A Transforming Colorado Boulevard

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Colorado Blvd now has bike lanes to improve the safety and comfort of people bicycling

Colorado Boulevard has long held a reputation as an unfriendly street with a notorious traffic safety record. Fortunately, thanks to local leadership from Councilmember Huizar, Take Back The Boulevard, and Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council, changes have been made to the street within the past few months to improve safety and make the street more pleasant for walking and bicycling.

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Crosswalks And Walkability

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.
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Let’s Talk Crossing

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Sign telling pedestrians they are not allowed to cross the street at this corner

Colorado Boulevard needs more crosswalks, because while any corner unless signage dictates otherwise is technically an “unmarked crosswalk,” the experience of crossing at an unmarked crosswalk on the street is very unpleasant. Rarely, if ever, do motorists yield to pedestrians as they should at unmarked crosswalks. Here’s what one typically sees at Colorado Boulevard’s “unmarked” crosswalks:

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People running across the street

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Waiting for a break in the flow of cars (because the drivers won’t yield)

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Trying to make their way across because they are patronizing a business on one side but parking on the other.

Here are more pictures of people crossing Colorado Boulevard at unmarked crosswalks:
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Show Your Support For Buffered Bike Lanes on Colorado Boulevard

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A cyclist rides by Eagle Rock City Hall, where the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council meeting will be held.

If you want to see a safer, more civilized Colorado Boulevard be sure to voice your support at tonight’s Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council meeting. The meeting will start at 7pm and be held at Eagle Rock City Hall, located at 2035 Colorado Boulevard. If you want to speak at the meeting, you must fill out a speaker card at the beginning of the meeting.
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Addressing Concerns With Implementing Bike Lanes on Colorado Boulevard

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(“Creating bike lanes by reducing the number of lanes available to motorists will hurt businesses,” one of the many arguments presented against bike lanes on Colorado Boulevard. See “Bike Lane Concern #4″ below to find out if bike lanes are really likely to hurt local business)

Bike lanes on Colorado Boulevard, as planned in the Los Angeles Bike Plan, are coming closer to being a reality– a meeting on March 27th hosted by council member Huizar’s office will be held to determine based on community input how to move forward, if at all, with bike lanes on Eagle Rock’s main street.

During on-going opportunities for community input throughout phases of the Bike Plan formation, the Bike Plan’s environmental impact review, and most recently at a public hearing regarding the results of the environmental impact review comments have been mostly positive. However, now concerns about the potential impact bike lanes may are popping up in growing numbers. There is nothing wrong with this, concerns are well warranted for any proposed changes in town and a change to Colorado Boulevard’s public right-of-way will affect daily travel for many.

To gain a clearer perspective of what the current circumstances are and what may possibly change as a result of bike lanes being implemented, it may be beneficial to have the recurring concerns and questions people have regarding bike lanes on Colorado Boulevard actually be addressed. That’s what this blog post will attempt to do– address concerns that have been raised in conversations about bike lanes in the community.
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Observing A Temporary Lane Closure on Colorado Boulevard

One concern regarding the potential installation of bike lanes on Colorado Boulevard is that it would cause a “traffic nightmare” since it would reduce the number of travel lanes available for motorists between Broadway and Townsend Avenue, a 1.5 mile stretch. The Los Angeles Department of Transportation’s (LADOT) Bikeways Division has communicated  it doesn’t anticipate any major delays in travel times by implementing bike lanes but concerns among residents persist, and understandably so. However if a recent, temporary closure of a single travel lane is any indication, it seems Colorado Boulevard will function just fine if bike lanes are implemented.

Friday, January 11th, a film crew was out on Colorado Boulevard on the block between Caspar Avenue and Maywood Avenue and due to all the equipment present during the filming, one eastbound travel lane was closed to traffic on this block of the street. Generally speaking, such unanticipated lane closures tend to cause bottlenecking, but this was not the case on Colorado Boulevard during this particular filming. Eastbound traffic appeared to be moving just as smoothly with only two of three lanes available as the westbound traffic where there was no unexpected lane closure.

