NELA Livable Streets Roundup – April 2018

The theme for April is similar to that of the past few months– no major improvements took hold but some small ones did while various plans for better walking, bicycling, and transit inched closer to reality.

Rock The Boulevard Meeting #3 Recap, Meeting #4 Set for May 31

On April 26th, Eagle Rock stakeholders gathered for meeting #3 of the community initiative “Rock The Boulevard.” Approximately 60 people turned out for an interactive workshop and shared ideas about how to improve Eagle Rock Boulevard. Prominent ideas included upgrading existing painted bike lanes to protected bike lanes and introducing changes that make people want to actually spend time on the boulevard. The final meeting in the Rock The Boulevard series will be held on May 31, 7pm, at the Center for the Arts.

York Boulevard Parklet Returns!

Almost overnight, the parklet on York Boulevard that once was made a surprise return without any flashy announcement or anything. Once the cones and “caution” tape was removed, people knew exactly what to do and started using the micro public seating.

Yosemite Drive Safety Makes Minor Progress

Modest measures to address safety on Yosemite Drive were announced this month. According to meeting minutes from the Eagle Rock High School Leadership Council, the City is working to “better lighting and signage” at a Yosemite Drive crosswalk. Also per the Leadership Council, in an effort to improve safety, the City will pilot “closing La Roda Drive to traffic in the morning except to school employees or the families of students with disabilities” and providing a valet drop-off zone for the month of May. While more substantive changes to the streetscape need to be made to improve long-term safety, any progress is welcomed.

Ave 51 and Lincoln Ave Intersection Gets 4-Way Stop

As York Boulevard increasingly becomes a destination, the need for traffic control on nearby side streets has grown. In April, the intersection of Avenue 51 and Lincoln Avenue went from a 2-way stop to a 4-way stop intersection. But not everyone is pleased.

Hollywood Boulevard Traffic Signal Installed, Scramble Crosswalk Announced

The intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Gramercy Place was graced with a new traffic signal and naturally Councilmember O’Farrell was on hand to celebrate. It was also announced in April that the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street will be getting a scramble crosswalk sometime in July.

DASH Service Improvements, NELA Expansion Makes Progress

StreetsblogLA shared news that potential DASH service improvements, including Sunday service, longer hours, and increased frequency, could start taking shape soon due to available funds in current fiscal year budget. New DASH lines altogether, such as the proposed Elysian Valley/Cypress Park line, and Glassell Park/Highland Park line, are also on the horizon pending funding.

Bike-Share Expansion to Echo Park, Silver Lake Closer to Reality

LADOT is recommending a Fiscal Year 2018-19 Metro bike share expansion to include approximately 700 bicycles the DTLA adjacent communities, including Silver Lake and Echo Park. Per StreetsblogLA, the expansion is unfunded and anticipated to costs $900,000 for its initial year. While more bikes on the ground and providing access to bikes is a positive thing, the price tag does make one wonder if this is the most sound investment a city can make in promoting bicycle use.

San Gabriel Valley Check-In

In may soon get easier to take transit to the San Gabriel Mountains. Pasadena Now reports Pasadena Transit is introducing a 6-month pilot for a new bus route connecting the Memorial Park Gold Line station to the Sam Merrill Trail in Altadena.

It’s official, again. Senator Anthony Portantino is convinced that the decades long debated 710 freeway extension “is dead,” that “it’s not going to happen.”

Oh the places NELA’s Gold Line Stations will take you someday. Per the Daily Bulletin, “The California Sate Transportation Agency announced Thursday it would award $290 million to the Gold Line extension to support the project on both sides of the Los Angeles-San Bernardino county line.”

Livability in Boyle Heights and Beyond

  •  Boyle Heights Pedestrian Linkages: Boyle Heights discussed “pedestrian linkages” for the neighborhood.
  • Arts District Bike/Ped Improvements: It may become safer and more pleasant to walk and bike in the Downtown LA adjacent Arts District if the Arts District Pedestrian and Cyclist improvements Project Plan moves forward.
  • Envision Eastern: El Sereno’s “Envision Eastern” initiative to make Eastern Avenue a safe, complete street will have a design workshop meeting on May 8th. There is also an online survey available to provide input on what needs to be improved.
  • State Bills to Improve Park AccessNewly elected Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo is off to a strong start, championing two bills to improve access to parks. According to a press release:
    • AB 2614 would require the Natural Resources Agency to track the availability of outdoor experiences for disadvantaged youth in a school district and create a grant program to encourage access to these experiences with the goal of improving the overall health and well-being of these youth.
    • AB 2615 would require the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to develop strategies to maximize safe and convenient access for bicycles and pedestrians to federal, state, regional, and local parks near or connected to the state highway system.
  • Waze Taking Toll on Neighborhood Streets: An article by LA Times writer Steve Lopez sparked quite a conversation about the effect apps such as Waze is having on residential streets, including streets like Echo Park’s Baxter Street, one of the steepest streets in the nation.

