Eyes on the Street: 7th Street Curb-Protected Bike Lanes Under Construction
While the mainstream media waxed poetic about how the wretchedly car-centric new 6th Street Viaduct represents an enlightened city finally taking cyclists [uh, no] and pedestrians [meh] into account, there’s another lower-profile downtown L.A. infrastructure project that looks like it really might fit that bill. New curb-protected bike lanes, currently under construction in Skid Row, represent a vision of 7th Street that prioritizes space for safer and more convenient bicycling, walking and transit, while still allowing some throughput for driving.
The city of L.A. is adding a mile of curb-protected bike lanes on 7th Street. The $18.7 million 7th Street Streetscape project extends one mile from San Pedro Street to Figueroa Street. It will include the bikeway, expanded sidewalks, pedestrian/cyclist-scale lighting, bus islands, and new trees.
Seventh Street will be the first significant-length curb-protected bikeway in L.A. City. There are good examples of curb-protected bikeways in Pomona and Hermosa Beach, and worthwhile stretches in downtown Long Beach and Temple City, but, to date, the city of L.A. has only managed to include curb protection in very small doses (less than a block long) on a handful of facilities, including recent MyFigueroa, Los Angeles Street, Main and Spring bikeways, and a 1970s facility on Century Boulevard.
The 7th Street project was delayed, in part, due to the need to not impede cars on 7th Street while the (years behind schedule, hundred+ millions over budget) 6th Street bridge struggled to more-or-less finish construction (note that while the car facility is open on the new bridge, portions of pedestrian access remain unfinished – as do the new park and traffic circle/bike path under the bridge. Some of those street-level improvements had been part of the bridge project, but were split off, so are now technically their own separate projects that just connect to the bridge. Someday soon.)
The new 7th Street bikeway comes after new bus lanes and protected bike lanes in Skid Row. Those safety improvements resulted from a campaign led by unhoused Angelenos and nonprofits that serve them, including the L.A. Community Action Network (LACAN) and the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC). Together, they all pressed for Skid Row streets that prioritize the area’s population, which moves primarily on foot, bike, and bus.
Los Angeles City Councilmember Kevin de León celebrated 7th Street’s groundbreaking back in April. Construction is underway at the east end of the project in Skid Row, where a block or two are temporarily progressively closed for construction.
So far, curb work is only more-or-less done on just one block – between San Pedro Street and San Julian Street. The project isn’t quite finished there, with lighting and landscaping still to come.
There’s still a lot of construction to finish, so it’s probably too soon to proclaim this decisively… but the 7th Street Streetscape project does appear to show that, when they really intend to and work together deliberately from the outset of a project, the community, the City Council, the city’s Bureau of Engineering (BOE), and Department of Transportation (LADOT) can collaborate to create forward-looking complete streets facilities that take walking and bicycling into account.