A Possible Fix for Expo Bikeway Safety Problems on the Westside: Elevate the Bikeway

A "bicycle freeway" probably won't look like this turn of the 20th Century wooden highway connecting Los Angeles and Pasadena. Photo: Wikimedia

When people try to describe the future Expo Bikeway that will provide a bike connection from Downtown Los Angeles to Downtown Santa Monica they reference the Orange Line Bike Path as the example. The Orange Line Path runs parallel to the Bus Rapid Transit Line in the Valley and many people are at least aware of it, even on the other side of hills.

As currently planned, the future bike path runs onto the street in several places most notably at major intersections such as Sepulveda, Sawtelle, Pico/Gateway and Barrington.  The problem of the bike path running on and off the congested Westside roads is well put in blogger/activist Gary Kavanagh’s Raise Some Red Flags Bike Advocates, Expo Line Bike Path/Route Not Looking So Good.

But the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) has a different vision for the Bike Path, a vision first described by BAC Planning Subcommittee chair Kent Strumpell (previously, a 10-year LACBC board member).  Another BAC member, Jonathan Weiss, who led the surprisingly successful campaign to create additional green space at the Westwood Blvd. Station, is going to Neighborhood Councils on the Westside asking them to support a study of a “bicycle freeway” design to elevate the bikeway at the intersections of Sepulveda, Sawtelle, Pico-Gateway and Barrington, roughly three quarters of a mile.

In a letter to the Westside Neighborhood Council, who ultimately voted to ask the Expo Construction Authority to study elevating the listed Westside intersections, Weiss make that a mini-bicycle freeway will keep cyclists safe, and car traffic moving.  

Elevating the bikeway would encourage and facilitate cycling by providing a safe, convenient route over a series of intersections that otherwise entail circuitous, time-consuming and potentially hazardous crossings. It would also ease the flow of automobile traffic in the area by reducing the need for special bicycle accommodations within the roadway and additional signal phases.

Strumpell hopes that, even if the highway is not built now, the train bridges will be engineered so that they could hold a bikeway in the future.  But the environmental documents for the bikeway make no mention of an elevated bikeway, so it’s wildly unlikely that Metro, or the Expo Construction Authority which is building light rail and the bikeway for it, will take this issue seriously without strong political support.

And that support is growing.  The Westside Neighborhood Council is the first Neighborhood Council to join the Bicycle Advisory Committee asking for the study.  Weiss’ next target is the West L.A. Neighborhood Council who’s Chair, Jay Handel, is on-board with Weiss’ concept.Weiss’ next target is the West L.A. Neighborhood Council who’s Chair, Jay Slater, is on-board with Weiss’ concept.

I fully support the study of the elevated crossings for the EXPO bikeway.

Building these elevated sections are integral to the safety of cyclists who will use this new east/ west corridor across our city. Along with the rail line it will be another element in decreasing traffic congestion on the west side.

We should note that despite the opposition to the Expo Bikeway by some members of the Westside Neighborhood Council, their vote was done in good faith.  Some members of the Council who are also members of Neighbors for Smart Rail abstained from the vote to avoid any appearance of conflict.

  • cerwing

    Damien, what can loyal readers and cycling enthusiasts do to increase political support of this project?

  • Dedicated signals and so on? Isn’t that a better solution than just throwing this into the air? Having bike paths attached to the sides of elevated sections in phase 2 might be okay but how about people moving locally? How will they cross these intersections? 

  • When I talked to representatives from Metro at their Santa Monica Expo presentation, I pitched diagonal crossing bike only signal phases for one or two of the problem intersections, something I saw at an intersection in Portland with a bike path needing to get across to another corner. Every time I insisted such a thing could work, and that the phase time would be minor, and not triggered every cycle depending on bike traffic level, I was given a scolding talk about how nothing can be done to ever effect green time for cars, not even a moment. Even when we build alternative transport in L.A., it’s all about the car.

  • Elevating the bike path is a bad idea. People don’t like to use overpasses on foot or by bike, because it takes extra effort to pedal uphill, and it feels less safe to be on a concrete bridge instead of at street level.

    If money is spent on elevating the path, it won’t be spent on other, much cheaper bike improvements.Instead, in locations where the path crosses busy streets, the signals at intersections should be changed to put in a bike/pedestrian phase (in addition to the existing phases allowing pedestrians to cross straight with traffic). This is the solution used with good effect in the Netherlands.

  • Agreed that walkers and bikers should be given priority — that is, they should be given priority at grade (at ground level) — make cars and trucks and buses and planes and trains and whatever else go up and over or down and around — they have engines, it’s no problem for them — walkers and bikers deserve the most priority, in that order — they deserve the most direct, most convenient routes.

    That’s the principle. If we focus on that principle, we see that elevating and submerging bike paths is not, generally, going to serve walking and biking well. 

    Motorized transport completely dominates the landscape because we’ve designed our infrastructure to cater to motorized transport at the expense of non-motorized modes — we need to tilt things towards walkers and bikers for a change.

    Make these passages safe, comfortable, convenient, and direct for walkers and bikers, first. After you take care of that, worry about the rest — planes, trains, and automobiles. Done and done.

  • Mark Elliot

    @984eadc21cb77cb316db4ff21c94b869:disqus , I agree that in many cases affordance for cyclist transit can be implemented at surface grade. Unlike the Netherlands, say, we have many 8-lane boulevards crossing in the southland, and perhaps our unique transportation geography calls for something outside the box. We do have ped bridges over busy thoroughfares after all. But  I suggest a gradual flyover – something graceful that integrates bike transportation into the urban fabric. Incorporated into major road and transit improvements, and integrated into key development projects proximate to major intersections, I think it could be a unique (to the Los Angeles area) solution to a vexing transportation and safety challenge. Much like we (unfortunately) have learned to take freeway flyovers for granted, in no time we’ll accept that bike flyovers are how we safely and efficiently cross Santa Monica @ Wilshire (in my hood) for example, or Wilshire @Joseph:disqus  Westwood.

  • karL

    Sorry I assumed that because this was not yet done it wasn’t because it was being proposed in the wrong way- but now I know s o……

    Look… what’s more important? Paying for the La times when you buy your whatever on the way or getting it delivered to you however and with the saved loot paying for an elelvated individualised light wheeled vehicle (bike) only paath up above the soot so far?

    What matter is what a marketing study of penetratioin would reveal would be the daily grind on it.  Obviously a BYOB policy would be far less grand then an underside coveyer to return bikes if necessary for direction balancing and making htem inductively coupled to the path not needing batteries only perhaps a seat if riders don’t want to stand ioor if htey fail ot come with there own.

    In other words it’s about the right of way. Its’ the right of way that costs far more then the puny numbers htis prject willl serve can justify- but IF WE INSTGEAD GET ACCESS TO IT EVEN 500 feet up- above the loft windows say, it’s a bargain. 

    There are equations taht need to be androidised moving graphic wise with slideers for fudging fingers the younger the better to tune it- five, 15, 400 feet wide?  INdexed to cost and actual efficacy.

    The  flyover is basically the entire los angels area.  There needs ot be a skyway road- paid, paid per pound and mile and minutes on it, by it’s users, launching in some other county entirely, that takes us to teh beach, and pushes car roads far back from it so the only way locals (angelites) can get tothe salt is to walk.  It’s not complicated.

    Are your just ingnoring hte fact that there are MILLIONS of people who if given a chance ot bike to the beach would- every day.

    Ignore that fact on your own time with appropriate discclaimers. But approach me with pretense of public interest or rationality and I’ll glare like your as mean as you are because you are. Beashamed.

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