Glendale-Hyperion Bridge Political Contortions Forcing Unsafe Compromise Design

Los Angeles' latest "Option 1A" propsal for the Glendale Hyperion Bridge would preserve two sidewalks. Detail - click for full page.
Los Angeles’ latest “Option 1A” proposal for the Glendale Hyperion Bridge would preserve two sidewalks but not include the planned bike lanes. Detail – click for full page.

Last night, the Citizens Advisory Committee for the design of the new Glendale-Hyperion Bridge met to discuss the city’s latest proposal.

L.A.’s historic Glendale-Hyperion Bridge opened in 1927. It connects the Los Angeles communities of Silver Lake and Atwater Village. About ten years ago, city plans to renovate the bridge got underway. In 2013, the city proposed a dangerously high-speed highway-scale bridge design. Communities objected to the proposal. The city went back to the drawing board, and formed an Advisory Committee tasked with reviewing various possible configurations, and coming up with a better plan for the new bridge.

In August, the committee voted to move forward with Option 3 which includes bike lanes and sidewalks, and a road diet. Four existing car lanes would be reduced down to three lanes.  L.A. City Councilmember Tom LaBonge, who represents the area on one side of the bridge, rejected the committee’s selection in favor of one that preserved four traffic lanes.

Given the width of the bridge, there is not quite enough room for two sidewalks, two bike lanes, and four car lanes. LaBonge’s insistence on preserving four car lanes meant that either bike lanes or a sidewalk would be eliminated.

The project stewed internally for a few months.

At last night’s meeting, attended by LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds and City Engineer Gary Moore, LADOT presented a new design – called Option 1A. The new option is an attempt to preserve both sidewalks while meeting LaBonge’s insistence on four car lanes. This eliminates the bike lanes. Preserving both sidewalks (via either Option 1A or Option 3) is important. As it would be prohibitively costly to go back and add sidewalks at a later date. Lanes, whether for bicycles or cars, can be reconfigured relatively inexpensively.

The city’s Option 1A cross section labels the bridge sidewalks as “shared use path[s].” Advisory Committee members Deborah Murphy (L.A. Walks), Don Ward (Los Feliz Neighborhood Council), and Eric Bruins (L.A. County Bicycle Coalition) all commented that these are just sidewalks, not designed for shared use. For most of the bridge, Option 1A shows an 8-foot sidewalk. Under Waverly Drive, the sidewalk narrows to 5.5 feet. The bridge is sloped, which means most cyclists will travel at fairly high speeds downhill. With limited width, limited sight lines, and significant speed differences between people walking and bicycling, Bruins characterized Option 1A as a “recipe for disaster.”

It appears that the political deadlock is poised to result in a design that preserves sidewalks, but is not safer for anyone. Wide roadways will mean higher speeds and less safety for people in cars. Narrow sidewalks shared by people bicycling and walking will result in conflict. And that assumes that bicyclists will choose to ride on the sidewalk and not in the mixed-use lanes with the cars on a high-speed street.

Though Option 1A was presented last night, no final decision was made. Advisory Committee members Ward, Bruins, and Murphy continued to express support for Option 3. Ward suggested that it might take an environmental lawsuit to get the city to do the right thing.

Streetsblog will continue to follow this story.

  • Daveed Kapoor

    argh crash barriers and a median are a recipe for speeding. ugh

  • Chewie

    The four-foot median doesn’t really seem to be contributing much to the design. You can’t do much with it in terms of landscaping and you don’t need as much width to do a physical barrier between the opposing directions of traffic. It would also be nice if the railings at the edges of the sidewalk were fairly tall (at least 6′), otherwise it can be kind of uncomfortable walking next to a large drop (e.g. bridges over the 110 in Downtown).

    If the bike lanes get axed maybe there’s some goofy solution like putting speed humps in the right lanes with a gap in the middle for bikes to pass through unimpeded. Four vehicle lanes, AND a comfy place to bike, everybody wins! LaBonge never said how fast he wanted those four lanes to move ;)

  • Jesus Christ, does anybody ever ask these people what the hell their motivation is? How can they in good conscience defend these ass-crap decisions?

