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First Round of Great Streets Improvements Continue on Cesar Chavez; City Says Community Engagement on Horizon

The intersections slated for improvements are St. Louis, Chicago (south), Breed, Soto (in limited fashion), Mathews (just the crosswalks), and Fickett (south). Click to enlarge. Source: Great Streets

The intersections slated for the first round of improvements along Cesar Chavez include St. Louis, Chicago (south), Breed, Soto (in limited fashion), Mathews (just the crosswalks), and Fickett (south). Click to enlarge. Source: Great Streets

Tracking the Great Streets program as it has begun to unfold around town has, at times, been a bit of an exercise in frustration. Which never fails to strike me as odd, given Mayor Eric Garcetti’s declaration that the transformation of the 15 chosen streets into gathering places would happen via a “bottom-up and community-based process” in which the city “[worked] with neighborhood stakeholders to develop a vision for each corridor.”

But the incredibly robust public engagement process seen in Mar Vista — one in which the district’s very enthusiastic City Councilmember Mike Bonin used the plans as an opportunity to engage his constituents about how Venice Blvd. could be re-imagined, the neighborhood council created a Great Streets ad hoc committee, and community members were asked their opinion on a variety of potential improvements — has yet to be replicated elsewhere. [See the kinds of options offered to Mar Vista residents on everything from bikeways to crosswalks to bus amenities to street furniture to events/programming, below.]

Instead, the experience in other districts has been decidedly more uneven.

Along Central Avenue (South L.A.), there was practically no outreach early on; when outreach did finally get underway, it was to let folks know what had already been decided upon for their street, not to solicit their ideas on the options for how to transform the area.

The selection of N. Figueroa (Highland Park) as a Great Street seemed to give Councilmember Gil Cedillo the opening he was looking for to re-route the bike lane planned for the corridor, regardless of what some in the community wanted (and possibly inspiring Councilmember Curren Price to do the same for the bike lane planned for Central Ave.)

And along Cesar Chavez Ave. in Boyle Heights, curb extensions were first striped at St. Louis in early June — well before the neighborhood council was approached about what was happening in their neighborhood.

The wider community was also only introduced to the plans during a few outreach sessions — one on the corner where installation of the bulb-outs had already begun in late June and at a couple of open houses held in mid-August, long after installation was complete and work was already underway at another intersection on the street.

A planter, some paint, and plastic bollards create curb extensions at Cesar Chavez and St. Louis. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

A planter, some paint, and plastic bollards create curb extensions at Cesar Chavez and St. Louis. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

When asked about the discrepancy in the processes, the mayor’s office responded via email that, “The work on Cesar Chavez was focused on pedestrian safety improvements and was accomplished through a partnership between LADOT [the L.A. Department of Transportation], Councilmember Huizar, and the Great Streets Studio. These kinds of basic improvements, similar to filling a pothole or fixing a sidewalk, may be made on a Great Street segment separately from the visioning process with the community.” Read more…

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Vision Zero 101: Bike Lanes Are Not Parking Spaces

Parking enforcement often parks in the bike lane. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

LADOT’s parking enforcement officers often park in the bike lane, forcing cyclists into a busy traffic lane or onto the sidewalk. When asked about this practice on August 15, the parking enforcement officer whose car is pictured above declined to answer. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

Tap tap tap.

The parking enforcement officer looked up from his phone.

When he rolled down his window, I smiled and asked politely about his having parked in the bike lane on Los Angeles Street.

There was a long pause.

“And?” he raised his eyebrows.

Having only expected some, not total, disdain, I stuttered my way through my concerns about safety.

The lanes along Los Angeles St. between 1st and Aliso Streets are regularly blocked, usually by official vehicles that sit there all day, I gestured to the line of cars parked ahead of him, including an LAPD cruiser. The presence of the cars in the bike lane, I explained, meant that cyclists were forced to move into what could be a very fast-moving traffic lane on an often busy street.

He offered no response. Just judgmental eyebrows of silence.

I switched tacks and stuttered my way through a suggestion that, perhaps as parking enforcement, he might be able to help mitigate these problems by enforcing the codes. Vulnerable folks needed his help, I pleaded.

More silence. More eyebrows.

Finally, he muttered, “I have police business,” rolled up his window, and went back to his phone. A minute later, he exited the car and leisurely strolled toward the detention center.

Well, I thought. This was one of the less productive exchanges I’ve had in a while.

