

    The debate over bike lanes in the door zone has been going on for many years.  Because there is not room to lay out the road in an ideal fashion, the question comes down to: is it better to have these less-than-perfect lanes or none at all?  Bike lanes in the door zone are clearly not a perfect solution, but they do have real benefits for cyclists and other road users.  They carve out some road space clearly designated for cyclists that is otherwise open to all vehicles.  They alert motorists to expect bicyclists in that area and advertise to the larger population that cycling is part of the community.  They create a buffer for pedestrians and vehicles entering the roadway, affording a better view of oncoming traffic.  In road diets such as this, the design slows traffic and reduces rear-end and sideswipe collisions which benefits all road users.  For these and other reasons (do a search on benefits of bike lanes) bike lanes, even when partially in the door zone, are widely accepted as a valuable enhancement for cycling.

  • Eric B

    In a perfect world, you’d be right.  However, once the NC approves a design with 5-foot lanes, LADOT will use that to forge ahead without second though on lane width, bicyclist input be damned.  So unfortunately the quibbling over details has to happen now.

  • Eric B

    Jerard, as a regular 733 user I’m sympathetic to the argument, but I don’t think it applies here.  The lanes right now have variable widths and are generally a mess such that most bus drivers end up either lane-splitting or moving back and forth to avoid brushing the parked cars next to the right lane.  As a result, the current configuration is fairly chaotic and not efficient for buses.  In contrast, the Santa Monica section is straight and consistent with a good median and structured bus stops in the parking lane.  There is little delay as a result from the reduced lane.  I doubt road capacity is even reduced by much in losing the second travel lane.

    Also, since the 733 only has one stop on Main at Marine, maybe Metro would consider moving the line to Pacific if Main Street causes too much delay.  They could keep the local on Main, which terminates at the Metro lot.  I think they were toying with the idea a while ago when they last redid the timetables for the line.

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