A Tale of Two Future Bridges: New Bike/Ped Crossing on L.A. River, Fewer Sidewalks on Glendale-Hyperion

A person crossing would have to come down from the bridge on the right to the red car bridge on the left to cross the bridge. Would anyone do this and add 12 minutes to their trip in the real world?
Under the two plans announced today, a person crossing would have to come down from the bridge on the right to the red car bridge on the left to cross. Would anyone do this and add 12 minutes to their trip in the real world?

It was sort of a surreal moment. Even as Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell stood at the podium discussing the benefits of a planned new bicycle and pedestrian crossing over the L.A. River, the Bureau of Public Works released its recommendation (PDF) that the new Glendale-Hyperion Bridge would actually have fewer feet devoted to safe sidewalks than the current bridge.

LaBonge and O’Farrell at this morning’s press event. Both pics by Damien Newton

What was supposed to be a light press conference announcing the opening of a permanent bridge project using existing support structures from an old Red Car bridge across the L.A. River turned somewhat sour for many of the community and traffic safety advocates in attendance when the Bureau announced their plans for the bridge on their website. News traveled quickly among the crowd, and the reporters present suddenly found themselves with dozens of sources for a meatier story than a made-for-bike-week announcement of new infrastructure.

In the fall of 2013, news broke that when the Glendale-Hyperion complex of bridges that connect Atwater Village and Silver Lake would be retrofitted to make them earthquake-proof, local advocates immediately noticed problems with the new design on the street portion of the bridge. Despite appearing on the city’s bicycle plan, the road redesign called for widening the existing car lanes, installing “crash barriers” in the middle of the bridge, removing a sidewalk, and adding no bike lanes.

After an explosion of public comment and a community forum which turned into a Livable Streets rally, O’Farrell, announced a citizen’s advisory committee would be formed. The Mayor’s office submitted a request for an extension to the grant. The old timeline would have precluded any major changes to the proposed road design.

Earlier today, the Bureau of Engineering released its analysis of four different designs for the new bridge, concluding that to make space for a pair of bike lanes on the new bridge, the best option was to take out one of the two sidewalks.

At the podium this morning, O’Farrell painted as rosy a picture as possible, discussing the importance of river crossings for all mode users and some of the improvements the new Hyperion Bridge will have over the existing one, including marked crosswalks and bicycle lanes. He even struck a populist tone, declaring his support for “protected bicycle lanes” on Hyperion and across the city.

But that wasn’t enough for many of the safety advocates in the audience. A press release from L.A. Walks noted that any bicyclist or pedestrian on Glendale Boulevard wanting to cross the river on the “Red Car Bridge” would need to travel twelve minutes out of their way–and are thus far more likely to use the limited sidewalk or just walk on the shoulder even without a sidewalk.

“The City of Los Angeles promotes the fact that we have moved past our auto-centric history and want to be ‘A Safe City,’ as it states in the Mayor’s Great Streets for Los Angeles Strategic Plan,” says Deborah Murphy. “We cannot achieve this goal if we can’t provide the most basic of provisions for pedestrians–a simple sidewalk on both sides of the bridge.”

Murphy’s name is synonymous with advocacy for safe streets as Chair of the City’s Pedestrian Advisory Committee and executive director of L.A. Walks. She is also a Silver Lake resident, and served on the Citizen’s Advisory Committee that examined all of the different options for the new bridge.

“Everybody walks, but not everybody drives. Yet the city wants to build a bridge that only allows you to walk on one side of the bridge.”

Screenshot via the Bureau of Engineering. ##http://boe.lacity.org/docs/dpw/agendas/2015/201505/20150515/boe/20150515_ag_br_boe_1.pdf##(PDF)##
Screenshot via the Bureau of Engineering. ##http://boe.lacity.org/docs/dpw/agendas/2015/201505/20150515/boe/20150515_ag_br_boe_1.pdf##(PDF)##

After Councilmember Tom LaBonge left to chair a committee meeting at City Hall, O’Farrell remained to answer the tougher questions. A Los Angeles Times transportation reporter cornered the Councilman to try and get an answer on whether or not he would support the Bureau of Engineering’s proposal to create a new bridge with only one sidewalk. Staff tried to shuffle the Councilmember off to a waiting car to avoid the question that he non-answered, “He hadn’t crossed that bridge yet,” citing his need to be at City Hall for a full council meeting at 10 a.m.

(Update, 10:20 p.m. – Staff for Councilmember O’Farrell states that since the event, the councilmember has had a chance to read the report and he supports the BoE’s recommendations, but is going to fight for protected bike lanes and a pedestrian activated signalized cross walk on the Atwater Village side of the bridge.)

