Verdugo Road north of Eagle Rock Boulevard is a charming and sleepy residential street dotted with commercial activity. The street prominently features mature ficus trees and old-fashioned street lights fixtures alongside many single-family homes, duplexes, and apartments. Paralleling State Route 2 (“the 2 freeway”), Verdugo Road carries relatively little through traffic. Roughly five years ago a portion of the street was officially recognized as “Verdugo Village” in an attempt to raise awareness of how valuable the street is to the heart and history of this neighborhood. Home to businesses such as Polka, a Polish restaurant modestly tucked into the corner of a stripmall, there is a lot to like about Verdugo Road.
The many aspects that make the street nice, however, are undermined by one harmful element– poor street design. Despite carrying relatively little traffic (particularly north of Fillion Street) Verdugo Road is 56 feet wide, curb-to-curb. Much of the street is dedicated to four lanes of through traffic. As a result, the comparatively few cars that travel on the street tend to easily reach and exceed the 35mph speed limit– putting all road users at unnecessary risk and danger.
Speeding can make it uncomfortable to make a left turn as one fears being rear-ended. The experience of walking and crossing the street can be downright nerve-racking. This is unfortunate because the street is residential and many have no choice but to walk the street because they live along it. Lacking any dedicated infrastructure, the few brave enough to bicycle on the street regularly get honked at for being “in the way” or risk having the door of a parked car whipped open in their face. Marked crosswalks are few and far in between, and it is unlikely any pedestrian wishing to cross would even be noticed as traffic zooms by. As for the bus riders on Verdugo? Typically, they are left standing without shelter from the elements, enduring the irritating sound of speeding traffic.
In short, Verdugo Road isn’t very safe or pleasant by any mode of travel. Thankfully local residents and leadership have taken notice of this and are exploring various solutions to make Verdugo a better street. The office of Council District 14 (which represents this portion of Verdugo Road), Glassell Park Neighborhood Council, and Glassell Park Improvement Association have held meetings to gain a better understanding of the problems, and potential, for the street. In fact, Council District 14 has an active online survey, where they are collecting input on how people feel about the street. If you live in the area and have a spare 3 minutes, be sure to fill it out to share your thoughts on how Verdugo Road could be made safer and friendlier to all.
Whatever becomes the new focus on fixing Verdugo, this should be used as an opportunity to think big. Rather than a knee-jerk reaction that merely calls for a new traffic signal, police enforcement, and “timing the lights” as is all too often suggested to combat bad street design, let us think about real solutions with multiple benefits. A traffic signal may make one intersection safe, but do we not want all intersections to have some basic level of safety? Traffic enforcement can be effective when an officer is present, but is it reasonable to expect a police presence at all hours of the day throughout the corridor? The elusive “timing the traffic lights” may very well work if implemented, but if this is a real solution, why is this not already implemented? Also, to what speed would the lights be “set” to? The current speed limit of 35mph? Something slower, like 25mph? Furthermore, merely “timing the lights” does nothing to address the enormous distance a pedestrian must cross to get to the other side of the street. This “solution” does nothing to provide physical separation between cars and bicycles. It does little to improve conditions for those wishing to make left turns. Finally, the people that currently run the red lights on Verdugo would likely still do so, regardless of signal timing, and there would be nothing to stop them.
The typical solutions – “more signals,” “more enforcement,” and “better signal timing” – are hollow, they lack substance, and ultimately lack vision. If our long-term hopes for a more sustainable and livable neighborhood are serious, here is a sample of solutions worth discussing:
- Landscaped medians to add greenery, shade, and space for left turning vehicles.
- Bioswales to collect and filter storm-water.
- Wider sidewalks that reduce the distance needed to cross the street.
- Transit hubs where one can safely and comfortably wait for the bus, perhaps even leave a bike parked if the bus already has two bikes on the front bus rack.
- High-visibility crosswalks so that cars actually yield to pedestrians.
- Separated bike lanes so that people of all ages can safely and comfortably go on a neighborhood bike ride.
- Public plazas where friends and family can gather and partake in community-building events.
- Roundabouts so that traffic moves more predictably and slowly through intersections.
Remember, north of Eagle Rock Boulevard, Verdugo Road has a curb-to-curb width of 56 feet. This is a lot of space, and it need not be entirely devoted in such a manner that prioritizes vehicle throughput over safety, a lively public realm, and neighborhood aesthetics.
What does your ideal residential street feel like, and how can we make Verdugo Road a model street for safety?
If you have thoughts about the future of Verdugo Road, let us know in the comments, email us at email@example.com, tweet us at @walkeaglerock, and let’s connect. Check out our friends over at Safer Verdugo. And if you haven’t already done so, be sure to fill out Council District 14’s Verdugo Road safety survey. Lastly, if you are a member of the Glassell Park Improvement Association, or would consider becoming a member, attend their upcoming meeting this Thursday (September 8th) at the Glassell Park Senior Center where some possible solutions will be explored in some detail.