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.
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.
(Screenshot from Figueroa For All’s website– the Cypress Park Neighborhood Council meeting for Tuesday has been cancelled.)
Readers of this blog are probably familiar with Take Back The Boulevard (TBTB) – Eagle Rock’s community initiative to revitalize Colorado Boulevard through transforming the street to create a more pedestrian friendly environment. However, readers may be unaware there is a similar grassroots movement afoot to do the same for North Figueroa Street– Figueroa For All (or fig4all as it is known on twitter).
Figueroa For All, as its recently launched website states, seeks to make North Figueroa a more livable street– this includes advocating for bike lanes on the street between Colorado Boulevard and San Fernando Road. Figueroa For All’s website will be the go-to place for anyone wishing to keep up with or support the initiative’s efforts.
Are you interested in helping Figueroa For All and bringing bike lanes to North Figueroa? Here are four things you can do:
(“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.
(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…
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…
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.
A recurring complaint about Colorado Boulevard is that the street does not provide enough parking. This may be a valid concern, but when we gain parking we usually have to lose something in exchange. Walkability, attractive store fronts, lively sidewalks…
Perhaps the three most known examples of where parking has been gained 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
In the middle right is the building Aberman tried to rescue. Photo credit: Metro Library and Archive
Take Back The Boulevard – the initiative that has sparked my interest in studying the conditions along Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock – is an opportunity for us to improve our main street. One of the main components involves improving traffic safety, and some supporters of the initiative make the case for improving safety by comparing crash statistics on Colorado in Eagle Rock with neighboring Glendale and Pasadena.
However, Take Back The Boulevard really is an opportunity for us to improve traffic safety in Eagle Rock regardless of findings in neighboring cities. Though, if one really wants a quick comparison one can look to a map that shows every road fatality between 2001 and 2009 in the entire United States. This map includes road fatalities along Colorado as the street runs through Glendale, Eagle Rock and Pasadena. Not the most solid of data to draw conclusions but it indicates what many suspect– Eagle Rock’s portion of Colorado Boulevard has been deadlier than it is in our neighboring cities where the street is only two lanes in each direction according to nearly a decade of records. Eagle Rock’s bit of Colorado Boulevard saw more deaths than Pasadena’s portion despite spanning a short distance and at about the same distance as Glendale’s portion of the street yet with more deaths. While one cannot speculate too much, it would not seem far fetched if the increased number of deaths in Eagle Rock are partially the result of conditions which allow for greater speeds (higher speeds, not surprisingly, are more likely to result in death in the event of a crash).
(Note: the full, complete findings can be found in this post– A Decade of Crashes Along Colorado Boulevard )
The initiative Take Back The Boulevard, which seeks to calm traffic and produce a safe, pleasant atmosphere along Colorado Boulevard has received a bit of backlash in the local newspaper Boulevard Sentinel. While it would seem efforts to make a street safer and more pleasant is hardly something to oppose, there are concerns that the initiative may result in a ‘traffic nightmare’, be bad for local businesses, or even make the street less safe.
Much of this opposition relies on anecdotal observations and speculation about how traffic operates with few facts and little evidence. As a supporter of the efforts to calm traffic on Colorado Boulevard I want to make the case to support the initiative with real facts, evidence, and bringing to light the perspective of vulnerable street users (pedestrians, and cyclists).
One of the first places I’ve gone to for information is the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS) where one can request crash information. The idea to calm traffic along Colorado Boulevard did not come out of nowhere, there are compelling reasons to do so and part of it is that Colorado is simply unsafe.