Impressions of Las Flores Drive

Earlier this summer I walked some streets in Eagle Rock, observed conditions and noted my impressions. One of the streets I walked was Las Flores Drive. Las Flores is perhaps one of Eagle Rock’s narrowest and must unassuming streets, it rests parallel between our main commercial corridor – Colorado Boulevard – and one of our most prestigious and wealthy streets – Hill Drive.

Las Flores Drive is marked in blue (with a brief jog onto Hill Drive as Las Flores is bisected by Caspar Avenue), Colorado Boulevard is marked in red, and Hill Drive is the  unmarked, winding street roughly parallel Las Flores to the north.

Now, Las Flores is a little disjointed, as I’ve noted in a previous post, but it can be understood, especially with the image above, that it mostly parallels Hill Drive and Colorado Boulevard.

I started my walk on the eastern end where Las Flores intersects with Townsend Avenue

Looking west on Las Flores Drive from Townsend Avenue

I measured the street to be 19 feet, curb to curb. At this point there is no sidewalk but as can be seen in the center left of the picture (behind the green shrubbery) a sidewalk picks ups on the southern side of the street (the left in this picture). I measured the sidewalk to be 53 inches (~4.4ft) wide but the telephone pole visible in this picture reduces the sidewalk width to 35 inches, one inch short of the Americans with Disabilities Act recommended minimum sidewalk width of 36 inches.

At the next block, the intersection of Las Flores Drive and Vincent Avenue, there are stop signs facing traffic on Las Flores, none on Vincent Avenue. The sidewalk disappears when continuing west and crossing Vincent Avenue. A sidewalk appears mid-block on both sides of the street and sidewalks continue on Las Flores Drive all the way to where the street’s western end (Sumner Avenue) but seldom to pedestrians get to use the full sidewalk without interruptions. Throughout the street is comfortable and easily navigable for motorists with smooth asphalt and enough space to park, but see below some obstacles pedestrians face on these narrow sidewalks:

Poorly maintained sidewalks that can make the space difficult to navigate if pushing stroller or in wheel chair

Signs for motorists clutter the narrow sidewalk of Las Flores Drive

Crumbling sidewalk

While such features can be pleasant, especially on summer days, overhanging greenery makes the space further unnavigable when coupled with the many other obstacles on this narrow sidewalk.

On my entire walk along Las Flores Drive I encountered four people– two of which were walking, one person cycling and one person was driving his truck on the street.

Reflecting on the conditions after I walked Las Flores Drive from Townsend Avenue to Sumner Avenue I felt given the street’s current characteristics – narrow, residential, little through motor vehicle traffic, lacking adequate sidewalks – that perhaps the street could be improved if converted into a “shared space”.

So what’s a shared space? In essence, it is a street where all users (motorists, cyclists, pedestrians) are asked to negotiate the same space without physical or delineated separation.

In an Eagle Rock context the typical parking lot may be the most comparable thing we have to a shared space– drivers crawl at no more than 5mph and pedestrians walk in the same space that drivers use, without either party getting upset that the other is in front of them.

So why do I propose shared space? Two main reasons:

1) The sidewalks, even at their widest on Las Flores, are no more than 53 inches. Currently sidewalks are full with a number of obstacles including driveways, telephone poles. Every Tuesday trash bins are placed on the narrow sidewalk. By combining the sidewalk and street into one space, pedestrians are not restricted by any means as they would be able to freely walk in the 19 feet currently dedicated to vehicles. Furthermore, the sidewalks and street would simply be one, meaning stroller pushers, wheelchair users could easily navigate an obstacle.

2) Reinforce that Las Flores Drive is a residential street. It is already quite clear that Las Flores, with its low traffic volumes, is a street used mainly  by the people who live on it or visit friends and family that live on it.  However, despite this there is occasion on which motorists will use Las Flores Drive to bypass Colorado Boulevard. This is particularly true on the western end between Sumner Avenue and Ellenwood Drive where Colorado Boulevard traffic can get nasty and stressful. Residents keyed in can use Las Flores as a means to avoid Colorado Boulevard traffic when reaching their homes north of Colorado Boulevard. This isn’t a criminal use of the street but in my observations motorists using Las Flores in this manner tended to drive faster, and more aggressively– certainly not the kind of traffic the street is intended for. In a shared space there are only obstacles for drivers wishing to speed, an element I’m guessing Las Flores residents may appreciate.

Now for the fun part– what would this “shared space” look like?

Shared Space Signage
A sign for a shared street in Santa Monica. Photo credit: Jarrett M

Perhaps it would look like this….
shared space
Photo credit: Joel Mann
…. the sidewalk and street are at same level. Play equipment, trees, and bike parking force drivers to go slowly. It is quite obvious the main purpose of the street is not speeding.

or like this…

… with a speed limit of “walking pace” where pedestrians can walk freely in the middle of the space without fear of aggravating motorists.

…or even like this
One cars, now kids playing
Photo credit: Alissa Walker
… the street painted a fun pattern and where children can play and couples can stroll, care-free.

At 19 feet wide from curb to curb, and no more than 30 feet wide from property to property, there isn’t much space on Las Flores Drive to accommodate two-way traffic for vehicles and pedestrians alike. The lack of width, traffic, and non-residential use along the street would seem to suggest the street should be designed for, and only accommodate, slow speeds. Families should feel comfortable walking on Las Flores Drive, without major obstacles every few feet. The street should empower residents and have through motor vehicle traffic be secondary to the safety and comfort of someone walking on foot. A shared space can provide just that.

It appears Las Flores Drive residents has little to lose, and so much to gain. What do you think?

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