(Yup – it’s another long story about a local bike lane – not so much about L.A. Eco-Village – but about the tranportation mode that most of us here are into. I confess that I am a bit of a bike-facility-chaser… see my other articles about the bike lanes on Myra and Reseda, and the new stretch of L.A. River bike path.)
Today, I got a chance to bike on the city of Los Angeles’ newest bike lanes. They’re 1.6-miles long, located on Hoover Street from 98th to 120th – about 8 miles south of downtown Los Angeles.
In December, actually, Ramon Martinez and I biked down to check out these bike lanes because we found them shown as already existing on the maps that accompanied the city’s draft bicycle master plan – released last fall. After seeing the map, I looked online and didn’t see any lanes. I didn’t want to cite it as an error without being completely sure that the lanes weren’t really there on the ground.
These Hoover lanes are not specified on the city’s currently approved Bicycle Master Plan, dating from 1996. The bike master plan is generally where the city approves which streets to do bike lanes on… but sometimes (actually nearly half the time) the city does lanes that haven’t been approved in any plan. Striping unplanned/unapproved bike lanes (what Ramon and I now call a “Myra” after recent unplanned lanes appeared on Myra Avenue) is actually not all that uncommon. According to my calculations (with Ramon and Stephen Villavaso), as of January the city of Los Angeles had striped 46 miles of bike lanes in the 14 years since the 1996 plan was approved. Of those 46 new miles, 24 miles were approved in the plan; 22 miles were not. These unapproved lanes are a good thing – they’re places where the city Transportation Department (LADOT) decided that they had enough room. They’re kind of opportunistic facilities – and if we didn’t get them, we’d have even fewer safe convenient streets to bike on.
So… in December, Ramon and I rode down to the site, and confirmed our suspicions. Despite what the draft plan showed, there were no bike lanes – just these fairly-newly-striped edge lines (sometimes called “fog lines.”) They featured quite a few diagonal lines connecting the fog line with the curb. The old lane configuration is still available all over online. Here’s a shot from google maps showing what they looked like:
Here’s another birds-eye view of the “before” lane configuration – from Bing maps:
The configuration we found in December was a bit frustrating, because there was plenty of room for bike lanes, but somehow the city had recently re-striped the street, but hadn’t included bike lanes. We took measurements and documented how much width was available. I am 6’3″ tall – and I was able to lay down and show that the distance between the outer edge of the parked cars and the fog line was longer than I am tall… and for a bike lane, we only need 5 feet. That day both Ramon and I were a bit disappointed at the missed opportunity that the street represented.
In January, I included the missing lane in the long list of draft bike errors that I reported. Then this week, I saw LADOT Bikeways Engineer Paul Meskin’s April 6 2010 Bikeway Engineering Report to the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee stating:
Hoover Street- 98th Street to 120th Street- Installations of the bike lanes were completed on March 23, 2010, installation of the signs and curb zone to follow.
(incidentally – does anyone out there know what he means by “installation of … curb zone to follow??)
So, today I headed down and checked out the new lanes. First off, I saw how the city had scraped off the old diagonals that attached to the fog lines:
While I am glad that the bike lane has been added, this means that the city ended up doing extra work to scrape up lane painting (technically it’s not actually paint, but thermoplastic) and re-do a year-or-so later. It would have been cheaper, faster, safer, better, had they just striped it correctly the first time.
Here’s another scraped line photo:
As I ride through the city, I am often spotting (or I say “reading”) these sorts of scraped lines and scraped crosswalks (grrr! none of those apparent on today’s ride, but one of my pet peeves is LADOT’s removal of crosswalks), which are a sort of palimpsest telling what ways our streets are being rearranged. Further south on Hoover, more scrapes show that this section has undergone a road diet – taking a 4-lane road (2 lanes each direction) into a 3-lane road (1 lane in each direction with a center turn lane). Here’s a shot looking south on Hoover, just south of Imperial Highway:
In my less-than-one-hour visit, I observed plenty of bicyclists there. Male…
I was curious about this small striping break on the Hoover lanes:
It appears that the city’s “School Xing” signage is too wide for this lane – see how the L sticks out into the bike lane stripe and breaks it. It seems like a sad statement. Even our school crossing signs are designed for big wide unsafe lanes. I didn’t measure it today, but this lane is plenty wide – not substandard - I think it’s 10 or 11 feet, but, based on the length of the lettering, it appears our city expects streets near schools to be 13+feet wide… so cars can speed… and kids are not kept safe when they walk or bike to school.
At the north end of the new Hoover Street bike lanes, I took this picture of 98th Street, which also theoretically has bike lanes.
Note the “bike lane” sign on the right… but no lanes evident in the street. It’s actually possible (in person, not in this picture) to barely see where the lanes were striped there… but that was many years ago, I doubt that anyone would know. They’ve long since worn off and haven’t been maintained at all (but the city still counts them in its draft bike plan totals.)
Despite a few criticisms that I’ve outlined here, I am happy to see these new bike lanes! Thanks LADOT for getting the new lanes designed and implemented.