 

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Eagle Rock Kid Asks for Dutch Style Bike Paths…In 1974!

Are current efforts aimed at bringing quality bicycle infrastructure to Eagle Rock a passing fad? Is it something just the newcomer hipsters are asking for to cause headache to the longtime residents? While some frame the issue in such terms, perhaps this is not the case.

According to public records available from the City Clerk’s Archives and Records Center in Downtown Los Angeles, demand for better bicycling conditions in Northeast Los Angeles goes back decades. In fact, there was so much public interest in bicycling during the 1970s that a folder kept by the area’s councilmember at the time is simply titled “Bikeways.” Included in that folder are public communications the council office had with constituents. Of particular interest to readers of this blog is the below letter one constituent wrote.

In October 1974, a young Eagle Rock child had recently returned from a trip to Amsterdam, and penned a letter to the local councilmember asking for similar Dutch-style protected bike paths here ,”so people can ride bikes safely.”

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A young Eagle Rocker asks his councilmember for Dutch-style bike paths.

Then Councilmember Art Snyder was vocally supportive of bicycling on the city council, and championed the construction of the Arroyo Seco Bike Path in nearby Highland Park. However, the first bike lanes in Eagle Rock would not be striped until March 1998 along Eagle Rock Boulevard– nearly 24 years after this young kid’s letter, and long after Snyder left office.

How did Snyder respond to the letter?

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In the other letter referenced by Snyder, he wrote of sponsoring support for State legislation to use a portion of the State gas tax fund to construct “bikeways and exclusive bike lanes throughout the State” and a forthcoming “500-mile Master Plan for Bikeways for Los Angeles.” The plan was described as “a long-term construction and street-space allocation program” and when it was time for council to vote on it, Snyder said that as a bike rider himself, he expected to give full support to the program.

NELA Livable Streets Roundup – March 2018

March saw a couple improvements to the NELA area as plans in nearby San Gabriel Valley forged ahead. It was a busy month so let’s get to it!

Rock The Boulevard Meeting #2 Recap

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On March 20th, the Eagle Rock community and nearby stakeholders came together for the second Rock The Boulevard (RTB) meeting. This meeting focused on identifying opportunities and challenges of the boulevard. Elements such as street width, speeding, and confusing intersections were called out as challenges, but also opportunities for change. As with the first meeting, there was broad consensus that a wide variety of solutions can and should be implemented to transform the boulevard to a more people-friendly street. Check twitter for the hashtag #RockTheBlvd to see latest tweets about the future of Eagle Rock Boulevard. The RTB team is also seeking input via an online survey, please go ahead and take the 1 minute survey to share your experiences with the street.

Next Rock The Boulevard Complete Streets Design Workshop Set for April 26

The third and most exciting Rock The Boulevard meeting will take place on April 26th. Mark you calendar and reserve this day. If you only attend one meeting in the Rock the Boulevard series, you will want this to be it– a hands-on workshop where YOU tell the RTB steering committee what you would like to see and where. Do we need a mid-block crosswalk somewhere? Protected bike lanes? Fewer lanes of traffic? Pedestrian plazas? More details about the meeting and the future of Eagle Rock Boulevard will be provided on this site in the coming weeks.

Reduced Speed Limit Takes Effect on York Boulevard, Fletcher Drive

IMG_6420New 30MPH speed limit signs started appearing on the 2.5 mile stretch of York Boulevard between Eagle Rock Boulevard and San Pascual Avenue. Prior to March, the street was signed with a posted speed limit of 35MPH. The reduction was the result of a new speed survey, indicating that the majority of drivers already travel at about 30MPH. Fletcher Drive north of San Fernando Road received the same treatment in March as well.

