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Posts from the "Walking" Category

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Glendale Hyperion Bridge Political Contortions Forcing Unsafe Compromise Design

Los Angeles' latest "Option 1A" propsal for the Glendale Hyperion Bridge would preserve two sidewalks. Detail - click for full page.

Los Angeles’ latest “Option 1A” proposal for the Glendale Hyperion Bridge would preserve two sidewalks but not include the planned bike lanes. Detail – click for full page.

Last night, the Citizens Advisory Committee for the design of the new Glendale-Hyperion Bridge met to discuss the city’s latest proposal.

L.A.’s historic Glendale-Hyperion Bridge opened in 1927. It connects the Los Angeles communities of Silver Lake and Atwater Village. About ten years ago, city plans to renovate the bridge got underway. In 2013, the city proposed a dangerously high-speed highway-scale bridge design. Communities objected to the proposal. The city went back to the drawing board, and formed an Advisory Committee tasked with reviewing various possible configurations, and coming up with a better plan for the new bridge.

In August, the committee voted to move forward with Option 3 which includes bike lanes and sidewalks, and a road diet. Four existing car lanes would be reduced down to three lanes.  L.A. City Councilmember Tom LaBonge, who represents the area on one side of the bridge, rejected the committee’s selection in favor of one that preserved four traffic lanes.

Given the width of the bridge, there is not quite enough room for two sidewalks, two bike lanes, and four car lanes. LaBonge’s insistence on preserving four car lanes meant that either bike lanes or a sidewalk would be eliminated.

The project stewed internally for a few months.

At last night’s meeting, attended by LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds and City Engineer Gary Moore, LADOT presented a new design – called Option 1A. The new option is an attempt to preserve both sidewalks while meeting LaBonge’s insistence on four car lanes. This eliminates the bike lanes. Preserving both sidewalks (via either Option 1A or Option 3) is important. As it would be prohibitively costly to go back and add sidewalks at a later date. Lanes, whether for bicycles or cars, can be reconfigured relatively inexpensively.

The city’s Option 1A cross section labels the bridge sidewalks as “shared use path[s].” Advisory Committee members Deborah Murphy (L.A. Walks), Don Ward (Los Feliz Neighborhood Council), and Eric Bruins (L.A. County Bicycle Coalition) all commented that these are just sidewalks, not designed for shared use. For most of the bridge, Option 1A shows an 8-foot sidewalk. Under Waverly Drive, the sidewalk narrows to 5.5 feet. The bridge is sloped, which means most cyclists will travel at fairly high speeds downhill. With limited width, limited sight lines, and significant speed differences between people walking and bicycling, Bruins characterized Option 1A as a “recipe for disaster.” Read more…

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Where Should ‘Barnes Dance’ Diagonal Scramble Crosswalks Go?

LA Gets Diagonal Crosswalks (again) from STREETFILMS on Vimeo.

Last week, the L.A. Times ran this article announcing that the city of Los Angeles Transportation Department (LADOT) is planning to add new diagonal “scramble” or “Barnes Dance” crosswalks at three pedestrian-heavy Metro-rail adjacent intersections:

  • 7th Street and Flower Street, Downtown Los Angeles
  • Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue, Hollywood
  • Aliso Street and Alameda Street, at Union Station, Downtown Los Angeles

Though scramble intersections are working just fine thank you in Pasadena, at USC, and at UCLA, the Times trotted out an unnamed L.A. transportation engineer who, in 1995, said they wouldn’t work here.

This got SBLA thinking: This is a great idea, but LADOT just isn’t going far enough! What other pedestrian-heavy intersections would be great for scramble treatments? Why not MacArthur Park? Wilshire and Vermont? in front of L.A. Trade Tech? And why not go further? Can we close some streets around our rail stations, maybe even around our schools, too – make them only for walking and bicycling? At certain hours? or all the time – like plazas or mini-CicLAvias?

Comment away, dear readers! Where would you put pedestrian scrambles? In L.A. or elsewhere? Where could we go further?

 

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I’ll Be on the Larry Mantle Show at 11:27

Following on the L.A. Times’ piece today about a possible expansion of the city’s Scramble Crosswalk program, I’ll be on Air Talk with Larry Mantle at KPCC talking about how Scramble Crosswalks can fit into L.A.’s transportation landscape.

You can find KPCC at 89.3 on your FM dial, or listen online by clicking here.

