Thoughts While Riding the Expo Bike Lane

It doesn't look like a lot of progress comparing this##http://www.flickr.com/photos/29300710@N08/5945246978/in/set-72157627087432231## picture of the Culver City Exposition Station to ones I took in July.##

Last week, I had a chance to ride on the recently-installed bike lane that runs parallel to the Expo Light Rail Line in South Los Angeles from USC to La Cienega Boulevard. At first, the lanes run on Exposition Boulevard until La Brea where they shoot up to Jefferson Boulevard.

There has already been some controversy about the lanes. Residents living along Jefferson Boulevard woke up one morning to bike lanes and complained they received no notice that the on-street parking to which they were accustomed were going to be removed. There are a cluster of apartment buildings at La Cienega and Jefferson and residents are reportedly readying a campaign to reverse the lanes.

For its part, The Expo Construction Authority held public meetings on the entire Expo project including the bikeway routing. In addition, the environmental documents identified the loss of 52 on-street parking spaces on the north side of Jefferson Blvd. between La Cienega and Carmona “due to roadway reconfiguration with implementation of bicycle lanes.”

The mitigation for this loss is “off-street parking at La Cienega Station and additional 75 spaces to be provided on southeast corner to absorb loss.” (P. 3.3-5, Table 3.3-3).   Those spaces are not yet open to the public and of course your average resident isn’t aware of public meetings held by transit agencies.  Maybe the city/Metro can look in to the door knockers that CicLAvia uses to warn people of temporary on-street car parking removal.

But last week, the birds were chirping, the sun was shining, and I was riding on new bike lanes for the first time.  I found riding them to be a large improvement from lanes on highly trafficked Venice Boulevard a mile or so away, but the lanes themselves left a lot to be desired.

But before we get into the bike lanes themselves, let’s take a moment to note that the delays caused by political and legal controversies have cost the Expo Line.  For much of the ride, there was no way one could tell that the line wasn’t open as the stations were completed, the landscaping was completed and the rail lines themselves looked ready to go.  The exceptions were the Culver City Aerial Station (at top) and the Farmdale Station (immediately above) adjacent to Dorsey High School.  But each of these two stations need a lot of work.  The construction crews were working at Dorsey and its hard to tell what’s happening at Culver City with the fences keeping people from getting an up-close view.  But if it weren’t for the delays at this stations, it’s conceivable that the Expo Line could already be up and running.

At La Cienega, the lanes end. There's no way faring signs, no warning, just an end to the lanes at a major road intersection.

Now for the bike lanes.  For the most part, the lanes were five feet wide and ran “against the curb” with only a few sections where the lanes ran adjacent to car parking.  Of course, “against the curb” is another way of saying “partially in the gutter,” which is an apt description of a lot of the route.

Any doubt as to whether or not the gutter is part of the lane should be dispelled by the “E” actually painted inside of the gutter.

Some of the worst features of “gutter bike lanes” were on display during the ride.   The first is that the road itself is usually in its worst condition in areas where a portion of the bike lanes is in the gutter.  In the case of the picture above, the gutter portion is actually the smoothest portion of the road and was where I chose to position my bicycle.   For many reasons, this is a less than ideal way to ride a bicycle and I even found myself wishing the lane didn’t exist so that I could just take the lane in the mixed use travel lane.

Another issue with this lane configuration is that much of the lane can be taken up by trash bins or other road debris.  As you can see, a five foot bike lane could use 40% of its width on trash day and the surrounding days.

One of the promises of the Expo project was a safe way for cyclists to get from Santa Monica all the way to Downtown Los Angeles.  Having just pedaled the route down Venice Boulevartd a couple of days earlier my personal view is that the Expo route is going to be a far superior one to the rough ride on Venice with plenty of traffic “Jerry Browning” you everytime you try the route to Downtown.  But the lanes aren’t good enough that everyone is going to make that choice.  Given the promises made to cyclists, that’s a shame.

  • Anonymous

    I rode this lane a month back and had the same experience of disappointment. I’d add that anyone riding on skinny road bike tires in this lane will do so at his own peril: lots of cracked pavement and debris including broken glass.

  • Anonymous

    It’s typical for “separate but equal” facilities like these to be neither separate nor equal. In this case, the bike lane is more dangerous than the travel lane, riddled with obstacles, debris, and of course, seams that run parallel to the direction of travel.

    I reckon the more things change, the more they stay the same.

  • guest

    I don’t understand why trashbins aren’t supposed to be placed in driveways (on the aprons) when present, this would avoid conflict with bike lanes to  greater degree.

  • guest

    From the USC area out to Jefferson/Culver city is definitely terrible but still beats parts of venice before the bike lane starts past San Vicente, especially considering that it’s not as heavily trafficked past Rodeo (or wherever that weird split thing is). 

    If you rode it coming the opposite way though it’s significantly better because they repaved a strip along the bank of the rail so there are far less hazards, though there is a clear line between gutter and smooth pavement. Still not the worst and makes getting to culver city a lot quicker.

  • Joe B.

    They are. It’s actually illegal to place any object in a travel lane; of course, this is routinely ignored.

  • Definitely the eastbound bike lane (flat smooth new asphalt) is a much better ride than the occasionally rutted, potholed westbound lane. Should Expo have repaved the whole street? Of course… penny-wise-pound-foolish agencies don’t value cyclists’ safety and mobility. Shocking. Round up the usual suspects. 

