As many likely know by now, Colorado Boulevard will undergo some changes this August to make the street safer and improve conditions for walking and bicycling. Currently, one of the barriers to a pleasant and convenient walk on Colorado is the glaring absence of safe, comfortable crossing opportunities. In August, alongside buffered bike lanes, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) will also add a couple of crosswalks to where our neighborhood’s main street intersects with El Rio Avenue and Glen Iris Avenue. While additional crosswalks are sorely needed, one cannot help but to wonder if two additional crosswalks will be enough to make Colorado Boulevard a pleasant street for pedestrians.
Where Are Crossings Needed?
Upon a quick review of Colorado Boulevard, it appears that the LADOT opted to add crosswalks so that crossing opportunities are spaced more evenly throughout the neighborhood’s main commercial corridor; they will be adding crosswalks to the big gaps in crossing opportunities. While that certainly is one way to approach the need for crosswalks, it can overlook other details of the street, including: how people use the street and where crosswalks would be most useful.
On commercial corridors, crosswalks are most needed where people are found walking. While this may seem obvious, not all portions of commercial corridors are necessarily attracting foot traffic and this is certainly true of Colorado Boulevard. Due to the street’s history and inconsistent development patterns along its commercial portion, certain parts of the street attract more travel by foot than others.
The most walkable part of Colorado Boulevard is 0.7 mile long stretch between Eagle Rock Boulevard and Townsend Avenue. This portion developed as it did largely because it had a streetcar running along it, encouraging pedestrian oriented commercial development during the neighborhood’s earlier years. Thanks to the effort of historic preservationists, a considerable number of pedestrian oriented buildings remain here, and as a result, this part of Colorado Boulevard attracts the most foot travel because it provides the most pleasant and convenient walking experience. It is perhaps no surprise then that this is also where there is the most demand for safe and pleasant crossing opportunities.
Glen Iris Avenue
(A crosswalk will be added to the eastern leg of Glen Iris Avenue but it would perhaps be better located one block west on Shearin Avenue to be closer to the cluster of restaurants – noted by the stars – and sidewalk fronted businesses. Image via Google Maps.)
Of the two intersections the LADOT has decided to add crosswalks to, one of them – to be located at Glen Iris Avenue – is within the walkable and pedestrian friendly portion of Colorado Boulevard. This crosswalk seems to make sense; it will be located in the vicinity of popular restaurants such as The Oinkster and The Coffee Table. The crosswalk location is likely to help restaurant goers decide where to eat since it will be easier to cross the street and compare menu options and waiting times among the handful of restaurants in the immediate area. A crosswalk at Glen Iris will enhance the relatively pedestrian friendly nature of this particular block of Colorado Boulevard. The crosswalk would perhaps be better suited one block west at Shearin Avenue, but Glen Iris is still a useful location.
El Rio Avenue
(A much needed crosswalk will be added to eastern leg of El Rio Avenue but a crosswalk is also needed one block east on Rockland Avenue. Image via Google Maps.)
The second location the LADOT has decided to add a crosswalk to is El Rio Avenue. The immediate area around this proposed intersection is largely dominated by a Comfort Inn, and the surface parking lot of a Bank of America– not a very pedestrian friendly environment. This part of Colorado Boulevard is in the periphery of the walkable “downtown” portion, just two blocks west of Eagle Rock Boulevard– not many people are seen walking here. As one heads further west beyond El Rio Avenue, the pedestrian environment becomes less pleasant as there are fewer dense clusters of sidewalk fronted businesses.
If this proposed crosswalk were located just one block east at Rockland Avenue, it would still be in the periphery of the walkable portion of Colorado Boulevard but it would be closer to more destinations likely to attract pedestrian traffic (such as Yogurt Haven, La Fuente, Starbucks, and the Center for the Arts). The most compelling reason to have a crosswalk at El Rio Avenue is to improve access to and from a bus stop on the northern side of the intersection and that is certainly worthwhile enough to warrant a crosswalk at this location.
Can We Do Better?
In examining the two proposed crosswalk locations, there appears to be merit to them. However, there are compelling reasons to go beyond those two and add even more crosswalks if possible, especially in Eagle Rock’s “downtown” portion of Colorado Boulevard where the most pedestrians are found walking and crossing the street.
In Berkeley, California there are two streets similar to Colorado Boulevard that could serve as good models for how to create a more pedestrian friendly environment– University Avenue and San Pablo Avenue. Almost every intersection on these two streets provide marked crosswalks or signalized crosswalks for pedestrians. San Pablo Avenue is even part of the heavily traveled California State Route 123 and University Avenue on average sees higher volumes of traffic than Colorado Boulevard so is it is clear that more is possible on Colorado Boulevard!
(In the above picture is University Avenue in Berkeley, CA– it has crosswalks and signalized crossings for pedestrians on almost every block. Why don’t we do this on Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock? Image via Google Maps.)
What University Avenue and San Pablo Avenue also do is provide crossings on both sides of an intersection. The proposed crosswalks on Colorado Boulevard, and the existing one we have on Hermosa Avenue, only allow pedestrians to cross on one side of the street for no apparent reason. Having crosswalks on both sides would improve accessibility and convenience for pedestrians.
(At Hermosa Avenue pedestrians are only given a marked crosswalk on the western leg of the intersection. Why not add a crosswalk to the eastern leg of the intersection as well? Image via Google Maps.)
If more crosswalks could be added along Colorado Boulevard, it would be fantastic to see them at: Rockland Avenue, Shearin Avenue, La Roda Avenue, and Vincent Avenue. La Roda and Vincent in particular seem as though they could benefit from crosswalks because these are locations where high volumes of people are seen crossing on a daily basis (the case for a crosswalk on Vincent Avenue has previously been made on this blog). The below pictures are good indicators of what happens throughout the day at these two intersections
As the plans to improve safety and enhance walking and cycling conditions on Colorado Boulevard move forward, we – the community and city alike – should ask if we can do better, and continue to push for more improvements to make walking (and cycling) more pleasant in Eagle Rock.
Do you want to see crosswalks at particular intersections along Colorado Boulevard? Take a moment and contact Take Back The Boulevard (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Councilmember Huizar (Councilmember.Huizar@lacity.org) to let them know.
On a related note: Many wrongly think that Take Back The Boulevard (TBTB) has been solely about getting bike lanes on Colorado Boulevard, this is not true. The organization seeks to make Colorado Boulevard feel more like a welcoming main street rather than speedy commuter thoroughfare, and bike lanes are merely one way to help accomplish that mission. I personally look forward to seeing what direction the organization takes after buffered bike lanes are installed in August. I know I’d like to see the good folks at TBTB continue to push for more crosswalks because two will not enough to transform Colorado Boulevard and make it a great street for walking.