Can Separated Bike Lanes Save Colorado Boulevard?

Colorado Boulevard, the commercial center of Eagle Rock, will undergo a transformation if the initiative Take Back The Boulevard can maintain the momentum it is experiencing at the moment. A lot of ideas about how to improve the boulevard are being circulated– everything from angled parking to sidewalk extensions, to increased greenery, to bike lanes, and more! Just the other day Eastsider shared the idea of reversed angle in parking as solution.

While there are many popular ideas, I feel that it is important to reflect on the mission of this worthy effort to reclaim our main street from the dangerous freeway it currently resembles. Take Back The Boulevard seeks to transform Colorado Boulevard into a safe, sustainable, and vibrant street in order to stimulate economic growth, increase public safety and enhance community pride. Given that we cannot accommodate all the possible ideas being discussed due to limited space on the street I would like to share why I believe a solution that includes protected bike lanes, also known as cycle tracks, could fulfill as many of the desires of this initiative and is perhaps the most promising solution available.

Protected bike lanes essentially place a bike lane along the curb and place car parking to the left of the bike lane as a buffer separating motorized traffic  and bicycle traffic. To read more about protected bike lanes concept check out the Los Angeles Department of Transportation Bike Blog’s recent post explaining these facilities.

So, installing protected bike lanes along Colorado Boulevard would result in what is known as a ‘road diet’, the removal of one travel lane in each direction. The new found space would be used to accommodate the proposed cycle tracks. Road diets have been proven, nationwide, to increase safety for all users. They have also been known to better the flow of traffic. Read about them here.

However, before I continue, let me share a couple rough drawings I made of what these protected bike lanes just might look like on our boulevard.

This first image is supposed to a rendering of Maywood Avenue and Colorado Boulevard, looking East.

Current Appearance

Via Google Maps Street View

Sketch Including Separated Bike Lane

(From left to right) Sidewalk, separated bike lane, bus stop island, motorized traffic

Now what does separated bike lane do to fulfill the mission of Take Back The Boulevard? Well if one examines my rough sketch there are a few things being accomplished

1) Most obviously a safe space is created to allow travel for cyclists that doesn’t force cyclists to mix with pedestrians or automobiles. This facility will encourage more than just young fearless people to cycle. There is no pressure to ‘keep up’ with motorized traffic and provides an environmental, sustainable means of traveling along the boulevard

2) The bus stop is moved to an island that frees up space on the sidewalk and allows for speedier bus service as buses won’t have pull up to a curb. Bike racks can be placed on this island to again free up space on our precious sidewalks. This bus island also reduces conflict between bicyclists and buses– often bicyclists and buses ‘leap frog’ each other as a bicyclist passes a bus that is stopped then the bus passes the cyclist once in motion again. This removes such conflicts.

3) Crossings for pedestrians is made shorter by allowing them to wait at a refuge alongside the bus stop island.

4) While the moved bus stop frees up sidewalk space, the former bus stop space could also be used to plant trees to provide more greenery.

5) Greater buffer between pedestrians and automobiles, making outdoor dining (where it is available) or mere strolling more pleasant as the increased distances makes the sidewalks less noisy from cars whizzing by.

6) Cars will not be allowed to travel as recklessly as in the past since they will only have two lanes. This will likely result in more civilized speeds and careful, conscious driving. As Tom Vanderbilt notes in his book Traffic, when we make roads forgiving to motorists (like by allowing excess number of lanes), motorists tend to drive sloppier. It’s these kind of excessively wide streets that encourage illegal speeding, and unfortunately result in deaths too.

Here is an other view of the separated bike lane looking West on Maywood Avenue and Colorado Boulevard

Current Appearance

Sketch with protected bike lane

This remains a very rough sketch but I would like to highlight the benefits of this proposed configuration

1) Again a safe space for people of all ages to cycle is created

2)Pedestrian crossings become shorter by allowing the creation of a small refuge

3) The protective barrier between bicyclists and automobiles allows an opportunity to plant trees and other greenery in what is currently just plain asphalt

I realize it may be difficult to completely understand these drawings, however there are also existing examples of where similar spaces have been created. Take a look below where Colorado Boulevard could look for inspiration

Better bus boarding, reduced conflict between cyclists and buses. Photo via Paul Krueger’s flickr

Protected bike lanes can accommodate many parking spaces for cyclists. Given that protected bike lanes are proven to increase the number of trips by bike this would likely be good for business along Colorado Boulevard’s storefronts. Photo via Paul Krueger’s flickr

Protected bike lane in Long Beach. Photo via Waltarrrrr’s flickr

Unlike other proposed solutions to fix Colorado Boulevard, configurations similar to what I share in this post consider all users– pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, and motorists.

