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Posts from the "West LA" Category

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You Can’t Fix Traffic. You Are Traffic.

(Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times printed an editorial in their online opinion page by editorial writer Carla Hall. The editorial called out the City Council Candidates in CD 11 for not addressing car drivers’ concerns at a Streetsblog Forum and suggested some ways to “improve” traffic on the Westside. Since we were mentioned, we thought we would respond.)

Dear Carla,

This empty field might hold the answer to congestion problems for tens of thousands of Angelenos, but probably not Carla Hall

I read your piece in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times urging the Westside City Council candidates to come up with solutions to fix traffic. You cite the difficulties of living in Brentwood and working downtown and how awful it is to sit in traffic. You don’t seem to think that transit or bicycling is a good way to relieve traffic, mostly because it wouldn’t work for you.

I have some bad news for you.

There isn’t anything that anyone can do to make your commute any better. Double-decking the 405, an idea that Governor Schwarzenegger floated a couple of times, would be a disaster. You think construction impacts from adding a measly HOV lane are bad? What do you think double-decking would be like. Think Carmageddon for a month at a time.

The Pico-Olympic Plan was so unpopular that none of the Council Members that represent an impacted area (Rosendahl, Koretz, Wesson) think its a good idea. It’s such a bad idea it might have cost Jack Weiss a job as City Attorney. Many in his City Council district turned on him after his support for turning to already difficult streets into mini-freeways. Oh, and

Study after study shows that the best ways to support business is to increase access. Taking away parking, without adding improved connections for non-car shoppers, is doing just the opposite.

I don’t think I can say anything about a proposal to add hundreds of cars to a campus that caters to disabled veterans without getting insulting. Read more…

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Oppose the Expo Line or Wilshire Bus Only Lanes? Then You Probably Want to Fight Bike Lanes Too.

(Note: The Westside Neighborhood Council contacted me to clarify that they have not taken a position on the lanes being debated at this community meeting. I even snarked that they “continued their streak of opposing everything.” Oops. I have struckthrough their name below and offer my apologies. – DN)

From the start, it looked like a bad night for bicycle advocates on the Westside.

Existing bicycle lanes on Westwood. Image: Change.org

Before the evening began, a post on L.A. Observed by Mark Lacter layed down the stakes for Westside residents at the LADOT and City Planning community meeting on 5 Bike Plan projects on the Westside. It’s normal people versus cycling zealots in a battle over public space. Emails from homeowner’s groups were similarly dire.

Despite the efforts of advocates, especially the Bike Coalition’s (LACBC’s) Eric Bruins to “community activists” about how bike lanes and other traffic calming devices are good for all road users; Lacter and many of those present last night at the “community meeting” can’t seem to see past their windshield.

The city came prepared. A team of planners and members of LADOT Bikeways showed up ready to answer questions about the proposals. During their presentation they pointed out that currently the proposed bike lanes would be the only North-South Bike Lanes in the local network. Also approval of the lanes is part of a longer timeline than just a meeting last night for any project deemed controversial.

While many cyclists did brave the bad weather to attend the meeting, many of the “neighborhood advocates” wanted to, in the words of Lacter, not give up any of “their” space to bicyclists.

The most sensible of the comments came from Colleen Mason-Heller, a longtime opponent of the Expo Line and one of the Chairs of Neighbors for Smart Rail. Heller noted that the bicycle plans for Westwood and the traffic studies for the Expo Line weren’t in sync. The Expo traffic studies assume two lanes of traffic in each direction, while the Bike Plan removes one of the south bound lanes. Streetsblog reported yesterday on an LACBC proposal, that LADOT voiced support for, that would address this concern. Read more…

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LADOT Ready to Embrace “Floating” Bike Lanes for Westwood, But Is West L.A.?

Technically, tonight's community meeting is on all of these projects. However five of them are expected to draw more attention than the others.

