It Is Easy Being Green…for the 1st Street Bike Lane in Boyle Heights

The 1st Street Green Bike Lane in early 2012. All pics by Carlos Morales

In contrast to the uproar over the repainting of Downtown’s green bike lane; Spring’s sister bike lane  on 1st Street on the Eastside has proven quietly effective, at least according to anecdotal evidence and utterly uncontroversial.

In fact, while residents, business owners, safety advocates, pedestrian advocates, bicycling advocates, urban planners, and the Neighborhood Council came ready to defend the Downtown bike lane, the green in Boyle Heights exists as just a regular part of the urban fabric. The closest thing to a complaint about the lane was the initial confusion that some cyclists and drivers felt when the green paint was first applied. Carlos Morales, founder of the Eastside Bike Club and owner of Stan’s Bike Shop, actually half-joked that some cyclists thought they should avoid the green and would swerve out of the lane where conflict zones were marked with green paint.

When asked directly if anyone has complained about the green lane, nobody at the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Los Angeles Department of Transportation or Office of Council Member Jose Huizar, who pushed for the green lane to be in Boyle Heights, could remember any.

But can anyone show if the lane is working, has anyone studied whether or not the lane has increased safety or ridership?

Crickets.

“Not by LACBC, unfortunately,” writes Eric Bruins, the Planning & Policy Director for the Bike Coalition.

“It doesn’t look like it,” writes Rick Coca, a spokesperson for Huizar.

“Not to my knowledge either,” writes Tim Fremaux, a bicycle planner at LADOT. “We generally defer to what the feds identify.”

Fremaux then pasted studies by the FHWA that show that green paint added to bike lanes or Sharrowed Lanes lead to an increase in bicycle visibility, which leads to increased safety, which leads to increased safety, which leads to increased ridership.

Fortunately, someone was willing to state that there has been a difference on 1st Street since the new paint went in on November of 2011.

“I have seen more people on bikes using First St.,” offers Carlos Montes, chair of the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council’s Transportation Committee offers.

The 1st Street Green Lane will more closely resemble the new Spring Street Lane than the old one with conflict points marked in solid green....even if the shades of green are different.

While trusting Montes’ eyes is hardly a scientific study, at this point it represents the best information on the lanes’ usage.

However, there is good news for those still licking their wounds over last week’s City Council decision to repaint the bike lane in Downtown Los Angeles. The quiet success of the 1st Street Bike Lane has insured that it will be repainted in a timely manner when it needs it, as confirmed by both Coca and Fremaux. Fremaux also added that it won’t be repainted anytime soon, because the lane is in “pretty good shape.”

Oh, and it’s going to be repainted bright green, not “New York Green” or “Long Beach Green” or “Tuscaloosa Green” or any other city-themed shade of green.

There’s also good news for those that want to see the lanes success broken down in tables and charts. City Planning has applied for a grant to study the value of lanes in terms of ridership and safety from the Southern California Association of Governments. But while we wait for the city to complete it’s studies, we’re left with anecdotal evidence.

So let’s add yours to the mix, Streetbloggers. What have you observed, and what are your thoughts, on the 1st Street Green Conflict Zone Bike Lane in Boyle Heights?