Councilmember Raman Making Good on Pledge to Expand Bike Infrastructure

Councilmember Nithya Raman and Streetsblog L.A. Editor Joe Linton - photo courtesy of LACBC
Councilmember Nithya Raman and Streetsblog L.A. Editor Joe Linton - photo courtesy of LACBC

Just over a year in office, L.A. City Councilmember Nithya Raman is making good on her promises to expand bicycle infrastructure in the city’s fourth council district. The changes haven’t come quickly, but Raman is currently working to install seven new CD4 bikeways, the first few of which are due in the next couple months. The progressive councilmember is also supporting several council motions to advance livable streets.

During her campaign, Raman pledged to prioritize tackling the climate emergency by implementing “protected, dedicated lanes for buses and bikes” and “better street design for pedestrians.” Her initial time in office has been difficult, and focused more on addressing two other unprecedented emergencies: the COVID pandemic and a housing crisis leading to swelling numbers of unhoused Angelenos living on the streets. Compounding the city’s ability to address these crises was an anticipated budget shortfall. Though the shortfall was largely resolved by federal COVID recovery funding, it still lingers in the form of staffing shortages in some departments, including Transportation (LADOT).

And if those weren’t enough, Raman soon faced a hostile takeover in the form of unprecedented redistricting. Early proposed maps completely relocated her district out from under her.

Nithya Raman's gerrymandered district is shaped like a lobster. Image via Sahra Sulaiman
Raman’s Council District in 2021, gerrymandered to be shaped like a lobster – via Sahra Sulaiman
Raman's current district map
Raman’s 2022 District 4 boundaries – via CD4

The final approved redistricting wasn’t quite so malicious as early drafts, but still did a number on CD4. Among many changes, Raman lost the parts of her district that extended south into mid-city and Hancock Park, while picking up portions of the southwest San Fernando Valley.

The redistricting changes meant losing district control of Raman-supported active transportation projects planned on San Vicente Boulevard and proposed on The Grove Drive.

Even in the face of all this adversity, Streets for All founder Michael Schneider noted that Raman “is doing more than any other council office right now in their proactiveness on bike projects,” even while being hampered by “LADOT’s lack of funding for active transportation staff.” “If we had a city council full of Nithyas, our city would look very different.”

L.A. County Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Eli Akira Kaufman similarly praised Raman, “We’re encouraged by what Nithya is aiming for and has done so far.” Akira Kaufman noted Raman’s support for Operation Firefly/Operacíon Luciérnaga and for supporting LADOT’s Stress-Free Connections planning, though some of that project’s Central L.A. neighborhoods were redistricted away from CD4. In July, LACBC hosted a ride with Raman, CD4 staff, and advocates.

Streetsblog recently checked in with Raman’s team to run down the bike initiatives they are currently pursuing.

Protected bike lanes coming to Riverside Drive - via LADOT fact sheet
Protected bike lanes coming to Riverside Drive – via LADOT project fact sheet

Furthest along are new protected bike lanes coming to Riverside Drive for just over a half-mile immediately south of Griffith Park. These will be the first/only protected lanes in CD4. Like most new bikeways in the past few years, the city is taking advantage of scheduled street resurfacing to improve safety conditions.

From Los Feliz Boulevard to Glendale Boulevard, Riverside Drive currently has shared lane markings or sharrows. The bike route will be upgraded to parking-protected bike lanes, convenient for cyclists to access Griffith Park and the L.A. River. To maintain existing parking, portions of Riverside will receive a road diet, repurposing a northbound car lane.

Raman’s staff anticipate the Riverside Drive improvements will be installed in February or March.

In the same Los Feliz vicinity, Raman is working with the community and LADOT to explore potential new bike lanes on Hyperion Boulevard from Griffith Park Boulevard to Rowena Avenue. That short stretch of bikeway would tie together existing bike lanes on Rowena, Griffith Park Blvd., and lanes planned to be added to the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge.

In Sherman Oaks/Van Nuys, Raman’s office is taking advantage of resurfacing scheduled for Burbank Boulevard from Hazeltine Avenue to Van Nuys Boulevard. That bike lane will close an existing half-mile bikeway gap, making for just over 4.5 miles of continuous bike lanes on Burbank Blvd. CD4 staff note that a short segment of that part of Burbank Blvd. is on the city’s  Vision Zero High Injury Network.

The Burbank Boulevard improvements are currently being designed by LADOT, with implementation expected this spring.

Nearby, Raman retained a very short portion of the planned Chandler Boulevard Bicycle Connection [LADOT project page and fact sheet], which will add protected bike lanes from the G Line bike path to North Hollywood station to the Burbank Chandler bike path.

In the new central/west San Fernando Valley area, Raman has taken over portions of existing bikeway projects, formerly overseen by City Council District 3 Councilmember Bob Blumenfield. These include:

  • Now shared by Council Districts 4 and 3, the L.A. River Greenway segment from Vanalden Avenue to Balboa Boulevard has partial funding via the state Active Transportation Program (ATP) and likely Metro’s Measure M. That three mile long project will nearly complete the river path west of the Sepulveda Basin.
  • CD4 now has much of the 3-mile long Reseda Boulevard Complete Streets Project currently under construction from Victory Boulevard to Parthenia Street. Raman now shares that project with Blumenfield, and CD12 Councilmember John Lee.

Raman’s staff is working with LADOT and the cities of Glendale and Burbank to plan an anticipated protected bikeway connection on Riverside Drive at the north end of Griffith Park. There, the L.A. City Bureau of Engineering left planned bike lanes off of the $13 million Riverside Drive Bridge retrofit completed in 2020. Glendale is at the early stage of working on designs for an on-street bike connection between the city of Burbank’s Burbank Wash Bikeway and the nearby bike paths along the L.A. River. The city of Glendale received $6 million in Measure M Multi-Year Subregional Plan (MSP) funding to close that roughly one-mile long bikeway gap.

The Glendale to Griffith Park facility is expected to be (all or mostly) protected bike lanes, including on Victory Boulevard (in Glendale) and on Riverside Drive (in L.A.). L.A.’s Riverside Drive lanes are anticipated to extend from Zoo Drive to Victory.

Legislatively, Raman co-authored and otherwise supported several transportation/livability motions. With Blumenfield and Councilmember Mike Bonin, Raman co-authored a motion (Council File 21-1469) that tees up reforms to the city’s sidewalk repair program – responding to problems highlighted in a recent Controller audit. Raman seconded a motion (Council File 21-1222) supporting permanent slow streets. Raman’s staff also pointed to the councilmember’s strong support for recent Bonin motions on reducing speed limits and installing enforcement cameras on buses to help keep bus lanes clear of parked cars.

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