Welcome to the Bike Wars. City Announces Meetings for Bike Plan EIR.

Looking north from National on Sepulveda Blvd. The City wants to put in new bike lanes stretching past the future Expo Line Station up to Ohio Ave.

Bicycle advocacy in the city entered a new phase last week, when the Department of City Planning released a five page Notice of Preparation (NOP) for an environmental review of forty three miles of bike lanes. These projects represent some of the more controversial bicycling projects as they often times require removing curbside parking, mixed-use travel lanes, and/or turning lanes.  The public process, which begins with scoping meetings next week, could prove to be contentious as this is the first time the City of Los Angeles has publicly proposed a city-wide program of creating bicycle facilities at the cost of mixed-use facilities or automobile parking.

Just because a bike project is being studied doesn’t mean that it will be implemented,” reminds Joe Linton, a long time bicycle advocate and head of the new group BIKAS.  “It’s critical that bicyclists track these projects and build community support to ensure that they get done.”

The project list covers projects in all corners of the city.  New bike lanes on North Figueroa, the South Figueroa Corridor Protected Bike Lane, Bike Lanes connecting Venice Boulevard to the Expo Line Sepulveda Station to Santa Monica Boulevard, a connection to the future Westside Subway Station on Avenue of the Stars, are all included.  Projects on Lankershim, Devonshire, Bundy, Centinela, Cahuenga, Ceasar Chavez, Martin Luther King…there seems to be a project for just about everyone.  A full list of the projects can be found at Curbed, or in the NOP.

“If you’re involved with a Neighborhood Council, make sure they know about these meetings and get involved,” says Alexis Lantz, the Planning and Programming Director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.  “If you’re not involved, now’s the time to get involved.  A letter from a Neighborhood Council goes a long way in telling the city that these projects are wanted and supported.”

But as Linton points out, just because a project is being studied doesn’t mean it will be constructed.  While a positive letter from a Neighborhood Council is a boon for a project, a negative one has the opposite impact.  For example, the project on Sepulveda Boulevard that would extend existing bike lanes from Venice Boulevard to National Boulevard another 2.1 miles to Ohio Avenue.  Going north, the route is on a slight uprise and passes restaurants, a quarry and the future Expo Line Station and Bike Path.  To a bicyclist, the route makes sense, especially because Sepulveda can be a challenging road to bike on in its current configuration.

Politically, the route would also seem easy at first glance.  The route lies in the 11th City Council District, represented by Bill Rosendahl.  Rosendahl has been an outspoken advocate for safe bicycling and bicycle projects including a road diet on Main Street in Venice which is also in his district.

But that doesn’t mean the project is a slam-dunk.  Powerful neighborhood groups, including those that fought/are fighting Phase II of the Expo Line and the Expo Bike Path would likely also oppose this project if it includes the loss of a through travel lane.  LADOT is looking at a range of options for the area to make space for the bike lanes, including taking just one lane in one direction, a full road diet and removing curbside parking.

“Even in places where we have supportive elected officials, we need bicyclists, residents, businesses and others to weigh in in support of projects – so our allies have support to do the right thing,” Linton urges.

The benefits of a safe and efficient bicycle network is obvious to many Streetsblog readers.  These improvements include: cleaner air, increased mobility, new customer markets for the small businesses along the route and connecting streets.  But when it comes to the political battles over where, when and how to create such a network, being right isn’t enough to win the day.  Remember the debate over the Wilbur Avenue Road Diet in 2011.  After the diet, which included bike lanes, was in place; the residents along Wilbur cheered the safe conditions the new configuration created.  But when the two local Neighborhood Councils opposed the new road configuration, the city eventually restriped a portion of the diet to return the road to a four lane mini-highway.

The first step of the public process is a series of scoping meetings in July.  Next week features meetings in Downtown Los Angeles and the Westside.  The following week there is another meeting on the Eastside and a “webinar.”  Scoping meetings are completed early in the environmental process and give stakeholders a chance to tell the city what they want to see studied in the process.  They also provide a public forum for groups to control the debate from the onset of the studies.

Note: The NOP document refers to “Year 1 Projects” in several places.  Previously, city staff have referred to the July 1, 2010-June 30, 2011 fiscal year as “Year 1.”  “Year 1 Projects” are projects being studied in the first year of studies.  The city is not studying projects that are already completed.

  • Ubrayj02

    This is the time when the gun shy paper pushers in city hall need the bike community pushing hard for these projects. Bike projects aren’t just about bikes. They can make our communities safer, better for business, save our government money spent on EMT, traffic police, and health related matters, better for our sanity, and generally just better places to live.

  • Bike wars? Ouch. Can’t we all just get along?

    I hope that with all the popularity that cycling is experiencing these days, we’ll see a lot of support for these projects (from all kinds of peoples), and that the city will implement them all post-haste!

  • @531a7806081a75b97b52903e784f16fb:disqus can’t we just hire more police officers to make things safe? and hire more rental-security to make business better?

  • Ubrayj02

    The last time I checked, some paint, street trees, and bollards cost a lot less than a union wage earning police officer. Officers tend to work in shifts, while narrowed car travel lanes, benches, and pavement treatments work 24/7 until their next required maintenance. You can pay a man for one year, or install this stuff and have it last 5 to 30 years with the same, or better, payback in terms of safer streets.

    Robbery and homicide are hard to stop with bollards, etc. but car crashes and diseases of a sedentary lifestyle are easy to combat with these tools.

  • Gregory

    Looking at the list of scoping meetings, it appears you have yet to master the geography of Los Angeles. The second meeting is not in South LA but in west LA, just a few blocks north from Sepulveda and National. Also, it would be helpful if you linked to the orignal source instead of to the streetsblog calendar.  Everything links back to streetsblog.  I can’t seem to find a link to the LADOT info on the scoping process anywhere on the calendar. 

  • Dennis Hindman

    I sat through a Metro board meeting where the plan to make peak hours only bus lanes out of the parking lanes along Wilshire Blvd was put before the directors. The idea that a congested car travel lane close to the 405 was going to be reallocated for the exclusive use of buses was not something that went over well with many of the attendees that where from areas such as Brentwood or Condo Canyon.

    Now the city is attempting to permanently reallocate space devoted to either a parking lane or a travel lane over to unprotected bike lanes on very busy streets. This is a tough sell. The idea that you are going to take a congested travel lane and devote this space to unprotected bike lanes that only hardy adults would be brave enough to venture out onto is I’m sure going to have a similar reaction as occured with the Wilshire Blvd bus only lanes plan. Frankly, most people would think you were nuts to ride a bike on a street with a lot of cars.

    Getting a bike route that connects to a major transit hub is very important in terms of shortening somebody’s overall travel time. This would include the EIR for a bike lane on Lankershim Blvd and Cahuenga Blvd W. to have a connection to the two subway stops in the valley. Westwood Blvd, Sepulveda Blvd, Bundy Dr and Centinela Ave all come close to a Expo Line stop. The Vermont bike lanes would connect to the Wilshire/Vermont subway station. Bike lanes on 7th St to Figueroa St would connect to a subway stop also. The N. Figueroa St bike lanes would come close to four stops on the Gold Line. 2nd St bike lanes come within a block of a Red Line subway stop and the upcoming So. Figueroa St cycle track could bring you closer to a Expo Line stop.

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