The City Board of Public Works will hear the Bureau of Engineering’s recommended plan at its meeting on Friday (agenda).With O’Farrell equivocating and Councilmember LaBonge actively pushing for a bridge design that doesn’t reduce car capacity, some of the focus will slip to the two candidates seeking to replace LaBonge in this year’s election.

Come July 1, either Carolyn Ramsay or David Ryu will be the Councilmember representing Silver Lake, replacing the termed-out LaBonge. Both Ramsay and Ryu are on the record supporting a Hyperion design with sidewalks on both sides of the bridge. Both Ramsay and Ryu have pledged to write the Board of Public Works with their support for the sidewalks.

In a way, the timing of today’s press event and the Bureau’s announcement is unfortunate because the Red Car bridge crossing, while not necessarily news, is a worthwhile project, and O’Farrell is right to be proud of it.

The project will utilize the existing piers once used by the Red Car trolley to cross the Los Angeles River. The bridge will connect the pedestrian and bike trail along the L.A. River to the Red Car Mini-Park on the northeast river bank, making a convenient connection to Atwater businesses and homes.

This bridge will also be used to provide bike and pedestrian access during the future seismic retrofit and historic preservation of the Glendale Hyperion Bridge. In fact, original plans called for the Red Car Bike and Pedestrian Bridge to be a temporary facility.

However, to many of the advocates in attendance today, the Red Car bridge project is no replacement for a Glendale-Hyperion bridge with two sidewalks.

“We did everything by the book, motions passed by the Neighborhood Councils,” said Don Ward, who was one of the leaders of a community effort to gather support for a bridge with two bike lanes and two sidewalks.

“Hundred upon hundreds of conversations with homeowners, residents, businesses, parent groups, principals, churches… the amount of volunteer hours that the safe streets community put into this is staggering.”

A full list of supporting organizations can be found at the end of this article.

The Board of Public Works will meet this Friday at 10 a.m. in City Hall to hear the Bureau’s proposal. If passed, the recommendation will be put on the City Council agenda. However, it will likely go before a champion of Livable Streets, since the likeliest committees for it to go through are Transportation (chaired by Mike Bonin) or Planning and Land Use (chaired by Jose Huizar.)

Hyperion Option 3 – Letters of Support

owners – 42
Atwater Crossing
Atwater Village Farm (petition)
Bill’s Liquor
Boho Upcycle
Bon Vivant
Chester + Co.
Courtney & Kurt
Fur Hair Gallery
Golden Road
Great Escape
H&R Block
Heartbeat House
Individual Medley
Kingsize Soundlabs
The Morrison (petition)
Pilates Metro
Revo Cafe
Sew L.A.
The Juice
Viet Noodle Bar
Village Tavern
Workshop sk
Sunset Junction
Pine and Crane
Monrings Nights
Eastside Establishment
L.A. Acupuncture
King’s Roost
Rios Clementi Studios
Mack Sennett Studios
Dresden Restaurant
Macho’s Tacos
RAC Design Build
managers/employees – 84
Manager of the Atwater Village Farmers’ Market
BoHo Upcycle – employee
Wells Fargo – asst manager
Out of the Closet – manger
Out of the Closet – employee
Heartbeat House – manager
Heartbeat House – employee
A Runner’s Circle – 5 employees (petition)
Velo Studio – manager and 2 employees (petition)
Atwater Village Farm – employee (petition)
Alias Bookstore – 2 employees (petition)
TJ’s 67 employees

Community – 20
Marshall High School (Principal Patricia Heideman)
King Middle School (Principal Mark Nualls)
Micheltorena Elementary School (Principal Susanna Furfari)
Glenfeliz Elementary School (Principal Karen Sulahian)
Friends of Marshall Magnet
Friends of King Middle School
Friends of Glenfeliz Elementary School
Friends of Atwater Elementary School
Emiliana Dore – President of Friends of Glenfeliz Elementary School
LAUSD Board Member, Bennett Kayser
C3 Church
Silverlake Church
Shelli-Anne Couch – AVNC Board Member
Bicycle Advisory Committee
Los Angeles Walks
L.A. County Bicycle Coalition
Enrich L.A.
Friends of the L.A. River
Democrats for Neighborhood Action
Community Advisory Committee – Official Vote 6-3

Neighborhood Councils – 16
Silverlake Neighborhood Council – community impact statement for Option 3
Los Feliz Neighborhood Council – community impact statement for Option 3
Alliance of River Communities (14 neighborhood councils)