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Trick or Treat: LADOT Gets It Right on Halloween

This year the LADOT released its annual safety guide for Halloween, a tradition that dates back to 2008.

Uhm, ok. Image:##http://followpics.co/walking-down-the-street-on-halloween-i-happen-upon-the-greatest-group-costume-ever-imgur-okay-who-will-do-this-with-me-next-year-we-could-dress-up-our-kids-as-banana-peels-super-stars-and-tu/##Follow Pics##

Uhm, ok. Image:Follow Pics

And honestly, it makes me kind of proud.

You see, Streetsblog has a history with LADOT on Halloween. Back at the Streetsblog L.A. predecessor site, Street Heat, we needled LADOT for not providing safety tips as is common with agencies around the country. With some families exploring their neighborhoods at night for the first time, the world’s unofficial pedestrian holiday provides a good time to get some free press around safety issues.

The next year, LADOT did publish…but the guidelines were kind of weak. They focused on how to keep your kids from getting run over (good!) but didn’t mention anything to the people that might be doing the running over (bad).

A couple of years later, the agency finally added tips for drivers, much to our delight. Even more exciting, the tips started to be picked up by local TV stations.

So now, as parents are picking up their kids and getting ready for a big night out, we are happy to republish the LADOT safety tips.

Be safe out there kids, parents, and drivers. Have a good night.

Read more…

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LADOT Pilots “Pedestrian First” Timing on Broadway

Pedestrians crossing at Broadway and 4th. Photo via LADOT.

Pedestrians crossing at Broadway and 4th. Photo via LADOT.

It seems like a simple concept. If you give pedestrians a walk signal before giving cars the go-ahead, pedestrians crossing at intersections will be more visible and crashes and injuries will be reduced. But in a city where too much of the infrastructure is still designed to encourage cars to move quickly, even a small change that benefits people who aren’t in cars will be noticed.

In this case, some Streetsbloggers have noticed that some of the traffic signals along Broadway in Downtown Los Angeles are out of sync with the rest of the city. Even if Broadway is home to the pedestrian friendly “dress rehearsal” and has its own pedestrian master plan, people are still cautiously optimistic when they see change at the street level.

“On Sunday morning, I was riding eastbound on 4th Street when I came to a red light as I reached Broadway,” wrote Patrick Pascal. “I was shocked to notice that (like Chicago and a few other progressive places) the walk signal permitted pedestrians to begin to cross at least four seconds before the traffic signal turned green.  Was this due to an error by the DOT or is the agency finally joining the 21st century?”

Good news! It’s the latter.

“At Broadway and 4th/3rd Streets, we are piloting a ‘pedestrian priority phase’ signalized intersection that provides a three-second head start for people walking/bicycling/skateboarding across the street,” responded Bruce Gillman, a spokesperson with LADOT. “We implemented this in conjunction with the Broadway Dress Rehearsal ribbon cutting ceremony last August.  Vehicles wait those extra seconds, making people more visible to drivers as they step off the curb.” Read more…

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Report: “Multi-Modal Level of Service” Metrics Not Quite Up to the Challenge

UCLA researchers found that new Multi-Modal Level of Service metrics are not so great for measuring what's helpful for people walking and bicycling. Photo via Flickr user pranavbhatt

UCLA researchers found that Multi-Modal Level of Service methodologies are not so great for evaluating what’s good for people walking and bicycling. Photo via Flickr user pranavbhatt

Livability proponents celebrate that car-centric Level of Service (LOS) is finally on its way out, at least in California.Wouldn’t it be great if there was a similar bike- or walk-centric metric that could be used instead? UCLA Lewis Center and Institute for Transportation Studies researchers have studied some of the published metrics for evaluating how well streets serve pedestrians and cyclists. The researchers’ conclusion: in all of the bike and ped metrics they reviewed, there is no silver bullet. Moreover, adapting LOS doesn’t look like a fruitful approach.

Level of Service is a standard, simplistic engineering measure that uses car throughput to assign streets a letter grade from A to F. For nearly 60 years, LOS has been the predominant way that planners and engineers quantify streets. LOS guides policy and investment, justifying making streets wider and more car-centric. Because LOS only considers cars, LOS justifies widening roadways, adding turn lanes, and other so-called improvements that degrade conditions for people using bikes, their feet, or transit. To remedy this, transportation professionals have created new metrics designed to grade other modes. These include Pedestrian Level of Service (PLOS) and Bicycle Level of Service (BLOS), both of which are components of Multi-Modal Level of Service (MMLOS.)

