MyFigueroa Is Undermined By Scofflaw Drivers Parking and Turning Illegally

L.A.'s MyFigueroa project is open.  Features include protected bike lanes and transit islands. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
L.A.'s MyFigueroa project is open. Features include protected bike lanes and transit islands. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

The city of L.A.’s My Figueroa project has improved Figueroa Street in many ways. Unfortunately driver behavior is undermining MyFig’s safety benefits.

I was out of town for August’s opening celebration, so last Friday was the first chance I got to bike MyFigueroa.

I confess that for many years I’ve seen this portion of Figueroa Street as “enemy territory.” I get around primarily by bicycle. South of downtown, Figueroa felt like an oversize car-centric stroad.  It runs so close to the 110 Freeway that many drivers are still traveling, often speeding, in freeway mode. There weren’t a lot of destinations I frequented there – feels like it was mostly car dealerships, fast food, and corporate chain stores. When a CicLAvia event was proposed there, circa 2011, I remember thinking “why bother?”

I had hopes that $20+ million in state funding for a visionary complete-streets MyFigueroa project could transform the place. But then when the project was delayed and bogged down in a lawsuit, I thought it would just never happen.

I am grateful that something did happen. With MyFigueroa complete, this portion of Figueroa definitely feels significantly better on bike than it used to. But it remains car-centric.

Kudos to the folks who made this happen. These include elected officials from Mayor Eric Garcetti to City Councilmembers Curren Price and José Huizar. Kudos also to city staff primarily from the Department of Transportation (LADOT.) And kudos to the community advocates who worked hard to keep the project on track.

First some positives:

  • Figueroa is a full-featured street which takes bicyclists and transit-riders into account. Some other protected bike lanes in L.A., including Venice Boulevard (a facility I like a lot), can feel like interactions with transit are an afterthought. MyFigueroa has full-on transit islands serving a dedicated bus-only lane. Previously, the city of L.A. had only implemented a couple of these – exactly two transit islands – on Los Angeles Street. The designs are not perfect (see below), but now these are part of the city’s toolbox, and their performance can inform future projects.
  • Figueroa’s bike-signal timing seems ok. After viewing Michael MacDonald’s early signal-timing video, I was worried. LADOT staff pulled me over at a recent Transportation Committee meeting to assure me that they had re-tooled signal-timing to be better for bikes. It’s anecdotal, but, at least on one Friday afternoon cruising up and down the facility, my bike triggered signals; often as I rolled over the advance sensors, the bike signals switched to green.

Now some negatives:

  • Scofflaw drivers are parking in the bright green bike lanes. Others have documented this – over and over and over. On Friday there were eight taxis parked in the bike lane at the convention center (on the west side of Figueroa immediately south of Pico Boulevard).
    Eight taxis in the MyFigueroa bike lane last Friday
    Eight taxis in the MyFigueroa bike lane last Friday

    One of L.A.’s taxi commissioners has requested that bicyclists document taxis and ride-hail blocking bike lanes and tweet footage with the hashtag #LATaxiReport.

    The unprotected bike lane on the east side of Figueroa just south of Exposition is another common spot for scofflaw parking. Drivers are apparently parking in front of the businesses there, instead of using the business parking in the rear.

  • Scofflaw drivers not respecting bus-only lanes and turning restrictions. MyFig has a fairly limited bus-only lane, only in the northern end of the project. Drivers are theoretically only allowed in the bus lane when making right turns. For blocks with no right turns, the buses should have the lane all to themselves. Well, not quite. Take for example, one-way northbound Figueroa at 7th Street (at the 7th Street Metro subway station). There are a few no-right-turn signs.
    No right turn sign on Figueroa at 7th Street
    No right turn sign on Figueroa at 7th Street

    Drivers don’t seem to take the signage seriously, though, so they get in the bus-only lane, then sit attempting to turn right across the heavily-walked crosswalk. This delays the buses.

    DWP vehicle and car blocking DASH bus in the bus-only lane. The sign facing away is the no right turn sign shown above.
    DWP vehicle and car blocking DASH bus in the bus-only lane. The sign facing away is the no-right-turn sign shown above.
    This Foothill Transit bus had to merge out of the bus-only lane to get around the car driver blocking the lane
    This Foothill Transit bus had to merge out of the bus-only lane to get around the car driver blocking the lane
    In the background, a car in the bus-only lane blocks a line of buses.
    In the background, a car (stopped, trying to turn right illegally) in the bus-only lane blocks a line of buses.

