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Army Corps, LADOT Announce Circuitous Detour For LA River Bikeway Closure

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers installing flood barrier along L.A. River. Image via USACE

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers installing flood barrier along L.A. River. Image via USACE

Due to this year’s El Niño storms, the federal Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is clearing vegetation (arguably illegally according to a similar regional water board lawsuit) in the most natural areas of the L.A. River. USACE is also adding temporary flood barriers along the river in the middle of the central stretch of L.A. River bike path. The flood barriers have closed the river bike path between the 134 Freeway and Fletcher Drive. The closures apply not just to bicycling, but also to the equestrian crossing from Atwater Village to Griffith Park.

The closures are temporary; USACE Twitter suggests that they will be gone around mid-April.

The circuitous detour xxx

The circuitous detour encouraged by USACE and LADOT. Image via USACE [PDF]

USACE, via twitter, encourages cyclists to avoid the bike path closure by taking a rather circuitous detour, apparently a route planned by the L.A. City Department of Transportation (LADOT). The detour is mostly fairly quiet streets, but to get to these streets, cyclists are shunted onto bike-unfriendly arterials – Los Feliz Boulevard and Fletcher Driver – for stretches littered with freeway on- and off-ramps. The detour is not marked with signage. It is apparently only for folks who find it via Twitter or the USACE website.

Would drivers settle for an un-signed circuitous detour like this? Think of all the publicity afforded to detours during recent freeway closures for bridge demolitions.

For subway construction in downtown L.A., LADOT installed detour bike lanes on Hill Street south of First Street. Could the river path closure be a good excuse for temporary (or permanent) bike lanes to be added to Riverside Drive between Los Feliz Boulevard and Glendale Boulevard? These would create a relatively direct detour route – and connect with existing Riverside Drive bike lanes between Glendale Boulevard and Fletcher Drive.

Winston Churchill said “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Certainly it appears that the USACE is taking advantage of an alleged crisis here (the L.A. River has a history of flooding in La Niña years, but not El Niño years) to generate lots of work to advance their agenda. Could LADOT have used El Niño to spur some bike lane implementation at the same time? There is still time.

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Andres Perez Death Shows Need for North Figueroa Safety Improvements

Signs at last night's vigil for Andres Perez. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Signs at last night’s vigil for Andres Perez. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Tragedy has struck again on North Figueroa Street.

Yesterday, traffic violence claimed the life of 17-year-old Andres Perez. Perez was walking to school, apparently not aware that local schools had been closed on account of a terror threat. He was in the crosswalk, crossing North Figueroa Street at Avenue 60 in Highland Park, when a large Los Angeles City Public Works Bureau of Street Services truck made a left turn and ran into him. Perez died on the spot.

Last night, locals hosted a vigil to remember Perez, and to call for safer streets to prevent future deaths.

Sadly, the city of Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) had a plan to make this portion of North Figueroa safer, but in mid-2014 the planned safety improvements were blocked by Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo.

This is already the third traffic death on North Figueroa in 2015. On June 26, cyclist Jose Luna was killed by a speeding driver in a hit-and-run crash at North Figueroa and Marmion Way. Then on September 18, pedestrian Yolanda Lugo was killed by driver in a hit-and-run crash at North Figueroa and Avenue 55.

Councilmember Cedillo and broader Los Angeles leadership take the threat of terrorism seriously, while turning a blind eye to everyday traffic violence. LAUSD shut down 900 schools on the threat of terrorism. Metro, LAPD, LAFD, Mayor Eric Garcetti, and others mobilized to support LAUSD efforts. While it is probably important to respond to the threat of terror, the threat of traffic violence is all too real. And deserves a similarly serious mobilization.

Every year roughly 200 Angelenos lose their lives to traffic violence. Compare this to pretty much none lost to terrorism. Can L.A. respond to traffic violence the way it mobilizes against terrorism? Isn’t any loss of life a tragedy worth taking seriously?

