San Fernando Road Diet

San Fernando Road, the street students at the Sotomayor Learning Academies travel on to get to school. Image via: Google Maps

The students at the LA River School have a simple request– make the street their school is on, San Fernando Road, safe.

San Fernando Road is an unfriendly street, and students have documented this through a collaboration with the local news outlet KCET. The students even created a twitter account promoting their campaign, appropriately named “Restless Road,” which they have used to contact local city agencies and council members.

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The Sad State of Traffic Safety in Northeast LA

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A crash on Colorado Blvd by the Eagle Rock Plaza

In recent years Colorado Boulevard has been the most widely discussed street when it comes to talk of traffic safety in Northeast LA. The attention dedicated to Colorado Boulevard is well warranted, however it is not the only dangerous street in the neighborhood. There are many streets in Northeast LA that enable the kind of reckless driving we regularly experience and cause the crashes that scar the community. Ten years of collision data (2002 through 2011) accessible through UC Berkeley’s Transportation Injury Mapping System, or TIMS, reinforces the need to take traffic safety more seriously on all our streets.

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A Safer and Greener North Figueroa St.

NFigueroaProposal(A greener future for North Figueroa St.? A planted median down the center, marked crosswalks with center refuge area, bike lanes and curbside parking on both sides of the street.)

Over two years ago, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) first shared conceptual plans for bike lanes on North Figueroa Street between Colorado Boulevard and York Boulevard. The plans proved disappointing as they did nothing to address the excessive speeding the street experiences and hardly did anything to improve conditions for people bicycling. Bike advocate Joe Linton (author of Down By the Los Angeles River) suggested the LADOT consider a reconfiguration commonly known as a “road diet.” This would make the street look more like York Boulevard does between Eagle Rock Boulevard and Avenue 54.

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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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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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Highland Park Veteran Memorial Potential

Highland Park Survey 2010

A view of the veteran memorial. Photo credit: Waltarrrrr

At the intersection of York Boulevard and North Figueroa Street in Highland Park sits a triangular parcel of land known as the Highland Park veteran memorial. Unfortunately, because the memorial is relatively small and flanked speeding traffic on all sides it can be an unpleasant place to spend time.

However, it seems things could perhaps change for the better. The veteran memorial recently became property of the Department of Recreation and Parks and there is talk that the veteran memorial public space may be expanded by possibly converting the adjacent right turning pocket or parking lot into an extension of the memorial space.


The intersection of York Boulevard and North Figueroa Street. The triangular veteran memorial space could be expanded by converting the right turn pocket  and/or adjacent parking lot into parks pace. Image credit: Google Maps

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Pedestrian Friendly Elements in Berkeley

The summer is over which means that Walk Eagle Rock is migrating north to Berkeley for an other semester of university. While there’s no place like home, there are occasions on which I feel Eagle Rock can learn from Berkeley, particularly about street design and especially now with Take Back The Boulevard afoot.

Downtown Berkeley’s main street is Shattuck Avenue and  it may not resemble Colorado Boulevard much but there are elements from the street that seem they could be happily embraced along Colorado Boulevard. Let’s take a look…

 

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Embrace Bikes, Embrace Business

In discussing Take Back The Boulevard (TBTB), the initiative seeking to improve various elements along Colorado Boulevard to make the street more safe and pleasant, it is not unusual for residents to be divided. Do we make more intersections signalized or add bike lanes to reduce speeding? Do we reduce number of travel lanes or increase amount of parking to make the street more pleasant? The community organizations that have spearheaded TBTB (Collaborative Eagle Rock Beautiful, the Eagle Rock Chamber of Commerce, the Eagle Rock Community Preservation and Revitalization Corporation, the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council, the Eagle Rock Valley Historical Society, Occidental College, The Eagle Rock Association, and the Twentieth Century Women’s’ Club of Eagle Rock) have tried very hard to please all parties and incorporate all needs in pursuing a better Colorado Boulevard that functions for everyone. 

However, while the general idea of improving safety through reducing speeding seems to have near unanimous support, there’s one notable conflict that emerges in almost all discussions of TBTB. All to often it seems neighbors break out into a “bike lanes vs car parking” debate, as though these are two ideas that can only work against each other. It appears to some as an either/or proposition: either we provide bike lanes, or we provide more car parking through converting parallel parking to angled parking, by reallocating superfluous travel lanes on Colorado and achieve the goal of reducing speeds.

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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.

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Some Thoughts on Outdated Bikeway Designs

(This is a non-Eagle Rock specific post mostly consisting of thoughts on bicycle infrastructure design standards that dictate bikeway design in Los Angeles)

When bicycling on the streets of Los Angeles I am expected to ‘share the road’ with motorists. On quiet residential streets this is rarely an issue, cars seldom go above 20 miles per hour. But even on residential streets there is the occasional pressure to speed up or move aside when a motor vehicle approaches from behind. However, residential streets are pretty manageable and subjectively safe for myself, and the many people I see who simply enjoy to go for a ride around the block. Intersections are not an issue either as residential streets are usually narrow with little traffic.

However, the comfort utilitarian and recreational bicyclists feel on residential streets quickly disappears when traveling on major, commercial streets. One of the biggest hindrances to people choosing the bicycle for travel is how dangerous larger streets with greater amounts of traffic feel.

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