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Editorial: Respect Your Advisory Committee, Build a Safer Hyperion Bridge

Members of the Glendale Hyperion Bridge Community Advisory Committee, city staff, and elected officials walk the bridge during their final meeting on August 7. Photo: Don Ward

Members of the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge project Community Advisory Committee, city staff, and elected officials walk the bridge during their final meeting on August 7. Photo: Don Ward

There has been quite a bit of proverbial water under the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge. Under a great deal of community displeasure in 2013, the city of Los Angeles set aside an outdated bridge retrofit plan and formed an advisory committee to decide the future of the historic span.

The 9-member Glendale-Hyperion Viaduct Improvement Project Community Advisory Committee is a broad cross-section of the local communities. It includes representatives from nearby elected city bodies: the Atwater Village Neighborhood Council, Los Feliz Neighborhood Council, and the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council. Rounding it out are folks representing historic preservation, parents from local schools, and concerned non-profits: Friends of the L.A. River, the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition, L.A. Walks, and the Los Feliz Improvement Association.

The committee has been meeting roughly every other month since December 2013. It reviewed design options and technical studies, and discussed how the bridge could best serve the diverse future transportation needs of all adjacent neighborhoods. The available technical studies focus on delays to car traffic, with no thorough evaluation of safety, health, or environmental outcomes. Even using these stacked-deck car-centric studies, bridge bike lanes and sidewalks not only appear feasible, but perform better than the existing bridge configuration.

At the committee’s final meeting on August 7, they were unable to come to a full consensus on a final recommendation for the configuration of the bridge.

So, as folks do in democracies, they took a vote.

The final vote was 6 to 3 in favor of the “Option 3″ road diet configuration. Option 3 reduces one car travel lane, resulting in three car lanes (one northbound, two southbound), two bike lanes, and sidewalks on both sides of the bridge. The Community Advisory Committee completed their task; their advice to the city is to include two sidewalks and two bike lanes on the new bridge.

Option 3 is a compromise. Read more…

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NELA’s Historic Riverside-Figueroa Bridge Being Demolished

An innovative proposal for re-use as a “landbridge” park could not save the Riverside-Figueroa Bridge. A lawsuit could not save it. Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Landmark Number 908 is on its way down.

The Riverside-Figueroa’s existing steel span structure dates to the late 1930s. The concrete-arched abutments date to the late 1920s.

In the name of safety and based on indefensible 25-year traffic projections, the city of Los Angeles’ Bridge Program is spending nearly $70 million to replace the bridge’s two-lane pinch-point with a freeway-scale 4-lane speedway.

The Eastsider already ran some great aerial photos of the demolition. SBLA complements that coverage with this demolition sequence photographed by Daveed Kapoor. The new freeway-scale bridge, half-completed and already open to car traffic, is visible in the upper left of the photos.  Read more…

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Glendale-Hyperion Bridge Traffic Projections Favor Bike Lanes Option

Now you see me. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog

Cyclist riding towards Silver Lake on the Glendale Hyperion Bridge. L.A. City analysis predicts that bike lanes are feasible as part of the planned bridge retrofit project. Photo: Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

As the saga of the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge retrofit project continues, it becomes clearer that, even under the city’s car traffic growth assumptions, it will be viable to add bike lanes to the new project and to keep two sidewalks.

The story thus far: In 1927 the City of Los Angeles completed the Victory Memorial Viaduct spanning the not-yet-concreted Los Angeles River. The historic bridge is, today, better known as the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge, because it facilitates the merging of Glendale Boulevard and Hyperion Avenue.

Over a decade ago, funding became available for bridge retrofit projects. Glendale-Hyperion was just too lucrative for bridge consultants to pass up. The historic viaduct is technically a six-bridge complex, so it is eligible for six times more money than an ordinary bridge. In 2013, city staff and their consultants pressed for a wrongheadedly dangerously high-speed highway-scale design. Cyclists, pedestrians, and local leaders organized visible vocal opposition to the city’s proposal. What had looked like a done deal began to appear shaky.

To its credit, the city responded by forming a Citizens Advisory Committee. Earlier this year, the city returned to the committee with multi-modal design options, including bike lanes, sidewalks, and crosswalks.

In a recent presentation [PDF] to the advisory committee, the city showed the results of its technical studies analyzing how various potential bridge configurations can be expected to perform.

Graph showing car traffic volumes 2001-2014 on the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge. Image via L.A. City Presentation - page x

Graph showing car traffic volumes 2001-2014 on the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge. Image via L.A. City Citizen Advisory Committee Presentation [PDF - see page 4]

The graph above shows past car traffic volumes measured on the bridge.