York Boulevard Intersection Gets 4-Way Stop

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York Boulevard between Eagle Rock Boulevard and San Pascual gets a lot of attention because it is a major commercial corridor. However, west of Eagle Rock Boulevard the street is much narrower and mainly residential so it flies under the radar. However, the residential stretch of York is routinely used by cut-through traffic that really should be on parallel Eagle Rock Boulevard. Residents  have long asked for traffic calming measures and the City has slowly delivered. A few years ago a new 4-way stop appeared at York Boulevard and Ellenwood Drive. This month a new 4-way stop appeared at York Boulevard and Avenue 43. One resident gardening in their front yard the day after the signs were installed said that the neighbors had asked for a 4-way stop three years ago and been denied by the Department of Transportation. After the City first denied a 4-way stop, his neighbor’s fence was crashed into three times in a single year. Great to see the Department revisiting some old requests for stop signs. How about we revisit Avenue 51 and Rangeview?

Traffic Signal Approved Along Lincoln Heights Bike Route

The Eastsider LA reports that a traffic signal has been approved for the intersection of Avenue 26 and Homboldt Street. It’s an open secret that Homboldt Street is used as part of an informal bicycle route between NELA and Downtown LA but crossing Avenue 26 has always been tricky as traffic moves very quickly on it. The new signal will make the crossing safer.

Construction of Car-Free LA River Bridge To Begin in April

CurbedLA reports a new bridge crossing the LA River and connecting to the LA River’s bike path will begin construction in April! Project is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.

Boyle Heights Discusses Proposed Roundabout

Council District 14 hosted a meeting to inform the Boyle Heights community about a proposed roundabout at the intersection of Mission Road and Jesse Street, and to hear some initial feedback.

Bike Lanes Repaved on Sunset Boulevard and Griffith Park Boulevard

Assistant Director of the City’s Bureau of Street Services tweeted that bike lanes on Sunset Boulevard were getting repaved in Council District 13. Meanwhile, BikingInLA shared that Griffith Park Boulevard, notorious for all the bumps and cracks in its bike lanes, is receiving fresh concrete to smooth things out.

Livability in San Gabriel Valley and Beyond

NELA Livable Streets Roundup – February 2018

February was slow for livable streets in Northeast Los Angeles (NELA) proper. Nearby Silver Lake/Echo Park area saw some modest movement, and ambitious plans in the Pasadena area are forging ahead. Meanwhile, the most exciting update within NELA boundaries was the community kick-off meeting for Rock The Boulevard, the TERA-led initiative to make Eagle Rock Boulevard a more people-friendly street.

Rock The Boulevard Kick-Off Meeting A Success, Next Meeting on March 20th!

First, an update from Rock The Boulevard. On January 30th the Eagle Rock community was formally introduced to TERA’s latest initiative aimed at calming traffic on Eagle Rock Boulevard. With an estimated 70+ people in attendance, the interest in making improvements to this major street is clear.

Following some background and an outline of the process to achieving changes, residents shared initial thoughts about the boulevard. Popular themes emerged, including: making existing bike lanes physically separated; adding greenery; making the boulevard easier to cross; and making modifications to the existing median. The next community meeting is scheduled for March 20 at the Women’s 20th Century Club. Please make it a point to attend and share your ideas for a better Eagle Rock Boulevard!

Glassell Park Walnut Canyon Development

One of the most contentious land-use issues in Glassell Park, if not all of Northeast LA, is the potential development of large swaths of natural hillsides. As the neighborhood has become more desirable, it is suddenly profitable to develop housing in the local hills. Glassell Park has a network of hillsides that are under threat of development. One of the hillsides, known as Walnut Canyon, may be obliterated to make way for 32, car-dependent single family homes. The Glassell Park Improvement Association (GPIA) is attempting to save the hillside by negotiating a purchase of the land from the developer. At this stage the hillside is on track to be developed, but according to EastsiderLA:

“A spokesman for the developer confirmed that discussions about selling the land to the neighborhood are ongoing.”

Hopefully this is a good sign for preserving open space in the neighborhood. If you would like to support the GPIA’s efforts, get involved with or support their Friends of Walnut Canyon committee.

Mohawk Bend Gets Traffic Signal

A notorious curve along Sunset Boulevard at the intersection of Mohawk Street finally received a traffic signal on January 31, thanks to the efforts of Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell. The EastsiderLA reports:

It’s been nearly three years since the Department of Transportation approved installing a traffic signal at the intersection along a curving stretch of Sunset dubbed the Mohawk Bend.  An estimated 36,000 vehicles a day pass through this section of Sunset, a traffic study found at the time.

While traffic signals are a costly solution to getting pedestrians safely across the street, no alternative would be as effective in this situation without removing a travel lane (which essentially is a political non-starter given the volume of traffic on Sunset).

