Filed Under: O Valley Bike Lane, Thou Art but a Vehicular Temptress

New bike infrastructure appears on Vineland in the Valley. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
New bike infrastructure appears on Vineland in the Valley. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

When the driver pulled in behind me in the new buffered bike lane along Vineland, I thought, OK, it’s a little weird, but he’s probably going to turn right or park.

A block and a half later I turned around again.

Nope, he’s still there and now he is waving at me like this is perfectly normal.

A block later, he finally turned right.

I would have chalked this up to the guy being lost or perhaps disoriented by the new stripes, except that this turned out to be a frequent occurrence on both of my visits to Vineland.

Drivers, impatient to get into the right lane, regularly drove several blocks to a quarter-mile in the bike lane all along the avenue. Where they were jumping the line of traffic to get to Riverside Dr. (below), they tended to do so at a very fast clip.

Even Prius drivers can't wait to get into the right lane. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Even Prius drivers can’t wait to get into the right lane. This driver entered the bike lane at about where the first tree shadow hits the road (bottom right). Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Turning right onto Riverside Dr. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
No car lane, no problem! Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The eagerness of drivers to make use of the bike lanes may be somewhat puzzling to those that have followed the Valley striping saga.

As set out in the 2010 Bike Plan, the lane had originally been intended to connect Ventura Blvd. in Studio City to San Fernando Rd. in Sun Valley via Lankershim Blvd. That plan included a road diet for the 2.4-mile stretch of Lankershim between the Universal City Red Line station and the Orange/Red Line hub at Chandler Blvd in North Hollywood.

The road diet plan had been surprisingly popular with many of the local businesses and residents who saw the larger benefits of substituting bike lanes and a middle turn lane for two travel lanes.

Former Councilmember Tom LaBonge, however, was not having it.

Possibly misunderstanding that the entire objective of a road diet is to make the street safer for all users by slowing it down, LaBonge told the Daily News, “I’m not for a road diet if bicyclists die on the road. I want to make streets safe for people.”

The choice which would prevent the jostling for space between drivers and cyclists, he and the Toluca Lake Neighborhood Council felt, was the speedy six-lane Vineland Ave. — “a tremendous street” on which there was plenty of room for a lane.

And there is indeed plenty of room on Vineland. But all that room seems to be giving the many drivers I have observed cruising the bike lane the sense that the lane markings are nothing more than a suggestion.

And questionable striping in some areas isn’t helping.

A car trying to turn right has to pull out perpendicularly into the street before turning right to avoid the bike lane. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
A car trying to turn right has to pull out perpendicularly into the street before turning right to avoid the bike lane. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

A car wishing to turn right at an intersection like the one the above has to fully pull out into the street before turning right, if they are to avoid driving in the bike lane.

Not only is that an awkward way to try to merge into moving traffic, most people I saw were not inclined to do that.

Nope. Not even gonna try. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Nope. Not even gonna try. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

And the wide-openness of the street and lack of any other kinds of protections (i.e. bollards) meant that they rarely seemed in a hurry to exit the bike lane.

Still in the lane. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Still hanging out in the lane. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Bollards are not currently planned for the southbound stretch below, but they might be helpful in keeping drivers from using the lane when traffic is heavy or from jumping the line to turn right. This stretch of Vineland also speeds up a bit, so it might help cyclists feel safer to have a physical barrier there.

Bollards, please? Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Bollards, please? Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

And more curved guide lines, like the one seen below, could be helpful in preventing drifters from meandering their way through the bike lane until they feel like merging into traffic.

Helpful lines are our friends. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Helpful lines are everybody’s friends. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The new lanes — running from Ventura to Chandler — are still being striped, so other improvements such as the curved guide lines may be yet to come. And per an exchange I had with someone from the bikeways program, the city appears to be aware there have been some issues with driver behavior and will continue to work with the council office to ensure all road users are safe.

All of the aforementioned growing pains aside, I rather liked the spaciousness of the lanes and found them to be a pleasant ride. But I am not a frequent Valley visitor, nor someone whose mobility is affected by not being able to use Lankershim (as many cyclists I saw still do) safely and easily. What say you about the lane, dear readers? Or about the behaviors you’ve observed? Let us know below.

