LADOT Striping Some, Not All, of Bike Lanes on Repaved Venice Blvd

New buffered bike lane preliminary striping on Venice Boulevard, just west of Arlington. All photos Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
New buffered bike lane preliminary striping on Venice Boulevard, just west of Arlington Avenue. All photos Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

The preliminary striping is down on the resurfaced mid-city stretch of Venice Boulevard that SBLA highlighted last week. The site is east of the existing Venice Blvd bike lanes, in the Los Angeles City neighborhoods of Harvard Heights, Arlington Heights, and Mid-City

Google map of Venice Boulevard area referenced in this article
Google map of Venice Boulevard area referenced in this article

The good news is that the L.A. City Transportation Department (LADOT) is extending bike lanes one mile east to Arlington Avenue.

The bad news is that, despite an approved plan and years of extensive studies to extend the lanes into downtown Los Angeles, the Venice Boulevard bike lanes will end at Arlington. For now.

The city recently resurfaced two stretches of Venice Boulevard in this area. Streetsblog reported on resurfacing from Arlington Avenue to Western Avenue. L.A. also resurfaced the northern (westbound) half of Venice Blvd from Crenshaw Blvd to San Vicente Blvd. 

The Crenshaw-San Vicente stretch has had a history of bike lanes disappearing and re-appearing with the Mid-Town Crossing redevelopment.

Reading the preliminary striping, the existing bike lanes in that area are being upgraded to buffered bike lanes. 

Existing eastbound bike lanes on Venice Boulevard (pictured here at Wellington Road) are being upgraded to buffered bike lanes.
Existing eastbound bike lanes on Venice Boulevard (pictured here at Wellington Road) are being upgraded to buffered bike lanes.
The buffered Venice Boulevard bike lanes extend from Arlington Avenue to at least Lafayette
As of yesterday, the buffered Venice Boulevard bike lane’s preliminary markings extend from Arlington Avenue to Lafayette Road. West of Lafayette, along Mid-Town Crossing (where there are a lot of cars turning and merging across the bike lane), had not yet received preliminary markings.

The new bike lanes are part of a road diet. The width and lanes vary somewhat; adding the bike lanes has reduced travel lanes, and removed a few on-street parking spaces. The section from Arlington to 7th Avenue, is being reduced from seven car lanes to five.

The new road diet will make Venice Boulevard safer for everyone. People on foot will have fewer car lanes to walk across.
The new road diet will make Venice Boulevard safer for everyone. People on foot will have fewer car lanes to walk across.

From the driver’s perspective, car and bus traffic should flow fairly smoothly as LADOT’s reconfiguration makes for a consistent number of travel lanes all the way from San Vicente into downtown.

Bicyclists aren’t so lucky. At Arlington, they go from dedicated bike lanes to sharing busy car traffic lanes. Many ride on the sidewalk instead, where they encounter conflict with people walking.

Preliminary striping on Venice Boulevard at Wilton. Cyclists and pedestrians compete for sidewalk space, while cars get four lanes and parking.
Preliminary striping on Venice Boulevard at Wilton. Cyclists and pedestrians compete for sidewalk space, while cars get four lanes and parking.

Streetsblog received this explanation from LADOT:

The bike lane project on Venice involves two phases. Phase 1 is the segment between Arlington (east limit) and Lafayette (west limit). A good chunk of Phase 1 overlapped with a resurfacing project. With the resurfacing completed recently, we will be implementing Phase 1 imminently.

Phase 2 is the segment between Arlington (west) and Figueroa (east).  This segment will include new bus/bicycle shared lanes and will require the removal of traffic lanes and parking. The design is about 75% complete. We are awaiting input from CD 10 (Arlington to Normandie), CD 1 (Normandie to 110), and CD 9 (110 to Figueroa), so that we may finalize the plans for implementation.

What is disconcerting about LADOT’s actions is that that they are foregoing an approved plan for one not yet approved.

The 2010 Bike Plan designated bike lanes for this part of Venice Blvd. Those approved lanes were studied via an extensive public environmental review (EIR) process, but have now been ignored in favor of future bus-bike lanes that pending approval. The bus lanes are part of the city’s draft Mobility Plan which is anticipated to be voted on after April 2015. It is possible that the final version of the plan could omit the Venice Boulevard transit lanes. Even if they are in the approved plan, if the Wilshire bus lanes are any indication, it could be a decade before Venice Boulevard improvements are implemented.

Delays like this make it look like LADOT will need to move back its 2025 vision zero goal.

