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Drivers Dismantle Modest Plastic-Bollard Vision Zero Improvements at Silver Lake and Temple

Driver zooming through space that LADOT had previously blocked off on Silver Lake Boulevard at Temple Street. All photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog

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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.

In 2015, SBLA thanked the L.A. City Transportation Department (LADOT) for implementing walk/bike safety improvements at the connector road between Silver Lake Boulevard and Temple Street in Historic Filipinotown. New striping and new plastic bollards forced drivers to slow down and make a right turn from Silver Lake onto the ramp to Temple. The city added a high visibility crosswalk. Striping and bollards shortened the crossing distance for pedestrians.

Back then, L.A. had high hopes for its new Vision Zero program, mandated by a mayoral directive and a policy embedded in a multimodal Mobility Plan. LADOT was installing various quick-build Vision Zero facilities - from various types of painted curb extensions to road diets.

View of Silver Lake improvements west toward Virgil Avenue.
Silver Lake/Temple crosswalk in 2015 (note also that there are 13 plastic bollards on the far side of the crosswalk)
View of Silver Lake improvements west toward Virgil Avenue.
In 2023, the Silver Lake/Temple crosswalk has been completely worn off
In 2023, the Silver Lake/Temple crosswalk has completely worn off. Silver Lake Boulevard's bollard count has been reduced from 13 to 11, which has created an opening to a now well-worn slip lane space that drivers  routinely speed through.
In 2023, the Silver Lake/Temple crosswalk has been completely worn off

Fast forward to 2023.

The Silver Lake Boulevard crosswalk wore off by 2020. Compare Google Street View photos from 2017 and 2020.

Drivers have repeatedly hit the plastic bollards LADOT installed on Silver Lake Boulevard. Of 13 bollards stationed on Silver Lake in 2015, now just 11 remain (alongside three more bollards on the connector road). Demolishing bollards opened space for drivers to speed straight through the area that LADOT had cordoned off, instead of slowing to make a right turn.

Drivers currently speed through space that LADOT cordoned off in 2015
Drivers currently speed through space that LADOT cordoned off in 2015
Drivers currently speed through space that LADOT cordoned off in 2015
2015
Silver Lake/Temple in 2015
2015
Silver Lake/Temple in 2023
Silver Lake/Temple in 2023
Silver Lake/Temple in 2023

The intersection feels less safe today (because speeding traffic is now even closer to the curb, in the space where folks bike) than it did in 2015.

L.A. City traffic deaths hit an all time high in 2022. Vision Zero is floundering, due to several factors, including the hostility of many L.A. City Councilmembers.

That hostility included anti-bike City Councilmembers Mitch O'Farrell and Gil Cedillo killing planned safety upgrades on Temple Street - located at the end of the block this article focuses on - back in 2018. Voters recently unseated those incumbents, replacing them with pro-Vision Zero Councilmembers Hugo Soto-Martinez and Eunisses Hernandez. Hopefully the new members will reconsider that Temple Street project and could perhaps even improve on what looked feasible in 2018.

Councilmember Soto-Martinez could work with LADOT to build back better at Temple/Silver Lake. The city could go beyond the DOT's 2015 project, implementing a protected bike lane that connects onto Temple. The city should probably install more permanent materials - like planters, metal bollards, or concrete jersey barriers - so that drivers are not as tempted to just barrel through, again. They're not cheap, but curb ramps at the crosswalk are also very much needed there.

Possible one-way protected bike lane connecting from Silver Lake Boulevard onto Temple Street
Possible one-way protected bike lane connecting from Silver Lake Boulevard onto Temple Street
Possible one-way protected bike lane connecting from Silver Lake Boulevard onto Temple Street

A few missing plastic bollards on Silver Lake Boulevard is admittedly not a big story. The 2015 improvements didn't quite make the area feel comfortably walkable or bikeable; it is difficult to get drivers not to speed in these sorts of areas near freeway ramps (the 101 is one block northeast).

Except that Silver Lake's degradation is perhaps a stand-in for the broader story of Vision Zero efforts in Los Angeles. LADOT installed quite a few, mostly modest mostly temporary, safety improvements. Then, when faced with some council resistance and some driver backlash, the city hasn't even maintained what it started, effectively backing off from city policy mandating ending traffic deaths. And those deaths are creeping upward.

LADOT's quick-build treatments weren't meant to last forever. Seven-plus years on, they are long overdue for upgrades to more permanent materials. But if that's a bridge too far, the least the department could do is maintain the safety improvements it has already installed.

New striping and bollards makes the Silver Lake Boulevard at Temple Street a bit more livable. All photos: Joe Linton
Silver Lake/Temple in 2015
New striping and bollards makes the Silver Lake Boulevard at Temple Street a bit more livable. All photos: Joe Linton
Silver Lake/Temple this week
Silver Lake/Temple this week
Silver Lake/Temple this week

Update 1/26: Late yesterday, in response to this story, LADOT tweeted that "Our engineers have been notified and a work order generated to fix the issue. Crews will replace any missing bollards and repaint any faded/missing striping within the next few weeks as conditions and other projects permit."

Update 5/2: Late yesterday, LADOT had re-installed the demolished bollards, and added a reflective sign to block cut-through driving at the intersection. Preliminary markings were in place showing the crosswalk would be repainted. See photos at SBLA Tweet.

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