  • drsus

    why don’t they put a row of them flexible poles along the length of these lanes and create a visible and physical barrier? just leave the areas open for where cars need it to enter the tune area to turn at intersections? this is what most countries do around the world, its not rocket science. and if for some reason a car touches one of the poles they’re flexible plastic…. we see them used all over the city for many other purposes…. bus lanes, parking structures etc etc

    http://d.fastcompany.net/multisite_files/fastcompany/imagecache/1280/poster/2014/06/3031392-poster-p-protected-lane.jpg

  • Alex Brideau III

    This is certainly not exclusive to Vineland. The buffered bike lane on Grand Ave downtown also is quite popular with drivers of cars and buses using it as a shortcut to the intersection when traffic backs up their own lanes.

    On the occasion when I drive, I only turn at the allowed breaks in the buffer. I wonder what would happen if I was broadsided by a car or bus illegally using the buffered bike lane? Would they be held liable?

  • Alex Brideau III

    Agreed. Either some bollards need to be installed or street parking should become the protected buffer, where applicable. The paint-without-policing plan leaves much to be desired.

  • M

    I ranted about this last week in the comments on another post, but yeah, your experiences are not unique. I bike on here daily and there are cars (parked and driving) in the bike lane ALL of the time, even in the Southbound lane in the section that’s been painted as a bike lane for over a year (between Ventura and Moorpark).

  • Joe Linton

    It’s mercifully uncommon, but even on non-buffered bike lanes, drivers pull into and drive in L.A. bike lanes. I was bicycling on Silver Lake Boulevard (heading north – across from the reservoir) about 5 years ago and heard a screeching sound. It was a speeding driver, in the bike lane, slamming on the brakes to avoid rear-ending me.

  • M

    I just want to scream at people “CAN’T YOU SEE THAT YOUR CAR DOES NOT FIT IN THOSE LINES?!!?! DOES THAT NOT TRIGGER ANYTHING IN YOUR BRAIN?!?!?!!?!?!?! If not, please drop off your license in the nearest trash can and never drive a car again. Thanks!”

  • Dennis_Hindman

    I just got back from riding the Vineland Ave bike lanes from Chandler Blvd to Riverside Dr. I’ve noticed that LADOT will put in bike lanes on sections of streets that are in F (failure) condition. About a block south of Chandler Blvd on the west side of Vineland Ave heading south the bike lane is on a block of street that has to be in D or F condition. Although its much worse on Lankershim Blvd at about Oxnard St. Again, bike lanes, but its almost unrideable due to the condition of the street.

    Here’s what I find interesting about the buffered bike lanes on Vineland Ave.

    The city needs examples of what occurs if a network of bikeways is installed. The tightly knit network of bike lanes in the community of Wilmington is an almost petri dish perfect test of whether installing bikeways very close together increases the rate of bicycling more than spacing them further apart.

    The buffered bike lanes on Vineland Ave could be converted to protected bike lanes due to the space obtained.

    There is going to be protected bike lanes installed on Chandler Blvd to connect the bike path that goes down the middle of Chandler Blvd east of the North Hollywood subway station to the Orange Line path that begins just past Coldwater Cyn.

    There has also been a study to determine the feasibility of extending the LA river bike path from Lankershim Blvd to Whittsett Ave.

    If all three of these come to fruition then there will be a low-stress bikeway network that can get people to the Orange Line brt/North Hollywood subway station, to two high schools, two big box grocery stores, or to the Universal subway station and NBC/Universal. Plus, there is going to be a indoor parking facility that can hold at least 250 bicycles installed in the old train depot where the Orange Line station is on Lankershim Blvd after the pedestrian tunnel is built to connect the Orange Line to the subway station. All of these combined could potentially give a strong indication of the benefits of having a low-stress network of bikeways. Having bits and pieces of low-stress bikeways that are not complete routes do not seem to entice many people to use them for utilitarian purposes.

    This has the potential to indicate the latent demand for a low stress bicycling network. Its pretty well established from surveys and a study of the 90 largest U.S. cities that conventional bike lanes only appeal to about 7% of adults. The potential of a low-stress protected bikeway network is to get a much larger part of the population bicycling regularly.

  • They added this exact sort of buffered bike lanes to Winnetka a couple years back. I rode this section of Winnetka everyday before and after the installation. In my experience: 1) People drive in them, but with decreasing frequency over time. Most people know not to ride in it (Prius/Audi/BMW drivers being the exceptions) 2) It is WAY better than trying to ride a bike in that third lane. I will take a car in my bike lane any day over trying to take the lane in 50 mph traffic.

