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Mixed Results from L.A.’s ‘BLAST’ Bikeway Initiative

Of 24 projects announced, so far: 4 sweet new bikeways, 4 traffic circles, and not much else

3:58 PM PDT on June 7, 2023

More than half the BLAST program is unfinished. Many completed projects fell short of their announced length. Pictured is cracked asphalt on Compton Avenue in Watts; the city announced this part of this street would be repaved as part of BLAST. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog

Announced by then-one-foot-out-the-door Mayor Eric Garcetti late last October, L.A.'s Bike Lane Acceleration and Safety Team "BLAST" initiative was supposed to deliver twenty-four "precise surgical" bikeway improvements to "close gaps" in the bike network.

BLAST is a much needed collaboration between the city's Transportation Department (LADOT), which designs the lane striping that goes on city streets, and the Bureau of Street Services (StreetsLA), which maintains city streets, including ongoing repaving. StreetsLA crews scrape and resurface streets, leaving them all smooth black asphalt. Then LADOT puts down thermoplastic striping to show where drivers are supposed to go, turn, park, etc. - and often DOT does crosswalks and bike lanes as part of striping.

Under BLAST, StreetsLA basically set aside some repaving program mileage for sites LADOT identified as bikeway priorities. BLAST was supposed to deliver 15 miles of resurfacing, with about 12 new lane-miles of bike lanes.

Two caveats: First, L.A. measures resurfacing differently than bike lanes, essentially double-counting bikeways. Adding bike lanes to one mile of resurfacing would result in two lane-miles. Adding bike lanes in both directions on all 15 miles of BLAST would total 30 lane-miles of bike lanes. But even with "Bike Lane" in the BLAST program name, just under half of the 24 segments appeared to be appropriate spots for straightforwardly adding bike lanes, and some segments already had existing bike lanes. Nonetheless, departmental coordination for about 12 new miles of bike lane and 15 miles of new smooth asphalt could be worthwhile, and perhaps the start of an improved coordinated project delivery method that could grow over time.

Second, the fiscal year isn't over until June 30, so this post is a closing-in-on-the-finish-line report re on-the-ground conditions, not a final judgement. (Though SBLA went to most of the 24 BLAST sites, this editor didn't get around to visiting the following four segments yet: Avenue 60, Glenoaks Boulevard, Grand Boulevard, and Windward Circle; nor has SBLA spoken with city staff. This post is about the other 20 BLAST segments investigated.)

As of the beginning of June, StreetsLA and LADOT appear to have delivered about a third of pledged BLAST repaving: 5 miles of 15. These have included a handful of good bikeways, including about eight lane-miles of new bike lanes.

The good news is that BLAST has completed four bikeway projects that do live up to October's press event billing as "strategic large street segments" that "close [bikeway network] gaps." There are few places where these projects might have been improved (see photo captions below), but if all 24 BLAST segments had been like these four, Streetsblog would be celebrating.

Four BLAST Bikeways:

  1. Anaheim Street (Wilmington) - Figueroa Street to Alameda Street
  2. Avenue 19 (Cypress Park/Lincoln Heights) - San Fernando Road to the 110 Freeway
  3. Central Avenue (Watts) - Imperial Highway to Century Avenue
  4. San Vicente Boulevard (Mid-City) - La Brea Avenue to Olympic Boulevard
New bike lanes on Anaheim Street in Wilmington. The project included two repaved miles, four lane-miles of new bike lane (some protected), and many additional safety features. The city received a recent grant for further safety upgrades, including some curb-protected bike lanes.
Avenue 19
New protected bike lanes on Avenue 19 in Cypress Park. LADOT had announced this project in 2019, but it was delayed until anti-bike former City Councilmember Gil Cedillo was unseated by Eunisses Hernandez. The repaving and bikeway upgrades for this project exceeded the 0.2 mile distance announced in 2022. Avenue 19 received about a mile of repaving, including nearly a lane-mile of new bike lane.
Central Avenue
New parking-protected bike lanes and pedestrian safety upgrades on Central Avenue, pictured during the May CicLAvia Ciclamini event there. The city did significant upgrades to existing bike lanes on Central between Imperial and Century, converting them to parking-protected lanes, adding concrete bus stop islands, pedestrian islands, and more. Though these are very worthwhile upgrades, the city did not deliver the 1.1 miles (Imperial to Century) of repaving announced in BLAST (note the cracking pavement in the above image). The city did repave about half of the BLAST extent: 0.6 mile of Central, between Imperial and 108th Street.
New parking-protected bike lanes on San Vicente Boulevard
New parking-protected bike lanes on San Vicente Boulevard. Where they were installed, the San Vicente bike lanes are a quality bike facility. Unfortunately the bikeway was only about half as long as what was announced in BLAST, which stated the facility would extend from 1.2 miles from La Brea to Olympic. That entire area was repaved, but bike lanes were added only to half of that extent (westbound: Redondo Boulevard to near Genesee Avenue [south], eastbound: Curson Avenue to La Brea). The missing east end is supposed to installed after LADWP work wraps up there this summer, but the west end was just omitted indefinitely.

