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Eyes on the Street: Newly Protected Venice Boulevard Bike Lane

Parking-protected bike lane on Venice Boulevard. 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.

Streetsblog got a chance to ride a new stretch of parking-protected bike lane on Venice Boulevard. The L.A. City Transportation Department's (LADOT) under construction Venice Boulevard Safety and Mobility Project is adding new bus-only lanes and reconfiguring existing bike lanes to add parking-protection.

With nearly ten miles of continuous bike lanes, the Westside's Venice Boulevard has long been a popular street to bike, especially near Venice Beach. A couple of years ago, the nonprofit Streets for All started a campaign for Venice Boulevard for All. Streets for All has urged the city to implement its approved Mobility Plan, which designated Venice for bus lanes and protected bike lanes.

The city has made several upgrades to Venice. LADOT extended the Venice bike lanes just over a half mile toward downtown in 2015. The department added parking-protection to a 0.8-mile stretch in Mar Vista in 2017. Last year LADOT added parking-protection to a 0.7-mile stretch near Culver City.

The current project under construction includes resurfacing, 2.5 miles of new bus-only lanes, and about three and a half miles of newly protected bike lanes. The resurfacing was completed late last year. Installation of bus and bike lanes got underway soon thereafter, but the project progress has been a bit slow, probably due to the heavy rains.

As of this past weekend, the parking-protected bikeway is more-or-less completed on just the eastbound side from McLaughlin Avenue to Overland Avenue. Streetsblog observed plenty of cyclists riding there.

Newly parking-protected bike lane on Venice Boulevard
New parking-protected bike lane on Venice Boulevard
Venice Boulevard near Sepulveda Boulevard
Venice Boulevard near Sepulveda Boulevard
Venice Boulevard near Sepulveda Boulevard
Newly parking-protected bike lane on Venice Boulevard
Newly parking-protected bike lane on Venice Boulevard
Newly parking-protected bike lane on Venice Boulevard

Some people online have been critical that Venice's protected bikeway is narrow and partially in the concrete gutter. The new lanes do appear slightly narrower than the 2017 Mar Vista project, but overall they do feel like an improvement, especially compared to the remaining unprotected bike lane stretches on Venice.

Streetsblog does have some criticism of this project, which, overall, includes a lot of worthwhile features.

Already the project includes an unprotected gap. LADOT omitted protected lanes for what is basically one long (~1500 feet) block between Inglewood Boulevard and McLaughlin Avenue.

Unprotected stretch of Venice Boulevard bike lane, near Inglewood Avenue
Unprotected stretch of Venice Boulevard bike lane, near Inglewood Boulevard
Unprotected stretch of Venice Boulevard bike lane, near Inglewood Avenue

It's not entirely clear why, but it appears that bikeway protection was omitted to preserve existing on-street parking. Adding parking-protected bike lanes removes some parking - typically around 5-25 percent. The gap block includes a lot of residential driveways spaced fairly close together (and basically little in the way of side streets for parking to spill onto), so it would probably have required LADOT to remove something like 5-10 of around 30 on-street spaces, which was apparently too high a price to pay for making bicycling safe. The planet is overheating, but there will still be places to park your car, because you can bet that LADOT will prioritize on-street parking over green transportation on Venice Boulevard, recently in Angelino Heights and Woodland Hills, and most likely on a block near you.

Earlier, Streetsblog had enthusiastically noted that LADOT's announced design meant "Venice Boulevard’s protected bikeway would extend 5.1 miles, from Lincoln to La Cienega Boulevard, and would be the longest protected bike facility in L.A. County." With a gap like this one (and others to come?), it doesn't look like this will be the case.

The other criticism is that the facility does not actually add any new mileage to the city's bikeway network.

Significant bike lane upgrades to existing bike lanes - from unprotected to protected - are needed, but it feels like the city is somewhat more inclined to revamp existing bikeways (often with near-meaningless upgrades - such as an unprotected lane upgrade to a buffered unprotected lane), than it is to strategically advance an interconnected bikeway network. This would mean adding new mileage by extending bikeways and closing gaps. This isn't to imply that LADOT is not adding any new bikeway mileage - they are. DOT is installing some new bikeway mileage; much of it is very good and some of it is great. Much more of that is needed.

The Venice upgrades are worthwhile. LADOT is turning much of Venice from a good place to bike into a very good biking street, and adding bus lanes at the same time. That's worth celebrating.

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