The MyFigueroa! Doubters Speak: Fig Too Special for Cycletracks

After years of whispering in the ears of CRA and LADOT staff, and avoiding public comment, the opponents of the MyFigueroa! project to put a road diet, cycletracks, bike lanes, improved crosswalks and better transit facilities on South Figueroa street broke their public silence in the L.A. Downtown News .

The basic argument against the plan is that it is bad for car traffic, hasn’t been done in Los Angeles before, and that Figueroa Street is a regional street that needs to have as much traffic capacity as possible. This is good to know, because these arguments are simple to refute.

“The whole problem of access and mobility for automotive vehicles needs to be seriously considered before we experiment with something that hasn’t been done anywhere else in L.A.,” said Darryl Holter, CEO of the Shammas Group, which owns eight car dealerships on Figueroa….

Although protected lanes in other cities may have been successful, Figueroa Street is different in part because it is a key regional transit corridor, said Hamid Bahadori, manager of transportation programs for the Southern California Auto Club.

“We should keep in mind that people on Figueroa are not all going between USC and L.A. Live and Downtown,” Bahadori said. “This is a regional corridor and the city should not lose sight of the need to accommodate regional mobility.”

I’m not sure what Holter is referring to when he says “something that hasn’t been done anywhere else in L.A. before,” but the good news is that road diets, cycle tracks, and opening streets to all users is something that has been done all over the world. The other good news is that the results of these kind of changes bring positive change throughout the world. At the same time, it would be nice for the AAA to realize that many of the people on Figueroa do live between USC and L.A.. Live and would love a safe alternative to the car reliance that AAA peddles and advocates on behalf of.

Even just a quick email to the other Streetsblog editors revealed that cycle tracks on major streets and road diets are hardly new or untested.

From Chicago, John Deerfield reminds us of the Dearborn Street Bike Lane that received a road diet and separated bike facility in late 2011. Mayor Rahm Emanuel brags about taking out a lane of mixed use traffic to put in a two-way cycle track.

From San Franciscio, Aaron Bialick points out how proud the city is of its aggressive road diet program.

From New York, Ben Fried wrote the most specific

Most of the protected bike lane miles in Manhattan are on what you would call “arterial streets.” 1st Ave, 2nd Ave, 8th Ave, 9th Ave/Columbus Ave — for the most part, these had at least four travel lanes in addition to parking lanes before the protected bike lanes were installed. In some cases the bike lane replaced a car lane and in other cases the motor lanes were all narrowed to make room. For example, 12 foot lanes would become 10 foot lanes.

Another example is Allen Street, which is the only two-way street in the bunch. They put the bike lane in the center median on that one. It works really well.

Separated bike paths or Cycle tracks and road diets are not something new. Many advocates wish that the City of Los Angeles was willing to experiment with bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, but that hasn’t been the case.  But the good news is that Los Angeles can see what works in other cities. Road diets, even on major arterial streets, don’t create more traffic, the New York experience actually suggests the opposite. Separated bike lanes don’t hurt business and cultural destinations, they actually improve access.

Los Angeles is not a special magical city where transportation planning that works elsewhere doesn’t work here. It would be good for the opponents of the MyFigueroa project to look at the history of transportation planning in Los Angeles’ peer cities instead of guessing what will and won’t work on Figueroa Street and beyond.

  • Jahmal

    Idiots. Just yesterday AAA released a avg yearly cost of owning and maintaining a car… Nearly $10000!! If ever that makes the case for enabling alternatives to the car…

  • ubrayj02

    Whatever the arguments are in favor or opposed to bike projects in this city is immaterial. This is, and always has been, a cultural and political fight. The more people we can line up at meetings, the more people we can register to vote, the more op-ed columns and blog posts we can write the more likely it is that we are going to have bike lanes in the city built to world class standards.

    The streets of Los Angeles were not re-made because someone showed up in a public hearing and said, “I like cars and car-only roads a lot.”

    The mass of whatever public voice we can muster needs to become an intolerable yell throughout this process or you can expect that the status quo will continue to reign on our streets. To people who think that this is hyperbolic or taking things too far: wake up! It wasn’t until bike advocates got shrill and aggressive with our rhetoric that things started changing. Civil discourse and debate are all well and good – but the people in charge of the status quo don’t derive their power from discourse. They derive their power through economic means (buying a voice in city hall), through an unequal share of time and space in local media, and through the use of misinformation, lies, and clever advertising.

    The benefit that bike projects have is that a 21st century growth cabal can line up behind these issues the way a growth cabal lined up behind the motoring age’s projects.

  • KillMoto

    Someone should notify Mr. Bahadori there’s a perfectly good freeway parallel to and 2 blocks away from Figueroa. People who want to use a car for “regional mobility” are welcome to drive on that.

  • You can email Mr. Bahadori:

  • HighNoon

    And it turns out Mr. Bahadori sits on the CTCDC and is a professor of engineering at USC. He should know better!

  • Jeff Jacobberger

    To play devil’s advocate: The Harbor Transitway on the 110 Freeway ends at Adams. From that point north into Downtown, transit and carpools are on Figueroa. If encouraging transit and carpooling is part of our mobility strategy, we should be concerned about the MyFig project’s impact on (1) Metro’s ability to maintain transit schedules and (2) time savings enjoyed by those using the Express Lanes.

    There are reasons to be concerned about automobile congestion on Figueroa that have nothing to do with concerns for motorists in single-occupancy vehicles.

  • HighNoon

    1) This is a concern on all streets without exclusive bus lanes and is a the result of excessive system congestion – not the MyFig project 2) Not clear on the relevance of the Express Lanes on 110 to the MyFig project, I’m not aware of anything that provides those who have transponders time savings on Fig itself and if MyFig results in trips shifting to 110 they would presumably be in the GP lanes, not express lanes (and if it was express the pricing system will maintain the time savings)

    Want a solution: take lanes for buses too. If in fact you were playing devil’s advocate, then this solves your problem. If your actual concern was impacts to general purpose vehicles I don’t really feel sorry for you given the prevalence of auto infrastructure relative to other modes.

  • James C.

    It’s so frustrating that there was no public process when the powers that be decided to eliminate the cycle track between 11th and 21st, and when they decided to only repurpose one travel lane instead of the original two. If I recall correctly, the original project called for one of the travel lanes to become a bus only lane.

  • “This is a regional corridor and the city should not lose sight of the need to accommodate regional mobility”? So … a regional corridor like Rosemead Boulevard in the San Gabriel Valley? The one that’s getting cycletracks?

  • I hadn’t noticed that the MyFig project actually removes the existing bus lane – that seems like a significant problem.

  • El Barto

    hear hear!! The #BIKELA pitchforks came out in earnest in LA around 2007 and lit some FIRES under politicians SUV softened bee hinds. We need MOAR.

  • El Barto

    so rad. I thought I wrote this but I didnt.


MyFigueroa Achieves Consensus, Auto Group Withdraws Appeal

This week, stakeholders hammered out an agreement that allows the MyFigueroa project to finally move from design to on-the-ground implementation. MyFigueroa will arguably be Los Angeles’ premiere “complete street.” The three project streets will be inclusive: welcoming to pedestrians, transit riders, cyclists, and drivers. This is great news for Los Angeles livability. Figueroa Corridor Business […]