A parking enforcement vehicle occupies the southbound bike lane on Los Angeles St. in July. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

A parking enforcement vehicle sits alone in the southbound bike lane on Los Angeles St. in July. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

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Garcetti Signs Vision Zero Directive to End L.A. Traffic Deaths by 2025

Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Tamika Butler speaks on Los Angeles' new Vision Zero policy at today's signing ceremony in Boyle Heights. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Tamika Butler speaks on Los Angeles’ new Vision Zero policy at today’s signing ceremony in Boyle Heights. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Today, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti signed a directive [PDF] that commits city departments to Vision Zero. Specifically, the City of Los Angeles is committed to reducing traffic fatalities to zero by the year 2025.

A little over a year ago, it was difficult to find Los Angeles agency staff, elected officials, or even individuals who were conversant on Vision Zero. In case readers are unfamiliar with Vision Zero, here is a description from the newly-formed Los Angeles Vision Zero Alliance:

Vision Zero is a worldwide movement, started in Sweden, to eliminate all traffic deaths. While traditional traffic safety campaigns have focused on changing human behavior to reduce accident risks, Vision Zero takes a fundamentally different approach by instead putting the responsibility on government to manage the streets using evidence-based strategies to prevent fatalities and serious injuries. Vision Zero is data-driven, outcome-focused, and collaborative across agencies and departments.

Today’s directive follows on the heels of, and broadens, other recent L.A. City Vision Zero declarations. Last September, the Department of Transportation (LADOT) adopted Vision Zero as part of its departmental strategic plan. In April, Garcetti released an ambitious Sustainability “pLAn” that included Vision Zero. Earlier this month, the L.A. City Council approved Mobility Plan 2035; that approval made Vision Zero the adopted citywide policy for Los Angeles.

Prior to today, Vision Zero was largely confined to LADOT and City Planning (DCP). With this new directive, Garcetti broadens the city agencies responsible for implementing Vision Zero. In addition to LADOT and DCP, Garcetti explicitly names the Police, Fire, Public Works, and Water & Power departments to participate in an internal city of L.A. Vision Zero Steering Committee. In addition, the city will host a broader Vision Zero Task Force, to include city representatives, plus L.A. Unified School District, L.A. County Department of Public Health, Metro, non-profit advocates, and others.  Read more…

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Scramble Crosswalks Ready for Their Star Turn in Hollywood

Chicago's first pedestrian scramble, or "Barnes Dance", at the downtown intersection of Jackson Blvd. and State St. Pedestrians are allowed to cross all directions, including diagonally, every three light cycles. All vehicular turns have been prohibited to improve traffic flow. Photo: Chicago's first pedestrian scramble, or "Barnes Dance", at the downtown intersection of Jackson Blvd. and State St. Pedestrians are allowed to cross all directions, including diagonally, every three light cycles. All vehicular turns have been prohibited to improve traffic flow. KEVIN ZOLKIEWICZ/FLICKR via ##http://www.scpr.org/programs/airtalk/2014/11/03/40143/los-angeles-ponders-diagonal-crosswalks-what-are-t/##Airtalk/KPCC##

Chicago’s first pedestrian scramble, or “Barnes Dance”, at the downtown intersection of Jackson Blvd. and State St. Pedestrians are allowed to cross all directions, including diagonally, every three light cycles. All vehicular turns have been prohibited to improve traffic flow. Photo: KEVIN ZOLKIEWICZ/FLICKR via Airtalk/KPCC

Responding to community concerns that the high volume of pedestrian traffic at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue was creating an unsafe crossing, City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell and the Department of Transportation recently announced that a “pedestrian scramble” will be installed by the end of the year.

The pedestrian scramble, aka The Barnes Dance, is basically an intersection which has a “pedestrian only” phase in its signal timing. During this time, pedestrians are not just limited to crossing east-west or north-south, but can actually cross to the opposite corner by cutting straight through the middle of the street.

Los Angeles already has a few pedestrian scramble intersections near the college campuses of USC and UCLA. In addition, Pasadena and Beverly Hills have installed scrambles at high-volume intersections. If you’re not familiar with the scrambles, check out the below video by Streetfilms celebrating Los Angeles’ scrambles that was filmed in 2008.

“Hollywood and Highland is our red carpet entrance for people from around the world who come to experience Los Angeles’ center stage,” said Seleta Reynolds, LADOT General Manager. “The new intersection design will prioritize the safety and comfort of people walking. We plan to implement this change in consultation with the community and will evaluate the before and after effects.”

In addition to residents, workers, and tourists who may arrive by car or are staying in one of the local hotels, Hollywood and Highland is also home to a busy Red Line Metro rail station and a handful of local bus routes.  Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Safer Shorter Crossings in Silver Lake and Echo Park

Improved intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Occidental Boulevard. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog  L.A. except as noted.

Improved intersection at Sunset and Occidental Boulevards. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A., except as noted.

