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Eyes on the Street: L.A. City’s Three-Foot-Wide Bike Lane

12:23 AM PDT on June 1, 2023

Substandard bike lane on De Soto Avenue in Woodland Hills. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog 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.

Up in the West San Fernando Valley is what appears to be the city’s of Los Angeles’ most substandard bike facility, and the city has all too many inadequate bike facilities to choose from. A stretch of De Soto Avenue has a three-foot wide bike lane, two feet of which are the concrete gutter. It’s at the intersection of De Soto and El Rancho Road, located in the community of Woodland Hills. It’s just one long block south of the Metro J Line (Orange) Bus Rapid Transit and bike path, and right across the street from Pierce College.

The sad bikeway was brought to SBLA’s attention by Danny Duarte (@gatodejazz on Twitter).

Most L.A. bike lanes are the typical/minimum/standard width, which is either four feet (along a curb where there is no parking) or five feet (alongside parked cars). This measurement does include the gutter, not because cyclists are expected to ride in the gutter, but because the gutter provides a foot or two where cyclists can maneuver if necessary.

In this area, most of De Soto is eighty feet wide, with seven lanes dedicated to car traffic. Most of De Soto’s bike lane is the basic four to five feet wide, though for one curved block the southbound lane shrinks to three feet.

L.A.’s three-foot-wide bike lane on De Soto Avenue

Responses from L.A. Transportation Department (LADOT) engineer Tim Fremaux indicate that the city installed this lane incorrectly, and probably about twenty years ago. The deficient De Soto bike lane dates to before the earliest Google Street View there in 2007. Fremaux noted that it will be fixed (that is, brought up to at least the minimum standard), probably because, as is, it’s a lawsuit waiting to happen. What makes it time-consuming for the city to fix its error is that De Soto now has aging, cracked asphalt, so (based largely on a misreading of earlier cyclist crash lawsuits) the city won’t stripe a new bike lane until after the street is resurfaced.

Meanwhile, speeding drivers and an inadequate bikeway means that De Soto will remain a hostile place for bicycling. One indicator of this is located three blocks to the south, next to De Soto’s intersection with Burbank Boulevard: a ghost bike commemorating the 2018 death of Sebastian Montero, a Reseda High School student killed by a fast-moving De Soto driver.

Ghost bike memorial for Sebastian Montero

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