Chalk on the Ground, Bike Lanes in the Gutter, Faster Cars: A Wilbur Ave. Update

When we last checked in on the embattled Wilbur Avenue Road Diet, Councilman Greig Smith had ordered asked the LADOT to move forward with a “compromise” proposal that would maintain continuous bike lanes along the 2.3 mile diet but would return the northern .3 miles of the old diet to a four lane road. The merge will occur just south of the lighted intersection at Devonshire where four lanes will go to three and the reduced diet will begin

Defying most standards, part of the Wilbur Avenue Bike Lanes have been pushed in to the gutter. Photo: Don Ward

At the time, we only had an engineering sketch of what the new configuration would look like. Today, the “undieted” area of Wilbur Avenue has been chalked for four lanes, with more permanent paint going on the ground any day now, and we can say with certainty this is one ugly piece of road.

The most obvious issue is with the bike lanes.  Not only is half of the new bike lane situated in the gutter, in conflict with federal safety guidelines for lane design, but much of that gutter is routinely covered in pine needles which could force some cyclists out of the lane and into traffic.  Because of the presence of the lane, cars wouldn’t expect cyclists to merge into “their” lane and conflicts could occur.

The second issue is one that is more apparent to residents of Wilbur Avenue than to visitors or even commuters.  Don Ward, a resident of Wilbur Avenue and author of the website Safe Streets Northridge, explains.

…the proposed solution to the back up problem at Devonshire is to create a 2 lane merge immediately south of Devonshire to shift the peak traffic backup. However, anyone and everyone who has looked at this plan can see the induced drag race scenario that will play out with every green light at Devonshire south as traffic crazed parents and commuters will suddenly find themselves having to compete for position right up to the Mayall intersection. Some drivers will be slowing to make a right turn while other drivers will just be settling into their merged position, while still others focused on their left side mirrors and traffic behind them will have less attention to pay to what’s in front of them.

More recently, Ward has posted a YouTube video showing how speeding cars are changing Wilbur for the worst as a result of the new merge.

With a City Council office that wants the Wilbur debate to be over and an LADOT who is weary of the pummeling its received over the diet, is there anything that can be done to fix this stretch of Wilbur Ave?  Some residents think a crosswalk may be the solution.

Despite the outcry for a faster Wilbur by some commuters, residents are still pushing for traffic calming measures to slow traffic on their residential street and near a school by signing a petition asking for a crosswalk at Mayall Avenue.   Whether their petition, already signed by well over a hundred residents, goes anywhere remains to be seen.  But we do know that a portion of the Wilbur Road Diet didn’t even last one year, it was striped a mere ten months ago.  Let’s hope this sideshow in the Valley doesn’t impact LADOT’s stated desire to calm traffic in other corners of the city.

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