What Should Downtown L.A. Do to Get Ready for Bike Share?

New bike lanes on 3rd Street in Downtown Los Angeles. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
New bike lanes on 3rd Street in Downtown Los Angeles. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Metro regional bike share is coming soon. If all goes as planned, a year from now, downtown Los Angeles will have system on the ground. It will include about 1,000 bikes at 65 docking stations. The system will extend from Union Station to USC. For more detail, see SBLA’s earlier preview.

It’s not too early to ask Streetsblog L.A. readers — are Downtown Los Angeles streets ready to make bike share a big success? If not, what changes should L.A.’s Transportation Department (LADOT) prioritize in the coming months?

Let’s start by celebrating. Downtown has come a long ways in the last half a decade.

Back on October 10, 2010, there was this event called CicLAvia that flooded central Los Angeles streets with bicycles. At that time, there were no bike facilities in downtown Los Angeles.

In fact, there still were no bikeways downtown through July 2011. In August 2011, the 7th Street bike lanes arrived, dipping their toes across the 110 Freeway into downtown.

Green pavement bike lanes soon followed on Spring Street. Then, buffered bike lanes on Los Angeles Street and First Street.

In 2012, Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar and LADOT announced the coming Downtown L.A. Bikeway Network. Other than a few facilities that the city spent a lot of time and money to study (Cesar Chavez Avenue and Venice Boulevard), the downtown network was built out. And then some — downtown now boasts one of the most complete bikeway networks in the city. 

It’s not Wilmington, but downtown is a great place to bike. Even when LAPD vehicles park in some of the lanes some of the time.

Downtown’s increased bikeability is a subject of some controversy. Talk radio hosts assert that streets there have 50 percent of space for bikes. City Council candidate Gloria Molina has asserted that downtown should be less urban.

And there are still a few more bikeways on the way. Theoretically, LADOT will be adding bike lanes to Venice Boulevard, Cesar Chavez Avenue, and Central Avenue… or they will at least keep studying those possibilities. The ambitious MyFigueoa complete streets project is delayed, but going out to bid mid-2015.

One of my biggest concerns for L.A. bike share is walkability.

I mentioned walkability’s role in bike share in this earlier piece. Bike share kiosks cannot quite go everywhere. Bike share trips typically will include a short walk trip on each end. I think of it as bike share’s first mile / last mile issue, though it is more like first couple blocks / last couple blocks.

Downtown is pretty walkable and has been for a long time. The Department of City Planning (DCP) shephereded policies to keep downtown walkable, from street standards to adaptive re-useLADOT has implemented a number of projects to improve the pedestrian environment, from Broadway Dress Rehearsal to parklets to leading pedestrian intervals. Another parklet and two more scramble intersections are coming soon. MyFigueroa, mentioned above, will also be great for walkability.

But is downtown Los Angeles walkable enough for bike share? What can LADOT do to keep making DTLA safer and more convenient for people walking?

And hey, Pasadena, looks like you’re next. Are Pasadena streets bikeable and walkable enough to support bike share?

  • We need better options for 1 way streets
    And elimination of the LAPD pedestrian harassment policy

  • Alex Brideau III

    “What can LADOT do to keep making DTLA safer and more convenient for people walking?”

    I can think of a whole host of things, but the first that pops to mind is a simple re-calibration of the mid-block crosswalk beg buttons. In some locations in Santa Monica, mid-block crosswalk beg buttons instantaneously initiate a yellow-then-red light for cross traffic. Here in DTLA, we’re subjected to loooooooong wait times. If Santa Monica can do this, so can DTLA. Follow their mid-block crosswalk model.

  • Sam

    I’m glad it seems “instantaneous” in Santa Monica. As of about 6 months ago, the mid-block xings were coordinated with the upstream and downstream signals. Although they weren’t instantaneous (they had to wait until the timing fit within the coordination plan), the downtown signals are on short cycles (60 to 90 seconds), so any wait time was/is relatively short.

  • Alex Brideau III

    I’d bet that only certain SM crosswalks are instantaneous (or only instantaneous at certain times, perhaps), but I wasn’t exaggerating when I used that word. In several locations such as Main St just south of Hollister and 4th St between Arizona Ave and Santa Monica Blvd, I have had the experience of pressing the beg button and seen the yellow light appear before my hand returned to my side. (That said, as soon as the walk cycle is complete, someone just arriving at the crosswalk usually can’t initiate an instantaneous change for a certain period of time.)

    My experience related above just occurred last week on 4th St. I haven’t used the Main St crosswalk in several months, so it’s possible it’s been reprogrammed since my last use.

  • Josef Taylor

    Agreed, I think we should cut out most of the one way streets; they make cycling and walking more dangerous for the sake of auto throughput.

    Two way streets are easier to navigate, safer to cross and less speeding prone.

  • Make sure SB-192 doesn’t get passed. That’ll kill bike share before it begins.

  • Sam

    When the signals aren’t running in coordination, typically on the weekends or off-peak hours at night or in the early morning, the button will trigger an instant call and make the light change.

  • AlecMitchell

    As a downtown resident, I generally feel safer walking around one way streets, as drivers there tend to be more predictable (other than the drivers who occasionally but inevitably turn the wrong way onto them). Last minute left turners trying to beat the light on two way streets are a much bigger concern to me, both as a pedestrian and very occasional bicyclist. I guess left turns as a cyclist are a bit easier when there are fewer traffic lanes in your direction, but otherwise I don’t see the advantage to turning one-ways into two-ways.

  • AlecMitchell

    I’d love to see those Santa Monica style instant-on mid-block cross walks with the in-street flashing lights in DTLA. Yes, please.

  • Alex Brideau III

    Add to the list of pedestrian improvements, perhaps introduction of some curb extensions, initially at mid-block crosswalks, but also at intersections that involve one-way streets. If my casual observations are correct, intersections that involve one-way streets always have two corners that cars don’t tend to “clip” because turns don’t occur near them. This results in extra roadway that’s not very helpful to either people driving or walking. To me, these corners seem like the lowest-hanging fruit for curb extensions.

    A good example of a corner that has received this treatments is the (south)west corner of 12th & Olive in DTLA. Extensions were not added to the (north)east corner, but that might be because the corner parcel is about to break ground on new construction.

  • Nick A

    Bike share should be in Hollywood and Santa Monica. The tourists using the bikes would probably pay for everywhere else getting bikes.

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