Sometimes neighborhood livability and walkability do not need to wait for multi-million dollar infrastructure streetscape re-vamps. Sometimes all it takes is paint. Or, as in the case of these streets, longer-lasting thermoplastic striping that doubles as “paint.”

Thanks to tips from friends of the blog, Ryan Johnson and Jessica Meaney, I recently visited two central Los Angeles intersections that the city Department of Transportation (LADOT) has re-worked for increased safety and walkability.

In both cases, streets had and have a stop sign, as well as right turns at angles greater than 90-degrees, further smoothed by gradually curving sidewalks. In the past, LADOT’s striping allowed for relatively dangerous and high-speed right turns. These weren’t quite suburban slip-lanes, but they were nearing that. Drivers could whip around the curve, endangering themselves and others.

Conversion of slip lane into plaza - graphic via SF Better Streets

Diagram showing similar conversion of slip lane into a plaza. This isn’t the exact situation as the L.A. examples, but the problems and improvements are similar. Graphic via SF Better Streets

At both locations, LADOT added a striped curb extension to help drivers to make a full stop before making a full 90-degree right turn. This makes driving safer by improving visibility and reducing speed. It also has the benefit of shortening the crossing distance for pedestrians.

The intersection of Occidental and Sunset Boulevards is in the L.A. neighborhood of Silver Lake, a block east of Silver Lake Boulevard. The re-striping was done in 2014, according to Johnson.

Conditions after at Sunset and Occidental. The stop sign has been moved from the sidewalk parkway out into the street.

Conditions after at Sunset and Occidental. The stop sign has been moved from the sidewalk parkway out into the street.

The intersection of Echo Park and Park Avenues is at the northeast corner of Echo Park (the park) in Echo Park (the neighborhood.)

Recent curb extension added at Echo Park and Park Aveneues.

Recent curb extension added at the intersection of Echo Park Avenue and Park Avenue.

Read more…

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Planning and Transportation Committees Approve Mobility Plan 2035

The latest cover of the city of Los Angeles draft Mobility Plan 2035. Image via DCP [PDF]

The city of Los Angeles’ proposed Mobility Plan 2035 was approved by two key council committees yesterday. Image via DCP [PDF]

The city of Los Angeles’ progressive new Mobility Plan was approved by two City Council committees yesterday. The joint meeting of the Los Angeles City Council committees for Transportation and Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) both approved the plan intact, postponing decisions on sabotage attempts by City Councilmbers Paul Koretz and Gil Cedillo.

Streetsblog readers may be familiar with earlier coverage including from when Mobility Plan 2035 passed the city’s Planning Commission in May. If current trends continue, the relatively-multi-modal plan may look archaic by 2035, but it is nonetheless a big step in the right direction today. The Mobility Plan includes Vision Zero, a program to eliminate all traffic fatalities by 2035. In addition, the plan creates a series of network streets prioritizing various modes including walking, driving, transit and bicycling. Once adopted, the new plan would replace the one currently in effect: the 1999 Transportation Element of the city’s General Plan.

The two committees are chaired by arguably the best livability leaders on the City Council. Jose Huizar chairs PLUM, and Mike Bonin chairs Transportation. In his introductory remarks, Councilmember Bonin decried that L.A. has been “too long autocentric” and that this plan helps the city to catch up with multi-modal transportation already increasingly embraced by the public. Staff leadership from the Department of City Planning (DCP) and Department of Transportation (LADOT) then presented the plan as a “balanced approach,” a “policy shift,” and a “recognition that we can’t build our way out of traffic congestion.”

Staff’s presentation was followed by more than fifty public comments. Similar to the Planning Commission hearing, the vast majority of speakers were in favor of adopting the plan as is, while a sizable minority, primarily focused on opposing Westwood Boulevard bike lanes, spoke against. Opponents stated that Westwood bike lanes would be “a disaster” and that the plan would not serve the “85 percent who must drive cars.”

Bonin and Huizar were adept in staving off two councilmembers pushing to undermine the plan’s bikeways. Councilmember Koretz, claiming to be pro-bike based on his late-1990s support of West Hollywood’s Santa Monica Boulevard bike lanes, repeatedly asserted that Westwood Boulevard should be removed from the plan’s bikeway network, and that Westwood Boulevard really needs 16.5 foot wide lanes. Councilmember Cedillo was even more aggressively opposed to bikeway improvements, sending staff to request that the committees remove nearly all of the plan’s designated future bike facilities in his council district: a dozen streets listed here. Reacting to Koretz’s prolonged insistence on eliminating his Westwood facility, Councilmembers Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Felipe Fuentes responded that they’d like to see the opposite – more facilities implemented sooner in their districts.

