The Glendale-Hyperion Bridge Project, Musings on Bridges as Destinations, and High Hopes for the New Citizen Advisory Committee
I am sometimes puzzled by how disconnected an infrastructure plan can be from what is good for a community.
Take the plans in the works to widen travel lanes to freeway standards along the Glendale-Hyperion bridge as part of the seismic retrofit it is about to undergo.
In a video celebrating the upcoming project, Councilmember Tom LaBonge speaks without a trace of irony about how important it is to restore the railings of the historic bridge — destroyed by cars slamming into them — to their former glory and to build “a livable city around these bridges.” Which he apparently believes will be accomplished by improving the speed of traffic flows and adding crash barriers.
Speaking over footage of a pick-up truck racing and weaving toward Atwater Village, Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell states (also without a trace of irony) that, “due to vehicle speeds on Hyperion Avenue, a median barrier will be constructed to prevent head-on collisions.”
Did it really dawn on neither of them that high speeds are partially to blame for the unsafe and shoddy conditions they are seeking to mitigate?
This disconnect makes sense — to a degree — if one thinks about where we were ten years ago, when discussions began on how the bridge might be improved.
At that time, cycle-commuting was still a new concept to many and there was little infrastructure to accommodate those adventurous enough to try their luck on two wheels.
It certainly felt like a lonely proposition — I remember being able to count the number of cyclists I would see in a week’s time on my own commute on no more than two hands. Friends thought I must have had a death wish. One would even introduce me at parties by saying, “This is Sahra. She rides her bike everywhere. She’s insane.”
It was a dark time.
Thankfully, much has changed since then; planning processes have expanded to include advocates in conversations on how to better accommodate all roadway users.
The Glendale-Hyperion bridge retrofit designers missed that train somehow, however, never wavering from the stated purpose of “improv[ing] traffic circulation to improve the operational efficiency of the viaduct complex” or the idea that “traffic” could refer to anything other than motorized vehicles.
Which makes no sense to anyone who has ever moved across that bridge in a car, on a bike, or on two feet, as I did this past weekend, when I walked back and forth between Atwater and Silver Lake.
What I observed about how people actually use the bridge within just the half hour I spent moving across it made me think it was entirely possible that designers might not have ever visited the site in person. Read more…