Silver Lake Walking Path Debuts, A Catalyst for Master Plan Update?

The Silver Lake reservoir and its surrounding greenspace is a popular destination for walking, running, and other forms of recreation. The large body of water at the center, however, is largely inaccessible due to a fence surrounding it. Earlier in February, 33 trees were planted along Silver Lake Drive and the southern portion of the reservoir opened a new walking path, allowing people to get closer to the water and admire new scenic views. The new path brings the reservoir one step closer toward a grander vision some advocates have of creating a full-fledged 96 acre park. Shortly the path debuted, CurbedLA reported the Los Angeles Board of Public Works approved an agreement between the DWP and the city’s engineering bureau to update a master plan for the Silver Lake Reservoir and Ivanhoe Reservoir. A new master plan could help advance the concept converting the reservoirs into a major park destination like Echo Park Lake.

Will Hyperion Bridge Get “Protected Bike Lanes”?

Perhaps the most significant campaign from the #BikeLA advocacy world in recent memory was the fight to transform the Hyperion Bridge into a multi-modal corridor serving all modes of travel. The group “Vision Hyperion” campaigned admirably and tirelessly to win support for a proposal that would reduce the Hyperion bridge from 4 lanes to 3, add widened sidewalks on both sides of the bridge, and new protected bike lanes. Ultimately, city staff and local elected officials decided 4 lanes were more desirable than contiguous sidewalks and protected bike lanes on both sides of the bridge.

Now, nearly 3 years since the battle over street space concluded, the City recently unveiled its current proposal for the bridge which includes a continuous sidewalk on one side of the bridge, a crossing from Glendale Boulevard to Hyperion Avenue, and striped bike lanes across the bridge. During the unveiling and update, Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell stated the Hyperion Bridge would receive “protected bike lanes.” This comment was echoed by a representative from the Bureau of Engineering (BOE) and made it to the headline of CurbedLA’s coverage. Renderings present at the City’s community meeting did not show any protected bike lane renderings. Perhaps the Councilmember and City staff were too proud or embarrassed to correct themselves. Or maybe the design of the bridge will be further tweaked to include protected bike lanes? Time will tell.

Atwater City-Owned Lot Could Incorporate Park

A City owned lot adjacent to the LA River may be reconfigured to incorporate a public park.  This is good news, unfortunately this type of creative, forward-think approach is not always the default approach to maintenance and rebuild projects.

Pasadena Updates Galore!

A lot happened in the Pasadena area in February! Metro Board approved an ambitious plan to complete 28 transportation projects by the year 2028. Among the projects included is a proposed Bus Rapid Transit line connecting North Hollywood and Pasadena (which could include stations in Eagle Rock), scheduled to be completed in the year 2022. Pasadena’s Transportation Advisory Committee was shown exciting plans for a new bike path link, called Arroyo Link, which would connect downtown Pasadena to the Arroyo Seco by way of a dedicated bike path. Pasadena sent its wishlist for transportation projects to replace funding that had been earmarked for the now dead 710 Freeway expansion. The list includes several bicycle and pedestrian improvements. The Pasadena Complete Streets Coalition is campaigning to bring safety improvements to Orange Grove Boulevard, using some creative tactics. They are facing some inevitable backlash.

Livability in Burbank and Beyond

CiclaValley Checks out Verdugo Avenue Bike Lanes: The verdict? Bike lanes are good but City made some sloppy mistakes and people leave their trash bins in the bike lane.

LADOT Speed Hump Request Program is Back: If you are willing to jump through several loops, you and your neighbors could benefit from speed humps.

LA Walks Fundraiser on March 4th: One of the City’s biggest champions for change and promoting safer, more multi-modal streets is hosting a FREE block party in Historic Filipinotown followed by a fundraiser. Come for the block-party, stay to support LA Walks!

 

NELA Livable Streets Roundup – January 2018

As the first month of 2018 comes to a close, it’s time to roundup the latest news on the livable streets front here in Northeast Los Angeles (NELA) and adjacent neighboring areas. For this month, not much happened in actual NELA, though there were plenty of updates in surrounding neighborhoods. In particular, Council District 13 neighborhoods seemed hot with new and upcoming pedestrian improvements. Kudos to Councilmember O’Farrell for doing good work in his District.

Alhambra Avenue Street Safety Construction Begins

On January 13, 2018, Councilmember Jose Huizar held the ceremonial groundbreaking for the forthcoming Alhambra Avenue safety improvements that will span from Valley Boulevard to Lowell Avenue, approximately 1.3 miles.