Tonight, city officials with LADOT and City Planning will present the environmental documents for five Bike Plan projects in West Los Angeles. Highlighting the list of projects is a proposal by the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) to restripe 1.6 miles of Westwood Boulevard between National Boulevard and Santa Monica Avenue to create a “floating” bike lane in each direction. LADOT has said they would back such a plan if there were community support.

The proposed floating bike lane for Westwood between National and Santa Monica Boulevards. Image by LACBC via Rancho Park Online

Basically, if a floating bike lane were installed, the city paint what would at first glance appear to be multiple bike lanes. During different periods of the day, the street configuration would change. For example, during off-peak hours there would be car parking along each curb, then a bike lane, then two mixed use travel lanes and a turn lane, then another bike lane, parking, and the alternate curb. At rush hour, there would be two lanes in one direction and one in the other (it changes pending which rush hour) with a turn lane and bike lanes hugging the curb.

For more information on how floating bike lanes work, read this case study from San Francisco. It states that the design, while not perfect, generally works.

While not perfect, with its slightly confusing, unorthodox design, it successfully accommodates cyclists, part-time on-street parking, and motorists needing additional capacity during peak hours. It does so with minimal signs, leading one to conclude that while the design is unorthodox, it uses fairly predictable road-user behavior to its advantage. Cyclists naturally tend to stay to the right, and motorists will use a space even if it is not clearly for their use if traffic congestion reaches certain levels and the space is reasonably accommodating.

Following 150 riders attending the Ride Westwood! ride and rally the previous Saturday, the LACBC’s Eric Bruins attended the Westside Neighborhood Council meeting on Valentine’s Day to press for the “floating bike lanes.” In advance of his meeting, some on the Council circulated a letter deriding the plan, encouraging attendance and even stating that “even the local cyclists find the proposal unworkable.” More of the letter is available at Biking in L.A.

Despite the email blast, Rancho Park Online reported that most of the people in attendance that spoke were in favor of the proposed changes. Conversely, most of those on the Neighborhood Council were skeptical. Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Sepulveda Blvd. Bike Lane Turning Into “Express Lane” for Scofflaws

When not riding his bicycle, Chen takes pictures of bike lane violators from his perch in a Culver City Bus.

In May, Streetsblog reported that new bike lanes were painted on Sepulveda Boulevard between Venice Boulevard and National Boulevard. The new lanes could connect all the way to the Expo Line Station scheduled for Sepulveda and Exposition, about a half mile north of where the lanes now end.

Reader Irwin Chen notes that the lanes are being put to good use…by speeding motorists as well as cyclists. Chen photographed cars both violating the bike lane and driving to the right of the lane at high-speed. He then mails the pictures to the LAPD, who assure Chen that they are enforcing vehicle code on drivers who violate the lane.

In a letter to the LAPD, Chen writes:

I’m writing to you with some follow up info. It has been about 6 weeks since I reported my experience riding in the bike lane on Sepulveda near National and since that time, I have stopped riding in this area because it is far too dangerous with cars constantly driving illegally in the bike lane and passing me on my right. I have attached some photos which I think are self-explanatory: cars are illegally entering the bike lane and using it to bypass traffic, sometimes at speed greatly exceeding the posted speed limit. Read more…

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Settlement Reached Between Homeowners, LADOT on Expo Bikeway

Whether or not to put the bikeway in this trench for a portion of the path is still up for debate...but we now know the legal hurdles have been removed. Photo: Damien Newton/LA Streetsblog

Coming fresh on the heels of news that the California Supreme Court won’t halt construction while they consider an appeal filed against the Expo Line Phase II, comes news that a different Expo legal challenge has been resolved.

Last May, a group of Cheviot Hills homeowners filed sut against the portion of the Expo Bikeway last May arguing that the environmental documents prepared for the bikeway were insufficient. Word leaked earlier this week that a settlement was reached between LADOT and the litigants. While details of the settlement are not publicly available, Streetsblog has confirmed that design and construction of the bikeway through this area can proceed without further litigation.