    Guess what: 9′ car lanes leaves enough room for a 6.5 foot sidewalk on both sides PLUS 5′ bike lanes on both sides, AND it slows the cars down to a reasonable speed. Problem solved.

  • The fact that they’re called crash barriers says enough.

  • Alex Brideau III

    If up to two lanes of traffic are required in either direction, just bring back the bike lanes, trim a car lane, and make the center car lane a reversible lane. Seems like a more efficient use of space to me while offering traffic flexibility:
    > Morning rush hour: 2 lanes west, 1 lane east
    > Afternoon rush hour: 2 lanes east, 1 lane west
    > All other times: 1 lane in each direction with a 1-lane median/emergency lane

  • MaxUtil

    Unfortunately this kind of reversible lane is actually quite complex and expensive to implement. And they only work well in areas that have very strong commuter traffic in one direction that reverses. This bridge has pretty steady flow both ways morning and evening.

    However, in the impact study for what would happen during construction, DOT says that losing a car travel lane during construction basically won’t slow down traffic at all. So there’s really no need to have two lanes in each direction. Unfortunately, people just don’t want to accept the idea that there is such a thing as a road that has more capacity than it needs or that high speeds for cars shouldn’t always take priority over everything else.

  • don ward

    I would like to see Seleta Reynolds and Dan Mitchell come forward and give their professional opinion on what the safest design is. We know from the traffic studies that all designs perform well under worst case scenario. Which is the safest? At least then the politicians will be responsible for injury and fatality if they choose the least safe. This of course guarantees that the LADOT will never answer the question.

  • Dennis_Hindman

    The two 8-ft wide mixed use paths shown in the above picture should be combined into one. That would create a 16-foot wide path at its widest point and 11-feet wide at its narrowest.

    This would look and function very similar to the Orange Line mixed use path which is 16-foot wide most of its distance. It narrows at many of the approaches to intersections.

    Another way to look at it is the approximately 2-mile long mixed use path that runs in the median of Chandler Blvd in the city of Los Angeles and the city of Burbank. This is a very quiet street with two through lanes for cars on both sides of the median. There are sidewalks on both sides of the street in the Burbank portion and the street has few cars traveling on it and a posted speed limit of 30 mph. Pedestrians and cyclist could easily use the sidewalks and streets. The great majority of cyclists and pedestrians use the mixed use path in the median. Take that mixed use path out and the level of walking and bicycling will noticeably drop.

    Starting at 3:50 in this Bicycle Dutch video is a railroad bridge that has a 3-meter wide (9.8 feet) cycle track on one side. The bicycle riders look quite comfortable and a pedestrian is approaching to use it.

  • Dennis_Hindman

    Another mostly mixed use path on a bridge in the Netherlands that includes a roadway for cars. It looks to be 16-feet wide or less.

  • don

    dennis hang on. you are about 14 months behind on the funnel of decisions that have led us to today. your plan is not feasible, it has been discussed and for reasons you can find in other articles we are here with these 3 plans.

  • ubrayj02

    The question I have is who so fully owns LaBonge that he’s willing to ignore so much community sentiment? How much money and support does it take to buy someone out like this?

  • Joe B

    We get to ride on the sidewalk next to a freeway. Look what cyclists in Victoria, BC get!

    Politicians keep telling me that America is the best country on Earth. If that’s true, how come we’re not good enough to build a bridge with a bike lane?

  • Not so Great Streets

    Thought Seleta Reynolds and Eric Garcetti were gonna be a livable streets dynamic duo? Think again. The (mostly) car-centric council members own this city and they seem to prove it more each day. Vision Zero? Don’t worry, it’s just a name, no real commitment from this administration. All our great streets will have angled parking and be “safe,” like Glendale Blvd…and we’ll have the Great Street team tweet about how great everything is while ignoring cost-effective and proven measures to make us happier, healthier people.

  • Not so Great Streets

    Let the cars crash into each other if they so desire. I could get behind this idea if the lanes were narrowed to 10′ and if the median were reduced to 3′ so that there would be an extra 4′ to add to the “shared use paths.” This would mean they could be 10′ in each direction and narrow to 7′ at under Waverly which seems totally acceptable, though bicyclists would undoubtedly have to slow down to avoid creaming pedestrians, especially when going downhill. Truth be told, I’d rather mix with peds than with cars, I know not everyone feels the same way.