Ultimately the full plan was passed unanimously by both committees, with both the Koretz and Cedillo motions postponed to be heard later in committees. The approval included a handful of minor amendments, including one from Councilmember Harris-Dawson that equity be a key factor in facility implementation.

The full Mobility Plan is expected to be heard at the full City Council some time next week.

More coverage of yesterday’s plan approval at KPCC.

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Photo Essay: Pacoima’s Opening Celebration For Bradley Plaza

Ribbon-cutting

L.A. City Councilmember Felipe Fuentes (left in light blue shirt) along with many others, including LADOT GM Seleta Reynolds, cut the ribbon to open Bradley Plaza. All photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Yesterday, the community of Pacoima celebrated the opening of the city of L.A.’s latest car-free space: Bradley Plaza. The plaza closes to cars one block of Bradley Avenue immediately east of Van Nuys Boulevard in the north San Fernando Valley neighborhood of Pacoima. The plaza is a product of the city Transportation Department’s (LADOT) innovative community-driven People St program. Through the People St program, community groups can apply for and receive local plazas, parklets, and bike corrals.

And, as with Leimert Park Village’s plaza, community groups are key in siting, designing, programming, and generally making these projects a success. The non-profit Pacoima Beautiful has been key in making Bradley Plaza happen, in raising funds for street furniture there, and is already looking toward additional seating and shading for the site.

Enjoy these photos that tell the story of yesterday’s celebrations, and give a small sense of how the plaza is already being embraced by the surrounding community.

xxx

Two young girls share the durable lounge furniture.

Read more…

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Cartoon Tuesday: Yo La Tengo Video Showcases Sunset Plaza

For decades Hollywood has exported Southern California car culture images around the world. That’s changing now. Made-in-L.A. commercials, films, and videos now increasingly feature bike lanes, inverted-U bike racks, and, yes, even People St polka-dotted pedestrian plazas. From NPR via Streetfilms‘ Clarence Eckerson, have fun watching Yo La Tengo’s ‘Friday I’m In Love’ video – showing L.A.’s premiere pedestrian plaza – the Sunset Triangle Park Plaza. Tomorrow we return to serious news.

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Broadway Dress Rehearsal Project Gets New, More Durable Surface

New yellow makeover for Broadway Dress Rehearsal. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

New yellow suface being installed on Broadway Dress Rehearsal bulb-outs last month. All photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Downtown L.A.’s “Broadway Dress Rehearsal” project entered a new phase last month. SBLA readers will recall that the Broadway project was a relatively quick and low-cost creation of bulb-outs designed to calm traffic. The project removed space from cars, giving it to people dining and traveling on foot on one of L.A.’s highest pedestrian-volume streets. Broadway’s Dress Rehearsal opened August 2014 and every day plenty of people use it, especially the tables and chairs there. Last fall, the city Transportation Department (LADOT) published a study showing baseline conditions on Broadway; this fall LADOT will be following up with comparison data on what has changed.

Installation of Broadway's epoxy-aggregate surface in 2014

Installation of Broadway’s epoxy-aggregate surface in 2014

Initially the Dress Rehearsal bulb-out surface was, according to LADOT People St’s Valerie Watson, an “epoxy-based aggregate mix” — think tiny smooth rocks embedded in a thin layer of glue. Some merchants reported that some of the tiny stones were getting dislodged and tracked into stores.  Read more…

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Dangerous Intersection of Venice and Robertson Gets a Flashing Yellow Signal

Last November, David Lindley was walking across the street at the five point intersection of Venice and South Robertson Boulevard when he was struck and killed. Lindley, an autistic teen who attended nearby Hamilton High School, was mourned by friends and family who vowed to see the intersection fixed.

Three months later, with the construction and reconfigurations complete, a video by longtime Expo Line supporter/watcher Gökhan Esirgen showed that cars turning on to Robertson Boulevard were routinely turning left into the pedestrian path well after receiving a red light. Esirgen noted this wasn’t an unusual occurrence, but a decision to place expediency over the safety of pedestrians that was made with nearly every crossing.

Over six months after Lindley’s tragic death, LADOT recently unveiled its answer to the safety issues created by what one Hamilton High School student described as a “busy, confusing and dangerous” intersection, a flashing yellow arrow warning drivers to be aware of pedestrians. This is the first time the City of Los Angeles has used this traffic control device, but they are common in other parts of the country. Motorists have shown greater likelihood to yield during a flashing yellow arrow than a red one.

A good start, to be sure. Now if only the city would prioritize ticketing cars that turn against the light over pedestrians who are crossing the street safely and efficiently.