    This reminds me that a bus was driving in the Devonshire bike lane this morning. You know what? I didn’t even think twice. I’m just now remembering that it didn’t bother me at all. So, I’m all for bike/bus lanes everywhere… And ticket cameras on all buses! XD

  • calwatch

    The big challenge is street sweeping and complying with the MS4 Permit. If you put the bollards in, either you have a separate sweeper for streets with protected bike lanes, or you have to remove the bollards before beginning sweeping.

    The problem with parking protected bike lanes is that people will park on the bike lane without a curb or other guide. Again, this traps debris in the bike lane, and puts the city at risk of being fined by the EPA for violating the Clean Water Act. Local governments are going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars complying with the Clean Water Act after a recent Supreme Court ruling, and adding more ways for debris to get trapped is not going to help.

  • M

    One thing that’s a concern to me about the Vineland bike lanes is that there are multiple freeway on/off ramps that interact with these bike lanes (at least in the south part where I live) and the careless behavior I’ve observed/experienced over the years, especially in these areas where there’s a large difference between bike speed and car entering/exiting freeway speeds. People regularly make LEFTS on red (not even just right after, but full on middle of the light sort of left) in addition to not looking during rights on red (again, speeding off the freeway), pull into the bike lane for various reasons (this happens a lot right next to the freeway off ramps where the police pull people over, get off the freeways and just then treat the bike lane as a parking spot.), which causes more confusion, even for the drivers that acknowledge the bike lane.

    What is the speed limit on Winnetka near the buffered bike lanes? It’s still 40mph where these bike lanes are installed on Vineland (again, at least in my part. I admit I haven’t biked the full bike lane yet because I personally avoid the Vinelane/Lankershim/Camarillo intersection as a bicyclist/pedestrian) and as Sahra mentioned, some of the cars driving in the bike lanes are moving pretty fast (http://humantransport.org/sidewalks/SpeedKills.htm ). From experiences where I’ve ended up at the same destination as drivers in the bike lanes and talking with them, they somehow did not see me at all in the bike lane. This is extremely alarming when people don’t even see the bicyclists in the bike lane they decided to drive in. I don’t want to have to become a statistic in terms of injury/death before the real issues in the bike lane designs we’re choosing are acknowledged.

  • M

    Northbound. Brain malfunction

  • I hear ya. I just think it might go down as time goes by. And LAPD should be out watching new bike lanes for exactly this type of behavior. They did so with the new ones on Reseda, so why not ALL new installations?

  • Alex Brideau III

    Yes. Curbs, bollards, or some other guides or barriers are certainly needed in the buffer space between the parking area and the bike lane to ensure parkers don’t park against the curb. I suppose the distance between such a barrier and the existing curb will determine which models of street sweepers can fit though.

    I believe the City of LA already has a couple sweepers that are friendly to the parking-protected-bike lanes on Reseda Blvd. Personally, I prefer these smaller sweepers over their full-size brethren as they are newer, presumably more fuel efficient, have brushes on both sides (I think not all full-size sweepers have this), and by virtue of their smaller size make problem cleaning areas more visible to the operator.

  • Alex Brideau III

    In a few of the article’s photos, there appears to be an unused space to the right of the buffered bike lane. Even considering the gutter, this unused space seems very wide. I wonder if there could be a better use of this dead space.

  • Catherine

    I still desperately need the bike lanes on Lankershim… I ride Lankershim much more often than Vineland because of the red line stations.

  • BC

    MS4 permit? What? In all the reading on protected bike lanes I’ve never read anything about Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System ? permits. Any evidence or real world anecdotes that this has stopped or slowed a PBL?

  • MIsterbee6

    Happens all the time on Venice blvd. and has been going on for *years*.

  • That certainly might be a problem elsewhere, but if parking is in fact not allowed along this stretch, then there is ample room for a street sweeper to fit down the bikeway and sweep even with bollards in place.

  • M

    Part of the problem with how the bike lane on Vineland was added is that there is no clear information at the Red line station that there’s a bike lane on the next major street over AND there’s no bike lane/path that currently leads directly from the Red Line on Lankershim over to Vineland…. I suppose when the mythical LA River Bike Path is added near Universal/Studio City that will help, but I’ve been hearing about that LA River bike path for years and well, it’s still no where to be found in the East Valley.

