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With CicLAvia in the Rearview Mirror, Mar Vista Plans for a Pop-Up Great Street

To see the timeline in higher res, click ##https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/ant/pages/743/attachments/original/1438966471/Pilot_Project.png?1438966471##here.##

To see the timeline in higher res, click here.

Despite Great Streets being a signature transportation project of Mayor Eric Garcetti, throughout the city the vision, outreach, and implementation are driven by the enthusiasm of the local City Council offices. Staff in the Mayor’s Office is working closely with each of the fifteen Councilmembers to create a Great Streets program that is locally-driven and Council-approved.

At least that’s the idea.

While local support and local leadership is crucial to any movement that seeks to create major changes, sometimes the Council offices have proven more of a roadblock to change than a partner in creating great streets.

On one hand, Councilmember Mitch Englander, one of the more conservative Councilmembers, has been a surprise, not only for backing the largest protected bike lane in Los Angeles, but for programming that activates Reseda Boulevard as a destination. On the other hand, you have Paul Koretz, considered by many to be a champion environmentalist, and Curren Price, who belatedly got on board with the MyFigueroa! street transformation, working behind the scenes to remove bike facilities from plans for Westwood Boulevard and Central Avenue, respectively.

Nowhere were expectations higher for Great Streets than in the Westside’s CD11 where Councilmember Mike Bonin was the first Councilmember to be elected with a platform for Livable Streets reform. And that’s important, as the Great Streets team in the Mayor’s Office consists of two staffers and a handful of interns and fellows. That’s not per district, that’s for the entire city.

Bonin and a band of neighborhood and business advocates have used the Great Streets Plan for Venice Boulevard in Mar Vista (roughly between the 405 and Lincoln Boulevard) as a sort of Livable Streets master class to educate people about what a street can be if it is reimagined as something new. The presentation of the image boards showing the various Great Street options at both the “usual suspect” locations (Farmers’ Markets, the Mar Vista Community Council, and Mar Vista Chamber of Commerce) and high schools, libraries, coffee shops, and markets allowed a wider range of stakeholders to weigh in on the proposed changes.

The experience in West L.A. with Great Streets is pretty much the opposite of that along Central Avenue in South Los Angeles. There, most residents, business owners, and community advocates only saw plans for a dramatically altered Central Avenue when Sahra Sulaiman showed them printouts while researching a story for Streetsblog. The difference an engaged and enthusiastic Council Office can have is dramatic.

After all of that outreach, Bonin’s office announced last week that a pilot program will be on the ground in the “winter/spring of 2016.” Some of the most popular proposed changes include more mid-block pedestrian crossings, opportunities for public gathering spaces (parklets, plazas, even sidewalk seating), improved bikeways, and more and better street furniture and trash bins.

“Those are some dramatic, exciting improvements, and we’ll need to use some of the space usually reserved for automobile traffic to get it done,” Bonin’s office wrote in an email to participants that was also posted on his website. 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.

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Bike Lanes, Partially Green and Partially Buffered, Appear on Westwood North of Le Conte

juan le conte 3

Photo: Juan Matute

Westwood and Le Conte is sort of a magical intersection for me.

In 2008, the city’s first Sharrows appeared just north of Le Conte on Westwood Blvd. In 2010, Westwood and Le Conte teamed up again as the home of “30 seconds of Awesome,” in its scramble crosswalk. Those were both big stories for early Streetsblog L.A.

So I was really excited when Streetsblog L.A. Steering Committee member Juan Matute posted pictures showing that those Sharrows, which were actually the first ones in Los Angeles, were replaced by bike lanes into and out of the UCLA campus. The lanes are occasionally buffered and occasionally green. Sometimes there are Sharrows.

But…wait a second? I thought that a bike lane on Westwood was a controversial topic for the local Councilmember?

The design and upkeep of LeConte and Westwood near and through the campus are the responsibility of UCLA. (More pictures of the lane can be found after the jump.)

But while UCLA is doing all that it can to assure safe commutes for all road users coming to and from campus, the dedication to safe streets ends when the city takes control of the streets again. The Daily Bruin reports that City Councilmember Paul Koretz is doubling down on his opposition to safe streets. Having previously killed even a study of bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard connecting to the Expo Line, Koretz has now removed the possibility of bike lanes in Westwood Village.