L.A. City Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) Chair Jeff Jacobberger characterized the Venice Boulevard situation as follows:

I’ll put a positive spin on this. On the segment west of Crenshaw, the right lane was fairly wide and (except for pavement condition and some overhanging bushes) shareable with cars. However, because of the width of the lane and the absence of cross streets, traffic tends to move very fast on this segment. Striped bike lanes and narrower travel lanes might well have a traffic calming effect that will make this section more comfortable for people on bikes.

The section between Crenshaw and Arlington has variable widths and lane configurations. In the westbound lanes, when you cross Arlington, Venice goes from 2 to 3 lanes, so traffic speeds tend to pick up significantly. In the eastbound direction, at Crenshaw, the right lane is effectively a right-turn lane, and for vehicles driving east, Venice effectively widens, which increases speeds. Because of the bend at 7th Ave/Bronson, I am always somewhat worried that I will get rear-ended by a car speeding around the curve. Again, re-striping in this section will hopefully have a traffic calming effect and create a much safer space for bicyclists.

East of Arlington, where Venice is narrower, I am more confident about taking a lane without being killed.

In short, this Phase I will make the worst parts of Venice Blvd better for confident, experienced bicyclists, but, by failing to extend the lanes east of Arlington, the street will remain un-bikeable for most people who bike or who would consider biking. This is really a missed opportunity, because the Venice Blvd bike lanes had promised to be the City’s first continuous “Bike Lanes to the Sea.”

Lastly, though SBLA credited Jacobberger with tipping the city and SBLA to the repaving situation on Venice, acknowledgement should go to SBLA boardmember Jonathan Weiss who tipped Jacobberger off.

  • Niall Huffman

    The bus/bike lanes on the segment east of Arlington were in fact studied in the 2013 EIR; the rationale given was that full-time dedicated bike lanes would have an unacceptable impact on bus travel times if buses had to share a single thru lane with autos. Same justification used for the bus/bike lanes on Sunset in Echo Park/Angelino Heights.

  • MaxUtil

    “We are awaiting input from CD 10 (Arlington to Normandie), CD 1 (Normandie to 110), and CD 9 (110 to Figueroa)” – sounds to me like ‘We are giving councilmembers an opportunity to veto plans that were carefully developed and approved by the full city council.” I’m particularly excited to hear that Cedillo will have another chance to stop a planned and approved project so he can “study” it more.

  • Joe Linton

    I didn’t know that – thanks for the clarification

  • Jonathan Weiss

    Thanks for the updated article. I rode home on Venice (from the Metro meeting) and felt bad for not taking pictures for you. But you had it covered!

    My commute was full of leapfrogging with the buses – on NB Figueroa,
    on SB Spring, then on WB Venice. It’s one thing when I have my own lane, so the buses only have to pull in/out without killing me. (Every one of the Metro operators was great about it.) But it’s another to be the one person holding up a bus full of people in a bus lane as I was on Fig. How is that going to work on Venice where there are more people on bikes than on Fig? (Plus, Fig is temporary, with real bike infrastructure coming.) I have only ridden the Wilshire bus lanes once, but I must have been between buses, because I don’t remember any interaction. And I haven’t ridden the Sunset lane with buses.

    P.S. I rode to Downtown in the EB Exposition bike lane trying to avoid the water in the gutter from overwatering the exotic plants and the glass in the glassiest bike lane I know – but that’s another story.

  • Dennis_Hindman

    To get a picture of the potential traffic congestion, and how it gets harder to obtain space for bike lanes, you need to figure out the population density and the amount of motor vehicle lanes. Also the percentage of this population that uses transit to commute to work.

    The average population density in the city of Los Angeles is 8,000 people per square mile.

    Arlington Heights has a population density of 21,000 people per square mile (13th highest in the county).

    Harvard Heights population density is 23,000 people per square mile (6th highest in the county).

    Starting at Normandie Ave heading east along Venice Blvd is the community of Pico-Union which has a population density of 25,000 people per square mile (4th highest in the county).

    Using Census Bureau household surveys of the main form of transportation to work broken down into small population tracts:

    The percentage of commuters who use transit goes from about 19.7% from 6th ave to Arlington Ave. Then it increases to about 35% from Arlington Ave to Hobart Blvd (west of Normandie). From Normandie Ave to the Harbor Freeway commuting by transit increases to about 39%. East of the Harbor Freeway it rises to as high as 55%.

    Having less street width on Venice Blvd heading east of Arlington Ave is greatly reducing the amount of motor vehicle lanes per population. This squeezes much more people into each motor vehicle lane and makes it increasingly difficult to take any space away from parking or moving lanes for motor vehicles to put in bike lanes.