  • M

    Parking is allowed on some areas on Vineland next to the bike lane and not in others… not that it stops people from parking in non-parking zones, but that’s a different issue…

  • I ride on Silver Lake Blvd every day and haven’t experienced that. But I do see them drift into the bike lane on every turn.

    Drivers regularly pull into the bike lane on Eagle Rock Blvd heading south between Verdugo and the entrance to the 2. It’s not a buffered bike lane (it probably could be), but there’s about 7-8 feet of space to the right of it. When I ride on it, I worry that a driver will try to pass me on the right. So I use the right edge of the bike lane, so they know there’s no room. I also worry about drivers quickly barging into the lane with no signal and without looking.

  • Fair enough. But that means that a sweeper can almost certainly fit where parking is restricted and bollards would probably help enforce the restriction.

  • calwatch

    Sweeping issues are a big issue with protected bike lanes. Seattle and Portland have special PBL sweepers. http://bikeportland.org/2013/11/18/meet-portlands-new-bike-path-sized-street-sweeper-97302

    As far as the MS4 Permit, please see Order R4-2012-0175 as amended by Order WQ 2015-0075 which compels jurisdictions to sweep roadways. http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/losangeles/water_issues/programs/stormwater/municipal/la_ms4/2015/OrderR4-2012-0175-FinalOrderasamendedbyOrderWQ2015-0075.pdf

    Section VI.D.9.i.ii:

    i. Streets, Roads, and Parking Facilities Maintenance

    i. Each Permittee shall designate streets and/or street segments within its jurisdiction as one of the following:

    Priority A: Streets and/or street segments that are designated as consistently generating the highest volumes of trash and/or debris.

    Priority B: Streets and/or street segments that are designated as consistently generating moderate volumes of trash and/or debris.

    Priority C: Streets and/or street segments that are designated as generating low volumes of trash and/or debris.

    ii. Each Permittee shall perform street sweeping of curbed streets according to the following schedule:

    Priority A: Streets and/or street segments that are designated as Priority A shall be swept at least two times per month.

    Priority B: Streets and/or street segments that are designated as Priority B shall be swept at least once per month.

    Priority C: Streets and/or street segments that are designated as Priority C shall be swept as necessary but in no case less than once per year.

    Note the key word “shall” – if you do not keep records of your sweeping, you will violate the MS4 Permit. The NRDC has sued the LA County Flood Control District to clean up storm water. If you don’t sweep your streets, that’s an easy violation to prove. So supporters of protected bike lanes need to budget in the cost of special sweepers for those lanes.

  • Chimney Sweep

    Surely you must know that Los Angeles purchased at least one mini-sweeper for the Reseda Blvd lanes. I’ve seen a similar (the same?) sweeper on the sidewalks in the Civic Center. So the excuse that we don’t have mini sweepers doesn’t hold water.

  • calwatch

    As long as the City commits to buying them and using them, sure.

  • Alex Brideau III

    Not to get too off-topic here, but your post does bring to mind a separate question I have:

    If street sweeping is mandated, why is it that certain LA streets don’t have any parking restrictions at all? Does the city just go around the unmoved vehicles, or are those streets exempt from the requirement somehow, or is the city violating a state mandate? Or is this a big unknown?

  • calwatch

    The city just goes around the unmoved vehicles. Also, Priority B and Priority C streets don’t need to be swept as often as Priority A streets. So if the city sweeps weekly or biweekly, the net effect is that all points get swept once a year, albeit at different times.

  • Alex Brideau III

    Hmmm. Interesting.

  • A bike lane wide enough for a car to drive in – is not a bike lane.

  • Joe

    I make this commute daily from Magnolia to the 101 and since adding the bike lane, it has added an extra 15 minutes to that stretch of the commute (if you don’t line jump). I have only seen two bicyclists in that lane since it was put in. I’m sorry, but I say they desperately need to take that bike lane down. Giving the tiny ratio of bikers a small stretch to ride on and smell the dirty air vs the amount of inconvenience for hundreds of commuters daily is massively out of balance. Vineland is no place for bikers.

  • M

    I’m glad you think I should just disappear considering I live right off of Vineland (??? or do you want me to trade my bike for a car and add to the car congestion? That seems foolish considering a car takes up way more space than a bike.)

    I’m sorry you don’t seem to be seeing the bicyclists using the bike lane because there are way more than 2 using the lane (when it’s not filled with cars.)

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