LADOT, Planning, Update Council on Bike Plan: Everything Is Peachy

If it still looked like this, people wouldn't fight about it. Photo: ##http://laecovillage.wordpress.com/2011/11/20/beautiful-new-buffered-green-bike-lane-on-spring-street/##Joe Linton/Eco Village##

Yesterday afternoon, LADOT Senior Bicycle Coordinator Michelle Mowery and City Planning’s Claire Bowen visited the Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee to give an update on the City’s progress on implementing the surprisingly progressive Bike Plan.  You can read the entire report, here.

To nobody’s surprise, the duo reported that everything is going according to plan. “We’re actually ahead of schedule,” Mowery replied to Committee Chair Bill Rosendahl when he asked how completion of the physical projects is going.  “We have great support from the Mayor…We have good leadership from the Department.  We’re chasing more money than ever.”

But almost everyone in the room had questions about the the Spring Street Green Buffered Bike Lane, and most of those questions had to do with the repeated problems of keeping the green on the ground.  Atlantic Cities reported earlier this week that while the city has applied a second round of green paint to the street, that green paint is looking just as chipped and worn as it did before.

But Mowery thinks she has the culprit, and it’s not just the rainy weather.  “It looks like most of the paint is coming up on the concrete surfaces, not the asphalt,” Mowery reported.  In other cities with Green Lanes, such as New York and Chicago, more of the roads are asphalt.  In L.A., the roads are a mix, and for whatever reason the concrete road isn’t holding the green as well.

So what’s the solution?  Mowery and Bowin gave two possibilities.

The first is to find something green that sticks to asphalt better that the green paint, such as the thermoplast used for L.A.’s other green lane on 1st Street in Boyle Heights.  The 1st Street green lanes uses the more expensive thermopast, applied with applicators and blowtorches, but only uses them in conflict zones where cars and bikes have the greatest interaction, such as intersections or car parking areas.  This leads to using less and more expensive ground markings.

Councilman Paul Koretz, after praising the Spring Street Buffered Bike Lane for bringing more cyclists to Spring Street than he would have believed previously, went on to question LADOT about the beat up paint.  “I don’t understand the problem.  As long as I remember we’ve been painting white on asphalt, concrete everywhere on the street.”  Mowery responded that much of what people believe is paint is really the more expensive, and more sticky, thermoplast.

The second option to fix the paint job on Spring Street is to wait to apply a third coat until the weather, the street, and everything else is dryer.  LADOT originally pinned the shoddy condition of the newly painted lane on the rain, and that answer does hold some truth.  But does the city really want to wait half a year to fix up the road on what is essentially a pilot project?  That remains to be seen.

Despite the concerns, the Council Members in the room, Rosendahl, Koretz and Jose Huizar, who represents the area of 1st Street in Boyle Heights that has the other green lanes, all wanted to know when the city was going to get more.  Neither LADOT or Planning were willing to commit to a timeline.

When it was time for the public to comment, the tepid support expressed to the Daily News on Monday gave way to a more positive response from the Los Angeles County Bike Coalition’s Alexis Lantz and Jay Slater, the Chair of the City’s Bicycle Advisory Committee.

Lantz used the word “excited” multiple times to express support for what the city is trying to do to advance cycling during her testimony.  She did have one caveat, and it concerned Mayor Villaraigosa’s pledge to bring 40 miles of completed bicycle projects to the city every year.

Lantz noted that the LADOT’s weekend of Sharrows, where they placed over 20 miles of Sharrows in 48 hours throughout the city, should not completely count towards the Villaragisosa’s promise.  After all, some of the streets that now sport the thermoplast chevron are slated to have bike lanes or be bicycle friendly streets at some point in the future.  Just placing Sharrows doesn’t complete these projects, so they shouldn’t count.

The city has been accused of using the 20 miles of new Sharrows to pad their stats on bicycle project milesage, including a scathing critique from Streetsblog contributor and Board Member Joe Linton, but yesterday there was only support for Sharrows and the city’s plans for the infrastructure tool.

“Sharrows are not a replacement for a bike lane,” began Slater.  “If we got the time and we got the space and we got the money…If we can get them down, and we can have a bike facility in place, then I vote ‘yes’ on every attempt to get them that we can.”

