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.

  • The dude abides

    Horses win, people lose.

    Where was Box or any bike advocate when we were fighting for bike access to city parks? Oh yeah he punted because it was not a political win.

    Cars > Horses > people

  • @ The dude abides:

    Cycling access to city parks has nothing to do with this story. Please refrain from bringing up potentially divisive off-topic issues.

    Merely adding to the city’s total bike lane milage is pointless if the facilities are compromised, convoluted and/or fragmented. The goal should be that more people use bicycles for transportation with well-planned infrastructure, and the success of all bikeways should be measured by the number of cyclists using them on a daily basis, not in the simple fact that paint got put on the road.

    Also (my pet peeve); Why is it that bike lanes are ALWAYS framed negatively as “slowing down traffic”, rather than positively, as in the increased potential vehicle capacity, health benefits and pollution reduction? Even slowing down cars can be a benefit by increasing safety and, counter-intuitively, often improving the efficient throughput of a road which results in a decrease of travel times.

  • The dude abides

    “Cycling access to city parks has nothing to do with this story. Please refrain from bringing up potentially divisive off-topic issues”

    My point is that when horses are involved, people lose. If you want to fight the horse people on this issue but not bikes in parks then you are part of the problem.

  • Anonymous

    Stephen Box doesn’t like a LADOT design. Someone alert the press, or is that what this is?

  • As I understand your comment, I have to oppose people with horses if I want to avoid being part of the problem. If you could be more specific about what the problem is, from your perspective, I might be better able to understand my implied obligation.

    I do hate to see people ultimately lose to horses. People are obviously much higher on the evolutionary ladder.

  • Katie

    It’s not horses winning, it’s PEOPLE with horses. I’m one of those people. This neighborhood is one of the few left in Los Angeles where you can still own and ride horses. It’s a hell of a lot easier to bike somewhere else than it is to ride somewhere else. For example, I don’t have a truck or trailer, so if this area becomes overrun by cyclists and becomes too hazardous to ride, where do I take my horse? (Lest you think horsepeople are all wealthy, most people in this neighborhood have modest incomes; we all make sacrifices in other areas of our lives in order to accomodate our horses.) I’m not sure why an interest in bicylces takes precedence over an interest in horses, but presence of bicycles absolutely does threaten the safety of both horses and their riders. I bike several times a week on Los Angeles streets, and I ride my horse (who’s boarded in Lakeview Terrace) several times a week on the trails. I’m familiar with rights issues for both groups. In Lakeview Terrace, where there are few cyclists but many, many horses and owners, I fall on the side of equestrian rights.

  • Katie:

    To be clear, I am not really against horses, people or people with horses. I think it’s unfortunate that two groups who both want to do something other than drive an automobile in Los Angeles feel they need to fight each other tooth and nail.

    My present understanding of this particular conflict is that people who ride horses use a dirt path along this part of Foothill Blvd., and like the fact that parked cars along the road provide a buffer between fast auto traffic and slower-moving (and more sensitive) horses.

    If horse riders want a barrier between themselves and auto traffic, it seems to me that parked cars are not necessarily the the most reliable way to have that. In practice, I imagine it’s rare that parked cars aren’t stacked end-to-end along the road, but their actual function is, of course, to drive around, and it’s theoretically possible that there could be huge gaps in the car barrier for any number of reasons. In other words, parked cars are only a buffer by accident, not by design.

    So why not lobby for a dedicated, permanent solution to the problem? My proposal would be to build a barrier or low fence (maybe similar to some of the main roads in Griffith Park) along this stretch of road that could separate the equestrians from whatever traffic is on the road. If the traffic to the immediate left of the barrier is bicycle traffic, so much the better, as they are both slower and quieter than cars.

    I see this as a win-win situation: equestrians can have a properly designed, purpose-built barrier and those who choose to travel by bike can have a clear and direct route.

  • Can’t we all get along?

     I’m encouraged to learn about the proposed bike lanes on Foothill–very discouraged to hear the continuing disagreements between equestrians and bicyclists–isn’t there room for both in our Foothill communities? Unfortunately, there are some equestrians who seem to have knee-jerk reactions against any proposal that involves bikes.  As someone who lives nearby and has ridden along this stretch of Foothill, this proposed rerouting along Foothill Place makes sense because it’s safer, more scenic, and has far less traffic on it.  I always use this alternative for these reasons, and it should be made part of the plan.
    Let’s get this portion done ASAP  where the route can (almost) connect to an existing bike path in Hansen Dam Park that continues south through the park and then across the dam to Wentworth where bikes lanes were installed last year.  When this is completed, there will be a continuous loop with Foothill on the north, Wentworth on the east and the existing bike path through the park and Hansen Dam on the south and west.  There is one, short “missing link” at the north end of the park where the bike path abruptly ends that needs to be connected to Foothill in order to complete this circle route that has the potential to become one of the most scenic and popular recreational bike routes in LA.  

  • Valet parking for your special event is the mark of a gracious host, but more often than not is a necessity. If you are planning a corporate event or hosting a private party at your home you may need to hire a parking service.

  • I am glad to know this. Bike lanes have been improved for the past years and I am truly happy with it. 


LADOT recently installed protected bike lanes on Foothill Boulevard in Sunland-Tujunga. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

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