    I don’t often call for enforcement. There are serious equity concerns. If we’ve built a facility that depends on constant enforcement, then we failed, because police just can’t be there 24/7. But in this case, I think that MyFigueroa really does need some stepped-up enforcement – to make a dent in both illegal parking and illegal turning. In about a half hour at Figueroa and 7th I did see LAPD working the site – giving warnings to two drivers making illegal right turns. It’s a little astonishing that (before the state crosswalk law was fixed) LAPD was able to issue 8,000+ jaywalking tickets a year, but doesn’t appear to be able to issue tickets to keep Figueroa drivers from behavior that endangers cyclists and pedestrians.

Readers – what is your impressions of MyFigueroa? What’s working? What’s not?

  • Velodrone

    The link is broken from the main page.

  • kevin

    Law enforcement has to actually start ticketing the drivers that fail to abide by the rules.’LAPD was able to issue 8,000+ jaywalking tickets a year, but doesn’t appear to be able to issue tickets to keep Figueroa drivers from behavior that endangers cyclists and pedestrians.’ Those statistics are astonishing and quite demoralizing for pedestrians and cycle advocates that thought this was actually going to make Figueroa safer.

  • jannos

    Any program like this should include increased and indeed stationed enforcement for the first few weeks. A lot of these people are probably regulars who park there all the time, turn there all the time and don’t want to change.

  • Justin Runia

    there need to be bollards the entire length of the bike lane, especially that last block south of 39th

  • Alfonso D

    I think there should definitely be some sort of enforcement out there. Many regulars or people who haven’t been there lately might be confused by all the new things and are ignorant to the changes. I was in the area recently and confused the hell out of me.

  • M R

    A public information campaign would be a good idea also. I saw a driver squeeze between the bollards and start to dive down the bike lane just yesterday. It was between Olympic and 9th. I actually flagged him down and informed him of his mistake. He apologized and got back into the car lane. I sarcastically chuckled at the situation and asked myself “Why I am policing this?

  • Karen

    the bike signal timers still suck, imo. the bike green signal lasts less than a second and yet also seems to believe that there’s no point in giving bikes the green signal if there’s less than 15 seconds left on the green light. and it’s never green going north at Fig/Wilshire, you get stuck at every light along those couple blocks. my main thought is that this bike lane isn’t good enough to convince anyone to bike who wasn’t already nutty enough to do it anyway– so what was the point?

  • Jeff Chapman

    My experience, and issues, have been mostly travelling towards downtown from Exposition. While I have experienced a lot called out in the article, I have had the most issues from cars turning into or exiting from parking lots for shops and strip malls. Cars pulling into parking lots will take the right turn quickly, and the parked car buffer keeps those in the lanes out of view (benefit of the doubt). Also due to street parking, cars exiting lots have to pull far out of lot to view oncoming traffic, blocking the lane. The second scenario is annoying, the first is potentially dangerous.

  • Ben Phelps

    I simply don’t understand why there aren’t more bollards in the “taxi loading zones” the keep cars out of the bike lanes where it is inviting to park. Seems like an easy design fix… and cheap.

  • LazyReader

    But if they were illegal aliens, that’d be racist to call em scofflaws.
    California killed mass transit when they gave illegals driver licenses. Hundred of thousands of people who had the potential to be daily transit users.
    Imagine that board meeting.
    “Okay, we have 4-6 million people in the state illegally, they have no license,but they probably have cash and need to go places.. it’s a transit providers paradise”
    California Politicians: Give em drivers licenses?
    “GENIUS”

  • Karen

    those are all also bus stops, so the buses need to be able to pull in.

  • 1976boy

    Oh please. They were given licenses to make the roads safer. Undocumented people were driving anyway. There was no way for them to be insured, any crash involving an uninsured driver caused a lot of loss and expense.

    Cost of housing and cutbacks in service have more to do with ridership trends declining. If Metro were serious about stemming that they would redesign the bus system to reflect the new realities. People will use transit if it is convenient, fast and goes where they want to go.

    Projects like My Figueroa are a step in the right direction. If we could just do something to stop the criminal motorists.

  • Ben Phelps

    well this seems like bad design then.

  • michael macdonald

    This issue at the Pico Blvd Dash stop could be solved with new bus islands, or a Zicla bus platform as a temporary solution until a bus island is designed, funded, and implemented.

  • Ben Phelps

    this guy is the worst. Don’t feed him.

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