RIP: Buffered Bike Lane in Front of LAPD Headquarters

During the Dorner drama, the bike lane and sidewalk in front of LAPD headquarters was media parking. Image via ##http://www.dailynews.com/opinions/ci_22534969/editorial-time-start-talking-about-modernizing-and-reforming##UCLA Public Affairs/Twitter##

This weekend, the Bureau of Street Services will be repaving parts of 1st Street in Downtown Los Angeles. After the repaving, the street will be repainted. Part of the repainting will include removing the buffer from the 1st Street Buffered Bike Lane in front of LAPD headquarters between Spring and Main Streets.

The good news is that the buffer will remain for the rest of 1st Street and the bike lane itself will be undisturbed. The bad news is that the LAPD officially asked that the buffer be removed and LADOT agreed. The parking lot for LAPD headquarters requires nearly 100 yards of extra walking as compared to the headquarters. Downtown cyclists complained about LAPD cruisers parking in the lane since it was painted, and the result of those complaints seems to be removing the buffer so the police can resume curb parking in front of the headquarters.

Of course, the LAPD and LADOT are not saying that this is about curb parking. They continue to assert this issue is about emergency access to police headquarters. But, given that the LAPD was completely unable or unwilling to enforce “no parking in the buffered bike lane,” it seems wildly unlikely that they’ll enforce “no parking in the stopping but no parking lane.”

By removing the buffering in front of LAPD headquarters, the LAPD is sending a message that it was more interested in non-emergency parking (a police car can park in any lane in an emergency, so this was never about access) than road safety. Cyclists proposed several alternate solutions that were never considered very seriously including making the lane L.A.’s first cycle track or protected bike lane or using plastic bollards to keep the lane clear of all but emergency vehicles and cyclists.

Downtown cyclist Roger Rudick makes the case for keeping the lane in a previous story on Streetsblog.

“We have a new bike plan in place. It’s not an accident that a buffered bike lane was placed right in front of LAPD headquarters. It’s supposed to send a message to cops, every day, that bikes have all the rights of cars–and that they’re required to enforce the law. Many officers, as we know, have been highly supportive. But LAPD still has vestiges of the bad old days. The same cops who park on that bike lane, trust me, are the same ones who are going to look the other way when a car runs a cyclist off the road.”

After nearly two years of good relations, cracks seem to be appearing in the collaborative relationship between cycling advocates and the LAPD. Two weeks ago, the LAPD successfully campaigned to increase speed limits on some streets in the Valley over a year after safe street advocates beat back the last speed limit increase proposal. Now it seems an LAPD lobbying effort will remove a safety feature for one block, creating a somewhat confusing road configuration, to increase non-emergency access to LAPD headquarters.

This is hardly the first time LADOT and LAPD have quietly worked together to remove bicycle infrastructure. In 1999, one of the early campaigns of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition preserved a bike lane at the LAPD Station on Venice Boulevard near La Brea.  After a heated campaign, mixed-use travel lanes were narrowed instead, and LAPD’s non-emergency curbside parking rights were preserved.

Even as the buffered lane’s removal is eminent, advocates still don’t actually know what the LAPD’s complaint against the bike lane is. Advocates and journalists assume it has to do with access to the headquarters, but requests to LAPD for the exact cause of the complaint have yet to be answered.

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