The lawsuit only protested the portion of the bike route in the City of Los Angeles, and not the part in the City of Santa Monica or Culver City.  The 3.85 miles of bikeway will run mostly along the Exposition right-of-way except for a portion on the street in Cheviot Hills. In exchange for dropping their lawsuit, LADOT will make provisions in the design to mitigate impact on the local homeowners such as extra lighting and a privacy wall.

 Meanwhile, supporters of the Expo Light Rail Line also received good news this week. As first reported on Streetsblog’s Twitter Feed, the California Supreme Court did not grant a stay to Neighbors for Smart Rail. This means that no matter how long the appeal takes, construction of the project can and will continue. Read more…
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Bikelash on Motor Avenue Bike Lanes? Palms Neighborhood Council, Koretz Will Get an Earful Tonight

You're motoring...What's your price for flight? Photo: Jonathan Weiss

Amidst all the election news comes word that there is a small Bikelash brewing on the Westside from residents worried that the diet is creating spillover traffic jams on other local streets. The good news is that the proposed solutions seem to be about improving traffic calming measures on the streets parallel to Motor Avenue. The bad news is the complaints will be heard at tonight’s meeting of the Palms Neighborhood Council which will feature local City Council Member Paul Koretz. The agenda for tonight’s hearing is here.

Jonathan Weiss, a member of the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee and regular commuter on Motor Avenue notes that it’s not the bike lanes that are causing spillover traffic.

I’ve never seen more cyclists than I do now, and, with theExpo train coming to Palms in about 2015, the community soon could be transformed into one of the bike-friendliest around.  Meanwhile, the morning traffic stacking up in Palms does so because the northbound traffic trying to make its way to Century City and Beverly Hills via Cheviot Hills is “metered” (choked off and redirected) at National Boulevard per the Century City Neighborhood Traffic Management Plan, a City Ordinance obtained by residential communities in response to Century City area commercial development.

The bike lanes are part of a road diet  a three quarter mile stretch of mixed residential and commercial development on Motor Ave. The diet was put in place with the support of  the LADOT, the Motor Avenue Improvement Association, and the Palms Neighborhood Council.  More Palms-area bike lanes are planned, including a connection to the pending Palms Expo Light Rail station, in accordance with the City of Los Angeles’ Bike Plan.

The Palms Neighborhood Council meets tonight at  7:00 p.m. at the IMAN Center, 3376 Motor Avenue. The community letter that hints at the Bikelash is after the break (with names redacted, these aren’t public figures.) If it’s looking as though Motor Avenue is going to turn into another Wilbur Avenue, we’ll let you know.

Read more…

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Westside’s Motor Avenue Gets Road Diet and Bike Lanes

You're motoring...What's your price for flight? Photo: Jonathan Weiss

The buzz started on Monday: an alert reader (and Wilshire bike commute champion) notified Streetsblog that the sharrows on Motor Avenue disappeared between Venice Boulevard and National Boulevard, a three quarter mile stretch of mixed residential and commercial development, during a recent repaving.

Nonetheless, the mood was optimistic. Initial road striping after the repave hinted that the four lane street would be shrunk to two lanes with bike lanes on each side of the street.

Yesterday it became official: Motor Avenue is on a diet. Read more…

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What the Heck Is Going on with the Expo Bikeway?

Construction underway at Palms Station for Expo Phase II. Photo: Gokhan Esirgen

By now, you’ve probably read the action alert from the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition or read the article on Biking In L.A. warning that things are not going smoothly for planning of the Expo Bikeway. As you might remember, I serve as a member of the Expo Bicycle Advisory Committee (EBAC), and wanted to share some thoughts with you.

First, it’s important to note that despite it’s name, the EBAC does not have a similar structure as the City of Los Angeles Bicycle Advisory Committee, a committee formed by the mayor and run under the state’s open public meetings act known as the Brown Act. The agenda is set by the Expo Construction Authority and the meetings are run by agency staff. The presentations are done by Expo Staff. The information is controlled by Expo Staff. At our last meeting, in May, Expo Staff and staff for the City of Santa Monica actually got in an argument over a proposed change to the route at intersection of the bike path and Centinela Boulevard.