So, hats off to UCLA for doing the right thing for its commuters. It’s just too bad that that commitment ends where the City of Los Angeles takes over.

The City will take input on the Mobility Plan 2035, including the Westwood Blvd. bike lane, at a meeting of the City Planning Commission tomorrow, Thursday, May 28th, at 8:30 AM at the Van Nuys City Hall (14410 Sylvan Street, Van Nuys 91401).

Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: DIY Maintenance On Lincoln Blvd Under Culver Bridge

Editor’s note: The Department of Do-It-Yourself works in strange and mysterious ways. Today we run a guest post by cyclist Eric Weinstein who may or may not have been part of Dept. of DIY’s westside cycling division’s Lincoln Boulevard sand removal effort last week.

Lincoln Boulevard below the

Lincoln Boulevard underneath the Culver Boulevard Bridge. Photo by Eric Weinstein

You’ll probably never notice.

Last Friday night a very small crew of people made one of Lincoln Boulevard’s many choke points safer for bikes.

There are a lot of these really bad spots around. Lincoln is not really a pleasant place to ride a bike in general, but sometimes it is the only plausible route, because of the geography. There are few roads up the bluff into Westchester. Lincoln is the north-south road connection between Venice and LAX, so you kinda have to cycle here. It’s a couple of miles west to the beach bike path. It’s equally a couple miles east to the Sepulveda Boulevard bike lanes (from Westchester to Jefferson.) A couple miles out of the way on a bike is a long way to go around.

Just north of the entrances to the Ballona Creek Bike Path, there’s a narrow place under the bridge for Culver Boulevard [Google street view]. It’s narrow, and just hidden by a bend in the road, but quite passable to the daring or practiced. Unfortunately, the sand under the bridge has washed down into the shoulder in recent rains, blocking it to cyclists. You can’t ride on sand. So, for a cyclist, it’s another place you have to take the lane for a few feet to get under the bridge, sometimes merging into fast traffic. It’s always difficult when the cars are moving so much faster than bikes. At times, it’s a bit dangerous.

So, with some shovels, and a couple orange cones, the crew moved the sand off the shoulder.

Took a while to get it all off the road and make a smooth ridable surface. This makes a much, much safer passage for bikes. And, for good measure, overhanging brush was trimmed out of the bike lane further south.

Cyclists, the passage is again clear.  Read more…

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Krekorian and Garcetti Tout Metro’s New 405 Freeway Express Bus Service

Cutting the ribbon on new Valley-Westside bus service. Left to right: Metro CEO Art Leahy, Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilmember Paul Krekorian, and SFV Metro Service Council Chair Michael Cano. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Cutting the ribbon on new Valley-Westside bus service. Left to right: Metro CEO Art Leahy, Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilmember Paul Krekorian, and SFV Metro Service Council Chair Michael Cano. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Starting this Sunday, Metro is introducing its new Valley-Westside Express bus line that takes advantage of the recently-widened 405 Freeway’s new high-occupancy vehicle lanes. The new line runs from Pacoima to Westwood, with stops at the Van Nuys Metrolink Station and the Metro Orange Line’s Van Nuys and Sepulveda stations. The full map of the new service is after the jump below.

Metro Board members celebrated the new service at a press event this morning at the Metro Orange Line Sepulveda station.

Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Krekorian proclaimed that the new service will make it “easier, faster, and more convenient” to travel between Los Angeles communities. Krekorian also pledged that this is “just one step of many for the Valley” and that he is committed to making the Metro Orange Line run faster and adding to its capacity, and “increas[ing] rail in the San Fernando Valley.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti recalled riding the RTD bus to West L.A. when he was growing up in the Valley. Garcetti touted the time savings on the new line, which is anticipated to save 20 minutes compared to current Metro bus service.  Read more…

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New Chamber of Commerce Excited About Great Streets on Venice Blvd.