From there, the quality drops off somewhat.

BLAST also implemented four new small traffic circles (three done, one under construction). Though these are not literally bike lanes, they're worthwhile. They do calm traffic; that calming helps make streets safer for walking, cycling, and even driving. One shortcoming of these welcome circles is that the repaving is nowhere near as long as what was announced in October. LADOT's descriptions specified that each traffic circle intersection would be accompanied by several blocks of smooth pavement in each direction, but the actual result so far is the new paving ends about ten feet from the intersection, so in some of these locations there is a nice new circle surrounded by cracked failing asphalt.

Four BLAST Traffic Circles:

  1. 88th Place and McKinley Avenue (South L.A.)
  2. Avenue 50 and Meridian Street (Northeast L.A.)
  3. Martel Avenue and Rosewood Avenue (Mid-City)
  4. Telfair Avenue and Montague Street (Pacoima)
Small traffic circle at 88th Place and McKinley
New small traffic circle at 88th Place and McKinley
Cracked asphalt on 88th Place just west of the new traffic circle. As announced last year, BLAST was supposed to repave this part of 88th Place.
Failing asphalt on McKinley just south of new traffic circle. This too was supposed to be resurfaced under BLAST.
New small traffic circle at Avenue 50
New small traffic circle at Avenue 50 and Meridian Street in Highland Park/Eagle Rock. Photo via Aaron Mendelson Twitter
Traffic circle at Martel and Rosewood
New small traffic circle at Martel and Rosewood. Photo by Michael Schneider
Contstruction uderway yesterday
Construction underway yesterday at the Telfair and Montague traffic circle in Pacoima

The above 12 projects (the traffic circle intersections count as 2 street segments each) comprise the half of BLAST that appears done or nearly done.

The rest of the list (at least the eight SBLA checked - of twelve remaining) hasn't seen any repaving. The lack of progress is especially disappointing in Watts, where BLAST pledged six newly repaved segments (103rd Street, 108th Street, Central, Compton Avenue, Willowbrook Avenue, Wilmington Avenue) and only delivered about half of one (Central - shown above). Also no repaving yet on the Hazeltine Avenue or Stratford Road.

Below are some photos of BLAST street segments where repaving has not happened yet.

103rd Street has yet to see any repaving or new bikeways under BLAST
The BLAST initiative has not repaved or otherwise improved 108th Street yet
Willowbrook Avenue
No improvements yet to the cracking pavement on Willowbrook Avenue where BLAST was supposed to repave
Wilmington Avenue
LADOT added a couple of speedbumps (apparently part of BLAST?) to already-sharrowed Wilmington Avenue, though the street has not been repaved
Wilmington Avenue
Cracking pavement on the BLAST portion of Wilmington Avenue, which cyclists take to get to the Rosa Parks Station on the Metro A and C Lines
Hazeltine Avenue
The one block BLAST stretch of Hazeltine Avenue (from Oxnard Street to the G Line path) has not been repaved yet. One indicator that bike lanes could be imminent is that LADOT did recently install bike lane signage. Last fall, just before the October BLAST announcement, LADOT added bike lanes on a resurfaced stretch of Hazeltine south of Oxnard Street (to Burbank Boulevard).

With preliminary results mixed, should L.A. continue to do BLAST?

In this editor's opinion: yes. Though there appear to be some kinks to work out, BLAST helps city departments coordinate better. Adding and upgrading bikeways - and traffic calming, crosswalks, etc. - requires LADOT and StreetsLA to collaborate. These two city bodies are already working together quite a bit, resulting in a modest uptick in bikeway mileage in recent years. BLAST can help accomplish more and better bikeways, and can be a tool to focus some repaving and safety upgrades where they are most effective and most needed, including siting them in underserved communities.

Streetsblog will continue to track BLAST bikeway implementation and resurfacing, and will report more after the initial program concludes at the end of this month.

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