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Councilmember Huizar and community pose for ceremonial groundbreaking.

According to Streetsblog LA, which covered the event in detail, when the $1.5 million project is completed in May 2018, Alhambra Avenue will feature:

  • Traffic signal at Lowell Avenue, including a bulb-out for pedestrian safety
  • Sidewalk on the north side of the Alhambra Avenue adjacent to the El Sereno Arroyo Playground – this includes a retaining wall that will serve as a future art wall welcoming people to El Sereno
  • Crosswalk with flashing lights at Alhambra Avenue and Hollister Avenue
  • Road diet and bike lanes from Valley Boulevard to the city limit

A small group of NELA advocates biked to the groundbreaking from York Park in Highland Park. Here’s to more group rides to more bike and pedestrian safety groundbreaking projects across the City!

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Bike advocates met at York Park in Highland Park to ride over to Alhambra Avenue safety improvement groundbreaking in El Sereno. York Park was formerly a gas station, and thanks to Councilmember Huizar’s support, the site was purchased, cleaned up, and converted to a neighborhood pocket park.

Monterey Park Approves Protected Bike Lanes

Amontereypass.png bit further east and south of El Sereno in the San Gabriel Valley, the City of Monterey Park voted to approve proposed protected bike lanes along Monterey Pass Road, the first bike lanes of any type for the City. BikeSGV deserves a lot of credit for advocating for this project.

Eagle Rock Boulevard Complete Streets Meeting On January 30

rocktheblvd.jpgThe Eagle Rock Association (TERA) in collaboration with councilmember Jose Huizar’s office will hold a kick-off meeting for a new complete streets initiative for Eagle Rock Boulevard on January 30. The initiative, called “Rock the Boulevard,” will ultimately culminate in a long-range vision plan for a safer and more sustainable boulevard. Please come join in the community process and bring your ideas for how to improve the public realm on Eagle Rock Boulevard.

NELA Advocate Impacts Downtown Alameda Esplanade Project?

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Metro’s initial proposal for the Union Station Forecourt and Esplanade Improvement project. This design has since been improved. Image via: The Source

On January 16, Metro’s outreach website The Source announced the Final Environmental Impact Report for the Union Station Forecourt and Esplanade Improvement project had been released. For those unfamiliar, the project consists of widening the sidewalk in front of Union Station on Alameda Street and closing a section of Los Angeles Street to automobile traffic to expand a pedestrian plaza. As proposed, the project was a major improvement for pedestrians. However, according to public comments on the project, NELA bike advocate Michael MacDonald felt the project did not go far enough in improving conditions for bicycling. He provided a counter-proposal (see page 92) to Metro’s proposed painted bike lane. Below is MacDonald’s revision with a two-way protected bike path and Metro’s revised proposal.

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Counter proposal provided by Michael MacDonald. Image via: Metro’s Final Environmental Impact Report.

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Metro’s revised recommendation. Note two-way bike path taking place of formerly proposed painted bike lane. Image via: Metro’s Final Environmental Impact Report.

Metro’s official response reveals they changed their recommended proposal to more closely resemble MacDonald’s suggestion to upgrade bike lanes to a protected bike path. While Metro’s new proposal stops short of MacDonald’s proposal which would extend the bike path further down Los Angeles Street, it appears the protected bike path could be extended if Metro collaborates with the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) and Council District 14.

Cypress Park’s Taylor Yard Bike Bridge Construction To Begin Summer 2018

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Rendering of the Taylor Yard Bike Bridge. Image via: Bureau of Engineering

When accessing the LA River bike path from Northeast LA, there are two choices for accessing the path– North Figueroa Street and Fletcher Drive. Neither street is very pleasant for bicycling, which makes the LA River feel like a resource that is so close yet so far away. Thankfully, a new bicycle and pedestrian friendly gateway connecting the LA River to NELA may emerge soon. LA Curbed reports that the long anticipated Taylor Yard Bike Bridge could begin construction this summer.

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The Taylor Yard Bike Bridge appears it will be well-lit when it’s dark outside. Image via: Bureau of Engineering

Once completed, the Bridge will provide a car-free connection to the LA River, and the bridge itself will be accessible via Cypress Avenue, which features bike lanes and less traffic than Figueroa and Fletcher. As noted by StreetsblogLA, the Taylor Yard bike bridge is also just one of three car-free bridges proposed to be built across the LA River along the soft-bottom Glendale Narrows portion of the waterway. With these new bridges in place, the most difficult part of accessing the LA River bike path (the crossing of the river itself) will be completed. Hopefully we will see comfortable surface street bicycle routes develop alongside these new bridges to fully capitalize on these multi-million dollar investments.

