Correcting L.A.’s Stated Bikeway Mileage

Here’s a very long post analyzing some of the bikeway mileage numbers reported by the city of Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT.) Here are some quick summaries:

  1. LADOT reported that it installed 54.86 miles of bike lane since July 2005, but their total is wrong. According to my review, the actual total is 34.93 miles (5.8 miles of bike lane per year on average over the past 6 years.)
  2. LADOT also reported that it installed 28.51 miles of bikeway in Fiscal Year 2010-2011 (July 1st 2010 through June 30th 2011), but their total is wrong. According to my review, the actual total is 22.36 miles.
  3. LADOT reported that it installed 17.58 miles of bike lane in FY2010-11, but their total is wrong. According to my review, the actual total is 13.50 miles.

While the 13.5 miles of bike lane implemented in FY2010-11 wasn’t as high as reported, it does represent a significant step in the right direction. It’s actually triple what the city’s annual average had been for the prior 5 years. Using the figures above, the average from 2005-2010 was 4.3 miles/year = (34.93mi – 13.5mi) / 5yrs.

The gory tldr details follow… 

In May 2011, the city of Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) posted an undated document called Bike Lane Projects Installed since July 2005. At the time of this writing, you can find it on this page at the LADOT website, and here’s the direct link to the city post-2005 document on the LADOT website. In July 2011, LADOT posted another undated document called Year 0 Installed (FY 2010-11). At the time of this writing, you can find it on this page at the LADOT website, and here’s the direct link to the city year zero document on the LADOT website.

In case these files might change, without notice, as has happened with past city bike documents, I’ve made copies of them, as downloaded on August 19 2011, directly from the LADOT links listed above. Here they are: Lanes since July 2005 and Year 0 Installed. And here they are as image files:

LADOT's Bike Lane Projects Installed since July 2005 - page 1

LADOT's Bike Lane Projects Installed since July 2005 - page 2

Year Zero Installed Fiscal Year 2010-2011

For those wanting to cut to the chase (or to check my findings – please! I cranked through this in a half-dozen hours… so I bet that folks can find things that I’ve missed), here are my spreadsheets: Bike Lane Projects installed since July 2005 and Year Zero Installed FY 2010-11.

I saw the LADOT documents when they were posted earlier this year, and, on very cursory review, I immediately saw that they had some flaws. I didn’t go through them thoroughly at the time… I was busy with other work, and trying to be a be a bit better at picking my battles. I figured that they were sort of water under the bridge.

I heard Mayor Villaraigosa state (for example at the May 17th 2011 Blessing of the Bicycles) that since he’s taken office, the city has implemented more than 50 miles of bikeways, which I think was based on those documents… but it’s such a low number that I just didn’t think that it made sense to critique it. I figured that a mayor implementing 50 miles in six years kinda speaks for itself: it’s nothing to brag about – already – so why try to disprove it? Especially when the mayor is stepping up to do more for bicycling.

These LADOT documents also apparently informed this line in the July 1st 2011 mayoral directive on bikes: “… commitment to build 40 miles of bikeways a year, four times more than the previous average…” Though I winced when reading this, because it says that LADOT averages 10 miles of bikeways year – a misleading exaggeration – certainly higher than actual…  but, overall, the directive represents that the city is committing to implement bike facilities… so, again I figured, it wasn’t worth rocking the boat.

With these numbers rolling around, I did write this piece at L.A. Streetsblog that reviewed the pace of bikeway implementation… but I wasn’t planning to respond directly to the above two documents posted at the LADOT website. L.A.’s bike activists know not to take LADOT documents at face value. When the LADOT says “That’s just a rumor, we never said it” activists know that’s a lie. When the city says that their bike plan draft has “125 miles,” we activists check the total and find that there are only 28 miles. So… eh… I knew not to take these two LADOT documents too seriously. But apparently L.A. Weekly reporters approach the LADOT with less skepticism.

This past week, the L.A. Weekly ran the article L.A. Bike Plan Troubles, which seems to take the LADOT website data (especially the two lists above) for truth… so… now I figure it’s important to go through and critique the city’s lists… to do my best to set the record straighter.

To analyze the Bike Lane Projects Installed since July 2005, I started by creating my own spread sheet. Once I’d put in all the streets and the distances, I used the sum function… and I found that LADOT’s stated total (“54.86 miles”) didn’t match the total of the lengths above it (actual total of LADOT’s listed mileage is only 45.99 miles.) I double-checked and triple-checked my entries and my formula… and, yes, right off the bat, the LADOT total is just mathematically wrong. Their total doesn’t match their list. They’ve included 8.87 miles in the total that just aren’t anywhere on their list. (Note that their list, above, the list skips a lot of numbers… it jumps from 23 to 26, etc., so I am curious to someday see what those omitted lines and what the 8.87 miles actually corresponds to… any guesses?)

