South L.A. Bike News: MLK and Expo Lanes

New bike lanes on Exposition Boulevard

The L.A. Eco-Village blog has reported on South L.A. bike lanes recently striped on Hoover Street and on San Pedro Street. Today’s South L.A. double feature includes two streets with new bike lanes: Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Exposition Boulevard. The new MLK lanes are done, and the Expo lanes are nearly done, too. Happy Bike Week!

Both of these bike lane projects are on the Year 0 (2010) list for the Five Year Implementation Strategy list of the award-winning Los Angeles City Bike Plan, approved earlier this year (2011.) They were also both approved in the city’s 1996 Bicycle Master Plan.

Here’s where the new bike lanes are located. Blue is Exposition from Catalina to Harcourt. Green is MLK from Marlton to Rodeo.

I’ll describe the MLK lanes first, then the Expo ones.

Brand new bike lanes on Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard in South Los Angeles

The new Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard lanes are located just west of Crenshaw Blvd and Leimert Park. The area is historically and currently an African-American neighborhood. This stretch of MLK features a series of large pine trees. I’ve heard TreePeople’s Andy Lipkis describe these trees as a living tribute to Dr. King. TreePeople worked with the community to plant these trees in 1990.

The MLK bike lanes, according to the plan, go 1.05-miles from Marlton Avenue to Rodeo Road… which is nearly the case. The westbound lanes start a bit after Marlton (between Victoria Avenue and Somerset Drive) and peter out a bit before quite getting to Rodeo, due to a long right turn lane… but they’re still right around a mile long.

Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard in this area is quite a large street: 3 lanes in each direction, plus left turn lanes, and even quieter parallel side roads through much of it. It’s a 9-lane road at its widest. Like wide streets all over, on MLK car traffic moves fast, pretty much freeway speeds.

There were definitely plenty of cyclists out riding along MLK on yesterday’s sunny clear Sunday afternoon. Some were using the new lanes, but most of the cyclists I observed rode on the sidewalks and/or on the quieter side roads.

Sidewalk cyclist on MLK Blvd

To create the bike lane, the city didn’t need to remove any travel lanes – they merely narrowed the existing travel lanes, and took away portions of a striped median along the raised median. It’s easy to “read” in the street where the lines were erased/scraped:

Note where the former striping was scraped off - it appears as darker gray dashed lines.

The striping is all down, all done. Due to the realigning of the lanes, now the loop detectors don’t match the traffic lanes, so LADOT workers were out yesterday cutting into the street to realign the loop-detectors.

LADOT crew realigning loop detectors. Note the circle in the street in the foreground and how it no longer lines up with the center of the striped travel lane. The new lighter circle is just above the old one.

This stretch of MLK lanes is listed twice in the Five-Year list, with another entry stating that they’ll go from Rodeo to Crenshaw… I think that this means that the lanes will be extended one more block to Crenshaw… soon. Hopefully some day they can extend all the way to the other stretch of  MLK Blvd bike lanes east of the 110 Freeway to Central Avenue.

Cyclist pedaling west on the new MLK bike lanes

Exposition Boulevard is just north of MLK. In fact, both of the bike lanes in this post nearly converge at their western ends, located at the north and south ends of Rancho Cienega Sports Center Park (though neither quite connects well with the park… yet.)

Expo includes an old rail right-of-way that runs from the city of Santa Monica to Exposition Park and the University of Southern California and continues eastward to near the city of Vernon. Expo, in case you haven’t heard, is the site of Metro’s newest light rail line under construction for a couple years, with its initial phase expected to open next year – 2012. The Expo light rail line project, which I know about generally but haven’t kept up with in much detail, includes a “continuous bikeway” that’s more-or-less continuous. Ideally it would be continuous… but there are apparently some questions of some unfortunate gaps. I’ll be curious to see how it all turns out.

The rail construction is nearly complete. There are already test trains running. The landscaping is going in.

Exposition Boulevard bike lane westbound

Per the city’s Five Year Implementation Strategy, the Expo project includes two stretches of on-street bike lanes:

  •  4.6 miles on Expo Blvd from La Cienega Blvd to Vermont Avenue
  • 0.45 bike lane miles on Expo from Motor Avenue to National Avenue (at Palms Blvd/Hughes Avenue)

Yesterday, I only explored as far west as La Brea… so there could more bike lanes already done further west. As of yesterday afternoon I was able to ride westbound bike lanes completed from Catalina Street (one block west of Vermont Avenue) to Harcourt Avenue (three blocks east of La Brea Avenue) – totalling 3.3 miles.

The eastbound lanes were complete  from Harcourt only to Rodeo Road (at Grammercy Place.) This is the area where the road is only on the north side of the rail.

With brand new asphalt along the Expo Rail, no adjacent parking, and fewer intersections, the eastbound bike lanes seem significantly more comfortable and faster. The westbound lanes have some stretches with adjacent parked cars and deteriorated asphalt, including potholes.

