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
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
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
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.
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.
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.