  • Not so Great Streets

    I wonder, how are bicyclists transitioned on and off these shared-use paths? At the moment, that can be a scary merge and if the merge is not planned for, I see many bicyclists just taking the lane to avoid awkward transitions where they may have to wait several minutes simply to get on or off the sidewalks.

  • disgusted human

    I have to laugh at this otherwise I will cry at the amount of volunteer time spent on this. The LACBC and all the safe streets lobby were coo-ing and purring and gushing over Reynolds like she was going to finally be the “one.” They even had a birthday party for her. Lots of joy and happiness.

    First real test? FAIL.

    You realize that with one move the LADOT completely dismantled a year of volunteer advocacy work. The LACBC was too meek to whimper an objection to this hijacking of the process either. It’s so infuriating.

  • Mooney Starr

    In addition to Bruins, Murphy and Ward were the other 3 CAC Option #3 supporters Alex Ward (Friends of LA River), Daniel Chamberlain (Ivanhoe Elementary) and Matthew Mooney (Silver Lake Neighborhood Council).

  • Jeff Jacobberger

    The federal regulations applicable to this project say “the bridge shall be reconstructed so that bicycles can be safely accommodated.” It is shameful that some City Council members feel that they are above the law.

  • Jeff Jacobberger

    Tom is acting out of his sincere belief that bicyclists absolutely do not belong on major streets.

  • Don

    Jeff will you please have the BAC write an open letter to the LADOT demanding that they make a recommendation as to the safest option for all users given that the traffic studies show minimal difference under worst case scenario?

  • You Can’t Fight City Hall

    No surprises here. I sat this one out and watched and have to admit I was becoming hopeful. Don, Mooney, Kathryn and the volunteers they recruited to gather the support and petitions they did was incredible work and they did it “the right way.” Followed the process, got the neighborhood councils on board and really did their due diligence. With Seleta Reynolds getting appointed by Garcetti things looked like they were finally changing for the better in this town.

    The LACBC absolutely should raise a protest to this “compromise” plan, why they didn’t when it was presented to them a month ago is telling. Im not holding my breath for them to do much because that is not what they do. They don’t rock the boat. They are the planning students from college who graduate and this is the first step into the world and a stepping stone to a better career elsewhere.

  • John Casden

    I don’t understand why Mitch O’Farrel wouldn’t support this. He seemed like a bike friendly candidate when the bike community supported him for CD13.

  • Alex

    Wow. So Seleta Reynolds says “ride on the sidewalks”? That is her solution? Essentially option 1A is the exact same as option 3 but without bike lanes. Why can’t they just do option 3 and test it for 6 months to see if it is feasible? You can always take the bike lanes out if its unbear-able for cars.

    It only takes a tiny tiny amount of guts to make this work. C’mon LADOT.

  • Don

    This question was raised during the Citizens Advisory Committee and we were told “the details havent been worked out” “we are hovering at 3000 feet when we really should be hovering at 35,000 feet right now”

  • Not so Great Streets

    How can the public, or the committee, be expected to make a decision if they don’t know how people bicycling are supposed to get on or off the shared-use path?

  • Don

    The answer is… they don’t really give a damn about bikes… the LADOT sees bikes and peds as a nuisance.

  • Patrick Miller

    ‘Entitlement over Safety’

    – Tom Labonge

  • Bob P

    Politics tends to dictate policy.

  • BrettinSF

    So Bicyclists have to wait for two light signals in order to cross the street on either side of the bridge and continue on their journey?

  • ubrayj02

    You can’t fight city hall, but you can buy city hall and you can raise hell in city hall and in low turnout elections you can tear the heart out of city hall and replace it with one that is not a dead machine for a lost age.

  • ubrayj02

    When you have a lot of rage but no more legitimate pathways to fixing things in your city – what happens then?

  • ubrayj02

    The best we can do is stall this entire project. Stall it ASAP and keep it frozen until after Tomas O’Grady can get elected. So there is a two-pronged tactic: do whatever it takes to freeze this project and turn as much time and energy as possible towards getting a councilman in office here who will not destroy all the years of work behind the bike plan and efforts to make this bridge safe.

