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Damian Kevitt

Councilmember Rodriguez Unveils New La Tuna Canyon Road Safety Improvements

New buffered bike lane on La Tuna Canyon Road. All photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A. except where specified

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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.

At an event this morning, L.A. City Councilmember Monica Rodriguez, community members, and city staff unveiled recently-completed safety improvements on La Tuna Canyon Road. Rodriguez emphasized the importance of harmonious coexistence between various road users, and stated that safer environments are among her top priorities.

L.A. City Councilmember Monica Rodriguez celebrating La Tuna Canyon Road's new safety improvements at today's event
L.A. City Councilmember Monica Rodriguez (at podium) celebrating La Tuna Canyon Road's new safety improvements at today's event
L.A. City Councilmember Monica Rodriguez celebrating La Tuna Canyon Road's new safety improvements at today's event

La Tuna Canyon is nestled in the hills in the north San Fernando Valley. The road connects the neighborhoods of Sun Valley and Sunland-Tujunga. Though within the city of L.A., the setting is relatively rural and home to many equestrians. La Tuna Canyon Road includes primarily residential areas as well as hilly and somewhat fire-prone wilderness. The road attracts plenty of recreational cyclists looking to climb in a relatively quiet setting with long stretches with no signals. Unfortunately, speeding drivers also prefer those long stretches, and use La Tuna Canyon Road to connect to the 210 Freeway.

On December 9, 2017, Keith Jackson was bicycling up La Tuna Canyon Road. He was struck from behind by a driver who fled the scene. Jackson spent about three weeks in a coma and still does not remember that day. He has yet to make a full recovery. Speaking haltingly at today's event, Jackson emphasized the need to make La Tuna Canyon safer, saying, "I'm one of the lucky ones... I survived. I want to make sure everyone survives."

Keith Jackson's 2017 hit-and-run crash. Photo via Facebook
Keith Jackson's 2017 hit-and-run crash. Photo via Facebook
Keith Jackson's 2017 hit-and-run crash. Photo via Facebook
Keith Jackson today
Keith Jackson today
Keith Jackson today

Following the life-threatening hit-and-run crash, Jackson reached out to Damian Kevitt of Streets Are For Everyone. They met with councilmember Rodriguez who worked with the city Department of Transportation (LADOT) to facilitate a community process to plan safety upgrades that many in La Tuna Canyon community had already been pushing for.

According to LADOT, the new design makes La Tuna Canyon Road safer by "decreasing speeds, discouraging unsafe passing, and providing protected lanes for cyclists, equestrians, pedestrians, and other users of this road."

In several areas, LADOT added signs and pavement markings to discourage unsafe passing
In several areas, LADOT added signs and pavement markings to discourage unsafe passing
In several areas, LADOT added signs and pavement markings to discourage unsafe passing
In many areas, LADOT added center median space, including raised reflectors which act as a sort of rumble strip to discourage unsafe passing
In many areas, LADOT added center median space, including raised reflectors which act as a sort of rumble strip to discourage unsafe passing
In many areas, LADOT added center median space, including raised reflectors which act as a sort of rumble strip to discourage unsafe passing

The overall La Tuna Canyon Road Safety Project extends just over five miles from Sunland Boulevard to Tujunga Canyon Boulevard.

LADOT re-striped the entire project area, including upgrading crosswalks to the higher visibility zebra version.

The stretch where Jackson survived the hit-and-run crash received 1.2 miles of new buffered bike lane.

The safety improvements included 1.2 miles of new buffered bike lanes
The safety improvements included 1.2 miles of new buffered bike lanes
The safety improvements included 1.2 miles of new buffered bike lanes

In this bike lane stretch, the city has added rumble strips to slow speeding downhill traffic.

Streetsblog spotted this driver dangerously swerving into the buffered bike lane to avoid a rumble strip.

Much of the easternmost three miles has been made safer by reducing four travel lanes to two, and adding a continuous painted double yellow line median as well as what the city is calling a "shared shoulder for bicyclists and equestrians."

The eastern portions of La Tuna Canyon have a shared shoulder lane, but not an actual bike lane
The eastern portions of La Tuna Canyon now have a shared shoulder area used by cyclists, but not an actual bike lane
The eastern portions of La Tuna Canyon have a shared shoulder lane, but not an actual bike lane

It does seem like the lane reduction missed some opportunities. The city added a welcome shared shoulder, but (for the easternmost roughly two miles) not specifically a bike lane. That bike lane was approved in the city's bike and mobility plans, but has gone un-implemented for decades.

Perhaps the council office and LADOT were looking to stave off the road diet backlash criticism. Some traffic safety deniers have been critical of nearby bike lanes in Sunland Tujunga that they say impeded fire evacuation. Though the critics do not blame bike lanes for similar evacuation traffic jams on the 210 Freeway. And, as a recent Curbed article points out, cars can't be the only way to evacuate. Clearly the buffered bike lane and the shared shoulder can serve as an emergency car lane during a wildfire evacuation.

In this 40 MPH area of La Tuna Canyon Road, LADOT's speed signs registered speeds above 50 MPH today
In this 40 MPH area of La Tuna Canyon Road, LADOT's speed signs registered speeds above 50 MPH today
In this 40 MPH area of La Tuna Canyon Road, LADOT's speed signs registered speeds above 50 MPH today

LADOT's project information sheet states that there are some additional longer term improvements planned, including new signals, stop signs, and, if speed surveys can support it, a reduced speed limit.

Kudos to Rodriguez, LADOT, Streets Are For Everyone, and the La Tuna Canyon Community for turning a disaster into an opportunity to make La Tuna Canyon safer for everyone.

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