For a More Crossable Colorado Boulevard

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Colorado Boulevard before it went on a road diet (left) and after (right)

It may be hard to believe, but it has already been a year since Colorado Boulevard went on a “road diet,” gaining new crosswalks and buffered bike lanes in the process. The road diet, for those who may no remember, was officially completed in October 2013.

The changes along Colorado Boulevard have primarily been championed by the local non-profit organizations Take Back The Boulevard (TBTB) and The Eagle Rock Association (TERA), but reflect only one aspect of a grander vision to transform the boulevard into a delightful pedestrian-friendly commercial street.

While Colorado Boulevard gained two crosswalks during the road diet last year, TBTB would still like to see more crosswalks. Anecdotal experience along the boulevard suggests many of the shoppers and restaurant-goers feel the same way. There remain a few key intersections where pedestrians continuously cross the street to reach their destination. This post will highlight where these intersections are and explore the impact crosswalks would have.

Colorado Boulevard and Vincent Ave

Whether it is to have brunch at Le Petit Beaujolais in the mornings, or picking up pizza from Casa Bianca in the evenings, this intersection is used throughout the day. The reason, based on observation, is that the availability of parking on the north and south side of the Colorado Boulevard fluctuates. Sometimes there is more parking available on the north side of the street but one’s destination is on the south side. Conversely, sometimes there is parking on the south side but one’s destination is on the north side. A crosswalk here seems appropriate and well-warrented to encourage a more pedestrian-friendly Colorado Boulevard.

Unfortunately, for any crosswalk to be installed, some curbside parking must be lost. This is because adequate sight-lines must be provided so drivers can see pedestrians who intend to cross. While necessary, the amount of parking-prohibited curbside space the city requires almost completely negates the benefit a crosswalk in this situation would provide. The benefit of a crosswalk here is that it allows one to park their car, and then cross the street. However, if too much parking is lost, there may not be that open space to use in the first place. It is for this reason that crosswalk placement must be very carefully thought out.

The below placement seems it would be optimal in serving the natural desire to cross and adhering to the city’s sight-line requirements.
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As noted by the red line in the illustration, a crosswalk located here would require the loss of 3 parking spaces immediately east of the crosswalk on the north side of the street to satisfy the city’s standards. No parking would be lost on the south side. The parking lost could potentially be offset to a degree by slightly shortening the bus-zone at Colorado Boulevard/Mt. Royal Drive to add a parking space on that end of the block.

Colorado Boulevard and La Roda Avenue

This intersection is also a popular space to cross. Fortunately, due to the existing configuration, it appears a crosswalk could be added here with losing no more than 1 parking space (the one immediately west of the crosswalk on the north side might have to go if a crosswalk here is added).
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Colorado Boulevard and Shearin Avenue

Although a crosswalk was added to just a block away at Glen Iris Avenue, this intersection remains a spot where people are frequently seen running across to get food at one of the many popular restaurants in the area. A crosswalk appears it could be added at the expense of two parking space in front of The Oinkster on the north side of the street.
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Fortunately, The Oinkster has its own parking lot, which can accommodate about two dozen patrons. The loss here is not as significant as it would be in front of a business with no parking lot, but it would still be felt. The loss in parking is not ideal, but the hope is that it can make it easier for people to park further from their destination and comfortably (and safely) cross the street to get where they are going. The added crosswalk here might – as it hopefully would at the other two locations – also encourage more locals to simply stroll over from their home to a local restaurant, knowing they don’t have to walk an extra 500 feet out of their way to use a safe, marked crosswalk.

Eagle Rock Walking Tour on August 23

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In March, LA Walks hosted a walking tour of Eagle Rock. On August 23, 2014 we at Walk Eagle Rock will host our own walking tour.

It was not long ago in March that Los Angeles Walks hosted a walking tour of our neighborhood. Topics of interest ranging from architectural landmarks to transportation history and recent civic improvements were covered by two knowledgable local guides. We here at Walk Eagle Rock have long discussed the possibility of hosting walking tours and we are pleased to announce that on August 23, 2014 we will finally be doing so.

As the environmental impact report (EIR) comment period for the Scholl Canyon Landfill is coming to a close (the deadline is August 29), we think it would be appropriate to host a walk focused on community and civic engagement. Eagle Rock has a long history of being an active community and it certainly would not be as fantastic as it is today without the efforts of residents taking the time to participate, on all levels, to improve the neighborhood.

Find the details of our walk below and (if you would like) RSVP to our Facebook event:

Community and Civic Engagement in Eagle Rock

  • Date: Saturday, August 23, 2014
  • Time: 9:00AM-12:00PM
  • Location: 2035 Colorado Blvd (Eagle Rock City Hall)
  • Walking Tour Length: 6 miles
  • Event is free and open to the public. Restrooms/water fountains will be available at mile 2 and 4.
  • Questions? Email us at walkeaglerock@gmail.com

A Freeway Scar in Glassell Park

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Overlooking where the 134 and 2 freeways tie together– Downtown LA is visible off in the distance.

It may be hard to imagine today, but there was a time when freeways didn’t cut through Northeast LA. The land occupied by freeways today was not undeveloped: homes had to be demolished, hillsides flatted, streets removed altogether to make way for the massive automobile infrastructure that encircles the neighborhood. Large parts of Northeast LA were erased  for freeways – lost in the name of progress – leaving residents with little more than memories of a pre-freeway Northeast LA, memories which will fade as those who lived through local freeway construction continue to age and become a smaller portion of the population. Old photos and local newspapers from the area documented freeway construction in Northeast LA, but there is little physical evidence one can encounter today that shows signs of the past; things were either destroyed or preserved–very few parts of the urban landscape were only partially destroyed for the freeways.

Maps offer good indications of how things used to be; looking at a map, one can see streets currently bisected by freeways, mentally “connect the dots,” and visualize how the streets used to run uninterrupted before the freeways arrived. However, every now and then, if one looks closely, one will notice subtle hints in the urban landscape – in addition to what maps and street names offer – from the time before freeways came to Northeast LA. In northern part of Glassell Park, close to the neighborhood’s border with the city of Glendale, there is a fascinating hint of the past, which now sits as a scar from the 2 Freeway’s destructive path through the neighborhood.
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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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Westdale Connection

Westdale Avenue is one of Eagle Rock’s shorter streets, only about a quarter of a mile long according to Google Maps. The street is bisected by Eagle Rock Boulevard, cut into two distinctive sections.

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Westdale Avenue as seen from Google Maps. Image credit: Google Maps

Two blocks east of Eagle Rock Boulevard, Westdale Avenue terminates by Occidental College where the street meets with Campus Road. Many residents in the area have probably traversed at least part of this section of the street between Eagle Rock Boulevard and Campus Road– perhaps to reach Oxy or to get onto or off of Eagle Rock Boulevard.

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Westdale Avenue, “Not A Through Street”

The western portion is an unassuming a cul-de-sac, as signified by a “Not A Through Street” sign placed where the street intersects with Eagle Rock Boulevard, one block before the street terminates. Oddly, Westdale holds the distinction of being the only street in Eagle Rock that ends in a cul-de-sac one block immediately west of Eagle Rock Boulevard. Most streets that intersect with Eagle Rock Boulevard connect to Ellenwood Drive, if heading west. But what does this part of Westdale really look like? What is this unique cul-de-sac like in person, beyond what a Google Map street view tour can provide?

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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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