Showdown or Compromise? All’s Quiet in Advance of Tomorrow’s Hearing on the Spring Street Green Bike Lane

Tom LaBonge (white shirt) leads a ride down the Spring Street Green Buffered Bike Lane as part of Tour LaBonge.

(An earlier version of this story featured a picture we believed showed an image from a film shot in New York that had a green bike lane removed. The location did not include a bike lane, we fell for a twitter joke. Sorry. – DN)

For awhile, it seemed as though everyone had something to say about the Spring Street Green Buffered Bike Lane. The pilot project became a hotly debated item around town after the Film and Television Industry’s lobbying group decried the lane’s impact on local filming.

But tomorrow, the City Council will decide the fate of the green painted lane. The Council will hear, and vote on, a motion by Council Member Jose Huizar, who represents the area that the lane runs through. And after a year of non-stop chatter, Los Angeles Times editorials calling for compromise, and an ongoing debate that happened in public and private; all of a sudden nobody is talking.

Huizar’s office has delayed commenting. Council Member and Mayor-Elect Garcetti, who is partially responsible for the lane not being repainted, has refused to comment. Streetsblog didn’t reach out to Council Member Tom LaBonge, who also opposes the lanes, because he is the only person who is commenting…and commenting to anyone who will listen. He still thinks the lane should lose all its color. In fact, he’s starting to question this whole bike-lane thing in a more fundamental way.

Even advocacy and community groups are being shy. The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition pointed me to their letter to the City Council. Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council President Patti Berman pointed me to an April resolution by the Neighborhood Council stating succinctly,

“NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council (DLANC) re-iterates is support for retaining the Green Bike Lane on Spring Street, and urges the City work with DLANC, FilmLA, and the cycling community to find a solution to any complaints whilst retaining the integrity of the Green Lane program.”

One reason for the public silence is that nobody is completely sure where Film L.A. stands anymore. Industry representatives reportedly “walked away” from the most recent “compromise” the same day the Los Angeles Times patted itself on the back for supporting it.

So, with perhaps the final showdown occurring tomorrow morning, here is a primer of what you need to know about the Spring Street Green Buffered Bike Lane controversy.

1) The Spring Street Green Buffered Bike Lane was a pilot project, and ultimately a very successful one. Spring and Main were chosen for a buffered bike lane pilot program because they are streets bustling with multi-modal and pedestrian activity, and perfect candidates for more than just green highlights at designated conflict zones. Ridership alone indicates this was a successful application of this traffic control device. Collision data over time should also prove similar results.

The green bike lane has become part of the cultural fabric of Downtown Los Angeles.

The LACBC letter states:

Since installation, ridership on Spring Street has increased markedly, over 40% on weekdays and 28% on weekends. During peak hours, ridership increased over 57% and 83% on weekdays and weekends respectively. Bicycling has become an essential mode of transportation for those living and working downtown, with few other convenient options serving trips within the central business district.

Berman puts it even more succinctly, “This is not an automobile society we have in the Downtown hisotic core. We walk. We ride bikes. That’s not true of all Downtown, but it is in the Historic Core.”

Letting the lane fade away, or replacing it with a design that doesn’t increase safety is simply putting the convenience of film and television industry site location managers over the safety of people making every day journeys down these streets.

2) There already was a compromise on Spring Street last year.  A second “compromise” would be jus that, a second diluting of the original program. Will there be more compromises until the lane, the Spring Street Parklets, and every other backlot blocker is gone?

The Film L.A. blogsite actually brags that when Spring Street was first painted green, they were able to receive concessions from the city: namely a change in permitting rules allowing Film L.A. to block bike lanes with their vehicles and the promise not to paint Main Street green as was planned at the time. In other words, Film L.A. already got half of the Downtown Green Buffered Bike Lane program killed. Now they’re using that “compromise” as the baseline for the new negotiations, and are enabled by the political posturing of LaBonge and possibly Garcetti.

3) A “compromise” that doesn’t pass federal rules regarding road markings effectively kills the program. Film L.A.’s favorite “compromise,” removing green from the midblock segments and leaving two long strips of green on either side of the white boundary lines is not compliant with FHWA standards for “interim approval for use of green colored pavement.”

