For months, cyclist and writer Roger Rudick rides down the 1st Street Buffered Bike Lane. Often, Rudick stops near LAPD headquarters and snaps a picture of a police cruiser parked in the bicycle lane. Rudick would then send it to a sympathetic ear in the department, be it Sgt. David Krumer or Officer Jeff Kievit. After the complaints were too numerous to be written off as the work of a few rogue scofflaws, the LAPD revealed their internal strategy  for informing officers that parking in a bicycle lane is not only unsafe, it’s illegal.
Last week, Biking in L.A.  reported on a persistent rumor that an educational campaign wasn’t the LAPD’s only strategy for dealing with the problem of cruisers parked inside of the buffered bike lane. The second strategy involved getting rid of the buffering and reconfiguring the street so that parking is created between the bike lane and curb. The timing of this leak was especially unfortunate because anecdotally, there are fewer and fewer reported instances of LAPD cruisers being parked in the bike lane.
In other words, the buffered bike lane would be replaced with a far more dangerous door zone bike lane. Instead of a space separating bicycles from car traffic, the new configuration could actually force cyclists into traffic.
Sadly, the rumor turns out to be true. LADOT spokesman Jonathan Chui explains:
LAPD did make a request to LADOT to accommodate police vehicles in front of the headquarters without blocking the bike lane. As a courtesy we try to accommodate other city agencies when possible.
The bike lane will remain on 1st Street. In this case, for a single block, the bike lane on the south side will be realigned adjacent to the number 2 lane. The area adjacent to the curb will still preclude parking, but will allow police vehicles to stop if necessary without blocking the bike lane. This will be part of an upcoming resurfacing project.
Please note that the use of ‘buffers’ with bike lanes is generally used in unusual cases where the right-of-way is too wide for a single bike lane. There are only a handful of locations with this condition and this block happens to be one of them.
Given that the LAPD was utterly unable, or unwilling, to stop police cars from parking in a bicycle lane, it is wildly unlikely that there will be a successful effort to keep them from parking in a “stopping but no parking” zone. The announced change has many bicycle safety advocates incensed, especially because the LAPD’s Parker Center is connected to a large parking structure.
“The biggest improvement we’ve seen in Los Angeles in the last couple years has been the widespread use of buffered bike lanes,” writes Eric Bruins, the policy and program director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. “The downtown network of buffered lanes is no small part of the reason LA was recently recognized as a Bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community. In sometimes hectic downtown traffic, the buffered lanes give bicyclists peace of mind and the extra space needed to avoid parked cars, opening doors, delivery trucks, you name it.
It would be a real shame to lose our margin of safety because those charged with protecting public safety won’t walk less than a block from their parking structure to conduct business at LAPD headquarters.”
There is no announced timeline for the resurfacing project.