It is common to accept the automobile as the primary means to move along Colorado Boulevard, or to reach the many destinations that line our well-known part of town. However, I recently found myself asking why driving is the primary means and I found myself curious about the actual amount of traffic that passes by, and other statistics about the street. Colorado Boulevard is a large part of our community, why not be curious about it, right?
Colorado Boulevard is a major highway class II, projected to carry between 30,000 and 50,000 cars daily. Traffic counts available from the LADOT website from the past 15 years shows that Colorado Boulevard seldom carries above 35,000.
Where are these people coming from that drive along our Boulevard? In trying to solve this puzzle it may be useful to know that 40% of trips in America within 2 miles from the home and 61% of trips are within 5 miles of the home. This indicates that a considerable amount of traffic along Colorado is local. But perhaps most of us already figured as much; I can recall a recent issue of the Boulevard Sentinel a resident suggested most of traffic along Colorado was local. Determining the exact percent of traffic along Colorado that is local may be difficult, but it is largely acknowledged that a sizable portion is local– that is, the cars reaching destinations along Colorado are likely within 2 or 3 miles of their home if one were to ‘guesstimate’.
If it can go undisputed that a considerable portion of Colorado Boulevard traffic is local – especially considering that the 134 freeway lies parallel for people traveling greater distances – I also want to know why so many locals do drive to reach destinations along the Boulevard. Lately I’ve heard many complaints about the lack of availability of car parking for some of the more popular destinations. Eagle Rockers have also noticed a consistent rise in gas prices, which is increasingly taking a toll at our collective pocket books. If people are going to spend hard earned money in economically challenging times and personal frustration to reach a destination on Colorado by car and have a parking space it can be concluded that people mostly do so because the automobile remains the most pleasant and most convenient option. That or we love driving ourselves crazy. I prefer to believe the former is true.
So driving is the most pleasant and convenient option for most. However, the street is surprisingly unsafe if one chooses to motor. As pointed out at fellow Northeast LA blog, Bipediality, for approximately the three miles that Colorado Boulevard runs through Eagle Rock, 226 crashes occurred between 2005 and 2009– that works out to about one crash a week in that time period. Additionally, Colorado is among the top 5 collision streets in the LAPD Operations Central Bureau. Seeing as 600 speeding tickets were issued in the wake of the horrific 2008 crash, it may not surprise you that one of the top five collision factors in the Central Bureau in 2011 is unsafe speeding– like the freeway kind of speeding Colorado Boulevard invites daily.
In short, there isn’t much good that can be said of Colorado Boulevard – it does not provide enough car parking, it carries relatively low volumes of traffic while providing 80% of the street to cars, traffic collisions and speeding are frequent, and the street remains unpleasant for those traveling on foot or bicycle or wishing to dine outdoors at one of our many eateries.
When locals could conceivably walk or cycle to reach the many hot spots along Colorado it seems driving is more of an endurance than choice people make freely when traveling along our main Boulevard because of its car-centric design.
This is why it is my firm belief that more people, most certainly locals, will choose to walk or cycle along Colorado if we can make it pleasant and convenient– but how do we achieve a street that truly encourages walking and cycling?
Because Colorado barely exceeds the minimum it is engineered for, the street could be made more efficient, safe and invite all modes of transportation if space were reallocated to pedestrians and bicyclists. Undoubtedly a street that is more pleasant will also be good for business. The reallocated space wouldn’t even be much of a loss to motorists as it appears cars have a superfluous amount of space to begin with. Protected bike lanes, sidewalk or curb extensions, more crosswalks… these are some of the things that have been demonstrated to increase foot and bicycle traffic where implemented. More bicycle and foot traffic means fewer people worrying about car parking and other frustrations associated with driving. Also, the space turned over to these modes of travel means cars are less likely to misbehave because the street won’t look or feel like a freeway through the neighborhood– the street simply won’t allow the degree of speeding and other unsafe behavior. Taking space from cars and giving it to pedestrians and bicyclists, a ‘road diet‘, has long been a proven safety enhancement on streets where they are implemented A street that gives people viable, pleasant choices in travel means transport can be more space efficient and our town will also be to accommodate more people and traffic in the future if necessary.
Realizing the surprising low volumes of traffic passing by given Colorado’s width, the many collisions and dangers the street presents, the inability to adequately fulfill current parking demands, gas prices, etc… a redesign of the street that allocates greater space to pedestrians and bicyclists seems promising. In recent months Long Beach and San Francisco have shown that pleasant and convenient streets to walk and cycle on will increase the demands for these modes of travel. As far as Eagle Rock is concerned with piles of evidence at our feet it seems our community has nothing to lose, and so much to gain if we had a redesigned Colorado that favors people over the automobile. A transformed Colorado can made more efficient, more safe, more pleasant, good for business and truly reflect the small town feel of our community.
And as I’ve mentioned before, a more pleasant, convenient and safe Colorado doesn’t have to remain a dream. Please considering volunteering to or becoming a member of The Eagle Rock Association to aid their efforts in making a better Colorado a reality through their newly planted ‘Taking Back the Boulevard’ initiative.