Garcetti’s agency-wide Vision Zero initiative seems like a productive first step, but it needs to translate to safer street design if the city is prioritizing preventing future tragedies. LADOT seems to be taking Vision Zero seriously, but on-the-ground safety improvements are not happening quickly enough. Vision Zero’s safety targets needs to be prioritized by reluctant councilmembers like Gil Cedillo, and also across the board in city agencies – from Public Works Bureau of Street Services to the LAPD.

For additional coverage of this story, see KTLA5, L.A. Times or Daily News. Contribute to Perez funeral expenses at GoFundMe.

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Deadly North Figueroa Street Hit-and-Run Crime Kills Cyclist

According to media reports, this morning at about 3 a.m. a hit-and-run driver struck and killed a cyclist in Highland Park. The crime took place at the intersection of North Figueroa and Pasadena Avenue. The L.A. Times reports that witnesses stated the driver was traveling at 80 miles per hour north on Figueroa. The victim was dragged several hundred feet. LAPD were summoned to the scene and are investigating the crime.

Cycling advocates will be gathering tonight at 8 p.m. to install a ghost bike at the site of the crime.

Councilmember Gil Cedillo blocked LADOT's plan to make North Figueroa safer. Photo via Fig4All

Councilmember Gil Cedillo blocked LADOT’s plan to make North Figueroa safer. Photo via Fig4All

Readers may recall that North Figueroa is one of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s 15 selected Great Streets improvement areas, but that City Councilmember Gil Cedillo blocked the Transportation Department’s ready-to-implement safety improvements.

Los Angeles City Councilmember Joe Buscaino responded to the tragedy with a statement: “I am sickened by the deadly hit-and-run this morning in Highland Park and want to remind the media and all residents that there is a standing reward for all hit and run crimes in Los Angeles. There is an automatic $50,000 reward for the capture and conviction of the driver who struck this bicyclist. Please, please, please report any information you may have. Our city has an epidemic of hit and runs and the only way we can change this is to speak up.”

Late developments: KCAL is now reporting that LAPD found the car and arrested a suspect. SBLA will update this post as additional information becomes available. 

 

 

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Who Do We Blame for the Next Death on the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge?

Current Glendale-Hyperion Bridge deficiencies foster unsafe pedestrian crossings, including High School students who walk to Marshall High School via the bridge. The L.A. City Council approved a design today that will remove a sidewalk from the bridge. Photo: Sean Meredith

Current Glendale-Hyperion Bridge deficiencies make for unsafe pedestrian crossings, including students who walk to Marshall High School via the bridge. The L.A. City Council approved a design today that will remove a sidewalk from the bridge. Photo: Sean Meredith

In a unanimous 11-0 vote, the Los Angeles City Council approved the city Bureau of Engineering’s (BOE) single-sidewalk pedestrian-killer design for the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge. Though the item was not approved at the Public Works Committee last week, the City Council approved the item today with no public comment, after brief misleading characterizations by Councilmembers Tom LaBonge and Mitch O’Farrell.

Non-profits, including Los Angeles Walks, Neighborhood Council representatives, cyclists, and others in attendance who had intended to speak against the project were not allowed to address the Council. Some Atwater Village neighborhood representatives who had come to speak in favor of the sidewalk-deficient design were also denied the opportunity to offer public testimony. Some of the walkability-livability proponents testified during general public comment but, by then, the City Council had already approved the item.

Bridge safety advocates now have 30 days to challenge the city’s adoption of the environmental studies, called an IS/MND – Initial Study / Mitigated Negative Declaration. Advocates are discussing the possibility of a legal challenge. If the project isn’t stopped in court, the city will spend about two years on final designs, then will bid and construct the retrograde facility.

The crosswalk omission anticipates that people will walk up to half a mile out of their way to get to destinations. As occurs all over the world, it is predictable that pedestrians will ignore poor design, and will attempt to walk shorter routes. In this case, the city’s design will push pedestrians into the way of multiple lanes of oncoming traffic.

