Eyes on the Street: Sepulveda Blvd. Bike Lane Turning Into “Express Lane” for Scofflaws

When not riding his bicycle, Chen takes pictures of bike lane violators from his perch in a Culver City Bus.

In May, Streetsblog reported that new bike lanes were painted on Sepulveda Boulevard between Venice Boulevard and National Boulevard. The new lanes could connect all the way to the Expo Line Station scheduled for Sepulveda and Exposition, about a half mile north of where the lanes now end.

Reader Irwin Chen notes that the lanes are being put to good use…by speeding motorists as well as cyclists. Chen photographed cars both violating the bike lane and driving to the right of the lane at high-speed. He then mails the pictures to the LAPD, who assure Chen that they are enforcing vehicle code on drivers who violate the lane.

In a letter to the LAPD, Chen writes:

I’m writing to you with some follow up info. It has been about 6 weeks since I reported my experience riding in the bike lane on Sepulveda near National and since that time, I have stopped riding in this area because it is far too dangerous with cars constantly driving illegally in the bike lane and passing me on my right. I have attached some photos which I think are self-explanatory: cars are illegally entering the bike lane and using it to bypass traffic, sometimes at speed greatly exceeding the posted speed limit.

Assuming the LAPD is being truthful when they say they are regularly enforcing rules onc cars crossing into the bike lanes, it calls into question the design.  The current bike lane design puts bicyclists in the crosshairs of cars turning right, either for a rear collision or a “right hook.”  Chen also writes that many of the cars violating the lane are shooting past the bicycles on the right in an area marked for automobile parking.

In the near future, these bike lanes could connect not just to the Expo Station, but the Expo Bike Path. “Experimenting” with a separated bike lane, where the parked cars are to the left of the bike lane, could be a tool in the LADOT’s mid-term plan for the lanes when they connect some of the city’s best used bike path to a newly installed bike path.

  • We need to outlaw driving until all drivers follow the law. 

  • Listen to latest CDM cyclist podcasts, by Tom Godefrooij, Dutch Cycling Embassy its a great talk on how there are 2 safe alternative designs of streets/roads for cyclists, speed calming with safe bike lanes on low volume low speed streets, or well protected bike “tracks” on higher speed arterials, thats it, there is no 3rd alternative such as these dangerous bike lanes on high speed arterials around SoCal.  We need “barrier” protected bike lanes on all SoCal arterials.

  • Anonymous

    Don’t tell the cops there’s a bike lane there or they’ll start parking in it!

  • Ubrayj02

    Focusing on the LAPD here is not going far enough. This type of bike lane is not safe enough – it is an inducement for the most entitled among us to push their privilege even further.

    The LADOT and the mayor’s office need to advance a protected cycle track on many of LA’s streets.

    If I hear someone tell me about how “that is not possible” I will show them pictures of downtown Long Beach, CicLAvia videos, and the progress we’ve made in LA over the past 5 years and say, “Tell me about what is not possible.”

  • Anonymous

    Lowering the price of parking in the spaces being used as an express lane will solve the problem.

  • Dennis Hindman

    I’ve come to the conclusion from extensive reading, talking to people and observation that putting unprotected bike lanes on arterial streets is ineffective in attracting a significant increase in cycling. Most people simply do not want to cycle on a street with a lot of vehicles that are moving fast. The only way to change that is to separate the bicycle rider from motorized vehicles by using some form of barrier, Its simply a waste of time and money to do it any other way. Its pissing off drivers and getting no significant amount of bicycling in return by installing unprotected bike lanes on arterial streets.

  • Irwinc

    Thanks for the story Damien… I think eliminating the parking lane here and create a raised medium (i.e. protected bike lane if you will) so cars cannot cut into the bike lane is the right solution here. In the meanwhile, LAPD enforcement is better than nothing; which was the case for 6 months until I made a complaint.

  • Anonymous

    This is the exact same problem that exists on Motor.  It ruins what would otherwise be an amazing bike lane.  I drive up Motor every morning.  (No way I’m riding until there’s some recognition that the current configuration is unsafe).  I have seen dozens of cars speeding down the bike lane and have never once seen a police officer enforcing any section of the Vehicle Code on Motor OTHER THAN enforcing the “no turn” signs from National onto Motor.  

    While enforcement would help satisfy my desire from some justice in the world, what the Motor configuration really needs are sidewalk bulbs at each intersection so that the bike lane plus parking area is not an uninterrupted “bonus” driving lane.  This section of Sepulveda has longer blocks, so it may need additional infrastructure, but something should be done before some self-important jackass runs down a cyclist.

  • Anonymous

     This is actually a better idea than mine.  I don’t believe that there is especially intense demand for the street parking on this section of Sepulveda, so the howls may be fairly muted.

  • Irwinc

    Take some photos and send it to LAPD. At least they will be on notice.