Bonin bus stop

Mike Bonin hops on the Venice Rapid for his morning commute. This uncharacteristically damp morning isn’t the best background, but there’s still a lot of work to be done before Venice can truly be considered a Great Street. Photo: Damien Newton

Mike Bonin is not someone who is known for thinking small.

“There’s a universe of opportunities,” said Councilmember Mike Bonin, of the proposed “Great Street” on Venice Boulevard. “But it’s important that this not be ‘Mike’s project,’ or the ‘Mayor’s project,’ or the ‘DOT’s Project,’ but the people’s project.”

Bonin was speaking excitedly about the “Great Streets” designation granted to Venice Boulevard between Inglewood Boulevard on the east and Beethoven Street on the west. Great Streets is an initiative to take a section of street in each of the fifteen City Council Districts and turn them into great places to walk, bike, sit outside, or just be…just exist.

While Bonin prefers the phrase “universe of opportunities” to describe everything that can be done, Mayor Eric Garcetti uses the term “urban-acupuncture” to illustrate the idea that these streets will be slimmed down to car traffic and opened up for other uses. Think of streets with trees for shade, modern crosswalks, clean and wide sidewalks, even just appropriately placed park benches and trash cans.

“A small burst of energy can transform a community,” Garcetti is fond of saying.

“One small change, especially if the community is behind it, can get things rolling,” Bonin echoes.

So what will Venice Boulevard look like after it has been changed to a Great Street? And when will Venice, or any of the other 14 Great Streets, actually start to see improvements?

There is not a good answer to the second question. Nobody seems to know when street improvements are going to come.

As for the first one…

“I have some ideas, but it’s really up to the community,” Bonin promises.

During the 2013 election, Bonin offered a vision of a Venice Boulevard teeming with small businesses and a walkable community during our candidates’ forum. But when pressed in our Great Streets interview, he kept going back to the idea that this was the community’s decision.

Not his.

Not Garcetti’s.

The community’s. Read more…

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Two New Bike Corrals Installed on Abbot Kinney Blvd.

The new corral in front of Gjelina Takeaway on Abbot Kinney.

The new corral in front of Gjelina Take Away on Abbot Kinney.

Fabled Abbot Kinney Boulevard, on Los Angeles’ Westside, is the first street in the city to have two bike corrals installed. Councilmember Mike Bonin alerted Streetsblog to their installation this morning and I was able to bike over and catch one of the installations as it was being finished and another corral in action.

1205

The new street front for Local 1205.

These are the third and fourth corrals in the entire city. Bike corrals are dedicated bicycle parking areas created with the removal of one or two parking spaces. As shown above, a city can create safe and attractive parking for twelve bicycles in the space that used to park one car.

If you’re interested in seeing some bike corrals added to your neighborhood, the People St program at LADOT is accepting applications through April 30, with a second project submission period coming up in October. While People St will be working with community-based organizations for future corrals, parklets and plazas, these two corrals were already in the project pipeline.

The first corral is in front of Gjelina Take Away (1427 Abbot Kinney). When I arrived the corral was partly in-use with a handful of bicycles already tethered in the twelve bike parking spaces. Of course, the three bicycles are an improvement over the one car that would have fit into the same space last night. As I shot the pictures, a happy cyclist was handed a sandwich in a bag, hopped on his bike and was on his way.

Bike corrals: good for bikes, good for business. Read more…

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A Photo Essay of a Tour of Expo Phase II

Crews hard at work in a trench near Palms installing utilities for the future Expo Phase II. All pictures, Damien Newton/Streetsblog Los Angeles

Crews hard at work in a trench near Palms installing utilities for the future Expo Phase II. All pictures, Damien Newton/Streetsblog Los Angeles

When Stephen Villavaso, known to many Streetsblog readers as the volunteer traffic engineer who makes CicLAvia possible, asked me if I would like to ride along on a tour of Expo Phase II construction, I jumped at the chance. Villavaso is also one of the engineers working for Skanska-Rados Joint Venture – the design-build contractor of the Expo Line Phase II. Villavaso manages the design for the construction project which involves regularly driving up and down the future light rail and bike path talking to workers, monitoring construction, and just keeping abreast of everything that’s happening on site.

