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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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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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LADOT Has Completed More Than 50 Miles of Road Diet Bike Lanes

LADOT recently installed road diet bike lanes on First Street in Koreatown. This is one of 53 road diet projects that LADOT has implemented since 1999. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

LADOT recently installed road diet bike lanes on First Street in Koreatown. This is one of 54 road diet projects that LADOT has implemented since 1999. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Earlier in 2014, the national Streetsblog Network website highlighted BikeSD’s coverage of the city of San Diego’s first road diet bike lanes. Streetsblog Los Angeles has covered quite a few city of Los Angeles road diets over the past few years; most of them non-controversial, including 7th Street, Grand Avenue, Hoover Street, and Myra Avenue. A few of these projects have encountered criticism; examples include Motor Avenue and Wilbur Avenue.

Speaking at yesterday’s Bicycle Plan Implementation Team (BPIT) meeting, the city of Los Angeles Department of Transportation’s (LADOT) Bikeways engineer Tim Fremaux remarked that LADOT had implemented 53 road diet bike lane projects. Fremaux clarified that these road diets are generally “safety projects,” reducing speeding, making it easier for pedestrians to cross, and that adding bike lanes tended to be almost incidental to the overall purpose. Fremaux smiled stating that he has been happy to add a lot of new left turn lanes where they had not been before.

Fremaux provided Streetsblog the list of projects [PDF] which shows over 50 miles of road diet bike lanes. Fremaux revised the list after yesterday’s meeting, increasing the total to 54 road diets. The projects listed were completed from 1999 to 2014, with the vast majority completed since 2011, after approval of the 2010 Bike Plan and Mayor Villaraigosa’s subsequent 40-new-miles-per-year bikeway directive.

For readers unfamiliar with road diets, this Streetfilm provides a good guide. Generally road diets remove one car lane and replace it with two bike lanes, though there are variations. Road diets have been shown to improve safety for all road users, especially by removing blind spots for turning drivers.

The list of LADOT road diet streets follows the jump. Read more…

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Some Los Angeles Road Diet Projects Can Add More On-Street Parking

7th Street looking east from Union Avenue. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

7th Street looking east just east of Union Avenue, current conditions. 7th Street received a road diet in 2011. The space to the left of the bicyclists no longer needs a red curb because the road diet freed up space for additional on-street parking. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Most of the city of Los Angeles’ bike lane mileage has been implemented without removing any car lanes or any parking spaces. The city Transportation Department (LADOT) merely narrows existing overly-wide lanes, and adds bike lanes. In recent years, the city of Los Angeles has also done a number of bike lane projects called “road diets.” These road diets do remove a travel lane.

For a road diet, LADOT generally removes one roughly-10-foot-wide travel lane and replaces it with two 5-foot-wide bike lanes. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has extensively studied road diets and found that they make streets safer for pedestrians, cyclists, and people in cars

Here are some recent LADOT road diet examples – not an exhaustive list:

On many streets with excess capacity relative to current traffic volumes, these projects can be non-controversial. Sometimes, especially in commercial areas with many driveways, they are welcomed, because they facilitate easier turning. Sometimes lane removal can be controversial, when it is perceived as reducing capacity for cars.

But what about parking? Do Los Angeles road diets remove parking?

Well, by definition, a road diet is reducing a travel lane. So, no, road diets don’t remove parking, they remove a travel lane.

In many cases, L.A.’s road diets have actually freed up space for additional parking–although sometimes LADOT doesn’t take advantage of this.

LADOT has been under pressure from the 2011 mayoral directive to build more bike lanes. This urgency has resulted in some projects overlooking possibilities for reworking curb parking in light of the new road configuration. Not maximizing available curb parking can make it a little more difficult for drivers to park, and, in areas with parking meters (including the south side of 7th Street in the example below,) this means that the city could potentially be foregoing some revenue.

Basic 4-to-3 lane road diet schematic. Source: Federal Hightways Administration

Basic 4-to-3 lane road diet schematic. Source: Federal Highways Administration

The most common road diet, diagrammed above, starts with a four-lane street (with two travel lanes in each direction.) The diet removes one of those lanes, resulting in a three-lane street, with one travel lane in each direction, and one center turn lane.

7th Street at Union Street in Pico Union, shown in the photo at the top of the post, is an example of where a road diet frees up space for additional parking.  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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North Figueroa Bike Lanes: Public Safety Reps Against Public Safety Project

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 Councilmember Cedillo’s Bike Lane Community Meeting on May 8, 2014. Photo via Fig For All Flickr

At last week’s North Figueroa Street bike lane meeting there was a contentious debate. Cyclists are urging installation of road diet bike lanes to improve safety for all. Bike lanes were approved in the city’s 2010 Bike Plan; L.A.’s Transportation Department (LADOT) studied the lanes extensively, and appeared to be on the verge of installing them. Then a new L.A. City Councilmember was elected.

Though Councilmember Gil Cedillo expressed verbal support for the lanes during his election campaign, he subsequently stepped away from that commitment and is nixing the bike lanes and instead proposing to install sharrows on a circuitous bike route that roughly parallels some portions of North Figueroa.  

Councilmember Cedillo summarized the meeting in his email newsletter, stating:

On Thursday over 350 residents attended a spirited community meeting hosted by Councilmember Cedillo at Nightingale Middle School in Cypress Park to hear input on LADOT’s proposed bike lanes for North Figueroa Street (from Avenue 22 to Avenue 52, in Cypress Park, Sycamore Grove and a portion of Highland Park). The proposal would remove one of two southbound traffic lanes (“a road diet”) on North Figueroa Street.