    Sgt. Christopher Kunz: 26315@lapd.lacity.org

    Sgt Kunz is the bicycle liaison for the West Traffic Dividion. His info was published on Streetsblog by Damien in October 2012 so I think it is ok for me to repost here.

  • Anonymous

     The low demand for parking will persist as long as Los Angeles continues to force businesses to build more off-street parking than the businesses would provide of their own choosing.

  • Then let’s get that “request to experiment” application together, stat!

  • Dennis Hindman

    Chris, this nonsense that the LADOT needs to put together a network of unprotected bike lanes on arterial streets has got to stop. After seeing what happens when arterial streets get bike lanes I now believe that David Hembrow of the blog “A view from the cycle Path” was right when he said: “Angelinos! Your being fed a line!” with the bike plan:

    http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2011/09/los-angeles-has-plan-but-is-it-enough.html

    I can think of four intersections in the San Fernando Valley where following the templates that are in the California Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (CAMUTCD) will almost certainly make the situation worse for cycling. They are all on streets that run diagonal to other streets at these intersections.

    Riverside Dr at Tujunga Ave/Camarillo St. Heading north on Riverside Dr at this intersection I got my back wheel run over one day from a car stopped behind me at a green light.

    The Orange Line bike path where it intersects Fulton Ave and Burbank Blvd.

    Lankershim Blvd heading north where Cahuenga Blvd splits off from it just above the LA river.

    Lankershim Blvd where it intersects Camarillo St and Vineland Ave.

    Due to these two intersections, i’ll lay money that the LADOT will make bike riding on Lankershim Blvd worse from the Orange Line to Ventura Blvd when they put bike lanes on it next year. Just thinking about it is depressing. I refused to sign a petition in support of putting bike lanes on this street because of the LADOT using the CAMUTCD as a template rather than the minimum or as an inspiration.

    Its more measuring than engineering on every arterial street I have seen the LADOT put bike lanes on. Arterial streets need a much higher quality of bicycle infrastructure due to the dangers that motorists provide. Instead, LA is getting the bare minimum with stripping that disappears at all of the potential conflict areas such as freeway on and off ramps, intersections, approaches to right-turn and left-turn only lanes, bus stops and driveways.

  • @d5ef5e91fd4f619109ebb16eca656a73:disqus I don’t work for LADOT anymore, so I can’t speak to their design approach on projects in North Hollywood.

  • Patrick

    The same thing regularly happens on the eastbound side of Sunset Blvd between Silverlake and Alvarado.  Just a few plastic bollards placed in safe spots every 100 yards or so would safely solve this problem. 

  • Syzlak

    LADOT seems reluctant to come to terms with the reality that unprotected bike lanes downright suck in most places that the city is applying them. Protected bike lanes reduce potential conflict points to just intersections and driveways, whereas unprotected bike lanes leave the cyclist exposed 100% of the time. We are relying too much on the users (“merge here”, “yield here”, “don’t enter here”, “be aware of conflict zone here”, “cycle at the edge of the bike lane to avoid door zone”)  and not enough on the infrastructure to engineer solutions to improve conditions.

  • Erik Griswold

    Need these on the Culver CIty and LA Metro buses (as they have on SF Muni!):

    http://youtu.be/bw58QBJju6s

  • Dennis Hindman

    Cycle tracks are not a street treatment that would require approval for experimentation. If the LADOT is waiting for a template in a manual of uniform control devices (MUTCD) to show how to proceed in designing one they may be waiting forever as the federal highway administration doesn’t even consider this to be a traffic control device.

    Quoting the FHA:: “(cycletracks) are not a traffic control device, so no MUTCD restrictions on its use.”:

    http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bicycle_pedestrian/guidance/design_guidance/mutcd_bike.cfm

    Perhaps there is some additional rule or regulation at the state level? Nope. The 2012 California manual of uniform traffic control devices (MUTCD) states under section 9C.04 with the heading “markings for bicycle lanes” and support number 25: “Physical barriers may be used to convert a Class II Bikeway (Bike Lane) to Class I Bikeway (Bike Path).” Since bike lanes are only on streets, then it should be  understood that it is alright to put a barrier protected bike path (cycle track) on the street.

  • Jim

    The worst one of these I’ve seen so far is the new bike lane on Grand Ave downtown as cars approach the 10 freeway.  At rush hour after work there used to be two lanes for cars to turn right onto the freeway entrance.  Now there is a very small lane and cars have now started lining up for two blocks in the bike lane.  While I believe in implementing bike lanes very strongly, when they are designed terribly such as this one, it only puts people lives at risk.  They either need LAPD there enforcing the traffic, or rethink how the bike lane is integrated.  Even as a motorist there it is now extremely risky to get onto the freeway trying to follow the law while avoid the law breakers and cyclists.  I have been wondering who to file a complaint about this with.

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