There are some inherent problems with adapting a car-centric measure like LOS to bicycling and walking. Where people driving tend to see other cars as obstacles, pedestrians often prefer to walk where other people are out walking. Cyclists experience a safety in numbers effect, where LOS tends to just find congestion in numbers.

Though there are now many metrics from various parts of the world, UCLA researchers Madeline Brozen and Herbie Huff focused primarily on the following three metrics:

  • Multi-Modal Level of Service, included in the 2010 Highway Capacity Manual (HCM), the official federal evaluation tool developed by the Transportation Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences
  • Bicycle and Pedestrian Environmental Quality Index (BEQI and PEQI), developed by the San Francisco Department of Public Health
  • Urban Street Design Guidelines performance measures, developed by the city of Charlotte, North Carolina

Huff and Brozen used these tools to score sections of streets in the city of Santa Monica. They subsequently evaluated the sensitivity of the tools by comparing scores for existing condition to scores for potential improvements, including bike lanes, road diets, medians, etc.

In comparing existing sites to multiple potential improvements, the models showed “little variation,” with none of the improvements appearing ideal or raising the score to an “A.” Therefore, the models were ineffective for deciding between potential designs.  Read more…

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Councilmember Cedillo Adds Stop Sign In Response To Fatal Hit-and-Run

New stop sign at Avenue 50 and San Marcos Place in Highland Park. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

New stop sign at Avenue 50 and San Marcos Place in Highland Park. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

On September 14, a hit-and-run driver killed 57-year-old Gloria Ortiz. Ms. Ortiz was walking in a crosswalk in the Northeast Los Angeles community of Highland Park. The hit-and-run crime took place at the intersection of Avenue 50 and San Marcos Place, adjacent to Aldama Street Elementary School. According to KTLA5, witnesses stated that the driver “just ran her over, didn’t even turn back.”

Local residents joke darkly that speeding drivers think Avenue 50 is the name of the speed limit, not the street.

Councilmember Cedillo speaking yesterday in front of Aldama Elementary School. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Councilmember Cedillo speaking yesterday in front of Aldama Elementary School. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Less than a month later, yesterday, community leaders joined Los Angeles Councilmember Gil Cedillo and Transportation Department (LADOT) head Seleta Reynolds to highlight city efforts to make Avenue 50 safer. New stop signs were added to the intersection where Ortiz was killed. The existing somewhat-worn continental crosswalk was freshly re-painted, actually freshly re-thermoplastic-ed. @HLP90042 posted before and after photos at Twitter.

Councilmember Cedillo, who has dragged his heels on safety improvements approved for nearby North Figueroa, spoke on his commitment to “street safety, particularly around schools and where people gather.”

General Manager Reynolds emphasized that “the biggest predictor of fatalities on a street is speed, and the biggest factor in speed on your street is design” and reiterated her department’s commitment to making “safety our number one priority.”

Local resident Monica Alcaraz, president of the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council, praised the city’s quick response in adding the stop sign. She described walking to Aldama School as being safe when she was younger. Today, walking her daughter to the school, she fears for their safety. Alcaraz stated that Avenue 50 is dangerous when parents are making illegal U-turns and double-parking at school drop-off and pick-up times, and, then, when the students aren’t around, Avenue 50 is dangerous because so many drivers speed. Alcaraz urged LAPD to spend more time on traffic enforcement there to prevent future tragedies.

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Happy Walk To School Day! Share Your Stories

Today, Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell walks

Today, Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell celebrated Walk to School Day with the students of Ramona Elementary School in East Hollywood. Photo via O’Farrell Facebook page

It’s Walktober, and today is International Walk to School Day! The L.A. City Department of Transportation (LADOT) set up a helpful Los Angeles Walk to School Day website with supportive tips, a map of participating schools, and other great stuff. 85 schools are participating in this second annual citywide Walk to School Day LA with 66 of them participating today.

In 2013, over three-fifths (61%) of the organizers indicated that they thought their students got more physical activity on the day of their Walk to School Day event than on a typical day. Over three quarters (77%) indicated that difficult intersection crossings or heavy traffic traveling at high speeds make children feel unsafe walking to school. Nearly half or participants (44%) reported a lack of traffic safety skills as a reason that children feel unsafe.