Los Feliz Welcomes Bike Corral

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A colorful new bike corral at Spitz in Los Feliz. Via: Spitz

In a City often referred to as the car capital of the world, converting any inch of road space from cars to bikes is a big deal. On the trendy commercial street Hillhurst Avenue in Los Feliz, the city recently installed a bike corral, converting one car parking space to a dozen bike parking spaces. The restaurant in front of the bike corral, Spitz, celebrated the bike parking with an extended happy hour.

 

NELA Councilmember O’Farrell Champions Bus Shelter, Traffic Signal and Calls For a More Walkable City

On social media, councilmember Mitch O’Farrell shared that he worked to get a new traffic signal to help pedestrians get across Silver Lake Boulevard in Silver Lake, and a new bus shelter on Eagle Rock Boulevard in Glassell Park.  Over on Citywatch, a press-release from Councilmember O’Farrell was shared in which he highlights recent pedestrians throughout his sprawling district (most of which is not in Northeast LA). Of the noted improvements, most consist of new traffic signals and crosswalks. Councilmember O’Farrell’s press-release notes:

During my first term in office we dedicated more than a dozen pedestrian safety improvements, and I look forward to welcoming more in the years ahead.

A refreshing and encouraging sentiment to hear from a councilmember. Let’s hope O’Farrell can aspire to dedicate at least twice as many pedestrian improvements in his second term.

Livability in Pasadena and Beyond

Pasadena Climate Action Plan: The City of Pasadena hosted public meetings for its draft Climate Action Plan. As noted by a member of Pasadena’s Environmental Advisory Commission, drastic actions will be needed in the realm of transportation.

Griffith Park Access Study: In the Hollywood area, Councilmember David Ryu released a commissioned report on possible transportation changes to accessing Griffith Park. Among the discussed possibilities, are some pedestrian improvements such as sidewalk extensions, new crosswalks, speed humps, pedestrian directional signage, and new sidewalks. The report also discusses a possible shuttle service between the Metro Red Line subway and major tourist destinations or adjusting existing transit services. In general, the ideas considered would likely improve conditions for walking and public transit.

Silver Lake Reservoir Walking Path: It was announced that in February a path along the Silver Lake Reservoir will be newly opened to the pedestrians, allowing for greater access to this popular recreational spot.

Burbank Complete Streets Plan: The California Department of Transportation announced the first Senate Bill 1 Sustainable Communities Grant Award List. Among the winners was the City of Burbank, which was awarded $519,228 to adopt a Complete Streets Plan. Per the announcement, Burbank’s Complete Streets Plan will:

“provide an action agenda to create safe and sustainable street improvements, increase bicycling and walking, reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the most disadvantaged areas, improve transit connectivity, reduce automobile collisions, reduce vehicle trips, and to build a multimodal and equitable transportation network.”

A great first step toward being able to implement more bicycle and pedestrian improvements citywide in a time when concepts such as protected bike lanes and pedestrian streets are being more seriously discussed.

 

Doing More With Less Space on Narrow Streets

In Northeast LA there are often spirited debates about how, if at all, our major boulevards should be transformed to be more pedestrian friendly corridors. Wide streets such as Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock or Broadway in Lincoln Heights have demonstrated that the large arterial streets were designed with more lanes than needed. This has allowed the excess lanes to be converted to bike lanes and curb extensions. Of course, it’s easy to contemplate changes to large streets that afford plenty of space. Colorado Boulevard, for example, is almost 100 feet wide! But what about our smaller streets?

Recently, The Eagle Rock Association (TERA) and Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council (ERNC) each wrote letters to Council District 14 representative Jose Huizar pushing for safety improvements on Yosemite Drive. While some minor specific improvements were requested in these letters, such as painting high visibility crosswalks or adding lighting, few major changes were ask for. Perhaps this is because Yosemite is a relatively narrow street. Between Eagle Rock Boulevard and Algoma Avenue it is only 40 feet wide. Between Algoma Avenue and Figueroa it is slightly wider, approximately 45 feet wide.

For a street that barely accommodates on-street parking and a single lane in each direction, some might think nothing can be done to enact more transformational changes. However, a number of nearby streets show it is indeed possible to do more with this type of limited space.

