Eyes on the Street: Bus Platform Pilot on First Street in DTLA

LADOT has installed a new platform to help manage DASH riders and bicyclists. All photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
LADOT has installed a new platform to help manage DASH riders and bicyclists. All photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
This article supported by Los Angeles Bicycle Attorney. Click on the bar for more information.
This article supported by Los Angeles Bicycle Attorney as part of a general sponsorship package. All opinions in the article are that of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of LABA. Click on the ad for more information.

There is a new piece of bike lane and bus stop infrastructure located in the westbound bike lane on First Street between Main and Spring Streets in downtown L.A.

L.A. City Transportation Department (LADOT) spokesperson Oliver Hou calls the new device a “Temporary Bus Platform Pilot” and clarifies that the roughly $20,000 facility is “definitely a pilot” that the department is “testing out and evaluating.” Hou states that the platform “removes the conflict between buses and bicyclists, and allows the bus to board and alight passengers without pulling in and out of traffic, improving bus services efficiency.”

Riders board an electric DASH bus via the new platform
Riders board an electric DASH bus via the new platform

The platform allows DASH riders to walk out, cross the bike lane, and board at sidewalk level. Bicyclists can continue straight ahead by popping up and down short ramps at each end. Signage directs cyclists to yield to pedestrians in a shared area atop the platform delineated with a checkerboard pattern.

The platform is somewhat similar to the floating transit islands on Los Angeles Street, though behind those concrete islands cyclists remain at grade while transit riders cross the bike lane going up and down curbs or ramps.

platform
Hump sign in advance of platform

Preceding the ramp, cyclists can see new “hump” signage designating a 10 mph speed limit for bikes. The ramp up onto the platform feels somewhat steep, forcing faster cyclists to slow a bit to safely navigate.

platform
A view of the platform from the street

There is a channel space between the platform and the curb, so it does not interfere with rainwater drainage.

During a visit to the site at lunchtime today, several cyclists went around the ramp.

FirstPlatform1
One cyclist goes into the car lane to ride to the left of the platform, while another rides on the sidewalk

The pilot platform would be better for cyclists if it accompanied an actual protected bike lane. The First Street facility has a striped area (a buffer) between it and the car lane. Though there are bollards at the corners of the platform, there are none in the buffer area. At lunchtime today, SBLA observed two ride-hail drivers using the bike lane as a drop-off area. Plastic bollards along the length of the block would make the bike lane safer, and make it clearer who the lane is for.

It is not Amsterdam, but the relatively inexpensive pilot platform may be a useful, low-cost way to help transit boarding on L.A.’s protected bikeway facilities. One place where it might make sense is Mar Vista’s Venice Boulevard, where some transit riders have expressed concerns that buses have been delayed by recent traffic calming safety improvements.

 

  • LAifer

    What – were no streets without bike lanes available? They picked the one block in about all of Los Angeles that had a parking-protected bike lane to do this? On the same day they scrapped miles of bike lanes on the Westside? Thanks, LADOT.

  • D Man

    From the pictures it looks like the cyclists are riding around the raised platform as they have entered the car lane to go around it. Doesn’t that make it more dangerous by having the cyclists impede into the car lane?

  • Joe Linton

    This block never had a parking protected bike lane – IIRC it had a buffered bike lane… I think that this should have enabled an upgrade from buffered to protected…

  • jennix

    So… there’s no conflict between people milling around for the bus and cyclists? To me this looks like what we’re really doing is – as usual – forcing the cyclist to choose between riding on the sidewalk of riding in traffic… but since there *is* a bike lane, unless you’re turning left, you’re legally obligated to ride your bike through people trying to board/disembark a bus.

    I give up.

  • calwatch

    This is basically the old streetcar style loading, which you can still find on the west side of San Francisco. I don’t know if the bus passengers will stay on the sidewalk or not, but as a pilot project this is fine. Ideally it should be like the stops on Los Angeles Street. Remember that not everyone bikes at 20 mph and as bike lanes get more used, you will have faster bicyclists passing those traveling at 10 mph or less (my usual speed). The minor amount of passing on the left will not be significant.

  • Is there any way to have a gentler ramp? And can the word “Bicycles” or the Bicycle pictogram be put on top of the Yield sign?

  • DASH A line frequently uses the bike lane to bypass the morning congestion along 1st Street. Should be interesting to see how this affects timeliness.

  • garyyngve

    The author lost all credibility when he used the phrase “car lane.”

  • garyyngve

    Cyclists are traffic. Cyclists are not impeding other traffic in the general-purpose lane.

  • Aw man! I hate traffic. Guess that means I hate bicyclists, too.

  • D Man

    Please see Veh. Code 21208 which requires a cyclist to use the bike lane where one is provided except for 4 specific exceptions one of which is “to avoid debris or other hazardous conditions.” So but for this raised platform, the cyclists is required by law to ride in the bike lane. So my question is, doesn’t it make it more dangerous to have this platform which causes cyclists to impede into the car lane?

  • garyyngve

    Exactly, platform with peds walking while staring at phones is a hazardous condition. And once the platform becomes separated from the roadway, I’d argue that it ceases to be a bicycle lane and is a Class IV bikeway, and therefore the as-far-to-the-right law for bicycle lanes would not apply.

  • tjknight

    It’s instinctual for cyclists to want to ride at grade and not go up and down a 30 foot checkered ramp that they’ve never seen before. This “improvement” therefore actually makes cyclists less safe. Would any cyclist ever say: “Yes! I’ve always wanted to share my bike lane with a raised bus boarding platform!”

  • D Man

    The signage and markings on the ground do not indicate that the bike lane ends and restarts.

