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Bike Lanes, Car Parking, Horses and Backbones, Planning for Bikes in the Foothills

Last week, the LADOT Bike Blog announced that plans for 1.5 miles of Bike Lanes along Foothill Boulevard , from Osborne Street in the west to Wentworth Street in the east, in the Northeast San Fernando Valley were running in to a road bump.  In an effort to preserve a little bit of car parking, a portion of the southbound bike lanes will be removed with cyclists encouraged to take an alternate "Bike Route" for just over a quarter of a mile onto the parallel Foothill Plaza.  The "Foothill Plaza" detour will allow the LADOT to constrcut bike facilities for this portion of the valley without having to go through an environmental review or local political battle.  The detour was suggested at a meeting of the Foothill Trails Neighborhood Council and has the support of the local City Councilman, Paul Krekorian.

Pragmatic compromise?

Jeremy Oberstein, the communications director for the Councilman writes, "Councilmember Krekorian remains committed to finding the best solution that ensures the safety of cyclists and meets the needs of the community. He fully supports the plan for a bicycle lane along this stretch of Foothill Boulevard knowing that implementing such improvements could actually slow traffic on this street, which is prone to speeders and a primary facet in the Councilman's strong desire to improve safety while adding to the city's stock of bike lanes."

While the traffic calming impact of the bike lanes will make things safer for all road users, including pedestrians, that doesn't mean that the detour doesn't create a second set of concerns.

Chief among those concerns is whether or not creating this detour actually makes things more dangerous for cyclists.  “Bike lanes come in pairs with a few exceptions and this is not one of those exceptions.  Unmatched bike lanes encourage wrong way cycling.”  Box's contention is that cyclists traveling southbound might be confused and end up crossing the road to travel in the lanes rather than choose to travel down a more residential street. 

There is some precedence for solo lanes, but from a safety standpoint, it would make more sense to have them continuous on the south side of the road instead of the north.  Take the solo bike lanes on Sepulveda Boulevard.  In one section of the road, the southbound bike lanes disappear on a down hill area because cyclists traveling at higher speed can more easily ride with the flow of traffic.  Going uphill on the other side of the road, the lanes remain because cyclists struggling up a bill are more likely to need some "wobble space."  In this case, part of the area planned without lanes is an uphill where cyclists who choose not to ride on the newly-designated bike path.

The LADOT Bike Blog claims that the plan to have a bike lane gap for southeast riding cyclists is because of the local politics with the Neighborhood Council and the equestrian community.  Meanwhile Krekorian's office claims an engineering problem, that there was no space to fit a bike lane. (An earlier version of this article claimed that Krekorian's office claimed there wasn't room for street parking.  That was a typo on my account - DN.)

A second problem is more of a greater policy issue than one directly related to this project.  The concept of the Bikeway Backbone Network is to engineer all streets in the network for all modes and to establish that all streets are streets that cyclists will ride, (not all cyclists will ride all streets) and that those who choose to ride the arterial streets will not be detoured by transportation engineering and traffic control.  It took a political battle to get the Backbone Network included in the Bike Plan, and removing a small portion of it for a detour creates a precedence that could undermine the Backbone.

“Too often transportation engineers offer cyclists a detour rather than a commitment to full access.  This particular “improvement” on the Backbone Bikeway Network is LADOT’s best opportunity to fulfill its commitment to making every street a safe street to bike on,” explains Box.

If you have any comments on the proposal that you wish to share, you can leave comment here or at the Bike Blog.  All comments will be forwarded on to Krekorian's representative to the Bike Advisory Committee, Ayla Stern.

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