For those just joining us, the Expo Line is a 15.2 mile, $2.4 billion Exposition Light Rail Line that will connect Downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica via Culver City. Construction on Phase I of the line, from downtown Los Angeles to Culver City, began in 2006 and opened to the public in 2012. Phase II of the project, which will extend the line out to Santa Monica, is now underway. Construction is expected to be completed by 2015 with revenue operations beginning the following year. The Expo Line is and will be run by Metro.

While I’ve been covering the Expo Line since before Streetbslog launched in 2008, it seems there is always something new to learn about it. On this day, I learned something that should seem obvious…building a light rail line is hard. I mean really hard.

I unexpectedly ended up discussing how to move power lines, how to protect existing underground utilities, how many different types of concrete are needed, how to protect workers during excavation, that maybe some federal safety requirements are a little over board, and a lot of other things.

But the good news is that progress is definitely happening. Even if it’s sometimes hard to see.

Where the Expo Line runs under an existing bridge just west of Motor Avenue, Villavaso explained that the last time he was there, a large trench was in the ground. This time, the trench had been filled and there was no sign that a lot of work had happened in the area.  “This is really exciting,” he said gesturing to what now appeared to be just a dirt road. The last time he had done one of these tours was about a month and a half earlier, when he had been accompanied by Nat Gale from the Mayor’s Office.

We made six stops on our tour, starting at the Cloverfield/Olympic Bridge, going back to the start of Phase II at Venice Blvd., and stops at Palms and Motor before heading back into Santa Monica. In Santa Monica, we stopped at the Bundy/Centinela Station and the terminus (or beginning pending your point of view) at Downtown Santa Monica.

Our thanks to Stephen Villavaso for leading me around and answering my questions. My wife, who is also an engineer, was laughing at me while I was listening to the audio to write this story, so it must have taken some real self-control for Stephen to keep a straight face.

A full essay, with more of photographs from the project sites, is available after the jump. Read more…

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Westwood Bike Lanes Connecting National and Wilshire Killed by Council Office

The participants in a February 2013 Ride Westwood ride showed support for the proposed bike lane. Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/lacbc/sets/72157632742418720/with/8464401136/##LACBC/Flickr##

The participants in a February 2013 Ride Westwood ride showed support for the proposed bike lane. Photo: LACBC/Flickr

Streetsblog received word last night from Jonathan Weiss that the proposed bicycle lanes on Westwood Boulevard between Pico Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard are opposed by local City Councilmember, Paul Koretz. Weiss serves as Koretz’ appointee to the City of Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee.

While hardly a regular cyclist these days, Koretz has a lot of miles on his legs. Here he's posing on the 405 after a short bike ride during Carmageddon I. Photo:##http://www.scpr.org/news/2011/07/16/27755/405-shutdown-carmageddon-live-updates/##KPCC##

While hardly a regular cyclist these days, Koretz has a lot of miles on his legs. Here he’s posing on the 405 after a short bike ride during Carmageddon I. Photo:KPCC

This news comes as a blow to cyclists that use Westwood Blvd. every day to commute to and from UCLA and other destinations. Bicycle lanes already exist south of National Boulevard and north of Santa Monica Boulevard, making this an obvious connection in the city’s Bicycle Plan. The UCLA Bicycle Coalition and LACBC organized “Ride Westwood” to support the connection.  However, after the Los Angeles Department of Transportation held a public information session that turned senselessly raucous, the future of the lanes seemed uncertain.

Our coverage of the meeting even led to a lively segment on the local conservative political talk radio show John and Ken on KFI 640 AM.

Local opposition to the lane publicly centered around an LADOT study of a bus lane (bikes allowed) which would have removed travel lanes and parking.  That plan was DOA.  Instead, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition proposed a “floating” bicycle lane where the parked-car adjacent bike lane would be moved to the curb during rush hour so that the road could continue to have a peak hour lane.  After the public meeting, the LADOT began a study of the floating bike lane (which they had only briefly introduced as an “idea” at the public hearing), but that was put on hold by the Councilmember.