    To top it off, the percentage of commuters who primarily use a bicycle for journey to work trips is mostly far below average for the city along Venice Blvd from 6th Ave to Hoover St.

  • John K

    Niall,

    Forgive my ignorance, but are the proposed Bus/Bike lanes for rush hour only or will they be a permanent feature on the boulevard?

  • Niall Huffman

    From the EIR’s project description (page 3-11): “From Arlington Avenue to Figueroa Street, the proposed project would involve the loss of one lane in each
    direction and would introduce a continuous center left-turn lane. Due to the high frequency and volume of
    buses on Venice Boulevard and the effective reduction of mixed-flow lanes, the proposed project now
    includes peak period bicycle-transit-only lanes (bus only lanes that allow bicycles), within this segment.
    During off-peak periods, parking would be permitted on both sides (with sufficient room to accommodate
    standard Class II bicycle lane dimensions adjacent to the parked cars). During peak periods, parking would
    be prohibited and the parking lane would become bicycle-transit only lanes. Signage and pavement markings
    would regulate conditions appropriately. From Figueroa Street to Main Street, the proposed project would
    involve the loss of the peak-period lanes in each direction, but would introduce a continuous center left-turn
    lane and full-time bike lanes. Off-peak parking would be eliminated on both sides of the street between
    Figueroa Street and Main Street.”

    Full EIR here: http://planning.lacity.org/EIR/BicyclePlan/DEIR/Bike%20Plan%20Draft%20EIR.html

  • Niall Huffman

    The bus/bike lanes would operate in exactly the same manner as those on Sunset — peak hours only, parking allowed off-peak with left-over lane space about the width of a standard bike lane.

  • Chris F

    The cool thing is, put in some bike lanes to make it a safe way for people to commute, and they’ll start doing just that (not only because it’s so much cheaper and easier to own/maintain/operate a bike vs a car, but also because people just enjoy it more than driving as we’ve seen with previously installed bike lanes on congested streets). Also, since every new commuter on a bike is one less car on the road it reduces congestion as well!

  • calwatch

    I’m not a big fan of bus/bike lanes, but the problem is that bike lanes have really clogged up buses, especially Downtown where the former bus only lane on Spring and Main was converted to the green bike lane and on 7th where Rapid Buses now make local stops all the way from Central into Downtown because of traffic congestion. Actually, given a bikeshare at the Greyhound station or 7th/Central, it’s probably faster to bike from there to Metro Center than it is to take the 60 or 760 during rush hour. The obvious solution would be to ban through car traffic on intermittent blocks, similar to how the Portland Transit Mall does it, but that is seen as too confusing to enforce.

    The counter to that is for the casual rider, especially going uphill, they feel that they are holding the bus up and so are more inclined to ride on the sidewalk instead. When I take the Dodger shuttle, I notice quite a few bikes using the sidewalk. Bus/bike lanes are probably OK on flat roads, less so on hilly ones. The fact is, though, that buses are not going away and are just a part of active transportation as walking and bicycling.

  • Salts

    The fact any space was removed from cars is a victory! The city’s new buffered bike lanes are awesome, just sucks that they disappear at intersections. At least on Spring Street they do some green markings.

  • Don W

    It is ridiculous that the bus / bike lanes cant be permanent. It is the lack of traffic on off peak hours that can most afford the restriction of cars to one lane. Making the street safer by slowing cars down. Having the buses time the lights, vs speeding from red to red or just drive at about 20mph maybe 25 so that cyclists can share the road easier. EVEN BETTER during off peak hours make the bus lane FULL TIME bike lanes. Buses can travel in the travel lane. Problem solved.

  • calwatch

    If we compare the number of people the bike lane carries to the number of people a bus carries, you might have a different idea. Or try riding a bus down Seventh Street as you deal with cars trying to make right turns without the ability to pass them. Why does transit always have to get the short shrift when bike and pedestrian facilities are added?

  • Joe Linton

    um… because them cars got all the space… and we’re unwilling to take space from cars to give it to transit

  • It doesn’t. A combined bus/bike lane is one step up from a disaster.

  • So it sounds like the real story here is that they just need to close the street to all through traffic not in a bus, on foot, or on a bike.

  • I bet the “too confusing enforce” argument would quickly get thrown out if they decided to ban bikes instead.

  • Alex Brideau III

    I hope to see some use of green in right turn lanes and other car/bike mixing areas. For drivers still unaccustomed to sharing the road with bikes, often a single (or dashed) painted line is not enough.

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