The State of the Streets

IMG_6941

(It has bike lanes, bus stops, and sidewalks, but is Eagle Rock Boulevard an example of a complete street?)

In Northeast LA, to feel safe and comfortable while encountering minimal inconveniences when traveling through the neighborhood and taking advantage of what it has to offer, one must own a car. If one observes the streets on any given day, this appears to not be an issue at first glance. Cars are appropriated a large portion of the public streets and dominate the urban landscape with their presence as they have throughout the city for the past several decades. One may be inclined to believe, by seeing the clear majority of trips being made by automobile, that the status quo is perfectly fine.

However, to fully understand the state of Northeast LA’s streets, one cannot just observe the existing conditions and assume the status quo is the desired result of a neutral transportation environment. One must walk the neighborhood’s streets, cycle on them and take public transit to reach local destinations– both day and night, and in varying weather conditions. One must follow the day-to-day travel of school children, the disabled, the poor, and the elderly. Furthermore, one must also examine elements such as topography and traffic data on the street to identify issues that may not be apparent from mere observations, issues such as: collision history, traffic volumes, and neighborhood travel patterns. It is only by viewing the streets holistically – from the perspective of all travel modes and varying personal mobilities – that one comes to understand the existing street conditions are not desirable, nor do they reflect an unbiased streetscape design. The conditions along Eagle Rock Boulevard, which runs just over three miles through Northeast LA and is one area’s major north-south corridors, are telling of the community’s streets at large. The street captures the many varying physical characteristics of neighborhood’s streets, and reveals the social imbalances and infrastructural short-comings of the area.
Continue reading

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.
Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Restoring Angled Parking on Eagle Rock Boulevard

I’m not typically a proponent for adding parking capacity in Eagle Rock however I have recently thought of a situation which could please those who seek more car parking and those looking for a more pleasant pedestrian environment in downtown Eagle Rock– restoring diagonal parking on the block of Eagle Rock Boulevard between Merton Avenue and Colorado Boulevard.

Historic picture of Eagle Rock Boulevard between Colorado Boulevard and Merton Avenue with diagonal parking (and pedestrian oriented street lighting). Image credit: Eagle Rock by Eric Warren

Below’s an overhead view of the same block of Eagle Rock Boulevard today, with largely the same historic buildings seen in the first picture.

This is where Eagle Rock Boulevard is at its widest. Just a few blocks before the street is only 2 lanes with curbside parking and a center turning lane– here the block has 2 left turning lanes, one through lane, and one wide right turning lane and curbside parking.

That’s an awful lot of space dedicated to having cars zoom through the community and miss all the local businesses on the block inhabiting beautiful historic buildings. Additionally, the sidewalk experience is rather unpleasant for a pedestrian. Trying to cross the wide street with fast moving cars or enjoy outdoor seating at Swork – the cafe that anchors the corner of this block where it intersects with Colorado Boulevard – the experience just isn’t all that nice.

Continue reading

A Look at Eagle Rock’s Relationship with Parking

A recurring complaint about the Colorado Boulevard business corridor is that there is not enough parking. So what has happened as a response? Buildings have been torn down to make way for strip malls. But when we gain parking we usually have to lose something in exchange– walkability, attractive storefronts, lively sidewalks. Three of most well-known examples of where parking has been gained through this method in Eagle Rock, the story has not been pretty.

First lets recall the event considered to have sparked the formation of The Eagle Rock Association, April 1st 1986:

“In response to the threatened destruction of the historic business buildings at the corner of Townsend and Colorado. Kathleen Aberman stands on the building’s roof in an attempt to ward off the surprise demolition by the owner.” – Eagle Rock Historic Society

002 - L.A.T.L. 5 Line Car 1444 Colorado & Townsend Ave. 19471021

In the middle right is the building Aberman tried to rescue. Photo credit: Metro Library and Archive

Continue reading

The Struggles and Potential of Eagle Rock Boulevard

In my last post I explored some traffic information about Colorado Boulevard. The results were surprising, showing that Colorado Boulevard on average carried no more than 35,000 average daily trips (the street is designed to carry between 30,000 and 50,000 average daily trips). Unfortunately Colorado also proved to be a rather dangerous street, but when the street resembles a freeway in width and speed in a popular downtown, the many crashes that have occurred along the Boulevard may not come as complete shocks.

In this post I thought I’d look at Eagle Rock Boulevard – our other major boulevard – as it runs through Eagle Rock, and Glassell Park.

Continue reading