This is what happens when the design of a traffic control device is decided for aesthetic reasons by those who work outside of the engineering and design professions, people who might not have the safety of all road users at the forefront of their efforts.

Approving this “compromise” could kill the program entirely.

4) Film L.A. lies a lot, or they have no idea what they’re talking about. 

Lie #1: Nobody paints bike lanes green except Los Angeles

Lie #2: Green paint is really hard to get out in post-production

These two lies, when they were both disproven and widely mocked, were dropped in favor of a new statement about how the green paint used is reflective and would be disruptive because of the reflections. It causes problems in shoots, when you want it to look, for example, like this:


Of course, this shot was taken in New York without green bike lanes. Or, I should say you can’t see the green bike lanes. They were removed in post production.

5) Film L.A. has never once publicly produced a statistic that showed that filming on Spring Street, the Historic Core, Downtown Los Angeles, or Los Angeles as a whole as a result of the lane being painted green. In fact, the only statistics we have access to are city wide, and show an increase in filming since the lane was painted in late 2011. A Film L.A. press release touts the 1.7% increase in filming.

 6) This is a pilot project, so the city needs to declare it a success or failure. If it is a failure, then Los Angeles City Council would be saying that the ridership increases and safety weren’t enough to overcome the inconvenience to Film L.A.
Los Angeles would have the distinction of being the first American city to remove a green bike lane.

If the program is a success, then repainting should be completed. Compromises can be made on shade of green (getting rid of the reflection issue), and maybe in some sections it could resemble the 1st Street Bike Lane in Boyle Heights where just the conflict zones are green. But in return for these concessions, there should be something given back, perhaps Main Street? Or maybe Bill Rosendahl, Ed Reyes or another of the bike friendly Council Members could suggest a strip of bike lane in their district that should go green.

  • adrian mcdonald

    Regarding the alleged “lies”:

    1. The article you linked to contains a quote from a location manager on The Dark Knight Rises, not anyone from FilmLA. And before you accuse her of lying instead, her point was that most places LA can stand in for do not have the green lanes….and she’s right.

    2. The green lanes are hard to get out in post, BECAUSE they are reflective. They didn’t change their argument, because that always WAS the argument. The video that “proves” how easy it is to remove the green actually shows the opposite. The green lane is clearly reflected on the vehicles that drive by the desaturated lane. The static lane is easy to fix, try getting the reflections. It’s difficult, time consuming and an added expense that was never their to begin with before the green lanes.

    If anything, this article is telling the lies. In earlier posts, streetsblog claimed FilmLA is the trade group for the industry. Wrong. Lie. Not even close. The MPAA is the trade association. Streetsblog also claimed FilmLA can use its vehicles to block the lanes. What? FIlmLA doesn’t have any vehicles. At all.

    Fact checking is important. Maybe spend more time on getting your facts and information accurate and less time worrying about the color green.

  • I’m willing to accept that removing the green in post isn’t as simple as it sounds, but I’m still waiting to hear why temporarily covering the lane or repainting it forest as opposed to neon green isn’t an acceptable solution.

    I agree that this post is a bit sloppy with the facts.

  • adrian mcdonald

    Repainting it forest is an acceptable solution. That’s exactly what the MPAA and the unions have been proposing, but City staff has reportedly “rebuffed” this idea.

  • Hopefully, the City Council under the new mayor will do the right thing here and maintain and/or expand the green bike lanes downtown and elsewhere.

  • Did you guys see what SF just painted on market? Now thats green.

    If post production is an issue, there are dozens of easy solutions.

    Heres one: an asphalt colored “carpet” thats placed over the lane during filming.

  • According to the people I’ve talked to, it’s the film industry that’s taken a hard line and rejected the forest green solution, not the City. LACBC states in their letter they’re perfectly willing to move ahead with the compromise plan that includes a darker shade of green that’s approved by FHWA and acceptable to LADOT. There’s been some kind of miscommunication here.

  • Eric B

    The item was continued for next Tuesday, again due to heavy lobbying by the film industry.

