The MyFigueroa! Doubters Speak: Fig Too Special for Cycletracks

After years of whispering in the ears of CRA and LADOT staff, and avoiding public comment, the opponents of the MyFigueroa! project to put a road diet, cycletracks, bike lanes, improved crosswalks and better transit facilities on South Figueroa street broke their public silence in the L.A. Downtown News .

The basic argument against the plan is that it is bad for car traffic, hasn’t been done in Los Angeles before, and that Figueroa Street is a regional street that needs to have as much traffic capacity as possible. This is good to know, because these arguments are simple to refute.

“The whole problem of access and mobility for automotive vehicles needs to be seriously considered before we experiment with something that hasn’t been done anywhere else in L.A.,” said Darryl Holter, CEO of the Shammas Group, which owns eight car dealerships on Figueroa….

Although protected lanes in other cities may have been successful, Figueroa Street is different in part because it is a key regional transit corridor, said Hamid Bahadori, manager of transportation programs for the Southern California Auto Club.

“We should keep in mind that people on Figueroa are not all going between USC and L.A. Live and Downtown,” Bahadori said. “This is a regional corridor and the city should not lose sight of the need to accommodate regional mobility.”

I’m not sure what Holter is referring to when he says “something that hasn’t been done anywhere else in L.A. before,” but the good news is that road diets, cycle tracks, and opening streets to all users is something that has been done all over the world. The other good news is that the results of these kind of changes bring positive change throughout the world. At the same time, it would be nice for the AAA to realize that many of the people on Figueroa do live between USC and L.A.. Live and would love a safe alternative to the car reliance that AAA peddles and advocates on behalf of.

Even just a quick email to the other Streetsblog editors revealed that cycle tracks on major streets and road diets are hardly new or untested.

From Chicago, John Deerfield reminds us of the Dearborn Street Bike Lane that received a road diet and separated bike facility in late 2011. Mayor Rahm Emanuel brags about taking out a lane of mixed use traffic to put in a two-way cycle track.

From San Franciscio, Aaron Bialick points out how proud the city is of its aggressive road diet program.

From New York, Ben Fried wrote the most specific

Most of the protected bike lane miles in Manhattan are on what you would call “arterial streets.” 1st Ave, 2nd Ave, 8th Ave, 9th Ave/Columbus Ave — for the most part, these had at least four travel lanes in addition to parking lanes before the protected bike lanes were installed. In some cases the bike lane replaced a car lane and in other cases the motor lanes were all narrowed to make room. For example, 12 foot lanes would become 10 foot lanes.

Another example is Allen Street, which is the only two-way street in the bunch. They put the bike lane in the center median on that one. It works really well.

Separated bike paths or Cycle tracks and road diets are not something new. Many advocates wish that the City of Los Angeles was willing to experiment with bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, but that hasn’t been the case.  But the good news is that Los Angeles can see what works in other cities. Road diets, even on major arterial streets, don’t create more traffic, the New York experience actually suggests the opposite. Separated bike lanes don’t hurt business and cultural destinations, they actually improve access.

Los Angeles is not a special magical city where transportation planning that works elsewhere doesn’t work here. It would be good for the opponents of the MyFigueroa project to look at the history of transportation planning in Los Angeles’ peer cities instead of guessing what will and won’t work on Figueroa Street and beyond.