I am far from alone on the committee in thinking that EBAC is more about controlling bike advocacy than receiving meaningful input for a safe and useful bike path.

The first step in reclaiming the EBAC came when a group of EBAC members spoke at a recent meeting of the Expo Construction Authority Board of Directors meeting and asked that staff hold monthly meetings. Following the Board’s direction, a meeting was scheduled for next Tuesday, August 21. Our meetings are open to the public, and LACBC is urging cyclists to attend and make their voices heard. Meeting details are at the end of this article or you can download the agenda, here.

While I won’t be attending, Councilman Rosendahl’s office will be sending a replacement. I’ll be in New York.

If you can’t make the meeting, LACBC provides a draft letter and the addresses for the Expo Construction Authority Board and staff. With design of the rail portion of Expo almost completed and station construction underway, we’re late in the game but there’s no time like the present to start making some noise. Read more…

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Recapping the Wilshire Rush Hour Sprint

To go to the map, click on the image.

It was a warm night last May when four racers gathered at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Amherst Boulevard to race. The race would take them east, for three miles to the corner of Wilshire and Beverly Glen Boulevard. The goal? To prove that even during Wilshire’s legendary rush hour, that our chosen mode of transportation was the fastest, the most efficient, and quite simply, the best.

The race teams departed at 6:15. Representing bike riders everywhere was Austin Sos, a UCLA graduate student. Sahra Sulaiman walked for pedestrians, while I rode the Wilshire Rapid on behalf of transit riders everywhere. Mike Gran, a regular Wilshire Boulevard commuter took his truck.

We honestly weren’t sure how the race would turn out. I’d love to tell you we were trying to make a point about bicycles and transit, but we weren’t. It was a real race. We aim to repeat it when the Bus-Only Lane is completed in two years to see how the transit striping changes the traffic patterns.

Thirteen minutes later, the race was over when the first racer arrived at the northwest corner of the finish markers, where we agreed to meet. Four minutes later, the silver medalist arrived. Ten minutes after that, the bronze medal winner crossed the street. After that, it was another 15 minutes before our runner up arrived at 6:57 pm.

Before publishing, I went back to Wilshire and repeated the race at the same time and same places to see if the race was accurate. To see what order people finished, read on after the jump. Read more…

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Homeowner’s Complaints Lead to Transit Service Changes at UCLA

Photo of Hilgard Terminal, courtesy of Google Maps

(Update: I received a question on why we published the name and address of the angry homeowner, questioning whether or not he qualifies as fare game to be signaled out by name.  I chatted with a friend of mine who doesn’t have a stake or opinion in the issue of how UCLA decides when to keep its transit stops open.  He advised me that it wasn’t illegal, but that we should have contacted him for a quote if we were going to feature him so prominently.  It was my call to leave his name in so any blame/fallout should fall on me, not Juan.   I just removed his name, address and references to his employment from the story and comments.- DN)

Just a few months ago, UCLA received accolades for reducing vehicle trips to campus.  The campus has a robust transportation demand management program and exceeds the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s reporting requirements to track travel trends in its annual State of the Commute report.

As the University released its latest report that highlighted that only 53% percent of UCLA’s employees commute in a single-occupancy automobile, it was also finalizing a decision to eliminate Big Blue Bus service to Hilgard Terminal (behind Murphy Hall) after 8 pm on weekdays. This decision will affect the 23.5% of campus visitors and commuters who travel to and from campus by public transit .

The University will implement this change on Monday, June 18.  Because the University places barriers at the terminal’s entrance, after 8:00 pm, Big Blue Bus service must re-route to the Ackerman Terminal, which is one-half mile away on foot.  A common rule of thumb used by transit practitioners (and supported by research) is that transit passengers are willing to walk about one quarter of a mile to a bus stop.  Because this, the detour may have a significant impact on trip generation to the UCLA campus by causing existing commuters and visitors to adjust travel patterns.

Though this decision is being implemented next week, it is largely the result of persistent complaints of a single resident over the past decade.  A short history puts the latest change into perspective: Read more…