Better Late Than Never: LaBonge and O’Farrell Celebrate Yucca Street, L.A.’s First Bike Friendly Street

Tom LaBonge leads Mitch O'Farrell (the only person in a tie) and others on a tour of Yucca Street. Photo via Scott Levin/Office of Council Member Tom LaBonge

In September of 2012, my son and I took a field trip to Hollywood not to see the tourist sites, but to ride on my bicycle back and forth on the .8 miles of Yucca Street, Los Angeles’ first Bicycle Friendly Street. Earlier today, Los Angeles City Council Members Mitch O’Farrell and Tom LaBonge hosted a community bicycle ride to celebrate Yucca Street.

“Let’s take ‘nobody walks in L.A.’ and make it ‘nobody drives in Hollywood,'” enthused LaBonge. “Yucca Street is for bikes.”

Yucca Street lies mostly in the 13th City Council District, currently represented by Mitch O’Farrell, who replaced Eric Garcetti, who is now Mayor of Los Angeles. While Garcetti celebrated Yucca’s opening with a short press statement, a larger community celebration wasn’t held until today. A small portion is also in the 4th District represented by LaBonge. While LaBonge is often criticized for not standing up for bicycle safety projects, including sometimes by Streetsblog, he was in front of this issue.

In 2011, residents complaints about the cut-through traffic on Yucca focused LaBonge and Garcetti to prioritize calming traffic on the street. In fact, the Council Members were talking about restricting through traffic, keeping the street open only to the car-free and local traffic, before LADOT completed its studies.

The improvements to Yucca Street were designed to make the residential and commercial community a safer place to walk and bicycle. Yucca, located just north of Hollywood Boulevard, was a popular street for automobile commuters looking for an alternative to sitting in traffic on a major arterial street. This attitude led to a dangerous situation for cyclists, pedestrians, other drivers, or just people looking to get from their car to their apartment.

“The bicycle improvements on Yucca Street create a safer and easier alternative to the hectic Hollywood Boulevard corridor,” said Council Member Mitch O’Farrell. “This is the first of its kind in the City, and I’m proud that more bike-friendly streets are starting right here in my district.”

To earn the designation “Bicycle Friendly Street,” a street needs to feature three different kinds of bicycle safety infrastructure. While “bicycle friendly street” signage and Sharrows aren’t exactly going to excite anyone too much, Yucca’s third piece of infrastructure is what makes the improvements to Yucca so exciting.

Last year we wrote about an effort by Council Members Garcetti and Tom LaBonge to restrict car access to Yucca Street to reduce the cut through traffic. To that end, pedestrian islands and signs forbid left turns and through traffic onto Yucca making it nigh impossible for use as a cut through. As a result, cars accessing the streets are almost uniformly cars making local trips.

The really exciting part. Cherokee and Yucca, facing west.

“The bollards were originally put in to mitigate some negative impacts in the neighborhood,” LaBonge boasted last year. “This new route has turned a negative into a positive. This is another great addition to our bike infrastructure, though we have more work to do.”

Of course, the real measure of success for a “first” project, i.e. Yucca is the first Bicycle Friendly Street, is whether or not the city finds it useful enough to replicate elsewhere.

LADOT reports that the Department has funding for several roundabouts throughout the city through a grant from Metro. Two roundabouts on 4th Street (also in LaBonge’s District) are in final design. More are funded on the Berendo-New Hampshire corridor and Pierce and Herrick in Pacoima through the Safe Routes to School funding program.

Going forward, the department has funds to do outreach in South LA specifically for future similar projects.

  • Well Hung Ike

    What a nice gesture to get a few votes. Let’s be self-congratulatory and pat ourselves on the back for a photo-op. Maybe we can play some mid-1990s R.E.M. or Radiohead to lay it on thick for a true “feel good all over” fuzzy moment.

    And while that’s happening, simultaneously, the green paint and bike lane on Spring Street is being eradicated. Way to go for forward-thinking and advance planning.

    Let’s be candid people:

    This is a “bike friendly” street in theory only.

    How many of you have ridden this little mini-patch of a street?

    This sad-ass excuse for a bike friendly street is riddled with enormous cracks in the cement and potholes that will send the most careful rider flying off their bike, and/or do very serious damage to cyclists’ tires.

    Lest we forget, this sharow-ed strip of Yucca Street is – what – maybe 1/4 of a mile long. Half a mile, maybe (?).

    It’s not particularly useful. In fact, that rinky-dink “bike friendly” patch on Yucca is about as safe & useful as placing a bike lane on the road-rage-filled, 45+ MPH Reseda Avene in the Valley.

    Oh, wait! The city of L.A. actually did place a bike lane on that seriously unsafe main road in the S.F.V. Fancy that!

    Are these bike lanes and so-called “bike friendly” streets a sick joke, where the punchline is cyclists’ lives, or are there some outrageously stupid people running the show? It would be nice to think there were good intentions behind both of these bicycle projects, but seriously, what the hell kind of urban planning is this??