When the next pedestrian is killed on the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge, whom should we blame?

It is tempting to just blame a system that favors driving over walking but, in this case, I am going to name the names of people who had a chance to make this bridge safer, and failed to do so.

Let’s start with the deceptive and unprofessional Bureau of Engineering Bridge Program engineers, Shirley Lau and James Treadaway. These engineers have succumbed to fiscal pressures to build costly, unneeded, and unsafe bridge projects. These engineers hide behind the language of not complying with “current design standards” to push projects that endanger all Angelenos. These wrongheaded bridge projects destroy the city’s cultural and engineering heritage in order to move car traffic at unsafe speeds. Bridge Program staff misrepresent the funding situation using suggestive language to create a false urgency over losing funds. Whenever the city contacts Caltrans to reschedule funding, Caltrans complies. The Bridge Program has never lost a penny by delaying an active project, yet BOE documents assert “further delays may result in loss of funds.”

Read more…

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Public Works Committee Sends Unsafe Glendale-Hyperion Bridge Design To Full Council

L.A. City Councilmember Tom LaBonge testifying against a safer Glendale-Hyperion Bridge at today's Public Works meeting. On right, committee members Joe Buscaino and Curren Price. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

L.A. City Councilmember Tom LaBonge testifying against a safer Glendale-Hyperion Bridge at today’s Public Works meeting. On right, committee members Joe Buscaino and Curren Price. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

The city of Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering’s (BOE) sidewalk-deficient Glendale-Hyperion Bridge design was heard today in the L.A. City Council’s Public Works Committee. As at the earlier Public Works Board hearing, the BOE trotted out dire Level of Service predictions and threats that the city would lose $50 million if the project is delayed. Councilmember Tom LaBonge and Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell’s staff spoke in favor of BOE’s unsafe design, and against a road diet option that BOE’s earlier traffic predictions had shown was feasible.

Public testimony strongly favored the road diet option. Numerous speakers appeared to be setting the stage for a possible lawsuit, alledging lack of compliance with Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) environmental justice provisions. Most compelling though was courageous testimony from Caltrans engineer Dale Benson. Benson clarified that Caltrans was not in favor of any specific option, but his statements seemed to call into question the BOE’s dire predictions of immediate funding loss for any delay.

Committee members present, Councilmembers Joe Buscaino and Curren Price, spoke of having to struggle with being “under the gun for approval” for the inadequate sidewalk option being pushed by BOE, even as the city just settled a multi-billion dollar lawsuit over failing to meet disability requirements for sidewalks.

Ultimately both Price and Buscaino decided not to approve the bridge item, but to send it to the full City Council with no recommendation. Given councilmembers’ practice of deferring to each other for matters located within a specific council district, the Public Works Committee’s non-approval is unlikely to get in the way of Councilmembers LaBonge and O’Farrell prevailing when the item is heard in council, expected to be next Tuesday June 9.

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Eyes on the Bridge: What Glendale-Hyperion’s Missing Sidewalk Means

Glendale-Hyperion Bridge walk routes map by Don Ward

Glendale-Hyperion Bridge walk routes map by Don Ward

Above is a graphic created by Don Ward to show just how crappy the Bureau of Engineering’s Glendale-Hyperion Bridge plan is. The unsafe design was recently approved by L.A.’s Board of Public Works, and will soon come before City Council. Streetsblog USA profiled the board’s approval as a sign that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s commitment to great streets may be illusory.

According to Ward:

I made this chart to explain the route of an actual petition signer in Atwater who walked from her house (approximate location A) to her church at B. She was interested in safer access to the south sidewalk and did not want to have to walk an additional half mile or so to get to her destination. The shortest possible route under Option 1 would include walking up a steeper incline to the top of Waverly to get across Hyperion on the Silver Lake side.

This also illustrates how disingenuous it is for the city to claim that the new bike-ped bridge creates better mobility by connecting to Silver Lake. The bike-ped bridge is great to get to the L.A. River bike path, but the south Glendale bridge serves the same purpose.