  • bikinginla


    The industry spokespeople arguing against the bike lane have repeatedly changed their stories, first saying that no other city had green bike lanes, then when proven wrong, making the lame-ass argument you site above. Same with the reflection argument, which was not mentioned until Streetsblog demonstrated the bike lane itself could be removed in post in less than 20 seconds; suddenly, it was the reflections that was the problem.

    It would be incredibly easy and very cheap to cover up the bike lane before filming, just as Hollywood studios have been doing with problematic anachronisms for over 100 years. If they can’t figure out how to do it, give me a couple hours and a box of gaffers tape, and you won’t see a hint of green in the dailies.

    The real question is whether the convenience of the film industry outweighs the lives and safety of the residents of Los Angeles. This is a city, not a back lot. Deal with it.

  • Prince Humperdinck

    Who gives a shit. Bike lanes are for safety, not you assholes…jesus, the effing attitude. Move a block over. Nobody gives a shit.

  • Drobers

    Painting the roads? Only those that have no clue about cycling would paint the roads (whichever color). #noobyfail

  • Drobers

    Not to be misunderstood, bike lanes are great. Here in the NL they are great lifesavers. But we don’t paint them, we pave the roads. So you don’t go flat on your face when it’s a bit wet.

  • Drobers

    Not to be misunderstood. They are great, just don’t paint them. Search for “fietspad” (Dutch for bike lane) in your search engine to see what I mean.

  • Ideally, yes, we’d use colored asphalt. But given the fact that this is a pilot project, and that the street in question isn’t due for repaving anytime soon, it was decided that paint was the best option for the time being.

  • Anonymous

    Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Chicago, New York City and San Francisco have green bike lanes. Which cities don’t have green bike lanes that LA stands in for? The list of U.S. cities that are using colorization for bike lanes is growing every year.

  • Drobers

    That is a policy decision. Well only redoing the top layer would suffice in most cases and can be done in a relatively short time. Also it darkens over time making the entire film discussion pointless in the near future. But most prominently, as an avid cyclist (i’m dutch so we own a bike before anything else), i can tell you; don’t paint the roads, people get hurt that way.

  • Anonymous

    I work in VFX, i can remove that green in seconds. What a joke

  • Niall Huffman

    The paint is blasted with tiny glass beads to ensure adequate traction. I assure you, LADOT was aware of the slippage issue and tested various types of surfaces prior to actually laying down the paint. I’ve used this lane myself many times in different weather conditions and never had a problem.

    The City of LA’s street resurfacing program is severely underfunded, with a decades-long backlog. There’s no way the city is even going to redo the top layer of asphalt unless it absolutely has to.

  • I agree that we have not completely understood the role of Film L.A. in previous posts. We’ve learned more about the group, and my attempts at short hand apparently only showed what I don’t know about the industry.

    However, you’re not going to get a lot of sympathy from me beyond that. If we had known that it was the reflections that were the issue, not the paint itself, we would have taken that out too. It’s not really that hard, but granted it is harder than just taking out the lane.

    As for the bike lanes, Film L.A. and other industry groups has said that there are no lanes like this in other cities. I’ve heard it from Council Members (LaBonge) and staff. It’s so obviously false, unless L.A. is being used to stand in for Omaha and Corpus Cristi, and not NYC, Chicago, Houston, etc…that I assume they had to be lieing. If they’re just completely clueless, I apologize for assuming their competence.

  • Thus far, the new mayor has been part of the problem, not the solution. I’m hoping they get this done in time to get it to the old mayor.

  • HighNoon

    If what you say is true, those considerations (that film la was misquoted or mischaracterized and that the green is harder to remove than we think) do not result in any compelling reason to not redo the bike lane which promotes cycling and improves safety. It seems like no one is more worried about (getting rid of) the green than you!

  • VFX_Privateer

    The vast majority of cities still lack green bike lanes. And not all of those that do have them are located in the downtown area that Spring Street can easily double for. In 10 years this might be a different story, but not right now. The demonstration video did not remove the reflections complained about. Yes, they can be removed, but not in 20 seconds and not without an extra cost.

  • Safety first. It is getting dangerous for a lot of local bikers.


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