Councilmember Cedillo heard thoughtful input from stakeholders. Testimony was also provided by Captain Ed Elguea, LA Fire Department Fire Station 44, Captain Jeff Bert, LAPD Northeast Station, Sergeant Luciano Meza, LADOT Traffic and R. Scott Page, LA Metro Operations Planning Manager, Service Planning. These Los Angeles City Department representatives expressed concerns of increased traffic congestion if the southbound traffic lane is removed as proposed by LADOT.

While it’s common for bicycle, and other transportation, facilities to be subject to political pressures, cyclists were disturbed that representatives from the city’s police (LAPD) and fire departments (LAFD) expressed opposition to the bike lane project. 

Here’s an example of the public safety testimony, which has been posted on YouTube: LAFD, LAPD. Los Angeles Fire Department Captain Elguea stated:

From a professional opinion, this [North Figueroa bike lane project] will slow down our response time.

City public safety officers spoke in opposition to a public safety project.

What’s the evidence? Do bike lanes actually pose a threat to public safety? Do road diets threaten public safety?

Thanks to L.A. City Bicycle Advisory Committee chair Jeff Jacobberger for tracking down relevant city documents. See the full text of Jacobberger’s communication to Cedillo posted here

LADOT studied the North Figueroa bike lanes extensively, and concluded that they “would not impede emergency access.” As part of its Environmental Impact Report (EIR) documentation, LADOT studied the project and stated:

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 [PDF], page 25.) [emphasis added by Jacobberger]

LADOT spent time and money analyzing how North Figueroa bike lanes could impact emergency response. During that process, LAPD and LAFD were notified, and neither LAPD nor LAFD expressed any official concerns. The final approved LADOT study documents concluded that there weren’t any significant adverse impacts.

There are numerous examples from elsewhere, too.  Read more…

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7th Street in Downtown Los Angeles Goes on a Diet

Commuters into Downtown Los Angeles were surprised this morning to note that 7th Street had gone on a crash diet overnight. For .6 miles, between Figueroa and Main Streets, bicycle lanes were installed and a mixed-use travel lane was removed.

The new lanes are a key part in making connections in Downtown Los Angeles. The lanes connect to the previously painted 7th Street lanes that connect mid-town to Downtown and the Main Street buffered bike lane that runs north to City Hall. The lanes now run for 2.8 miles on 7th Street from Catalina Street in mid-town to Main Street.

The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition half-joked on twitter that “the LACBC offices now have bike lanes on three sides.”

But while celebrating the addition to the network is good, Streetsblogger Niall Huffman points out that the installation either would have been delayed or would not have happened without a state law signed by Governor Jerry Brown in September of 2012. So, maybe we have to give Jerry Brown some credit as well.

AB 2245 provides for a CEQA exemption for Class II bikeway (bike lane) projects. According to the LADOT bike blog, under the former guidelines some bike lane projects in the City of L.A.  would have required an EIR if their traffic impacts were over specified thresholds.

That wasn’t the case here as the new lanes were put in and no environmental study was required, even though 7th Street lost a mixed use lane.

If you’ve ridden the lanes, let us know your experience in the comments section.

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Formal Appeal Filed Against MyFigueroa! Streetscape Project by Auto Dealerships

It’s not quite a series of scribbles by Eli Broad, but the formal appeal of the MyFigueroa! Project, also known as the South Figueroa Streetscape Project, by Darryl Holter of the Shammus Auto Group is so half-baked, it’s hard to believe that anyone would take it seriously.

The two-page hand-written complaint contains no new information or studies, just a repetition of Holter’s clearly stated belief (pages 40-42 of this report) that a road diet, dedicated transit lane, and cycletracks will be bad for his business. By law, Holter’s appeal will eventually be heard by the entire Los Angeles City Council. Council staff confirmed this morning the appeal will first be heard by the Planning and Land Use Committee but could not give a timeline on when the Council would take up the issue.The Department of Planning found in August that the project has no significant impact on businesses in the area, but the Council can overturn that decision.

While Holter’s two page memo hardly seems the basis to overturn an environmental study, he likely has the support of his local Council Member, Curren Price who authored a motion questioning the study on many of the same grounds. And if one needs proof that the Council doesn’t truly understand livable street design and bicycle safety, all he or she has to do is look at the gravelly remains of what was once the city’s signature bicycle safety project running adjacent to City Hall.

MyFigueroa! is a plan to create Los Angeles’ first Complete Street or Living Street. The project area includes four miles of streets that stretch from downtown L.A.  to South Los Angeles: Figueroa Street from 7th Street in downtown Los Angeles to 41st Street, just south of Exposition Park; 11th Street from Figueroa Street east to Broadway in the South Park neighborhood of downtown Los Angeles; and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard from Figueroa Street west to Vermont Avenue, on the south edge of Exposition Park.

Different parts of the project will see different road improvements. For more details, visit the MyFigueroa! website.

As Streetsblog has noted before, Holter’s opinions aren’t supported by facts when looking at how similar projects have impacted traffic and businesses in other cities. A quick email with other Streetsblog editors found examples of popular road diets. Recent studies show that road diets aren’t bad for business. While some diets have caused an increase in congestion, they uniformly show a clear reduction in vehicle crashes.

In the case of the South Figueroa Streetscape Project, there just happens to be a gigantic freeway running parallel to the street for people who feel inconvenienced by the lack of mixed-use travel lanes.

Read more…