Even according to the city’s characterization, “traffic volumes have been flat since 2001.” During this period, nationwide per capita car mileage declined. Nationwide overall total car miles driven also declined. Locally, car traffic on the Hyperion portion of the bridge, the lower green and purple lines on the above graph, also declined. But call it flat for now.

The city’s experts used “historic data” and other factors to predict the bridge’s car traffic in 2040. With car traffic flat for over a decade, one might assume that future car volumes would continue their observed flat trajectory. No. The city’s fortune tellers predict a worst-case scenario showing 1 percent annual growth. Apparently, in the 2030s, people are going to drive like they did in the 1980s. As transit planner Jarrett Walker states, “This isn’t prediction or projection. This is denial.”

These sorts of predictions generally justify widening roadways which squeezes out space for pedestrians and cyclists.

The city ran its car traffic prediction models. Models based on “Level of Service,” in which the words “safety,” “walk,” and “bicycle” do not appear. LOS models keep predicting that widening freeways will reduce surface street traffic and improve air quality. Though the State of California is in the process abandoning LOS, it remains in wide use.

Even with an imaginary 1 percent annual car traffic growth for the next 25 years, a 3-lane road diet option performs slightly better than all other scenarios studied, including the bridge’s current 4-lane configuration. Right now on Hyperion, there are four car lanes, two in each direction. A road diet would eliminate one southbound northbound car lane, and add bike lanes.  Read more…

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LAPD: No Public Record Evidence That Bike Lanes Delay Emergency Response

Los Angeles Police Department Captain Jeff Bert testifies against North Figueroa bicycle lanes at Councilmember Cedillo's Bike Lane Community Meeting on May 8, 2014

Los Angeles Police Department Captain Jeff Bert testifies against North Figueroa bicycle lanes at a May 8, 2014, community meeting. Based on LAPD’s response to a public records request, Captain Bert’s anti-bike lane assertions were not based on any LAPD analysis regarding bike lanes. Photo via Fig4All Flickr

There is new evidence that the testimony given by a Los Angeles Police Department captain against a road diet on North Figueroa Street was, similar to Metro and LAFD testimony: not based on any actual LAPD evidence.

LAPD Captain Jeff Bert appeared in uniform at the May 8th public meeting hosted by Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo. Captain Bert stated that the planned North Figueroa road diet bike lanes would impair police emergency response times. Recently the L.A. Times reported that Cedillo had stated that “local fire and police officials told him it [N. Figueroa bike lanes] could pose a safety problem for emergency response vehicles.”

Los Angeles City Bicycle Advisory Committee Chair Jeff Jacobberger submitted a public records request letter [pdf] asking the LAPD for any documentation Captain Bert had referred to and, indeed, “[a]ll documents referring or relating to any analysis or evaluation by LAPD of whether bike lanes impair emergency response times.”

It will come as no surprise that LAPD’s response [pdf, and embedded after the jump below], similar to LAFD’s, cites no documents that make any connections between emergency response times and bike facilities.

While the LAFD response was a one-page letter basically saying “no records found,” the LAPD response was five pages. LAPD included past data backing up Captain Bert’s statement that LAPD’s Northeast Division already has longer emergency response times when compared to other divisions throughout Los Angeles. For April-May 2014, Northeast Division averaged 8.2 minutes, slightly higher than West Los Angeles Division’s average of 8.1 minutes, and just over a minute worse than the citywide average of 6.9 minutes.

LAPD’s letter further stated that “no other information was located” pertinent to Jacobberger’s records request.

Now that Gil Cedillo has made his full North Figueroa flip-flop official, the latest emergency response time revelations are perhaps not so timely. Maybe by showing agency representatives’ anti-bike-lane testimonies as unfounded, uninformed, and misleading, these representatives might show some reluctance to get in the way of public safety projects in the future. Time will tell. Read more…

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LA Times Editorial: Councilmembers Should Not Be Tinkering with Bike Plan

Bicyclists on North Figueroa Street. Photo via Fig4All Flickr

Bicyclists on North Figueroa Street. Photo via Fig4All Flickr

I was excited to read yesterday’s pro-bike Los Angeles Times editorial entitled Some bumps in the road on the way to a bike-friendly L.A. The piece calls out Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo for stopping the approved North Figueroa bike lanes. The Times supports the “worthwhile objective” of  implementing bicycle infrastructure to make “the city safe and hospitable for cyclists… [to] reduce carbon emissions and overall congestion.”