The key decision-maker at this point could be incoming Los Angeles City Councilmember  David Ryu, who won yesterday’s run-off election. Ryu will replace Tom LaBonge on the City Council. Read more…

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Public Works Board Approves Sidewalk Deficient Glendale-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

Public Works to Glendale-Hyperion Bridge pedestrians: drop dead.  Bridge committee, city staff, and officials walking there in 2014. Photo: Don Ward

In a hearing at City Hall this morning, the mayor-appointed Board of Public Works unanimously approved proceeding with the city Bureau of Engineering’s (BOE) recommendation to eliminate one of two sidewalks on its Glendale-Hyperion Bridge retrofit project. The latest version, announced earlier this week, has not changed significantly since 2013 when BOE pushed a similar unsafe design, leading to a backlash, and the formation of an advisory committee to re-think the dangerous design.

Despite both traffic studies and the advisory committee favoring full safe sidewalks, Los Angeles City staff have continued to recommend a design that keeps the bridge unsafe for drivers and fails to accommodate pedestrian traffic.

Councilmember Tom LaBonge attended the hearing to dig his heels in against elimination of a single car lane. Ironically, he also pressed for automated enforcement cameras to be added to the bridge to solve speeding problems.

Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell was considered to be more open to a less car-centric design, but today his staff stated that the council office had “heard loud and clear” that their constituents don’t want fewer car lanes and further that the road diet Option 3, the option that had sidewalks on both sides of the bridge, “had never been a viable option.”

More than 40 stakeholders showed up to testify in favor of full sidewalks on the bridge. Nonetheless, the BOE, using discredited Level of Service (LOS) metrics and different traffic studies than what had been shared with the project advisory committee, held sway saying that fewer car lanes would trigger a full environmental review. BOE recommended that the current four car lanes would need to remain in place in order for the city to skirt full environmental review by just approving its current Mitgated Negative Declaration (MND). Read more…

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A Tale of Two Future Bridges: New Bike/Ped Crossing on L.A. River, Fewer Sidewalks on Glendale-Hyperion

A person crossing would have to come down from the bridge on the right to the red car bridge on the left to cross the bridge. Would anyone do this and add 12 minutes to their trip in the real world?

Under the two plans announced today, a person crossing would have to come down from the bridge on the right to the red car bridge on the left to cross. Would anyone do this and add 12 minutes to their trip in the real world?

It was sort of a surreal moment. Even as Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell stood at the podium discussing the benefits of a planned new bicycle and pedestrian crossing over the L.A. River, the Bureau of Public Works released its recommendation (PDF) that the new Glendale-Hyperion Bridge would actually have fewer feet devoted to safe sidewalks than the current bridge.

LaBonge and O’Farrell at this morning’s press event. Both pics by Damien Newton

What was supposed to be a light press conference announcing the opening of a permanent bridge project using existing support structures from an old Red Car bridge across the L.A. River turned somewhat sour for many of the community and traffic safety advocates in attendance when the Bureau announced their plans for the bridge on their website. News traveled quickly among the crowd, and the reporters present suddenly found themselves with dozens of sources for a meatier story than a made-for-bike-week announcement of new infrastructure.

In the fall of 2013, news broke that when the Glendale-Hyperion complex of bridges that connect Atwater Village and Silver Lake would be retrofitted to make them earthquake-proof, local advocates immediately noticed problems with the new design on the street portion of the bridge. Despite appearing on the city’s bicycle plan, the road redesign called for widening the existing car lanes, installing “crash barriers” in the middle of the bridge, removing a sidewalk, and adding no bike lanes.

After an explosion of public comment and a community forum which turned into a Livable Streets rally, O’Farrell, announced a citizen’s advisory committee would be formed. The Mayor’s office submitted a request for an extension to the grant. The old timeline would have precluded any major changes to the proposed road design.