    Anyway…

    A recommended alternative for traveling East-to-West in Hollywood, is Selma Avenue & Hawthorn. Motorists are (obviously) allowed on Selma Ave but they are slow moving, generally friendly (for cars) and are usually seeking a parking space. There are plenty of stop signs to keep both motorists and Militant Helmet-Less Fixed Gear Dickfaces in line (you know them – the ones who think the rules or the road do not apply to them – yes, them). And it’s a much smoother ride when compared to the cement cracks on Yucca.

    Selma extends from Gower all the way to Highland Avenue. At Highland, a cyclist or pedestrian can zig-zag across slightly north onto Hawthorn, take that to LaBrea, zig-zag across slightly south and continue on Hawthorn all the way to Curson. Hawthorn is so residential, there’s hardly ever cars on it. You can hear the crickets at night time too.

  • Roadblock

    An even sicker joke here is that both of these councilmembers along with Mayor Garcetti were seen in a video last night presenting the proposed “improvements” to the Hyperion / Glendale viaduct which…. does nothing to provide safe passage to cyclists, reduces pedestrian access, and is “engineered for average speeds of 55mph.” 55mph. Think about that. These sad sacks, allowed Cal Trans and the LADOT to come in… survey the current conditions of the bridge, which is rampant law breaking by car drivers… the posted speed limit is 35mph… we know that cyclists have been pushing for a bike lane (dept of DIY) we know that cyclists and car drivers have been getting creamed (SWITRS) and we know that the sidewalks are narrow…. so what do these boneheads in city govt do? Instead of engineering a traffic calmed safe passage for all into the Silverlake and Los Feliz communities… They propose to engineer the street as a freeway with crash walls and banked roadways and these two politicians (and Garcetti) are all smiley faced about it in the video. You can undo paint but you cant undue banked freeways and crash walls. RE DICK YOU LOUS!

  • james

    This is a pathetic excuse for a bicycle friendly street. The idea that Tom LaBonge thinks he deserves some credit for this is especially offensive. Like everything else in LaBonge’s world it is 1/4 inch deep and a cheap simulation.

  • Roadblock

    I’m not going to poo poo this street. I think every urban street should be bike friendly so I applaud this… but it’s just disgusting to see the same politicians endorse without critical thought apparently… the hyperion freeway. There are only 3 routes to get to the LA river and NONE are bike friendly. in fact Los Feliz, Fletcher and Hyperion are all bike hostile.

  • Well Hung Ike

    Perhaps it’s cynicism that reflects my previous post. And there should be NUMEROUS streets like this, all over L.A. County. But as of now, how many are there?

    I’m sure that Yucca will be well-suited for someone’s 83 year old adventurous Aunt Nellie to ride from her apartment to get some exercise when the grandchildren come to visit. But that’s it. If someone is traveling East-to-West (or vice-versa), on any other street, it is unlikely a cyclist will say to themselves,

    “Hmmm. Well, I’ve nearly been killed 4 times along my ride today and I’m half-way to my destination. Perhaps it’s time to make my ride more leisurely. I know – I’ll travel slightly north and out of my way to ride that .8 mile car-less patch on Yucca Street for a bit. I won’t get hit by a car, but I may go flying off of my bike when a tire hits one of those major concrete cracks. What a wonderful idea!”

    That simply won’t happen.

    It simply wasn’t well thought out at all. And the fact that a self-congratulatory photo-op session for this was happening over a year later, speaks volumes about the half-assed-ness of this project and the officials behind it.

  • Well Hung Ike

    And as a quick comparsion:

    I just returned from a trip to Philadelphia; a mostly filthy, crime-ridden shanty city that also houses some amazing pockets of history, architecture, music and culture.

    It’s easily the most bike-friendly city I’ve been to besides Portland. REload bags are made there too.

    Philadelphia has bike lanes traveling East-to-West that are the size/width of ENTIRE car lanes and smoothly-paved! It was amazing to ride! During one day of exploring, I watched a car occasionally veer into the bike lane, which was later ticketed for endangering cyclists. It was a glorious sight.

    They also have also have had a CicLAvia style event for decades, where one 10+ mile side of a major road (can’t remember the name right now) along the river is closed to cars every Sunday.

  • anon

    It’s West River Drive, and it closes every Sunday for most of the spring and summer. Also, Philly is probably one of the most underrated cities in America.

  • MJ

    This so-called bike street is a JOKE. It runs from Highland to Wilcox, maybe a third of a mile. What biker in their right mind would go out of their way to use this? This is just a waste of money and was errected to please the neighborhood. I lived in the neighborhood as this was being built and I never saw one bike passing through. It just pissed off all the apartment dwellers as it made it harder to get anywhere. Cars simply just make U-turns and go around them.

  • Roadblock

    To be fair, I grew up in the area and the street was a notorious crime ridden street… they tried to barricade it up back in the day with “donkey dicks” and cars just eventually crashed them through…. I think whoever designed this probably was able to find money to modify the old barricaded design to something presentable as bike friendly which is what made this politically feasible and a pilot that LADOT can use as an example for other neighborhoods to look at. I’m still just trippin balls that LaBonge and OFarrel on one hand can applaud this and then turn their backs on a huge opportunity with the Hyperion bridge to do something similar.