Most critically, the Times highlights the regional importance of completing the city-wide bicycle network:

Unless some demonstrable miscalculation was made in the bike plan, or unless there’s a real safety issue, individual City Council members should not be tinkering with the plan, which was designed carefully with the whole city in mind. (italics added)

When the city approved its bike plan, it affirmed the importance of bicycling as a valid and worthwhile component of the city’s transportation systems. If individual councilmembers opted out of crosswalks, curb-cuts, bus stops, or, heaven forbid, freeway on-ramps, in individual districts, would the mayor and LADOT be so compliant? What if councilmembers start opting out of sewers or flood protection infrastructure? Should councilmembers be nixing regionally interconnected projects? I am glad that the Times doesn’t think so.

Unfortunately, even in this welcome editorial, I think that there are a few ways in which the Times misses the mark.  Read more…

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Cedillo Kills Approved North Figueroa Bike Lanes Citing “Safety” Reasons

#fig4all supporters decked in green to show their support for the bike lanes

#fig4all supporters decked in green to show their support for the North Figueroa Street bike lanes. Yesterday, Councilmember Gil Cedillo confirmed his opposition to the lanes.

As a candidate, Gil Cedillo pledged his support for the approved road diet bike lanes on North Figueroa Street. Once elected, Los Angeles City Councilmember Cedillo maintained that he was listening to community concerns, while he and his staff phone-banked and canvassed to rally opposition to the bike lanes. 

Cedillo hosted two disgraceful community meetings on the North Figueroa Street bike lanes, both of which turned out greater numbers of bike lane supporters than opponents.

Yesterday, Cedillo made his flip-flop official.

Councilmember Cedillo wrote that he will be “deferring the implementation of any bike lanes on Figueroa until [he] can ensure all residents who travel along this corridor will be safe.”

It is a topsy-turvy Orwellian statement justifying his opposition to safety improvement on the grounds of safety–a bit like a smoker saying that he won’t quit smoking until everyone around him is healthy.

The full text of Cedillo’s statement follows the jump.  Read more…

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Metro: We’re Not Opposed to North Figueroa Road Diet

Responding to coverage in Streetsblog of the May meeting held concerning the North Figueroa Road Diet, a spokesperson for Metro reached out to Streetsblog arguing that despite our characterization of Metro’s position as “opposed to the Road Diet,” Metro is not opposed to reducing mixed used traffic lanes to create a buffered bike lane.

Metro Line 81 buses on North Figueroa Street. Photo: ##https://www.flickr.com/photos/fig4all/8745176419/##Fig4All/Flickr##

Metro Line 81 buses on North Figueroa Street. Photo: Fig4All/Flickr

“It’s pretty clear Scott DID NOT speak against the Figueroa bike lanes as your article states,” writes Dave Sotero, a spokesperson with Metro. ”He merely said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that when the lanes come in, we’ll monitor and make changes to the schedule accordingly and do our best to ensure the buses stay on time.”

Watching the video again, I can see Sotero’s point. However, Metro’s Scott Page gave his presentation surrounded by public officials speaking against the road diet in a series of agency testimonials orchestrated by the office of Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo. Video of Page’s testimony is available here.

Read more…

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Showdown Becomes Slowdown: North Figueroa Street Project Drags On

Different options that community members have to chose for Figueroa

Different options that community members have to chose for Figueroa

In the latest installment in the fight for bike lanes on North Figueroa, North East Los Angeles communities found themselves at yet another community meeting organized by Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo at Franklin High School in Highland Park. These community meetings have been literally dragging on and it looks like they will continue to drag on for the foreseeable future until Cedillo finally decides on a course of action.

Yesterdays meeting only seemed to serve one purpose in this on going debate for bike lanes, to piss off everyone.

Trying to avoid a repeat of the shouting matches that took place last meeting in May, no public comment was allowed. Ground rules prohibited clapping (except clapping for Cedillo, his staff, and all the other folks Cedillo acknowledged,) and any kind of noise making from anyone or thing. Cedillo Deputy Sharon Lowe had to break this down for everyone, at length, longwindedly, repetitively, over and over, point by point, patronizingly, both verbatim and with commentary, and stressed the disruptions wouldn’t be tolerated.

#fig4all supporters standing in the back while LAPD office keeps a watchful eye Photo by Erick Huerta

#fig4all supporters standing in the back while LAPD office keeps a watchful eye. Photo by Erick Huerta

If anyone got outta hand, they would be asked to leave after receiving a single warning. The increased presence of the Los Angeles Police Department, which at one point during the meeting had to take the mic to remind everyone to simmer down, only added to tensions. Perhaps the councilman felt he needed the added LAPD presence because he was expecting everyone to get mad from his filibustering-style speech?