How was your family’s walk to school today? If you did or didn’t walk, tell us about why or why not? Share photos, links, etc. via the comments below.

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SCAG Staff Release ATP Bike/Ped Project Funding Recommendations

Rendering of one of the ascend-able arches and the soccer field Councilmember Huizar is pushing for below. Source: 6th St. Viaduct Replacement.

Recommendations have been released for the latest round of Active Transportation Program funding. Included in the recommendations are pedestrian and bicycle components of the Sixth Street Bridge replacement project, rendered here. Source: 6th St. Viaduct Replacement.

The first year of the state’s new Active Transportation Funding (ATP) program is drawing to a close. ATP is the main source of funding for walking and bicycling projects and programs in L.A. County.

In the past, L.A. County bike and ped projects were primarily funded by Metro’s Call for Projects. Changes at the federal level reduced this funding, and gave control over it mostly to the state, but also partially to regional Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs). For the 6-county Los Angeles metropolitan region, the MPO is the Southern California Association of Governments, known as “SCAG.”

Projects vying for the statewide competitive ATP grants were announced and approved in August. Those that did not succeed at the state level would have one last chance at the regional level.

This week SCAG staff released its recommendations. The final set of projects is expected to be approved by the agency’s Transportation Committee when it meets this Thursday. View the agenda [PDF].

There are no big surprises in the recommendations. SCAG appears to have adhered the state ranking, so the next few projects in line are recommended to receive funding. See the full SCAG list [PDF], some highlighted L.A. County projects appear after the jump.  Read more…

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An Underwhelming Sidewalk Repair Day at L.A. City Hall

A little less conversation, a little more action please
All this aggravation ain’t satisfactioning me
A little more bite and a little less bark
- song performed by Elvis Presley (words by Billy Strange, Mac Davis)

Elvis did not necessarily have Los Angeles sidewalks in mind when he asked for less conversation and more action, but that is certainly what I had in mind at this week’s sidewalk repair session. Billed as “L.A. Sidewalk Day” it was, in fact, just a joint meeting of the Los Angeles City Council’s Public Works and Budget committees.

xxxxx

Tuesday was LA Sidewalk Day! Image via city meeting video website

Five councilmembers — Paul Krekorian, Joe Buscaino, Mike Bonin, Gil Cedillo, and Paul Koretz — plus lots of testimony from the city’s fiscal watchdog agency shot-caller City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana. The made-for-the-media day also included cameos by City Attorneys, Bureau of Street Services, and some public testimony.

Los Angeles faces a guestimated $1.5 billion sidewalk repair backlog. I say “guestimated” because the city does not actually keep track of the full extent of sidewalk repair needs. The assembled city family present at Sidewalk Day were not quite certain where the source of an oft-quoted statistic that 40% of city sidewalks need repairs. Bureau of Street Services Assistant General Manager Ron Olive stated that he thinks the figure is from a very limited late-1990s survey, but Olive testified “I’ve been looking for that survey and I just can’t find it.”

Last year’s city budget allocated $10 million for sidewalk repair, but the City Council debated until April, nine months after the budget year started, on how to spend it. Disappointingly, they decided to only repair sidewalks on city-owned properties.

When the budget year ended on June 30, the city had only spent $3 million of the $10 million; completing sidewalk repairs at the L.A. Convention Center, parks, libraries and a few other city facilities. The unspent $7 million rolled over into the current fiscal year, which includes an additional $20 million for sidewalk repair.

The city is now deciding how to spend $27 million this year.

Some councilmembers have called for spending limited sidewalk repair dollars to target specific areas: lawsuit locations, 50/50 programs, innovative paving materials, even Mayor Garcetti’s Great Streets initiative. For better or for worse, though, it was pretty clear that the current $27 million will continue last year’s program of repairing only city facility sidewalks.

CAO Santana testified that, so far, there are 87 city facilities identified that need sidewalk repair, and that the total cost of just city property repair is expected to be greater than $27 million. Committee chairs Krekorian and Buscaino favor a city-facility-first approach; Buscaino stated that the city “needs to lead by example.”

So what was the final outcome of Sidewalk Day? Wait another couple months for city staff to report back with recommendations on how to spend this year’s wholly-inadequate $27 million, and how to implement a long-term sidewalk repair program. Yawn.

At least Councilmember Jose Huizar provided cake on Complete Streets Day.

Read more…