York Boulevard – Glassell Park

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York Boulevard in Glassell Park is 45 feet wide like much of Yosemite Drive, but has calmed traffic by removing a center turn lane to provide wider, better delineated parking lanes. Image via: Google Maps

York Boulevard between Verdugo Road and the border with Glendale in Glassell Park is 45 feet wide. It was initially just a single lane in each direction with on street parking. In 2003, the City narrowed the lanes to add a center turn lane. By adding a lane of traffic, the change invited speeding. This did not sit well with residents, who lobbied then Councilmember Nick Pacheco to have the center turn lane removed. After only a few months, the center turn lane was removed and the parking lanes were made wider and more visible.

Silver Lake Boulevard – Silver Lake

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The 45 foot wide Silver Lake Boulevard received bike lanes after removing a center turn lane. Image via: Google Maps

North of Sunset Boulevard in the Silver Lake neighborhood, most of Silver Lake Boulevard is 45 feet wide, like Yosemite Drive. In the late 1990s the City added a center turn lane to this little street that previously just had one lane in each direction with on-street parking. Residents complained then, as they later did in Glassell Park regarding York Boulevard, that the change encouraged speeding. Joined with support from the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, the residents successfully had the center turn lane removed and instead striped in bike lanes. Carrying well over 22,000 vehicles a day, Silver Lake Boulevard carries more than twice as much traffic as Yosemite Drive without the aid of a center turn lane.

Avenue 50 – Highland Park

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Avenue 50 in Highland Park is 45 feet wide and features bike lanes. Image via: Google Maps

Just 2 miles south of Yosemite Drive in Highland Park is Avenue 50, which is also approximately 45 feet wide for most of its length. Avenue 50 is similar to Yosemite Drive in several respects. It is primarily residential in nature, has a school that fronts the street, and connects 2 major streets (York Boulevard and North Figueroa Street). Traffic counts from the Department of Transporttion indicate Avenue 50, like Silver Lake Boulevard, is busier than Yosemite Drive (which carries approximately 11,000 cars a day). Instead of a center turn lane, Avenue 50 features bike lanes on the stretch that is 45 feet wide.

What Can be Done on Yosemite Drive?

Nearly a mile of the 1.5 mile Yosemite Drive corridor between Eagle Rock Boulevard and North Figueroa Street is 45 feet wide. As the other streets referenced in this post demonstrate, it is possible to remove the center turn lane to introduce bike lanes or a wider parking lane. Below is an illustration of what that might look like.

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Yosemite Drive in front of Rockdale Elementary. If the center turn lane is removed, there is enough space to add bike lanes and reduce exposure to automobile traffic.

With this change, Yosemite would become far more comfortable for bicycling. As York and Silver Lake Boulevard have shown, removing the center turn lane could be an effective means of slowing traffic with mere changes in paint on the street. If additional funding is identified, more concrete changes can be made. In Glendale, the 45 foot wide street Ocean View Boulevard was recently reconfigured to add bike lanes and curb extensions.

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Ocean View Boulevard in Glendale is 45 feet wide like Yosemite Drive, yet is far more pedestrian-friendly by providing bike lanes and curb extensions.

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Another view of Ocean View Boulevard in Glendale. The street is the same width as Yosemite Drive, yet pedestrians have fewer active lanes of travel to cross and a 10 foot shorter crossing due to curb extensions on each side of the street.

Is the only answer for Yosemite Drive to remove the center turn lane where possible to allow for the creation of bike lanes? Not necessarily. Though it appears to be a quick and effective calming measure that can simultaneously promote more bicycling. Few, if any, alternative measures could be as cost-effective and successful in promoting sustainable transportation. The more challenging design question for Yosemite Drive is what should be done on the stretch that is only 40 feet wide. That question can be explored in greater detail at a later date.

Do you have ideas for making Yosemite Drive a more people-friendly street? Are there any specific issues you would like to see addressed? Share them in the comments and let’s get a conversation rolling.

 

NELA Livable Streets News – December 2017

In late November, we published a post, titled “Checking in on Local Livable Streets.” The post was intended to round up some recent news and updates related to making Northeast LA a better place for walking, bicycling, and taking transit. We also included some updates from South Pasadena and Glendale as they are nearby neighbors. Since then, we have attempted to track similar pieces of news and thought we would try doing a December edition. If time permits and there is enough interesting news, we will try to make this a monthly recurring post. And if you have any tips or specific updates you would like to share for an upcoming round-up, feel free to get in touch via facebook, twitter, the comments section or email.

