Main Street Road Diet Only Partially Completed Last Weekend

In the absence of lane markings, most cars treated Main Street as a two lane street. At the intersection of Main and Abbot Kinney, cars queued in a three lane configuration with one in the "through travel lane" and another in the turn lane.

Back in September of last year, the LADOT persuaded the Venice Neighborhood Council to give conditional support to a plan to shrink Main Street in Venice from a five lane street to a three lane street with bike lane on each side.  The LADOT announced the plan would be on the ground “in the next couple of weeks.”

After a four month delay, the news came fast last week.  The Main Street Road Diet in Venice would be completed over last weekend.  Local Councilman Bill Rosendahl reacted quickly, putting out a press release and later on Friday a YouTube video touting the project, and the local daily newspaper ran with the story.

“We are laying the foundation for a truly multi-modal system here in Los Angeles that will offer people a choice to travel by bike, bus, automobile — or even on foot,” says Rosendahl. “Whatever your mode of transportation, the road diet will aid in congestion management and build safer, healthier communities.”

However, the LADOT work crews weren’t quite as fast as the media.  The diet itself was mostly completed over the weekend, however the bike lanes and other road stripings weren’t completed creating a temporary problem with a disappearing bike lane just north of Abbot Kinney.  An LADOT spokesman promised the agency will complete installation next weekend.

What exists now is an interesting case study, even if it will only exist this way for a week.  

Much of Main Street now has a line marking the center of the street with other markings for a turning lane where appropriate, but no other markings except for small lines marking the parking spaces.

Based on a limited reconaisance mission yesterday, the diet is already providing some benefit.  Without lane markings, most cars were already treating the road as though it were a two or three lane road.  Cars were moving slower and despite the wide nature of the through travel lanes, which are wide enough for two mixed use travel lanes, and nobody was trying to pass cars that were moving slower than they would like.

During the outreach phase, a group of local cyclists including the advocacy group Bikeside argued that the Main Street Road Diet was not a safe design because the parking lanes were only seven feet with a 5 foot bike lane.  Thus, most of the bike lane was in the “door zone” where an open car door could completely block the lane and cause a crash if opened at the wrong time.

In response, the LADOT added an extra six inches to the bike lanes, a compromise which won the conditional support of the Venice Neighborhood Council.  The VNC asked LADOT to come up with more plans to keep cyclists safe on Main Street, but as Mihai Peteu noted at Bikeside the city doesn’t have much of a track record of tweaking and upgrading streets shortly after repaintings and restripings.