New Bike Lanes on Hooper and Firestone in Florence-Firestone
If you’ve ever been down Hooper Avenue in South Los Angeles, you know it can move fast.
On one of my first rides through the area several years back, I spoke with a family that lived on the corner of 82nd – right in the middle of where Hooper bends. The width of the street, the elongated curve, and the lack of stop signs between lights, the family said, encouraged people to careen through their neighborhood at night and crash into their neighbors’ yards.
Pointing to the stone fence put up around the perimeter of the home kitty-corner to them, they said that that yard had been crashed into several times. They had begged their representatives for a stop sign for years, they said, but their concerns seemed to have fallen on deaf ears.
Five years later, there is still no stop sign there, but there is now a road diet in place.
The road diet is part of a series of improvements going in the county that Ryan Johnson of Alta Planning pointed us to after spotting a new bike lane along Firestone Blvd. from the Blue Line.
The new Firestone lanes run 1.55 miles between Central Avenue and Alameda Street alongside now slightly narrower travel lanes, giving cyclists more elbow room than they used to feel they had.
As seems to be more the norm than the exception, however, the lanes peter out well short of the major intersections they’re trying to connect the cyclists to.
Here, it appears the cyclist is either expected to magically transport themselves between the intersection and this random driveway, or ride on the sidewalk until they reach the lane’s origin.
The bike lane picks up at Alvarado Tires, heading west. And gets lost just after 87th Street heading east toward Alameda. (Alameda is the big street running north-south, below.)
Being unprotected around curves like that is never fun – drivers tend to accelerate around hug curves more closely and are not able to see that well up ahead to where a cyclist might be when they are moving fast.
Similarly, the lane drops off before you hit Central Avenue going westward.
Hooper’s bike lane is a bit more of a steady companion. And, as seen in the top photo, it is actually car-wide in some stretches.
The Hooper lanes run approximately 2 miles between Slauson and Manchester, and are slated to eventually connect to 94th, where Hooper intersects with Central Avenue in Watts.
I haven’t yet been on Hooper during peak hours, so I don’t know how the lane has impacted traffic patterns, or if the larger width of the lane in certain sections encourages drivers to use it as a car lane. But I’m going to guess the diet will be welcome to neighbors that have complained of speeding after dark and those that have to cross such a wide avenue.
A thirteen-year-old skateboarder was killed at Hooper and 77th at 10:30 p.m. back in 2015. Later that month, at Slauson, around 9 p.m., a crash sent a mini van carrying a family of five careening into a tree. Three of the occupants had to be extracted by the fire department; the driver of the other vehicle fled the scene on foot.
Both lanes help connect cyclists to the Blue Line, which has stops at Slauson, Florence, and Firestone.
But cyclists are rather abandoned otherwise. There are no lanes where Hooper intersects with Central Avenue, thanks to Curren Price’s tireless work to see the 7.2 mile lane planned to run between Little Tokyo and Watts removed from the Mobility Plan. And fast-moving Alameda, with its narrow sidewalks along some stretches, is hardly welcoming. The Rail-to-River bike path will help with connectivity along Slauson, but it is still a couple of years off.
There are bike lanes on the south end of Hooper, but the point where it intersects is actually quite hazardous. In Watts, Hooper is much narrower than Central, but folks driving straight up Central onto Hoover rarely slow down. A cyclist heading north onto Hoover can feel squeezed. And for northbound cyclists continuing along Central, having to cross in front of speeding drivers eager to get onto Hoover, the crossing can be terrifying.
One notable project in the works for South L.A. cyclists will be the striping of nearly 3 miles of bike lanes on the southbound side of Vermont, between 87th and El Segundo. Right now, the northbound side of the street, the city side, has a full bike lane. It’s in terrible shape north of Century, and I tend to see more horses than bikes in that lane, but it’s there.
The county side, the southbound side, has only sharrows. Which, on a street as wide as Vermont, just doesn’t feel very reassuring.
That project will break ground in 2018.
See the full list of county projects, here.
*Thanks again to Ryan Johnson of Alta Planning