    I still think that the new lanes are a step in the right direction. The potholes were there and bicyclists were riding there before the lane was striped. It’s easier to fix potholes than to get lanes reconfigured – report potholes to the city website: http://bss.lacity.org/request.htm and use words like “lawsuit waiting to happen”, “very dangerous”, etc. for faster service.
    Something you didn’t mention regarding the parking: for the most part, bike lanes could have been added all along Expo with no removal of parking.  The city and the Expo authority added plenty of turn-pockets… because they gotta increase car capacity even when building a transit project. I think that this is unfortunate, because neighborhood residents will perceive the loss of parking as a result of adding the bike lanes… but it’s actually L.A. City valuing car-throughput (often cut-through) over car-parking (mostly local.)(This sort of thing even happens on road-diet projects. With the new road diet on 7th Street, LADOT could have increased on-street parking, but didn’t. Red curbs near intersections where the old through-lanes flared, including 7th Street at Union, could be restored to parking, but they’ve been left red zones.)

    As a cyclist, I am not going to use this parking… but I think that we need to be sensitive to the needs of local communities – for basic on-street parking… and careful about courting a backlash that John Fisher’s LADOT seems to welcome.

  • Dennis Hindman

    I don’t get why a bike path wasn’t a integral part of the Expo plan. I can see that there is room for plants and trees, probably even a sidewalk was put it, yet no bike path. The Orange Line bike path remains the best example of accomodating bicycling next to an old rail line. I was hoping the central part of the city would get something similar to it in order to encourage a wider range of demographics to bicycle. Yet, the bicycling infrastructure design is targeted towards the strong and fearless rider.

    Wasn’t the Expo Line built to get people out of cars and into mass transit? Then how did they expect people to get to and from the train? Walk or drive? I’m betting that within a few months of the Expo Line opening up that there will be bus line service level cut-backs, as it looks like the Expo Line is designed to simply move people off of buses and onto rail. Metro is simply not increasing overall ridership, they have a fixed operating budget and to accomodate new rail or brt, they are cutting back on street bus services.

  • Paul Sitko

    I bike this route daily M-F and was extremely disappointed when they

  • Guy Hackett

    In Florida the Gutter is not part of the roadway and Bike lanes must be at least 4 feet wide to be legal. If you don’t count the concrete gutter these lanes are only 2-3 feet wide. You are not required to drive your bicycle in an illegal bike lane. Any savvy cyclist would take the lane here. Therefore avoiding the “bike lane” hazards. 

  • the lane doesn’t end at La Cienega, it just cuts to the south side of Jefferson as well as the south side of the Expo Line itself.  I agree it is terrible signage, but in your picture you can make out the line of self-storage type garage bays which is where the bike lane picks up again in the direction of Culver City.

    fully agree that the whole Expo experience has been a lot of hit and miss, but at least something got hit rather than just total forfeit and go home with nothing to show for the experience…

  • Actually La Brea isn’t the best connector between Jefferson and Exposition boulevards. Next time you ride it (especially going west to east), use Harcourt Avenue, a couple blocks east of La Brea. Coming back from Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook a couple Fridays ago I was pleasantly surprised after turning from Jefferson south onto Harcourt to find signage and a bike-activated in-street sensor installed to trigger the green to make the left onto Exposition.

  • Davidagalvan

    So the bike path didn’t go through, then?

  • “At La Cienega, the lanes end. There’s no way faring signs, no warning, just an end to the lanes at a major road intersection.”

    Im confused at this picture. Right turns are allowed, yes? So the bike lane being solid white line is not up to standard at all, should be dashed. At least the bike lane is fully outside the gutter.

    The gutter picture is tragic. I’m pretty sure Baghdad has better looking pavement. Expo cost how much, and they couldnt be bothered to repave?

    The worst part is that expo in front of USC, aka, where all the people on bikes are, has zero bike lanes and tiny sidewalks.

    What were they thinking?

  • “At La Cienega, the lanes end. There’s no way faring signs, no warning, just an end to the lanes at a major road intersection.”

    Im confused at this picture. Right turns are allowed, yes? So the bike lane being solid white line is not up to standard at all, should be dashed. At least the bike lane is fully outside the gutter.

    The gutter picture is tragic. I’m pretty sure Baghdad has better looking pavement. Expo cost how much, and they couldnt be bothered to repave?

    The worst part is that expo in front of USC, aka, where all the people on bikes are, has zero bike lanes and tiny sidewalks.

    What were they thinking?

  • I say the best revenue stream in this city is citing people for obstucting lanes of traffic with their items (cars, tucks track cans dumpsters). If I decided to put a dumpster in the right lane on Hollywood blvd. I believe that a police officer would have something to say to me about it. 

    I often most things out of the bike lanes if I have time. (Things I have moved include trash cans, dumpsters, trashcans, Movie location parking lot signs, abandoned strollers, one motor scooter). 

  • Earl

    The Info in this Story about the Two Stations is Out of Date and Not accurate look at culver city from the Whashington Side you can see the Progress as the side in the Picture will stay a Work Zone for Phase-2

  • Thanks for the update Earl.  I do admit I was looking down from the Venice side and am happy the station has made progress.l

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

LA/Metro: Expo/Mid-City Ride

|
Show your support for bicycling in LA! Join the first Expo/Mid-City Bike Ride to celebrate  Bike Week LA and 5.9 miles of new bike lanes along  the Expo Line. All interested bike enthusiasts are invited to join Dan Dabek, executive director of CICLE, in navigating Downtown Los Angeles, South LA and  Culver City – all by […]

USC Gets a Village, Jefferson Boulevard Gets a Bike Lane

|
The Village at USC, a 5.23 million square foot mixed use development being programmed by the University of Southern California, is back in the news. Yesterday, Blog Downtown examined how the retail plans for the project could impact the Downtown. But the project could also have a major impact on the car parking in the […]