Cyclists Scoop LADOT on New Hoover Street Bike Lanes

4_13_10_hoover.jpgNew Hoover Street, two automo lanes and two bike lanes. Photo: Joe Linton/Eco Village

Over the weekend, the L.A. Eco-Village blog wrote about new bike lanes appearing over a 1.6 mile stretch of Hoover Street in South L.A. between 98th and 120th street.  A day later, the LADOT’s Bike Blog picked up its own story about the lanes, noting that Hoover doesn’t just have bike lanes, but underwent a road diet, narrowing the car travel lanes from four to two.

How often do we hear that LADOT is unwilling to remove car travel lanes in favor of bicycle or pedestrian lanes?  Yet in this case they clearly have.  You also have to tip your hat at the citizen journalism by Linton and Ramon Martinez, actually scooping LADOT on their own story.  But making this story even more surprising, the Eco-Village blog notes that the Hoover Street project isn’t in the Bike Plan that the city is currently operating on.  As a matter of fact, the city paints almost as many miles of bike lanes that are in the bike plan as those that aren’t.

According to my calculations
(with Ramon and Stephen Villavaso), as of January the city of Los
Angeles had striped 46 miles of bike lanes in the 14 years since the
1996 plan was approved. Of those 46 new miles, 24 miles were approved
in the plan; 22 miles were not. These unapproved lanes are a good thing
– they’re places where the city Transportation Department (LADOT)
decided that they had enough room.  They’re kind of opportunistic
facilities – and if we didn’t get them, we’d have even fewer safe
convenient streets to bike on.

When I asked LADOT about the process of installing bike lanes that aren’t on the plan, I got a sort of vague response that 98th Street, where the current Hoover lanes end, is on the bike plan and will have lanes soon.  Good to know.

So now for the bad.  As mentioned above, these new bike lanes are supposed to connect to bike lanes on 98th Street.  Yet, there are no lanes on 98th Street.  There are signs, but no actual lanes.  There’s no timetable on when these lines are going to be re-striped, but the LADOT Bike Blog assures us that it is the top priority.

Also, a quick look at the lanes shows that at least part of the lane is in the "door zone," that portion of the street where an open car door would be right in the path of an oncoming cyclist.  Back in January, Enci Box wrote about the dangers of placing a bike lane in the door zone.

While it’s good to see the city investing in more bike infrastructure and this is the second road diet I’ve written about in city limits this month; we have another case of the city striping lanes that currently exist as a stand-alone project.  Until the 98th Street Lanes are re-striped, we have a 1.6 mile bike lane existing in space on its own.  So while Eco-Village and the Bike Blog are celebrating, I’m going to wait until the 98th Street lanes are back to uncork the champagne.

  • So weird. The LADOT is so weird. There is no other backstory to this lane?

  • MU

    Is there some pro-bike lane mole operating inside DOT slipping small projects onto the streets while the higher ups aren’t looking?

    I’d love to see the criteria that was used to determine that this street qualified for a road diet. With those statistics we could start identifying potential projects all over the city that meet the same minimum requirements. Anyone know how to get traffic statistics for this street prior to the change?

  • 98th street has a bike lane between Hoover and Western. They just re-stripped it as well, I believe.

  • @MU;

    DOT Traffic Counts;
    Check your community plans to see specific street designations at City Planning’s Website. Most times, ADT is way below designation so a smart engineer will recommend a bike lane when something goes wrong, ie pedestrian death. Most times John Fisher gets to him and messes up his recommendation and instead puts in something like a continuously flashing yellow light and laughs diabolically.

  • Doorzone bike lane but if parking is only here or there its not so bad (less doors to open). At least the lanes give drivers the clue to stay to the left portion of the lane and away from the bikers. It can help in slowing the drivers down too.

  • @Matt – Yes, 98th has striped bike lanes – which were striped prior to 2000 (maybe much earlier). The old paint has all but worn away – but if you squint in just the right angle, you can spot some of it on a good day. (see photos at both eco-village blog and the LADOT bike blog.)

    I am wondering if Damien’s inquiry to LADOT prompted them to publish their version. Their version is actually very similar to the eco-village one that preceeded it – except that they misleadingly state that the road diet and the bike lanes were “installed in tandem” – tandem, to them, apparently means in adjacent years?

