For the first time ever, Downtown Los Angeles actually has a bike lane! Over the past weekend, LADOT completed the installation of the first phase of bike lanes on 7th Street. The 7th Street bike lanes currently extend 2.2 miles from Catalina Avenue to Figueroa Street. At some point soon, the 7th Street bike lanes will be extended an additional 2.9 miles approved through downtown and all the way to Soto Street in Boyle Heights.
These aren’t just the first bike lanes in Downtown, they’re also the first bike lanes in the Koreatown and Westlake neighborhoods. Those are three of the most dense neighborhoods in the city, and among the densest communities in the nation. According to the L.A. Times Mapping L.A. website, here are the population density numbers: Koreatown 42,611 people per square mile, Westlake 38,214 people per square mile, and Downtown 4,770 people per square mile.
7th Street has long been an unofficial bike route, convenient for bicycling into and out of Downtown Los Angeles. The street carries lots of cyclists – from working class Latino immigrants, to downtown office workers, to Korean-Americans, to bike messengers, to young fixed-gear cyclists, and more. Quite a few cyclists were riding the new lane on the quiet Sunday morning today.
The new configuration is called a “Road Diet” – which is basically a configuration where a 4-lane road (2 lanes each direction) is turned into a 3-lane road (1 lane in each direction and a center turn lane) with added bike lanes. This means that 7th Street also has new (car) left turn lanes that never existed before. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) studied road diets and found them to be safer for everyone: drivers, passengers, cyclists and pedestrians.
Bike lanes were approved on 7th Street in 2009 in the Downtown Street Standards. Soon thereafter, a 2009 draft of the city’s Bike Plan showed the 7th Street lanes as “infeasible.” Through the work of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) and others, the final Bike Plan, approved early 2011, approved the Seventh Street bike lanes extending from Catalina Avenue to Soto Street. LACBC has made the implementation of the 7th Street lanes a top priority. Watch LACBC’s cool 7th Street video here. LACBC’s City of Lights program, under the leadership of LACBC staffer Allison Manos, has worked with working class cyclists, community groups, and others to campaign for 7th Street implementation. LACBC created visuals to help folks understand the proposed new configuration, and reached out to businesses and residents along 7th Street.
In addition to credit to LACBC, I plan to write thank you letters to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, L.A. City Councilmembers Ed Reyes, Herb Wesson and Jan Perry, and to the Los Angeles Department of Transportation General Manager Jaime de la Vega.
Come down and celebrate the new lanes at a press conference next week. From the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition’s 25 August 2011 e-newsletter:
7th St. Bike Lane [... ] Press Conference
When: Thursday, September 8th; 9 AM to 10 AM
Where: 7th & Alvarado, MacArthur Park [one block southwest of the Westlake/MacArthur Park/Alvarado Metro Red and Purple Line station]
You may have seen the lanes starting to be striped [on] 7th Street in the past week or two. . . but do you know how they got there?
Come learn more and celebrate the first bicycle lane in Central LA from the LA Bicycle Plan with LACBC, Councilman Ed Reyes, LADOT, CARECEN, our community partners, and others at this press conference! A two-year campaign of LACBC’s City of Lights program, our dream is now being realized! Ride along 7th from Catalina and Figueroa, as the streets of Westlake become safer for families, workers, and commuters.
LACBC members and supporters alike are invited to our media event. The more, the merrier. Wear your LACBC shirt if you have one!