Rather than skipping the pleasantries, Cedillo spent the better part of an hour thanking and introducing his entire staff, random people in the audience who are his friends, and many more people and organizations not present. It was worse than a rapper-giving shout outs to all the homies after winning an award.

The majority of folks in attendance were reppin’ their colors, green for support of lanes and red/pink for anti-bike lanes. Streetsblog counted roughly 180 people in attendance: roughly 70 wearing prominent green, roughly 30 wearing prominent red/pink, and roughly 30 city staff.

With no meaningful information being presented or exchanged more than 70 minutes into the meeting, attendees (from both sides of the debate) were losing interest and began trickling out. They missed out on later stalling. 

Additionally, the meeting also featured a brief presentation from Mayor Garcetti’s transportation staffer Nat Gale. Gale announced that Garcetti’s Great Streets initiative includes North Figueroa Street between Avenues 50 and 60, where the proposed bike lanes were to be installed.  Read more…

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Previewing Tonight’s Fig4All Meeting: Cedillo Doubles Down, Activist Step Up

Rendering of the proposed buffered bike lane on North Figueroa Street. Image: Flying Pigeon L.A.

Rendering of the proposed buffered bike lane on North Figueroa Street northbound across from Nightingale Middle School Image: Flying Pigeon L.A. More renderings and diagrams at SBLA Lite Tumblr

In case you haven’t heard, tonight there will be another big public meeting regarding the future of planned “road diet” bike lanes for North Figueroa Street. The meeting takes place tonight at 6:00 p.m.* at Franklin High School, more information at this Facebook event. Supporters of safe streets and bicycle lane supporters are encouraged to arrive early and to wear green.

(*Corrected: The meeting time is 6 p.m. tonight not 6:30 p.m. as reported earlier. Make of it what you will, there is definitely a meeting tonight, but there’s no public documentation of it on any of Councilmember Cedillo’s website, facebook, etc.)

The host of the meeting is Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo, who expressed support for the bike lanes during the election, but, since, has promoted an alternative circuitous sharrow-ed bike route instead. Cedillo hosted this earlier meeting, where public safety representatives testified against the bike lanes, which would improve public safety. Then it turned out that the officials didn’t have any documentation to back their assertions.

Cedillo has been going all out to rally opposition to the bike lanes. Northeast Los Angeles residents have been receiving “robo-calls” recorded by Gil Cedillo. Cedillo staff have organized anti-bike lane petition signature-gathering door-to-door targeting North Figueroa area businesses. Activists, including Flying Pigeon and the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition, have countered these efforts by door-to-door business signature gathering in favor of the bike lanes. Road diet supporters have printed sashes, organized feeder rides, reached out to media, and are primed to pack the meeting.

What’s up with all this? Why is Cedillo so opposed to this road diet?  Read more…

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LAFD: No Evidence NELA Road Diet Would Impact Emergency Response Times

When a bike lane and road diet were approved by LADOT for 5.1 miles of N. Figueroa Street, from San Fernando Road to Colorado Boulevard, safe streets advocates were thrilled. The plan promised better pedestrian crossings, buffered bike lanes and reduced traffic speed. But once Councilmember Gil Cedillo replaced Ed Reyes in last year’s election, the plans were knocked off track.

In less than a year, Cedillo re-opened the public process, stacked a meeting with representatives of city departments who weren’t representing their departments and is now phone-banking and sending out volunteers door-to-door against the project. The next meeting is Thursday of this week at 6:00 p.m. at Franklin High School. Despite Cedillo’s efforts, he has yet to fill a room with more people opposed to the project than for it.

But after Fire Department Captain Ed Elguea of Station 44 appeared in uniform at the last public meeting to state that the road diet would negatively impact LAFD emergency response times, enough was enough.  City Bicycle Advisory Committee Chair Jeff Jacoberger demanded to know on what basis Elguea made this claim in a public records request. The response is embedded above. The LAFD has undertaken no study that would back Elguea’s claim.

In fact, the only study that’s ever been done on the impact the diet would have on response times was done as part of the environmental review of the project. The City’s CEQA analysis included an “Initial Study” prepared by City Planning states:

The implementation of the proposed projects would not impede emergency access. Bicyclists would follow the same protocol as vehicles in surrendering the right of way to emergency vehicles. The design of all bikeway facilities will be governed by the Technical Design Handbook and applicable federal, state and local guidelines.

The proposed projects would comply with all City of Los Angeles fire department requirements. Less than significant impacts to emergency access are anticipated.

(Initial Study, page 25 ) Read more…