Could it be that the LADOT’s projections are accurate– that creating bike lanes by removing one travel lane for motorists really won’t have much impact on travel times?

This temporary block long lane closure can’t provide conclusive evidence of what conditions would be like with bike lanes but it was interesting to observe nonetheless. Below is a video of the traffic conditions as they appeared between 5pm to 5:25pm

(Note  the block before the lane closure traffic was forced to merge from three lanes to two lanes and there didn’t appear to be any clogging of traffic there either.)

Subtle Signs of Take Back The Boulevard’s Efforts

(In my last post I asked if there was anything specifically I should write about in 2013, one reader requested I keep followers updated with the status of Take Back The Boulevard. So to kick off the year, here’s an update on the initiative.)

It’s been almost two years since Walk Eagle Rock first covered Take Back the Boulevard (TBTB)– the community driven initiative to make Colorado Boulevard a safer, friendlier street for  all.  While there were initially some public meetings following the launch of Take Back the Boulevard, the past few months have been relatively quiet. So what’s new? Why hasn’t the boulevard been taken back already?

According to Bob Gotham – chair of the Take Back the Boulevard’s steering committee – the initiative isn’t intended to transform Colorado Boulevard over night or even over a couple of years. To fulfill it’s goals, the initiative is realistically envisioned as an on-going process that will consist of short-term and long-term solutions to improve the boulevard. This is in part because any substantial, visible changes to the boulevard will only be able to move forward as funds are made available and if the City’s departments are willing to act. A safer, more pleasant Colorado Boulevard that functions for all users is at least a few more years off, but Take Back The Boulevard has taken steps towawrds bringing change to Eagle Rock’s main street. Let’s take a look…
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Progress at 5 Line Restaurant

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A changing facade along Colorado Boulevard

At the corner of Colorado Boulevard and Caspar Avenue the building that formerly housed Corner Pizzeria has been undergoing a bit of a transformation. According to Eagle Rock Patch, the building will become a “two-in-one restaurant”, combing a Big Mama and Papa’s Pizzeria and casual bar. The two establishments will be connected by a common door and go under the name “5 Line”, a reference to the former streetcar line that used to run through Eagle Rock along Colorado and Eagle Rock Boulevard.

5 Line remains a work in progress but one can already see the exterior resembling the look of the Los Angeles Railway Yellow Car line the restaurant takes its name from.

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Embrace Occidental College

Eagle Rock is very proud to be home to the humble and increasingly well-known Occidental College, or Oxy as it is known among the college’s students and locals. The sign that welcomes people at our town’s eastern end, at the  intersection of Colorado Boulevard and Wiota Street, reads “Eagle Rock, Founded 1911. Home of Occidental College”. Every year when Occidental College starts the Fall semester a banner hangs at the intersection of Colorado Boulevard and Eagle Rock Boulevard that welcomes Oxy students back to Eagle Rock. These are literally signs of the affection and positive relationship fostered between the College and Eagle Rock.

There is no doubt that Occidental College has had a positive impact on our community, and that Eagle Rock has been good to Oxy. Though perhaps Eagle Rock can be more welcoming to Occidental College, particularly to its students, and equally benefit to the community at large through ways that embody the messages we put on our welcome sign and the banner that hangs over our town’s major intersection.

While Eagle Rock has always been home to a handful of Oxy students, about 60% of the school’s students are not from California, which demonstrates quite clearly many students are seeing Eagle Rock for the first time. Eagle Rock being the lovely and cool neighborhood that it is is definitely worth exploring, but is our community accessible and inviting to the many car-free college students who’ve never been here before? Our residential streets are typically relaxing and nice to walk along, but unfortunately the same cannot be said of our car-centric commercial corridors– which is a shame because that’s where our local businesses are! But things can change, for the better.

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