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.