Individuals – 15
Members of Moms and Dads of Atwater Village – 9 emails
Atwater Village residents – 6 letters

Petitions – 1,200+
Vision Hyperion Option 3 Petitions – 670+ (mostly Atwater residents)
LACBC’s CicLAvia petition – 300+
AVNC’s Survey – 232

  • LAifer

    So was the Red Car Bridge already happening? In that case, the only “real” news here is that the City is ignoring the voices of all those businesses and residents and community leaders you listed here and going with a bridge redesign that eliminates a sidewalk. This is on Seleta Reynolds’ and Eric Garcetti’s hands as much as anyone’s. All this talk of making LA more walkable and bikeable is total BS if they can’t stand up to the constant demand for more lanes for cars.

    This shouldn’t have to be a zero sum game either. No tradeoffs of bike lanes for sidewalks. The city already stated that there’s no traffic impacts from reducing car lanes from 4 to 3, with two going south and one going north. So why is it now basically ignoring its own data and forcing people on foot to take the long road? C’mon y’all. What a disappointment.

    How long until that brand new bridge with its four lanes ends up being the sight of some person on foot getting run over while trying to navigate the ridiculous walkaround they’ll have to do? And that’s on all of us to make sure we don’t let that happen.

  • ubrayj02

    Why are we always cautioned by those in the employ of nonprofits and public agencies to “calm down”, “respect the process”, etc. etc.?

    I have no respect for a process that has this as the outcome. This is a travesty. Not on the scale of many of the terrible things happening in the County (kids dying and being abused in protective custody, police shootings, wasted water in a drought, etc.) but it will make the curse of auto dependence carry on two more generations into the future.

    F%^& you “leaders” and f%& you people who designed this bridge.

  • axel

    this reminds me of what happened where adams crosses the 110. In order to widen the street and add a right turn lane, the city removed the sidewalk, then built a new, less convenient, pedestrian crossing bridge at enormous expense

  • I can see how the Councilmembers would view this as a win-win, but I think it highlights how many people view bicycling and walking as just a thing people do for fun and recreation—to them it’s a lark, not a legitimate means of transportation that many thousands of people rely on every day.

    When viewed in those terms, it’s easy to see why they view it as no problem that people walking and bicycling have to go a little bit out of their way to get to their destination. They barely even have a destination in mind, after all! But that’s a perspective we never take with drivers, because drivers are Very Serious People doing Very Serious Things and detours are unacceptable for them.

  • The red car bridge was originally a temporary measure. O’Farrell got funding to create a permanent structure.

  • The Watchful Eye in the Skye

    What a complete sham. OFarrel had exactly four option 1 supporters at the press conference and a crowd of people, atwater residents, cyclists, walkers, mothers, fathers behind the cameras looking on. OFarrel then ignores everyone and takes a photo with the four option 1 supporters. These 4 supporters are the ones driving the issue at AVNC. They are Sergio Lambarri, Netty Carr, Luis Lopez and the one guy with the baseball cap who is always angry and muttering. You could say that the safe streets crowd is made up of mostly the same people, but every single time the safe streets crowd brings out the crowd, while the angry curmudgeons are the same 4 people. Ever. OFarrel is aligning himself with the wrong crowd and the wrong side of history. Atwater is changing. Most of the businesses there are not members of the chamber and quite a few are scared of the tactics of one chamber person in particular which have been quite vicious – even running a woman out of business and scared her into moving.

  • neroden

    These “road warriors” who always want wider car lanes need to be stopped. Wider car lanes kill — we know that.

  • neroden

    If the city continues to push thorough this totally inappropriate 4-lane bridge plan, maybe it’ll be time for a serious, large-scale Department of DIY intervention to restripe it for 3.

  • ubrayj02

    What has decorum gotten people who want a safer bridge?

    The story is “businesses want faster car traffic and the LA bike coalition wants sidewalks and bike lanes”. That is counterfactual in some ways, and just the spin on this narrative was enough to allow those in power to shit on our future from their graves. Once they are dead this crappy situation will remain with a bridge that is anti-human, loud, and facilitates the biggest car driving cry babies and entitled pricks in this town to imagine that they are the center of the universe.

  • BOE is stupid and car-centric

    “This project is being proposed to address seismic and design deficiencies,improve traffic operations, enhance access to the Los Angeles River Bike Path, and restore historic features”

    Design deficiencies? There is a design deficiencies for pedestrians and their solution is to eliminate a sidewalk. A current design deficiency is that the bridge encourages and promotes speeding, what is being done to curtail speeding?