Earlier today, the Bureau of Engineering released its analysis of four different designs for the new bridge, concluding that to make space for a pair of bike lanes on the new bridge, the best option was to take out one of the two sidewalks.

At the podium this morning, O’Farrell painted as rosy a picture as possible, discussing the importance of river crossings for all mode users and some of the improvements the new Hyperion Bridge will have over the existing one, including marked crosswalks and bicycle lanes. He even struck a populist tone, declaring his support for “protected bicycle lanes” on Hyperion and across the city.

But that wasn’t enough for many of the safety advocates in the audience. A press release from L.A. Walks noted that any bicyclist or pedestrian on Glendale Boulevard wanting to cross the river on the “Red Car Bridge” would need to travel twelve minutes out of their way–and are thus far more likely to use the limited sidewalk or just walk on the shoulder even without a sidewalk.

“The City of Los Angeles promotes the fact that we have moved past our auto-centric history and want to be ‘A Safe City,’ as it states in the Mayor’s Great Streets for Los Angeles Strategic Plan,” says Deborah Murphy. “We cannot achieve this goal if we can’t provide the most basic of provisions for pedestrians–a simple sidewalk on both sides of the bridge.” Read more…

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Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council Exec. Committee Sets Record Straight on Colorado Blvd Bike Lanes

Editor’s Note: When people don’t like a project, they sometimes criticize the process that lead to that project. We are passing along a recent email blast from the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council that set the record straight on the extensive public outreach process that lead to bike lanes on Colorado BoulevardThe Colorado Blvd bike lane implementation process have been criticized by some candidates running for Los Angeles City Council District 14.

SBLA is a non-profit, we cannot and do not endorse any candidates in this race, but we do tell the stories of, and the processes that lead to, bike infrastructure in Los Angeles. Below is the text of an open letter that Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council (ERNC) President David Greene sent to all Council District 14 candidates:

Colorado Boulevard Bike Lanes Fact Sheet

I.

The bike lane story is summed up in the May 24, 2013 Department of City Planning Recommendation Report about bike lanes on Colorado Boulevard and North Figueroa Street. In addition to a comprehensive analysis of the project by the City of Los Angeles, it contains a list of the public meetings held about the project, and a summary of the feedback from those meetings. Specifically mentioned in the document are:

  • A public hearing on February 13, 2013 at the Los Angeles River Center at 570 W. Avenue 26.
  • A webinar-style public hearing on February 20th, 2013 where interested public could provide feedback on all of the proposed bicycle lanes in Year of the First Five-Year Implementation Strategy.
  • Numerous public meetings held by community groups like TERA, Take Back the Boulevard, Council Districts 1 and 14, and the various Neighborhood Councils in those districts where the City of Los Angeles planned to install bike lanes as part of the backbone of the city-wide 2010 Bicycle Plan.

Flier for Colorado Boulevard Bike Lane Meeting

Flier for Colorado Boulevard Bike Lane Meeting. Image via ERNC

Among those meetings, the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council either held or attended forums specifically about the 3 miles of Colorado Boulevard bike lanes on the following dates:

  • ERNC board meeting of March 5, 2013. Agenda is here. The meeting minutes are here. At this public meeting, the ERNC discussed but deferred a vote on the Colorado Blvd portion of the bike lanes, so that even more public input could be gathered at a March 27 meeting held by Councilmember Huizar’s office. As reported in the ERNC newsletter, which is distributed to 1,500 stakeholders, and is reprinted by news organizations and the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment:

“The City of Los Angeles has offered several chances for Eagle Rockers to learn about the possibility of bike lanes on Colorado Boulevard, and what they might mean for traffic speeds, pedestrian and bicyclist safety, health, and commerce. With the help of CD-14, TERA, Take Back the Boulevard, the Chamber of Commerce, and the ERNC, they’re doing it again — this Wednesday, March 27, at 7pm at Occidental College.”