  • Bob Barnes,

    I’ve looked at the DOT’s traffic counts for a lot of streets.

    North Figueroa Street, which runs in front of the Bike Oven and the Flying Pigeon bike shop has a 30,000 to 50,000 ADT desgination – but it barely clears 20,000 in most of the sections the DOT has surveyed. There are two or three stretches of this road that get close to 30,000, but none that even hit that mark.

    The LA Bike Plan consultants suggested a road diet for this street, and the LADOT turned the idea down!

    North Figueroa’s right of way is pretty large in most spots, between 71 and 74 feet between Avenue 26 and York Boulevard.

    Yet the street has been spurned for improvements (other than repaving).

    I got into it with one of the LADOT’s Office of Bikeways and Grants Management, Michael Uyeno, when they had a meeting in North East LA for the Bike Plan. He insisted my numbers were off.

    I wanted to punch someone I was so mad.

    Every time I read one of these stories about rogue LADOT bike lanes I want to file a lawsuit to see the criteria the LADOT uses to put these lanes down. If there is none (what I suspect to be the case) then I think we should at least have it in writing.

    Or maybe there is a coffer we have to fill to get transportation decisions we want?

  • You can also find out your street’s designation by using the city’s service.

    There is a published list of the specific standards for streets online by googling “Chapter VI street designations and standards”.

    To answer my own question about N. Figueroa – the right-of-way for the street designation is 104′ across. The street is “to narrow”.

    So, something special would have to be called for to traffic calm Figueroa St. – a special street designation I suppose or calling out desired ADT’s and LOS and having the LADOT’s team make a street to fit those numbers (whereas now, they are given a mandate to increase both).

  • Are we sure LADOT did this? Maybe it was the Department of DIY, and LADOT just decided to leave it there and take the credit.

  • the new bike plan should contain a trigger criteria for implementing road diets for bike lanes. it should be systematically based on traffic counts. any roads, especially arterials, that are found to have more travel lanes than necessary for the measured traffic, should immediately be slated for road dieting and bike lane improvement. this trigger criteria should also contain a regular schedule for reviewing traffic volumes.

    even if the LADOT is reluctant to provide the current rationale as to what does or doesn’t get road diets, they cannot deny the logic in establishing a solid framework to provide one for the future.

  • @Adrian – Aren’t you Adrian from Alta – the company that wrote that plan? Why didn’t you follow your own advice and put that in the plan? (Yes – it’s kind of a rhetorical question – it’s pretty evident that the DOT hacked away lots of good things that Alta put in the plan.)

    The 2009 bike plan drafts do more-or-less the opposite of what you’ve stated. The plan removes exisiting approved designated bike lanes, downgrading them to “proposed” (was “infeasible” in the city’s initial draft) due to requiring the “removal of travel lanes.” I think that the bike plan drafts basically undo the city’s current de facto policy (that results in bike lanes on Hoover, Myra, etc.) of adding bike lanes opportunistically. Currently that policy applies to pretty much all the streets in L.A. … under the new plan it appears limited to just the streets shown as proposed/infeasible. If the city were to continue the current Myra/Hoover practice, then they should show every street in the city (other than those that have existing or designated bike lanes) as proposed/infeasible.

    I think your suggestion would move us a small step in the right direction (and I would support including it in the plan) but I would go further. The way I read your comment, you’re saying that there should be a formula for adding bike lanes where they don’t impact car traffic. Right? I think that real planning would designate a full viable/effective bikeway network – not just these relatively minor low-car-volume streets like Hoover and Myra would get lanes opportunistically – but we should also do bike lanes on key streets where removing car lanes would adversely impact the street’s car capacity.

    I know we’re quite a ways from that in L.A. right now… It sounds like your suggestion would get us more bike lanes – which is good – but it kind of embeds the unsafe thinking that pervades the 2009 draft bike plan – that we can’t implement a bike facility anywhere that it will impact any car traffic.

  • Joe=
    Indeed, you are right. It is me–Adrian that used to work at Alta (I hope that doesn’t become some sort of online moniker; although I was at Alta, Alta is not all that I am). Could I be known by my Wu-tang name, “drza” or “Loud Adrian.” “Alta Adrian” is almost as bad as “Asian Adrian.” I’m not ashamed of working for Alta or being Asian, but it’s kind of essentializing to be known for just that.