  • Don

    I dont really want to raise hell and cause a bunch of strife I want to follow the correct process and play by the rules and I want the LACBC to back us up and coordinate with us.

    This would be the first time ever that bike lanes reach the LA river from the west side of LA.

    This is SO important.

  • theNightSkate

    Tom Labonge is an old fart, foisting 20th-century thinking above all else, as old men are often want to do in their waning years.

  • theNightSkate

    From what i can tell, following the processes and playing by the rules gives you the moral high ground, from which you get a really great view of the screwing you’re getting in exchange for all your hard work :)

    There are so many examples, but i think the most egregious was when the city sent those making efforts to preserve the old Riverside bridge chasing snipes last year, and using that delay to completely derail their efforts.

  • Joe Linton

    Matthew – yes – thank you – sorry I was rushing to get the article up Friday while it was still hot news… and I didn’t get to tell the whole story. You’ve done a lot of good work on this – sorry I haven’t included you in my coverage yet.

  • 3ba

    Guerrilla re-striping?

  • ubrayj02

    I am having a hard time understanding the politics of ignoring Option 3.

    There is a council election in March of 2015 and LaBonge’s successor will be in his place later in the year (is that correct?).

    Why allow him to leave behind such a horrible legacy? I understand that “the way things are done” in LA is that an action against an individual councilman is an action against them all. Woe unto the department head that crosses one of these bozos. HOWEVER, why not game this special period between a councilman’s time in office and the beginning of the term for his or her replacement?

    I mean, are there any legal steps that the LADOT needs to take to start work on the project? If there aren’t, then wait a few months until just after the election and start working on Option 3 – twist the freaking knife in LaBonge’s back. Pick the dates right and it will be very hard for him to do much but flail.

    Better still if you line up Eric Garcetti’s pick(s) for the seat and give them the tip off about this – give them a chance to stump against LaBonge’s chief of staff (Carolyn “Labonge II” Ramsay). If Ransay wins, then okay the bike community and walk community loses. If one of the pro-Option 3 candidates (I believe Tomas O’Grady is the guy we’re looking for here) wins, then slam home the changes and install Option 3.

    As a department head why only accept the councils abuse using their meta-veto power? In these special lame duck phases in LA council politics departments can get away with acting in full accordance with the power bestowed upon them in the Charter and Municipal Code. Burn LaBonge, Seleta, burn LaBonge.

  • Don

    I support Tomas. But this isnt about who gets elected in CD4 this is about getting all the candidates to understand and support this.

    I want LaBonge et al to come out as our hero. He used to be pro-bike, he used to lead bike rides… i dont know why he is so committed to this being a freeway corridor.

  • ubrayj02

    One man: Stephen Box. LaBonge saw all of us turn on him to support Stephen and decided that our LIVES were not worth consideration. He’s been doing it for years so it wasn’t much of a stretch to just make his hate official. He’s deeply anti-pedestrian and bike. Just how LaBonge’s built.

  • LADOT is pure evil.

    I just realized something that is quite evil actually… Option 1a if implemented would render buffered bike lanes impossible in the future.

  • roner

    just call it like it is. Seleta Reynolds is getting no back up from the mayor what so ever. none. if it were viaraigosa he’d be directing the LADOT GM to steam roll the council office.

    as it is no one has the balls to tell Tom LaBonge to sit down. politicians dont know safe street design. they shouldnt have the final say.

  • neroden

    3 lanes is safer than 4 lanes… and usually faster, too. There’s a lot of weaving generated in 4-lane configurations.

    Can someone convince LaBonge not to be stupid? Or can things simply be delayed until LaBonge is out of office, probably next year?

  • neroden

    Department of DIY, the best government department in LA (wink)…

  • neroden

    Time to tell those fools “Take care of the pence and the pounds will take care of themselves”. (An old saying, meaning, deal with all the details and the big picture will sort itself out.)

  • neroden

    “Zero Vision” is more accurate.

  • neroden

    Because lanes are their god, and asphalt is their holy sacrament, and they go to worship at the altar of widened roads. I can’t come up with any other explanation for the irrational behavior. (People objected to the pedestrianization of Broadway in New York City — which *actually sped up car traffic* by eliminating complicated diagonal intersections.)


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