Now, the floating bike lane plan has been rejected by the Councilmember before he has allowed the formal study to be was completed.  In response, today, the LACBC released an action alert calling on Koretz to move forward with a full study of the lanes that includes all stakeholders.

Weiss argues that the road width is actually wide enough to put in lanes without removing parking or mixed-use lanes if lanes are narrowed.

“There is ample room for bike lanes without losing car lanes or parking,” Weiss writes in a letter to Koretz. “Providing bike lanes would actually free up traffic by separating bikes from cars.  And safety concerns will continue to keep risk-averse people from riding – exacerbating, rather than relieving, automobile traffic to UCLA and keeping buses stuck in traffic.  (Biking is actually faster than the bus during the evening commute.)  UCLA has done a great job in cutting its carbon footprint, but this bottleneck on its doorstep hinders its ongoing efforts in that regard.”

It is wildly unlikely that the city will move forward with a bicycle lane project without at least tacit support from the Council office, which is bowing to pressure from homeowner groups that have been hostile to transportation options outside of the automobile. One homeowner group, the “Westwood South of Santa Monica Blvd.” homeowners, even formed a “bicycle committee” which met three times, received a long and well-researched report on why the Bicycle Lanes should be put on Westwood Blvd., and then circulated a letter opposing even studying of a design proposal to make lanes less obtrusive.

While the timing of such news is never good, it does provide a call for action for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, whose Neighborhood Bicycle Ambassador Committee for the Westside has its regularly scheduled meeting tonight (details at the bottom of the post.)

NYCDOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan likes to remark that projects that are aimed to improve mobility for all road users should be first explained as safety projects. After all, who can argue against safety?

Apparently, the Westwood South of Santa Monica Homeowners Group can.

In her eloquent and well researched series (part I, part II) on bicycle safety on Westwood Boulevard, Calla Weimer shows that the stretch of Westwood Boulevard where the lanes are proposed are among the most dangerous blocks to bicycle in the city. Read more…

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Will the Next Expo Battle Be About Access to the Bike Path in Cheviot Hills?

Executed Settlement Agreement – Samuels v. FHWA

With all of the legal challenges to the Expo Line Phase II finally resolved, those interested in the multi-modal Expo Rail and Bike Path can focus their full attention on the path. Council Member Mike Bonin’s office is promising good news on the controversial crossing at Exposition and Centinella in the next week. However some bicycle advocates are now worrying about a new issue involving access to the future bike trail in, you guessed it, Cheviot Hills.

Some background.

In 2010, a group of seven homeowners living on Northvale Blvd. in Cheviot Hills sued the LADOT and a host of federal oversight boards for the city’s environmental review of the Expo Bike Path. LADOT re-completed the “Categorical Exclusion” but the homeowners were unhappy with the result and filed suit again. The two parties came to a settlement out-of-court in November of last year.

Recently, that settlement has become public. Most of the agreement between LADOT and the “Northvale 7″ are pretty standard. The bike path will now have a sound wall in the area through most of Cheviot Hills. The Westside Neighborhood Council and Council District 5, currently represented by Paul Koretz, will be provided with a presentation and a chance to weigh in on whether or not there should be an entrance to the bike path at Northvale and Dunleer Drive and whether or not the access should be 24 hours.

It’s this last clause that has some cyclists worried. The Westside Neighborhood Council isn’t exactly known for it’s support for transportation options. While two members of the Council sit on the Expo Bicycle Advisory Committee, another appeared on radio railing against any bike lane plan for Westwood Boulevard. A writer for Rancho Park Online described the Council as unreceptive to even studying a floating bike lane program for Westwood.

Unmentioned in the agreement is the aforementioned Expo Bicycle Advisory Committee. When asked, the Expo Staff that controls the agenda of the committee commented that it wouldn’t be within the Committee’s scope to comment on the “ingress-egress” issues in this area because this is the part of the bikeway is being designed by LADOT and not the Expo Construction Authority.

Another reason for concern is that the Cheviot Hills has a 20-year history of blocking access to public rights-of-way.  In the same area as a potential bike path gate, there is a gate across the Dunleer Footbridge, connecting Cheviot Hills to the Palms Park (at Overland and National).

Read more…