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The Movement Against the Highway Friendly Redesign of Hyperion Grows

Garcetti,  LaBonge and O'Farrell promote the  redesign and ask for public comment.

It started as a note from contacts at the Bicycle Coalition (LACBC), turned into a mini-series on Streetsblog and now the movement to stop the redesign of the Hyperion-Glendale Complex of Bridges that would turn one of the region's most iconic structures into one of its prettiest freeways has gone viral so to speak.

The new design excludes bicycle lanes and wider sidewalks, the city's Bicycle Plan be damned, and increases the size of the four mixed-use travel lanes to accommodate traffic driving over 55 miles per hour. Space that could be used for sidewalks and bicycle lanes and sidewalks is being used for creating stronger crash barriers. The $50 million project's stated purpose is a retrofit to better handle seismic events and is expected begin construction in 2016 and should take three years to complete.

Since Streetsblog last covered the bridges ten days ago, things have been moving quickly. In response to letters demanding a public hearing of the proposal, outreach meetings with city staff were cancelled so a hearing can be scheduled (details TBD.) Two neighborhood Councils, in Atwater and Silverlake at the west end of the complex are hearing motions to oppose the redesign as it exists. The Silver Lake motion was heard by their Transportation Committee last night and moved near-unanimously to the full Council. Assembly Member Mike Gatto, who also represents part of the project area, promised on Twitter to write a letter opposing the current design.

@flyingpigeonla Agree! Imagine not being able to safely bike between Atwater and Silver Lake! We are sending letter this week.

— Mike Gatto (@mikegatto) October 3, 2013

While there are certainly some who are worried about the lack of bicycle lanes in the project, there is a greater concern that increasing the vehicle speeds on a major entryway into their communities will lead to more dangerous conditions, more traffic, more air pollution and lower home values.

Meanwhile, bicycle advocacy is working on two connected but somewhat coordinated tracks. The LACBC submitted formal comments that outline the problems with the current planned design and other advocates are organizing on Facebook to maintain a steady flow of public pressure. To stop the redesign, rethink the project plans, and design a project that works for all vehicle users and the surrounding communities.

But while the absence of bicycle lanes is what angered cyclists and created resistance to the redesign plan, its the idea of designing the bridge to freeway standards that really upset the community groups.

"This is the same video that was presented at the meeting," writes Don "Roadblock" Ward, one of the leaders of the movement to stop the current redesign of the video at the top of the post which now appears on Council Member Mitch O'Farrell's blog. "..and the whole time I kept thinking of the 110 parkway bridge a few miles south with the 110 bike path and freeway crash barriers. This bridge will one day look that crappy."

Ward posted this picture to Facebook, showing people what a redesign could look like.

But in its written comment for the record, the LACBC provides two different images for what the layout of Hyperion could be, on its surface and underneath the Waverly Drive flyover.

Both designs show that space exists in the current right of way for both bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. The "under Waverly" design is for a 58 foot roadway not 69 feet as the rest of the bridge. In the wider portion, there is even space for a physical barrier between the car traffic and the bicycle traffic.

In dismissing the concerns of cyclists, the designers for the new Hyperion-Glendale Series of Bridges redesign argue that improvements to the Glendale bridges actually make the project one that improves safety for cyclists. In the video at the top of this story, Council Member Tom LaBonge mentions bicycle safety as one reason the project is a win for the community.

In Streetsblog's first story on the redesign, we note that there are improvements made to the nearby Glendale bridge crossings, however a google map posted to the Facebook page of those opposed to the new design shows the unlikely route cyclists would need to take to use the new infrastructure to cross the L.A. River.

This unlikely route may help the few cyclists willing to travel that far out of their way, but is pretty much the opposite of what the state claims to recommend through its complete streets policies. The LACBC explains how a series of patchwork improvements, especially when bicycle lanes are called for in the city's circulation element, is not sufficient to meet state regulations.

From the LACBC's written testimony:

This policy (Caltrans Complete Streets Policy (DD-64-R1) reflects a clear intent not just to include elements that benefit bicycling and walking, but to actually provide for the mobility needs of bicyclists and pedestrians. A bridge project that does not provide safe accommodation across the entire span of the project cannot be deemed to be consistent with this policy, despite local access improvements on one end of the project area. A bridge modernization spanning from Atwater Village to Silver Lake must also provide for the safe and convenient mobility of pedestrians and bicyclists between the two communities.

The movement is growing offline as well. Those organizing on the Facebook page are also going door-to-door in Atwater and Silver Lake converting those who just want to see a new bridge open into those opposing a redesign that brings faster moving traffic in their community. Those going door-to-door or talking to neighbors find nearly 90% of those they are talking to are opposed to the project once it is explained. Cyclists also passed out petitions to a mobility-options friendly crowd at CicLAvia.

As Neighborhood Councils deliberate, and Assembly Members voice their protests, there has been little noise from those supporting the project. Despite their appearance in the above video, neither the Mayor's Office nor the Office of Council Member Tom LaBonge have commented on the project. Council Member O'Farrell is encouraging more public comment and seems willing to modify his earlier position.

But for now, the opposition grows and everyone is waiting for what will surely be an entertaining public hearing.

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