The Hyperion Bridge Uprising Storms the Gates

I’m going to make a little confession. When I first wrote about the Glendale Boulevard-Hyperion Avenue Complex of Bridges redesign project, I was resigned to a negative outcome. I believed the Bureau of Engineering was too far along in the process, and city leaders too entrenched in the outcome.

At the time, the city noted that the bridge design was a small part of a larger seismic retrofit and final design needed to begin by this Spring or state funds would be lost. Getting a livable Hyperion Bridge seemed longer than a long-shot.

Less than two months later, the narrative has completely changed.

All three of the Neighborhood Councils from the surrounding communities, Silver Lake, Atwater and Los Feliz, passed resolutions condemning the freeway-lite design style the city proposed. Countless advocacy groups, from Los Angeles Walks to Friends of the L.A. River, have taken a stand. Even as the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council Governing Board moved to condemn the plan last night, news broke that the Alliance of River Communities, a coalition representing 14 Neighborhood Councils, wrote their own letter (above) calling for a bridge that supports all travel modes.

Basically, every major advocacy and Neighborhood group in the areas surrounding the bridge has weighed in on the matter in a short time frame. The overwhelming verdict is: give us a better design that prioritizes people and communities over speeding cars.

How did we get from there to here in less than 2 months?

A powerful team of advocates, including both “outside the community bicycle activists” and community leaders from the areas surrounding both sides of the bridges, responded to the call to arms. Hundreds of public comments (including two by elected officials), a well-mannered but forceful show at a public hearing, and dozens of designs written by architects, advocates and the bicycle coalition demonstrated that the people of Los Angeles are hungry for infrastructure that embraces all modes of transportation. The design proposed by the Bureau of Engineering and highlighted in a  video by the two local Councilmembers, Mitch O’Farrell (CD 13) and Tom LaBonge (CD 4) and Eric Garcetti is dead on arrival.

Instead of cheering the current proposed design, which now includes 3 feet gutter bike lanes, a cement “crash barrier” in the median and only one sidewalk, Garcetti is now seeking to alter the timeline for the project to give more leeway for changes to be made.

Councilmember O’Farrell took the initiative to create a Citizen’s Advisory Committee consisting of appointees from each Council Office and the immediate Neighborhood Councils. The “Stop the Hyperion Freeway” working group, which now has over 400 members on Facebook, announced some of the appointees from CD 13 (the Bike Coalition’s Eric Bruins, L.A. Walks’ Deborah Murphy, Friends of Atwater Village’s Netty Carr) and CD 4 (Don Seligman from the Los Feliz Improvement Association, Daniel Chamberlain, and Karin Flores from FOLAR, Friends of the L.A. River.) At first glance, this is a pretty progressive group of people.

With momentum having overwhelmed the city’s attempt to “design and defend” a bridge design that would have sped up traffic on the bridge and likely through the surrounding community, the project can now move into its next phase. How can the city and its community groups work together to get the best design possible while ensuring a needed seismic retrofit happens.

  • Don Ward

    Best way IMHO is 2 lane uphill 1 lane down hill. Ada compliant sidewalks the length of both sides of the bridge and signalized crosswalk across the entire span on the east side of the bridge.

    The project’s own study declares that 11 months of single lane construction traffic on the hyperion span would not create impact and is manage-able. A 2 lane / 1 lane was just completed on Glendale blvd south of Beverly. Same treatment can happen here and everyone will be fine.

  • Don Ward

    Oh and how could i forget 6′ bike lanes with 2 foot buffer east of waverly connected all the way through from Griffith to Glendale blvd. done and done. Tom LaBonge’s “truck route” be damned.

  • Phillip C.

    There were some real gems in that report. Not just the ‘we can handle traffic during construction with one lane in each direction, but after the construction is over we need two.’

    Even though they claim to be able to run up to 1,325 vehicles through one lane during construction. But the projected traffic volume on both north and south bound Glendale in 2036 max’s out at 995 per hour. So why do they need two lanes in each direction?

    Their method to calculate future traffic volumes was to simply increase traffic by 1% per year. I guess that may have been a fairly accurate method in the past, but all sorts of evidence points to declining automobile usage.

  • ubrayj02

    From the beginning, 2002, the Bureau of Engineering and CalTrans have had to hear two things about this bridge: (1) we all like the way it looks, don’t mess with the looks; and, (2) we want slower car speeds & a safer bridge.

    To their credit, the BoE figured out how to do their retrofit without messing with the looks of the bridge. They stopped there and figured that was all anybody really cared about anyway – and then they applied their rural highway design standards to every other aspect of the Hyperion/Glendale bridge.

    The BoE has ignored public sentiment and selected only those people who drive cars as their target audience. That might have worked in the past, but not anymore.

  • John K

    It really bothers me when they say that there are not sidewalks on both sides of the bridge, that one side is just a curb. If you look at the design of the bridge, which includes bulb louts with benches at certain vista points, the bridge was originally designed with sidewalks on both sides. Also, pedestrians currently use both sides, so we should endeavor to make it a safer walk by expanding the sidewalks. Instead, we create “safe spaces” through banning pedestrians. Its such a double standard. They say, “if cars a driving at unsafe speeds, lets design the bridge to make it easier to crash at high speeds,” while also saying, “its dangerous for pedestrians to walk across the bridge, so let’s limit the amount of spaces they can walk.”

    I am very happy we have been able to sway the NCs in our favor and that public sentiment at the public hearing was so overwhelmingly pro-bike and pro-ped. At the Atwater Village NC, one co-chair was clearly captivated by the idea of the bridge as a destination in and of itself, what with the gorgeous views of the Verdugo and San Gabriel Mountains. Its these kind of things that capture the imagination of the non-cyclists among us to support our cause.

    We will have a world class bridge between these two very bike friendly neighborhoods!

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