Pedestrians get more spacious sidewalks by moving bus stops to islands, shorter crossings through the refuges, greater buffer from automobiles through the separated bike lane

Bicyclists get safe travel space away from automobiles and pedestrians

Transit users get loading platforms that will make getting on and off the bus, easier and faster

Motorists get safer streets that make traveling at the speed limit easier to do, they won’t have to change lanes to pass bicyclists. Potentially shorter waiting times at lights as pedestrians will be able to cross faster thanks to the pedestrian refuges.

Everyone gets a safer configuration, everyone will benefit from increased opportunities to plant greenery by some of the pedestrian refuges. This solution allows flexibility in space. Since bus stops will move to islands sidewalk space formerly used to accommodate the bus stop can be now used to plant trees, install benches, or simply allow a wider space for pedestrians. Colorado Boulevard is currently flooded with cars, this solution will make cycling, walking, and taking the bus more attractive than they currently are and reduce the demand for car parking, one of the problems of the way Colorado Boulevard is configured today.

I’d like to compare this solution to the proposed ‘reverse angle in parking’ that the Eastsider shared the other day. The angled parking creates more parking spaces for cars and could potentially create curb extensions at intersections for pedestrians. This solution also claims it could reduce conflict between bicyclists and cars pulling in/out of parking spaces but if cars stop suddenly to start parking bicyclists will have to swerve around– a not so safe action to take.

While it is an attractive solution in some respects it is awfully car centric. This design will do little to encourage more people to cycle or make bicycling safer. It seems to do nothing to make bus travel easier either. It also, while it will create a buffer between pedestrians and moving automobiles, will rather confine the sidewalk space. I have experienced firsthand that cars tend to pull in to angled parking spaces so that part of the car hovers over the sidewalk, making pedestrian space feel cramped. It also seems that by creating more parking spaces this solution will only encourage driving and wouldn’t be very sustainable, nor make the street more vibrant, in complete contrast with the goals of Take Back The Boulevard. On the other hand, encouraging multiple modes of travel as a thoughtfully constructed cycle tracks can do, the street will be less car centric (and more sustainable) and filled with people rather than cars (and be more vibrant). Because we have limited space I support a solution that will accomplish as many of the goals of Take Back The Boulevard, and implementing separated bike lanes seems to be a promising solution.

Further readings about Colorado Boulevard:

Some Reasons I Support Separated Bike Lanes

A post where I share additional reasons why I support separated bike lanes: “ In making the case for a calmer, more bike friendly Eagle Rock sometimes those who oppose the idea contend car traffic will slow down too much. However, as local resident Jack Burnett-Stuart points out

‘ It is 1.6 miles from the post office to Swork [via Colorado Boulevard]. If the average speed was reduced through a variety of traffic slowing measures (including changing the speed limit, but does anyone pay any attention to that?) from say 40 mph to 20mph, that would add 2 minutes 24 seconds to the time the trip takes ‘ “

Some Facts and Thoughts About Colorado Boulevard

Specific facts detailing current traffic levels of Colorado Boulevard: “Colorado Boulevard is a major highway class II, projected to carry between 30,000 and 50,000 cars daily. Traffic counts available from the LADOT website from the past 15 years shows that Colorado Boulevard seldom carries above 35,000.”

Some Simple Facts

Some simple, yet unfortunate facts about the danger of a car centric Colorado Boulevard: “…there has been approximately one reported accident a week over the past five years. More than half of the accidents involve injuries.

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8 thoughts on “Can Separated Bike Lanes Save Colorado Boulevard?

  1. Pingback: Updates on Mark Leones and Margaret Conway, Box bites back on city bike ed and a bakfiets full of links « BikingInLA

  2. Pingback: BPIT Notes: 10/4/11 Westside, Environmental Review, Education, and more! « LADOT Bike Blog

  3. Though I support bike lanes on Colorado, I only ride on Colorado if absolutely necessary. I will go out of my way to ride on other, less-busy streets.

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