    Improve traffic operations? Is this code for speed cars up? Because it is not improving traffic operations for pedestrians.

    Restore historic features? It also eliminates a historic feature– a sidewalk! The aesthetic quality of the historic bridge will be ruined! The historic belvederes on the east side will be inaccessible!

    “The 5-foot sidewalk along the east side of the viaduct would be eliminated because it cannot be safely accessed from either end”

    Define safely accessed. The biggest impediment to safe sidewalk access is the speed of cars! Are the car travel lanes safe, for that matter?

    “The objective is to reach a design option that would improve the public safety and optimize the multi-modal use of the limited space on the Hyperion Avenue Bridges and its approach roadway.”

    Optimize multi-modal use does not occur by eliminating a sidewalk. Getting rid of an excessive travel lane would do more to optimize multi-modal travel.

    “The studies in general concluded that both the four-lane and three-lane configurations on the Hyperion Avenue would operate acceptably within the horizon year 2040…”

    So we don’t need four lanes then.

    “…proposed crosswalk aiding pedestrians to cross to and from the Hyperion Avenue would interrupt the vehicular traffic flow on Hyperion Avenue.”

    The elimination of a sidewalk and ignoring crosswalk requests at key locations interrupt pedestrian flow on Hyperion Avenue.

    “…the daily low count of pedestrians across the Hyperion Avenue Viaduct and the approach roadway would not warrant sidewalks on both sides by reducing one traffic lane at this time….This Recommended Option offers flexibility of converting to other roadway options if the transportation conditions warrant it in the future.”

    Why is pedestrian volume the measure we use to warrant sidewalks? This is about access. Eliminating a sidewalk, rather than improving it, harms ADA access and removes some of the most beautiful viewing points of the Los Angeles River. But if we are using volumes to warrant components, are there enough bicyclists to “warrant” bike lanes? Are there enough cars to “warrant” four travel lanes (hint: earlier in document they state four lanes are NOT necessary.) So why not eliminate a lane? I support bike lanes but nowhere in document does it state what metric is being used to “warrant” bike lanes.

    Also, how on earth does eliminating a sidewalk offer flexibility of converting to other roadway options? Re-striping is cheap but building a long sidewalk from scratch is costly.

    “The IS/MND identifies potentially significant impacts related to biological and culturalresources in addition to motor vehicle traffic (from the off ramp relocation) and pedestrian traffic (during construction) and describes mitigation measures that will avoid or minimize those impacts to a less-than-significant level.”

    So pedestrian traffic is only considered during construction when they will be eliminating a sidewalk but not considered after?

    This is just so frustrating, such a car centric MND. Mitch O’Farrell should be ashamed of himself. He got his start in in the Glassell Park Improvement Association and has since turned his back on his grass-roots past by shutting down the broad support for the safest, most livable option. Oh and no idea who Gary Lee Moore or James A. Treadaway are but to hell with those guys. By endorsing the most dangerous option for Hyperion they are demonstrating they have no compassion for human life or the long-term well-being of this city.
    P { margin-bottom: 0.08in; }pedestrian
    and bicyclist circulation improvements”

  • Burnt Reynolds

    EXCUSE ME. Where is this darling Seleta Reynolds and the “new” LADOT?! This is an important connection to the river and they want to put in gutter lanes and take out a sidewalk? She is nowhere to be found.

  • Jake Bloo

    Couldn’t someone protest or even sue based on poor ADA circumstances?

  • Joe Linton

    Reynolds can’t turn a battleship around in a day. The city’s bridge programs (dripping with $ and consultants and corruption) are run out of the Public Works Department – Bureau of Engineering – not out of Reynolds Transportation Department. Nonetheless, Reynolds has been personally involved and is a rare insider voice of sanity on this project. At this point, she just doesn’t have the authority to turn around another department’s wrong-headed project that has been underway for 10+ years.

  • Joe Linton

    well said

  • rickrise

    With California trying to reduce VMT, and Complete streets now the law of the land (ftp://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/07-08/bill/asm/ab_1351-1400/ab_1358_bill_20080930_chaptered.pdf), how can this happen? When Nearly every civic and administrative entity, as well as a clear majority of business and residents, favors Option 3, how can a couple of neanderthal council members and a handful of engineers who haven’t even kept up on their own field’s literature just say no?

    Who’s paying off whom?

  • SZwartz

    It looks like a Option 3 may require a CEQA EIR if one travel lane is removed


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