ERNC asks for Safety Improvements on Yosemite Drive

In November we shared that TERA had asked Council District 14 as well as other local partners to explore short-term and long-term safety improvements on Yosemite Drive. This came in light of a traffic collision in October in which Eagle Rock High School students were struck by a car driver, sending one of them to the hospital with harsh injuries. Following TERA’s lead, the ERNC drafted a letter requesting very specific improvements, including Rapid Rectangular Flashing Beacons (RRFBs) at marked crosswalks. Since the ERNC’s request, the Federal Highway Administration has revoked approval to install new RRFBs, likely dealing a blow to any short-term solution to addressing safety on Yosemite Drive. If there is a silver-lining to be found in this unexpected news, it is that it will force a greater attention on actual concrete changes to Yosemite Drive.

Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council Asks for Speed Humps

Ok, so Boyle Heights is not in Northeast LA, but it is east of the LA River so we share that in common. At a November 29 meeting, the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council introduced a motion requesting speed humps on Whittier Boulevard in an attempt to curb speeding. Well-meaning as the motion is, the City has a strict policy of not installing speed humps on busy, multi-lane streets such as Whittier Boulevard. Council District 14 has expressed interest in making improvements to the street, perhaps the BHNC and CD14 can partner on an initiative and bring some positive change to improve safety on the local commercial corridor.

Highland Park Neighborhood Council Asks CD14 for Safety Improvements on North Figueroa

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For years, local advocates have reached out to neighbors, attended meetings, rallied, protested, and even painted rogue bike safety improvements, all in the hopes of making North Figueroa Street a little less deadly. Years of advocacy reaching even further back sparked the formation of groups such as Figueroa for All (or #Fig4All) which has organized locals to make public comments and attend neighborhood meetings to speak up for safety.  Despite visible support, these efforts have been consistently blocked by councilmember Gil Cedillo, whose district includes much of the street. However, North of York Boulevard, the street is under the jurisdiction of Jose Huizar, a champion for safe streets and sustainable transportation. Considerably less attention has been paid to Figueroa in his district though the street can be just as harrowing there. On December 7th, the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council (HHPNC) passed a motion requesting safety improvements to Figueroa north of York Boulevard.

Alhambra Avenue in El Sereno To Get Package of Safety Improvements

On November 28th, Council District 14 held the final of several community workshops regarding safety improvements on Alhambra Avenue in El Sereno. At the workshop, CD14 announced a package of safety improvements that will come to the street, including: a road diet, bike lanes, new sidewalk, and a traffic signal. This announcement came only 9 months after the first workshop was held in March. A groundbreaking for the project will occur in January, according to The EastsiderLA. Council District 14 should be applauded for the swift, effective, and efficient approach they took to this project. We hope to see future safety improvements implemented with the same level of outreach and urgency.

Dockless Bike-Share Bicycles Appear on North Figueroa Street

On December 6th, a handful of dockless bike-share bicycles appeared on North Figueroa Streetspin.jpg. Unlike the public bikes in Downtown LA or Downtown Pasadena that are anchored by docking stations where bikes can be checked out and returned, these dockless bikes are free to roam wherever the users may find or drop them off. Peculiarly enough some appeared on North Figueroa. It is unclear if the bikes were simply a demonstration or an indication that private bike-share vendors are interested in bringing more bikes to the Northeast LA area.

On-going Sidewalk Repairs in Verdugo Village

The neighborhood immediately surrounding Verdugo Road west of Eagle Rock Boulevard is known as “Verdugo Village.” It is a quaint area with charming small-scale shops and single family homes. Charming as the area is, the sidewalks on Verdugo Road, the area’s main commercial strip, were in poor condition. For the past couple months, some of the sidewalks have been repaired and work was still underway in December. While new sidewalks are great, the street remains terrifying to cross, or bike on.

Livability in Burbank and Beyond

In early December, the City of Burbank announced it would extend existing bike lanes on Verdugo Avenue starting on December 13. Once completed, there will be continuous bike lanes on Verdugo Avenue from Clybourn Avenue to Victory Boulevard, approximately 2.2 miles. Meanwhile, The EastsiderLA reports that a pilot expansion of the Metro’s bike-share system into Echo Park has been an initial success. Could the success pave the way for greater bicycle infrastructure and bike-share coverage in Echo Park? Time will tell. Finally, the City of Glendale is seeking input on proposed changes to Central Park, the largest remaining greenspace in downtown Glendale. Public meetings to gather input will be held on January 18th and January 20th.

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