“At the April ERNC Board meeting, a packed house (and more!) listened to almost 2 hours’ worth of public speakers, City officials, and ERNC members explain, discuss, and opine on bike lanes along Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock. By the end of the meeting, it was abundantly clear that Eagle Rockers wanted buffered bike lanes installed along the length of Colorado — and soon — and the ERNC voted unanimously (12-0) to support them.”

  • CD-14 Town Hall Meeting on June 3, 2013. The ERNC attends another large public meeting held by Councilmember Huizar’s office, which is held after the Planning Department’s report is issued, but before work is begun. It features a revised lane design based on public input at previous public meetings. As reported in the ERNC newsletter:

“The ERNC voted unanimously last April to support the DOT’s buffered bike lane plan for Colorado Boulevard, based on the overwhelmingly positive public input we received from residents and business owners. One of the concerns we heard from individuals and especially businesses was that while bike lanes were a good idea, there were other problems on Colorado that needed to be addressed… Some of you suggested that since all the paint is going to be stripped off the streets when the bike lanes go down, why not use this opportunity to fix a whole host of existing traffic problems? We’ve tried hard to make sure that the good folks at the DOT and Mr. Huizar’s office heard this message — and now they’re coming to town with a revised plan for the bike lanes that is way more specific than it’s been in the past. And they’re asking for your input about the design.”  Read more…

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A Positive End in the Conflict Between Councilman Cedillo and #Fig4All?

The most closely-watched story of 2014 for Livable Streets advocates was the ongoing battle between Councilman Gil Cedillo and the advocates themselves over the future design of North Figueroa Street. However, 2015 is a new year and the hot debate may be cooling off with the groundwork for future collaboration being laid.

Gil Cedillo campaigned in the Flying Pigeon bike shop and used a picture with the owner in his campaign billboards. Now, Josef Bray-Ali is campaigning hard for Cedillo to fulfill a campaign promise to see bike lanes on North Figueroa Boulevard as the city's Bicycle Advisory Committee calls new studies a waste of time and money. Image: Flying Pigeon

During the campaign two years ago, Cedillo (center) campaigned in the Flying Pigeon Bike Shop, owned by Josef Bray-Ali (right). Many bike advocates were disappointed in a decision to delay bicycle lanes on North Figueroa Street. A team of advocates, partially led by Bray-Ali, adopted the banner #Fig4All to rally behind. Recently, Cedillo’s office has reached out to end the bad feelings. Cedillo and the Mayor’s Office are promising progressive transportation planning for North Figueroa.

The first sign came last week.

One day after advocates rallied outside of the Councilman’s apartment building to protest comments delivered at a December City Council Meeting, the Council office met quietly with staff from the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. At the meeting, staff presented some draft concepts of road improvements for the five blocks being considered for Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “Great Streets” proposal for North Figueroa.

The Mayor’s Office has long-stated that Great Streets improvements will become templates for larger improvements along L.A.’s iconic corridors.

Following the meeting, the LACBC sent a message to its Northeast Los Angeles advocacy arm, “Ride Figueroa,” that stated:

After years of outreach, stakeholder education, meetings, rides and rallies, we are delighted to report that Councilman Gil Cedillo is seriously considering project options that are true to this inclusive vision for North Figueroa. Focusing on the historic core of Highland Park from Avenue 55 to Avenue 60, Cedillo’s staff worked with LADOT to produce a series of options that included essential safety elements, such as a road diet, better sidewalks and crosswalks, transit enhancements, and physically protected or buffered bike lanes.

Later in the week, at a meeting of the Highland Park Neighborhood Council, Cedillo’s staff announced it was working with the city to remove an application for parallel parking the city was including in an application to Metro. The batch of applications had been approved by the City Council in a December meeting, where local advocates and Cedillo sparred during the public comment period. The new application to Metro, now excluding the parking changes along North Figueroa, will be heard by Council soon.

In an email to Streetsblog, Cedillo spokesperson Louis Reyes explains the reasoning behind the change. Read more…