Preliminary bike lane markings, on Expo east of Rodeo Road

On Expo at Rodeo Road, the eastbound travel lane crosses the rail (more on this below.) So, east of Rodeo, the rail runs in the middle of the street, with car and bike travel lanes on both sides.

As of yesterday, east of Rodeo, there are only some preliminary street markings (see photo), so far. Hopefully this means that  the eastbound bike lanes should be striped soon.

There were only a few cyclists using the new Expo lanes yesterday. It’s still a construction zone in some places, though.

There were some cars parked in the bike lane tow-away zone… which makes me suspect that some parking was removed to create these lanes. This seemed to be true close to intersections only – where an additional left turn lane squeezes out some parking.

It’s not quite complete, so I could be wrong, but there is a point where I think that the eastbound lane might be made safer by using non-standard pavement markings… I know that L.A. is reluctant to do these, but I’ve spent time recently in Long Beach and San Francisco… where these sorts of bike-friendly things are more common.

As I mentioned, the eastbound bike lane crosses the tracks – at Rodeo Road. Though I expect that there may be more coming (ie: a railroad-crossing gate with moving arm that prevents cars and bikes from hitting trains, maybe signs, too), here’s what that looked like yesterday (view from bike lane, looking eastward at crossing):

Eastbound Expo bike lane crossing tracks at Rodeo Road

updated May 17 2011 – thanks Mark Elliot for this animated gif that makes the bike trajectory through the intersection clearer:

Expo bike lane crossing tracks at Rodeo Road - my photo animated by Mark Elliot - click to activate animation showing bike trajectory

The car lane is on the left edge of the photo. The eastbound bike lanes, which up to this point have been parallel to the car lane, veer diagonally to the right (keeping to the right of the striped triangle on the right of the photo.) The bike lane goes through the gap in the median island, then the cyclist turns left onto the eastbound lane along the far sidewalk. (ok… this description and photo have to be confusing if you haven’t been there. sorry.)

Many cyclists know how to cross rails – generally as perpendicular as possible, to avoid getting bike wheels caught. But a lot of cyclists don’t know this.

The lines of this intersection look a little tight to me… I think that, instead of a sharp angle that bikes just don’t do (we ride in a curve, of course), it should incorporate a curved trajectory that’s even more perpendicular than what’s on the ground now… Compare with this Streetfilm showing a very good Seattle bike-rail crossing point. It could also include green pavement to draw attention to the conflict, similar to the Long Beach cycletracks, or other treatments used in San Francisco and elsewhere.

Hopefully I’ll be pleasantly surprised with how it ulitmately turns out…

Great to see the new bike lanes implemented… especially in communities where they’re really needed.

12 thoughts on “South L.A. Bike News: MLK and Expo Lanes

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  3. We’re so psyched. It’s absolutely crucial to have more bike lanes in South LA and LACBC is proud to be pushing for such projects throughout Central and South LA. We know there are many low-income cyclists in the area who use MLK to go to work and school, which is why we advocated for the street to be striped!

  4. Hm, you didnt take pictures of the lanes that are striped into the gutter and look to me to be less than the mandatory minimum width.

    Also, that last intersection will NOT have gates. With all the useless talk about safety near the school, they completely ignored the one intersection that is designed for conflicts.

    I agree that green pain is needed at points.

    Im very disappointed that the section that would have the most bike riders, near USC, has no bike lane at all, narrow lanes and a narrow sidewalk.

  5. @JJJ – There are certainly parts of the lane, both some westbound and most of the eastbound (from La Brea to Rodeo) are striped with part of the lane in the gutter… which I thought was fine – no parked car doors to contend with.

    I didn’t measure anything, but visually to me, nothing appeared to be less than the mandatory minimum 5′ (next and I think next to the curb – no dooring – the minimum is less – like 4′ – can anyone out there verify that?)

  6. “As indicated, if no gutter exists, the minimum bike lane width shall be 4 feet. With a normal 2-foot gutter, the minimum bike lane width shall be 5 feet.”

    Click to access chp1000.pdf

    1003.2 Class II Bikeways

    It appears to me that the area outside the gutter is not 3 feet.

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  8. yay!!!! please continue with more bike lanes in south l.a.! now I can feel safer to bike to work and thanks to those of you (like jj) who are trying to make sure they are good and safe lanes!!! thank you!

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  10. Hi Joe, thanks for being among the first to write about the bike lanes along the Expo line. While I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts about the progress on the lanes in phase 2, I read an article this morning that picked up where you left off but sounded more like an alarm regarding the newly painted lanes on Jefferson ( between La Brea and La Cienea)

    What can be done to protect the future of this infrastructure sans ‘contacting my council member’?


  11. @cerwing – If you’ve ruled out contacting your councilmember, how about making a donation to or volunteering with to a group involved in making L.A.’s future more bikeable: CicLAvia, Bikeside, LACBC, CICLE, TRUST South L.A., Community Health Councils, etc. Come to the South L.A. Free The Streets fundraiser party on November 5th –

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