    And the caption on the picture reads, “One cyclist goes into the car lane to ride to the left of the platform”

  • garyyngve

    Yep, the caption is dumb. It’s not a car lane. It’s a general purpose lane.
    A sign is not needed to demonstrate that there is temporary grade separation and bollards around the bus loading area. Those features disqualify it from being a simple bike lane.
    And once again, easy to argue that riding through distracted peds (just like riding on the sidewalk) is hazardous, and therefore, as far to the right as practical is the next lane over.

  • Preceding the ramp, cyclists can see new “hump” signage designating a 10 mph speed limit for bikes.

    It’s not a speed limit, it’s a suggestion. Yellow signs are not regulatory.

  • No, avoiding hazards IS one of the legally-permissible reasons to not be a bike lane. Pedestrians in the way certainly sounds like a hazard.

  • Joe Commuter

    Saw it in comments section on a different article, “The D stands for Delusional.”

  • rivardau

    In general, using transport platforms as “cheap” trhoughways for bike lanes, is a BAD idea!

    This applies to train stations as well as transit or intercity bus platforms!

    I used to work at Amtrak, and 2 stations I was ticket clerk, had these issues…look at Glenview IL (still a problem) and Normal IL (fixed bcs they built a new station on the other side of the tracks).

    The issues are not only just passenger boarding and disembarkment…it is also that some of these passengers have suitcases! or are seniors, lower vision, wheelchairs, etc…

    the type of people who can’t, or shouldn’t drive cars!!! Thus they are more likely to be on transportation.

    The other issue is, that people inside the train/bus trying to get off, do not have clear lines of sight to look up and down the bike path to see if a bike is zooming by. Bikes are part of the problem by not slowing down when a bus or train is at the platform…but when passengers can’t see clearly up and down alongside their long vehicles (buses are 30,40, or 60 ft long, Amtrak rail car is 85 ft long + multiple cars), they end up stepping off into the path of a cyclist.

    Also, having a bike lane as a boarding platform is not normal anywhere, so the few places that are, the on-board passengers are not expecting it, bcs the bus driver nor the train conductor announce it on board to “use caution when disembarking becuase it is also a bike lane” nor are their signs on the platforms facing the side of the bus/train doors with the “look left, look right” for bikes…(you know, the way London does their crosswalks for all the pedestrians not used to left-handed traffic).

    The other issue, is passengers waiting to board….Look at Champaign IL, Armory/Wright “Main Library” bus stop for CUMTD transit on the UIUC Campus. Passengers are waiting ON the bike lane, making it difficult and dangerous for bikes to navigate around…but behind the bus stop is a raised sidewalk with stairs, so wchr paxs must stay down on the bike path for faster/easier boarding. This has become even more problemanatic as the transit system ridership has risen from 8 mil a year a decade ago to over 13 million last year.

    It is slated for part of the MCORE 35 MIL $ transport improfements, but it will be done the 3rd year (we are in the first year) and part of the problem, is that due to the the corner, bike lanes, and a church, it is a constricted space in general. I and others have been thinking of solutions, and even the engineers too, but so far no one has come up with even a workable idea, so it is part of the 3rd year phase so as to give more time for design ideas and public hearings.

    In general, it does NOT work well for boarding platforms to also be used as bike lanes. bike lanes should be btwn the active traffic lanes and alongside the left of the bus, then the bus should be closest to the curb so that traffic (whether cyclist or car) can not pass on the right side and mow people down as they step out of a vehicle doorway with their suitcase.

    However, in this particular LA design….what COULD be workable, is that all waiting passengers before vehicle arrival, are designated to stand on the SIDEWALK, not the bike path/checkered area, and only cross the checkered area while boarding. There should be a painted area with a sign (or bus shelter), on the sidewalk portion to show what is desired for passenger behaviour.

    the other thing, might be, that a bike path sign, or the back of the bus, or both(!), should ahve a law/rule that says “no passing on the right when the vehicle is stopped and loading/unloading at a bus stop – whether there is space or not for a bike to pass on the right, just prohibit it, and the bikes should stop on the bike lane to wait for the vehicle to move. Or, put road signs up for cars that bikes may have permission to move into a traffic lane when a bus is stopped at the station/bus stop.

    Have to make sure, however, that cyclists passing on the left of the bus, need to make sure they stay visible in the bus drivers side mirror so that the bus doesnt pull away unexpectedly and hit or screw up the cyclist.

    several ideas….but again, boarding platforms as bike lanes is a bad idea, and there are plenty of examples of places I have worked at as a transport employee that attest to some of the incidents and injuries i have had to deal with.

  • rivardau

    ps, another issue i see with the bike lane signage, is the “YIELD” to pedestrians.

    In Illinois, these are no longer allowed. it must say “STOP” for pedestrians. it changes the meaning slightly, but a cyclist not stopping can be a ticketable offense, where the yield seems to subjective.

    according to this, it is also the law in Calif….so why is there a YIELD sign up, when it should seem to be a STOP for pedestrians…..

    If CA law is requiring stops for pedestrians in crossingways – then this should be a stop for pedestrians sign…and the city/state are creating confusion and ambiguity by having the wrong signage up.

    http://blogs.findlaw.com/blotter/2010/05/pedestrian-law-drivers-must-stop-at-crosswalks.html

  • Spike N LngBch

    Wow, this has got to be one of the dumber ideas from LADOT!

    Block and entire lane of traffic AND require passengers to board and alight into a bike lane. And leave it to the cyclists, who give no effs, to ‘yield’ . . . HA HA HA, yea, this isn’t going to end well.

  • midringrider

    Killer infrastructure. Take these engineers to their society with an ethics complaint for making the road more dangerous.

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