Rather than poke at the city for any perceived issues with implementation, Slater took aim at un-named City Council offices for not giving political support to their representatives to the Bicycle Advisory Comittee or taking time to respond to Slater’s request for meetings.  When Rosendahl pushed the BAC Chair to get him the names and he would talk to the Councilmen directly, Slater said he would talk “offline.”

But one Councilman was singled out for a black hat was Tom LaBonge, who Slater claimed undercutted work done to make the “4th Street Bike Boulevard” a reality.  While LADOT, LACBC and LABAC staff and volunteers were trying to explain and sell the importance of bicycle signals at certain dangerous intersections, LaBonge announced at a community meeting that he was pulling support for the signals.  LaBonge was replaced on the Transportation Committee by Huizar when the Council reshuffled committee assignments in July and was not present to defend himself.

So what’s next for the Bike Plan projects?  LADOT didn’t mention anything particular project by name, but did mention that there are over 4 miles of projects ready to go on the ground, another 11 and three quarters in the environmental review stage and over forty in some sort of design.

The city’s environmental review for bicycle projects that would require removing a lane of traffic in a high-car volume area will not be completed until after this fiscal year (i.e. July 2012 bat the earliest).  What that means for the city’s plan to create 40 miles of completed bike projects in the 2013 fiscal year was not addressed, but looms large as we approach the end of the current calendar year.

  • The use of sharrows is a concern especially on high volume streets. I’d be very curious for LADOT to do a count of the use on Vine for example. That is a street I have no desire to bike on and I’m in the category of “fearless cyclist.”

  • Dennis Hindman

    I’m pissed that I didn’t go to that meeting. It’s the second City Council Transportation Committee meeting in a row that I’ve missed that discussed sharrows and I feel that the shortcomings of the use of these symbols should have been emphasized more.

    A lot of the sharrows are being put down to simply add on bikeways mileage. One of the excuses by LADOT is that some of the sharrows are temporary until bike lanes can be put in. Why would LADOT waste their time putting in temporary markings when they are trying to get 1,600+ miles of bikeways infrastructure put in? Does it makes sense that they are going to  backtrack over the same mileage in the near future and upgrade it when they are trying to complete as much mileage as they can?

    LADOT has stated that they are going to do 40 miles of bikeways a year. Well, by the end of December they will have completed about 10 miles of bike lanes in the first six months of the fiscal year, which started in July. Is it any coincidence that 20 miles of sharrows were completed in one weekend when the rate they were going at is 20 miles a year for bike lanes?

    If you look at the chart of 17 streets that LACBC lists for complete 2009 and 2011 bike counts, there is very weak evidence that sharrows that were put in on 4th St and Fountain Ave attracted any significant amounts of more riders to those streets when you compare them to other streets in the area. The two sharrows streets had a total average increase bicyclists of about 42% over the last two years. When you add up all the streets that didn’t get lanes or were not connected to a bike path, the average on the chart is about a 33% increase in biking. Three streets on the list, from three distinctly different areas of the city, got bike lanes shortly before the bike count and their average increase in bicycling was about 145%. One of those new lanes connected to a bike path, another meets up with another bike lane, but the new bike lane on 7th St is in an area that had no bike lanes or paths and the bike ridership increased by about 160% on that street over a two year period of time.

    I can’t imagine how we are going to make biking more irresistable in L.A. by suggesting that people on bikes should ride down a busy street along sharrows, directly in front of motorized traffic that is moving 3-4 times faster than they are. Most people wouldn’t want to see bicyclists ride 3-4 times faster than walking speed on a sidewalk with pedestrians, so why is it acceptable to ask vulnerable cyclists to get in front of cars that are traveling 3-4 times faster than they are? How many people would feel brave enough to even do that?

    Deaths and injuries for occupents of automobiles has decreased significantly over the years from safety improvements to cars. Unfortunately, pedestrians and cylists are no less vunerable to death or injury now from being hit at 40 miles an hour, than they were 30 years ago. How about we start demanding the same level of safe and comfortable infrastructure for people on bicycles as we do for pedestrians or occupants of motorized vehicles?

  • guest

    Seems one application of thermoplastic is probably cheaper than 3 coats of paint, and related labor.