    You’re also right that Alta put a lot of good things in the plan (e.g. the collector bikeway network). This shouldn’t turn into a discussion of my former employer. So, I’ll just leave it at that.

    I am definitely a proponent of bikeways on arterials. And this is in no way a suggestion of an exhaustive, or restrictive, effort that the bike plan should include for arterial facilities. The trigger criteria for road diets is just an easily defensible straightforward policy that will lock public agencies into providing whatever is currently agreed upon by all parties as uncontested opportunities for bicycling–the low hanging fruit.

    That will free us advocates to further fight for the contested streets where traffic impact is a concern to decision-makers, instead of making us waste energy on the obvious. Plus in the future, this could provide a tangible pressure point where we can lobby to ratchet up the sensitivity of the road diet trigger. We could say, “Okay, people are biking more, how ’bout we raise the traffic volume trigger?” With a higher volume trigger, more roads that fail to meet the minimum, triggering new road diets and bike lanes. The plan could also create a regular schedule for reviewing the limit in favor of raising it.

    Additionally, the plan should contain another trigger criteria for curbside parking removal. It should be based on the amount of available off-street parking along an arterial. Since so much redevelopment is forced to provide off-street parking (see St. Donald the Shoup Dogg), some LA roads have gobs of curb parking next to parking lots that extend to the horizon. If the criteria shows that there’s an abundance of off-street parking, the curbside parking should immediately be slated for removal and bike lane installation.

  • @Adrian – Good points – I completely agree that we could institutionalize a low-hanging-fruit road diet rule – as long as we don’t get stuck with just the low-hanging fruit.

  • shlomo pickles

    y’all know that dot blog is by some bright-eyed little grad student, right? not by a bike-lane crushing overlord who wields mighty power over decisions? maybe we should bring this kid (not sure if kid is a dude or a lady) into the circle of pro-cyclist-infrastructure love, as kid is probably just as frustrated about the rigmarole as we are.

    and no, i am not that kid. just a longtime listener firsttime caller.

  • shlomo pickles

    oops – please excuse the weird lateness of that comment. i linked here from yesterday’s “last battle of farmdale” story and didn’t realize this story was from april.

  • @schlomo – Nearly every entry in the DOT’s grad student’s blog contains errors, falsehoods, dubious legal advice, grammatical errors, and bad spelling. If they assign someone incompetent to get the word out to the public, then I think that cyclists’ responsibility to draw attention to this.

  • MU

    @shlomo – If you look at the subjects and tone of the blog’s posts, I think it’s fair to assume the author is already a “believer” so to speak. But it’s important to remember that the blog itself is a public relations effort by the DOT, not the personal work of the author. Whether or not they reflect his/her personal views, the statements from the blog are being “spoken” by the DOT and I think everyone has the right to react to them as such. That’s just the way it is when you work for someone else. Hopefully the author does not take the reactions too personally and is comfortable with the inherent conflicts of doing PR for someone else.

    What I think is interesting is that the blog’s posts occasionally speak of the DOT in the third person or as if they are some separate entity. To me that either indicates that there is genuine division within the DOT and we’re seeing the viewpoints (and feelings) of one wing, or it just may mean that the author is having trouble balancing his job and personal views and is letting that leak through. (Or it may be a multi-layered misinformation campaign by DOT to make it appear like they “want” to be on our side, but evil, unnamed forces prevent them from doing so. But I don’t give them that much credit. ;] )

    All in all, at least DOT or whoever in the agency launched this is trying to engage with the discussion. Even if they don’t yet believe that the cycling community’s concerns are valid, at least they are admitting by their actions that our concerns are worth ‘speaking to’. Actions speak a lot louder than words, but words are a start. To our anonymous author I will say: Thanks for your efforts, you’re in a tough spot with a lot to balance, I hope you take it all in stride.

  • shlomo pickles

    MU – agreed on both the need to push and respond, and the sense there’s internal conflict at play. just saying, pushing classy-like (as you do) so we can keep this kid on our side and not pushed to the dark side :).

    falsehoods and dubious legal advice should claro be refuted, but i guess i spend too much of my day pissed about the gulf spill and reckless drivers and all the other ways things suck to have much left for “affect” vs. “effect.” maybe i’m lazy?


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