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Bicycle Boulevards

Cities Block Off Streets for Rich Neighborhoods, Not for Bike/Walk Safety – Part 2

Cities know street closures work to divert and calm car traffic, they shouldn't be shy about using diverters/closures for prioritizing the safety and convenience of people getting around on foot and on bike

Diverter treatment on National Avenue in Toluca Lake. People on foot and bike can go through; drivers go around. Photos by Joe Linton/Streetsblog

Back in 2020, Streetsblog published a short post on how cities, mostly Los Angeles, block off streets to keep drivers from cutting through rich residential neighborhoods. The piece pointed out the double standard that L.A. has commonly closed streets to benefit well-off residents, but generally won't do the same closures to improve bike and pedestrian safety - even in the face of record traffic deaths.

Some cities - Portland, Berkeley - line up these no-through-traffic diverters to form what's called a Bicycle Boulevard or Neighborhood Greenway. Bicycle Boulevards are a low-traffic streets shared by people in cars and on bike, but where traffic has been diverted or calmed, so the priority is people on foot and on bike.

Southern California has a few halfhearted Bike Boulevards/Neighborhood Greenways (including in Santa Monica, Hollywood, Long Beach, and unincorporated L.A. County), but generally they haven't been very effective. The best example is perhaps Santa Monica's Michigan Avenue Greenway (MANGo), where the city added traffic circles and is currently adding two short stretches of bike path.

The designers and engineers responsible for these So. Cal. facilities have been unwilling to include serious enough treatments to divert drivers.

Today, SBLA showcases a few more of the many street closures/diverters that currently keep tony residential neighborhoods safe.

Where Venice, Mar Vista, and Culver City intersect (around Costco on Washington Boulevard), the city of L.A. added several landscaped median diverters.

Landscaped concrete median island diverter on Walnut Avenue. The feature discourages Costco traffic from spilling in adjacent neighborhoods.

One of the nicest best-landscaped diverters in L.A. City can be found on Bowdoin Street at Temescal Canyon Road, near Palisades High School.

Landscaped concrete median islands on Bowdoin Street at Temescal Canyon Road. The treatment prevents Palisades High School traffic from cutting into the well-off residential neighborhood.

Atop the the post and below are a few of many closed streets keeping car traffic out of the community of Toluca Lake. Toluca spans about a mile (including mostly city of L.A., but also partly in the city of Burbank) and has a half-dozen diverters to keep drivers from cutting through.

City of L.A. diverter median on Moorpark Street/Moorpark Way in Toluca Lake. (The city's sign is deceptive, both Moorpark Street and Way support through traffic.)

Most of Toluca's diverters are on the eastern edge of the neighborhood, in the city of Burbank.

Toluca Lake traffic diverter on Hood Avenue in Burbank
Toluca Lake traffic diverter on McFarlane Avenue in Burbank
Toluca Lake traffic diverter on National Avenue in Burbank

Burbank has done at least a few more recent street closure diverters along Alameda Avenue (example).

These street closures are worthwhile facilities. These rich neighborhoods deserve to be safe, and so do their less well-off counterparts. Cities should build on these successes, and not be shy about deploying some strategic street closures as an effective tool to prioritize the safety and convenience of people getting around on foot and on bike.

The city of L.A. is looking at some similar features to prioritize safe connections on low-stress corridors. Hopefully these can move from planning to on-the-street improvements soon. Lives depend on it.

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