In March, LA Walks hosted a walking tour of Eagle Rock. On August 23, 2014 we at Walk Eagle Rock will host our own walking tour.
It was not long ago in March that Los Angeles Walks hosted a walking tour of our neighborhood. Topics of interest ranging from architectural landmarks to transportation history and recent civic improvements were covered by two knowledgable local guides. We here at Walk Eagle Rock have long discussed the possibility of hosting walking tours and we are pleased to announce that on August 23, 2014 we will finally be doing so.
As the environmental impact report (EIR) comment period for the Scholl Canyon Landfill is coming to a close (the deadline is August 29), we think it would be appropriate to host a walk focused on community and civic engagement. Eagle Rock has a long history of being an active community and it certainly would not be as fantastic as it is today without the efforts of residents taking the time to participate, on all levels, to improve the neighborhood.
The triangular surface parking lot outside of Delevan Elementary (visible in background). A row of trees planted in the parkway along Wawona Street visually obscure the park lot’s bleakness. Image via: Google Maps
Surface parking lots are seldom thought to be aesthetically pleasing. In fact, whether they are empty or cluttered with cars, the oil-stained asphalt areas are often considered downright ugly. Residents of Northeast LA – newcomers and old-timers alike – upon seeing photographs of beautiful buildings that once stood where strip-malls and surface parking lots exist today frequently lament the architectural losses. The damage can be observed throughout the neighborhood but there is no turning back to prevent the mistakes of the past.
Nowadays, locals are much more tuned into local development plans and it is difficult to imagine any existing buildings being demolished to create strip-malls or parking lots. Along much of Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock such development plans are explicitly prohibited thanks to the Colorado Boulevard Specific Plan. But there is no denying that we must live with many of the surface parking lots we have today into the foreseeable future, either out of necessity or because development can take decades to transform an area since it happens incrementally on a case-by-case basis.
By letting people zoom in to the street level of any location, the “street view” feature on Google Maps can be a great tool for exploring the neighborhood in a matter of minutes without taking a single step. Because the Google van that records the neighborhood shows up randomly and unannounced, the feature typically offers a nice snapshot of what conditions are like on any given day in a neighborhood. A look at North Figueroa Street* with “street view” seems to reflect this and confirms what anyone who uses the street regularly likely already knows– a lot of people ride bikes on the street! Let’s take a stroll and see how many bikes we can spot…
*(Between York Boulevard and San Fernando Road)
(All images via: Google Maps Street View)
So what did we see?
18 people bicycling, or walking with bikes
10 people with bikes on the sidewalk (but only 3 of them actually riding)
6 people bicycling or walking their bike while wearing a backpack
In recent years Colorado Boulevard has been the most widely discussed street when it comes to talk of traffic safety in Northeast LA. The attention dedicated to Colorado Boulevard is well warranted, however it is not the only dangerous street in the neighborhood. There are many streets in Northeast LA that enable the kind of reckless driving we regularly experience and cause the crashes that scar the community. Ten years of collision data (2002 through 2011) accessible through UC Berkeley’s Transportation Injury Mapping System, or TIMS, reinforces the need to take traffic safety more seriously on all our streets.
(A greener future for North Figueroa St.? A planted median down the center, marked crosswalks with center refuge area, bike lanes and curbside parking on both sides of the street.)
Over two years ago, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) first shared conceptual plans for bike lanes on North Figueroa Street between Colorado Boulevard and York Boulevard. The plans proved disappointing as they did nothing to address the excessive speeding the street experiences and hardly did anything to improve conditions for people bicycling. Bike advocate Joe Linton (author of Down By the Los Angeles River) suggested the LADOT consider a reconfiguration commonly known as a “road diet.” This would make the street look more like York Boulevard does between Eagle Rock Boulevard and Avenue 54.
(It has bike lanes, bus stops, and sidewalks, but is Eagle Rock Boulevard an example of a complete street?)
In Northeast LA, to feel safe and comfortable while encountering minimal inconveniences when traveling through the neighborhood and taking advantage of what it has to offer, one must own a car. If one observes the streets on any given day, this appears to not be an issue at first glance. Cars are appropriated a large portion of the public streets and dominate the urban landscape with their presence as they have throughout the city for the past several decades. One may be inclined to believe, by seeing the clear majority of trips being made by automobile, that the status quo is perfectly fine.
However, to fully understand the state of Northeast LA’s streets, one cannot just observe the existing conditions and assume the status quo is the desired result of a neutral transportation environment. One must walk the neighborhood’s streets, cycle on them and take public transit to reach local destinations– both day and night, and in varying weather conditions. One must follow the day-to-day travel of school children, the disabled, the poor, and the elderly. Furthermore, one must also examine elements such as topography and traffic data on the street to identify issues that may not be apparent from mere observations, issues such as: collision history, traffic volumes, and neighborhood travel patterns. It is only by viewing the streets holistically – from the perspective of all travel modes and varying personal mobilities – that one comes to understand the existing street conditions are not desirable, nor do they reflect an unbiased streetscape design. The conditions along Eagle Rock Boulevard, which runs just over three miles through Northeast LA and is one area’s major north-south corridors, are telling of the community’s streets at large. The street captures the many varying physical characteristics of neighborhood’s streets, and reveals the social imbalances and infrastructural short-comings of the area. Continue reading →