It’s not difficult to find relatively minor errors and inconsistencies (for example there’s a Wentworth Street listed in one and a Wentworth Ave listed in the other), but I figured it made most sense, for now, to focus on the errors that actually affect mileage totals. Here are the four errors that I focused on:

  1. Projects not yet installed
  2. Projects claiming new mileage where bike lanes already existed
  3. Inaccurate distances
  4. Inaccurate dates

I’ll go through these one at a time… first with the since 2005 list, then the FY2010-11 list.

1. Projects not yet installed

This one is, well, pretty obvious: the “installed since 2005” list includes a category called “Awaiting Installation” – those are highlighted in blue above.

These projects hadn’t been built, so they shouldn’t count toward the total, right? For some reason LADOT has included these projects based on their “signed date” (not sure what that is… maybe it’s when LADOT Assistant General Manager John Fisher signs off on the design?) Some of the signed dates are a year or two old – what’s the hold-up? Why has it taken over two years for the city to stripe “signed” bike lanes on Anaheim Street along Harbor Regional Park? Why did the Woodman Avenue bike lanes wait from April 2008 until early 2011 before being implemented?

Here are the “awaiting installation” facilities inaccurately included on the “installed” list:

  • Ave 19, Barranca, Ave 18 – from Humboldt to N. Spring – 0.66 miles – signed 3/30/11
  • Riverside Drive – from Fulton to Coldwater – 0.54 miles – signed 3/17/11
  • Jefferson Blvd* – from Culver City limit to Harcourt – 1.50 miles – signed 11/29/10
  • Main Street – from Santa Monica limit to Windward Ave – 1.27 miles – signed 7/26/10
  • Wentworth Street – from Wheatland to Foothill – 0.59 miles – signed 5/19/10
  • Anaheim Street – Gaffey to Figueroa – 0.81 miles – signed 6/22/09

Total awaiting installation miles = 5.37 miles

*One sad note on this: that section of Jefferson Boulevard adjacent to Culver City, where bike lanes were “signed” in November 2010 (but are still “awaiting implementation”) was leading into the area where a car crashed into a group ride in June 2011. I wouldn’t say that had the city implemented the bike facility, that crash definitely wouldn’t have occurred… but who knows? Having bike lanes on the street might have made the careless driver just a little more apt to expect bicyclists there. Implementing bike facilities makes streets safer… delays perpetuate unsafe conditions.

2. Claiming new mileage where bike lanes already existed.

LADOT’s lists include some projects where they installed bike lanes on streets that already had bike lanes.  It’s perhaps a good thing that the city is restriping lanes that are maybe wearing out, or when a street is re-surfaced, but these should not be counted as new bike lane mileage.

August 2011 conditions on Anaheim St. at Henry Ford Ave. New bike lane on left. Old bike lane, mostly scraped off, on right. Should not count as new bike lane mileage.

Bike lane projects installed where bike lanes already existed:

  • No. 33, Anaheim Street – from LB limit to Henry Ford – 1.31 miles
  • No. 39, Devonshire Street – from Wilbur to Tampa – 0.5 miles
  • No. 58, Central Avenue – from 108th to 103rd – 0.34 miles
  • No. 59, Hoover Street – from 22nd to Washington – 0.28 miles
  • No. 60, Victory Blvd – from Platt to Royer – 0.86 miles
  • No. 61, Rinaldi Street – from Tampa to Wilbur – 0.54 miles
  • No. 62, Venice Blvd – from Lomita to Lafayette – 0.34 miles

Total miles already existing: 4.17 miles

(Sources: City of LA Bikeways Inventory 2001 – part of the city’s bike plan technical update, and City of L.A. bike maps effective January 2000.)

3. Inaccurate Distances

Here are places where mileage is incorrect on the Since 2005 list:

  • No. 2, 9, 10 and 11, all Wilbur Ave, show respectively 0.9,  0.65, 0.48, and 1.22 – so city document claims a total of 3.25 miles on Wilbur. Actual distance for Wilbur bike lanes (from Nordhoff to Chatsworth) is 1.98 miles. [error +1.27 miles]
  • No. 12, York Blvd, shows 0.80 miles, actual 1.3 miles. [error -0.5 miles]
  • No. 13, Louise Ave, shows 0.66, actual 0.5 miles [error +0.16 miles]
  • No. 18, San Pedro Street, shows 0.72, actual 0.4 miles [error +0.32 miles]
  • No. 55, Vineland Ave, shows from Hesby to Cumpston 0.32 miles, but actual is 0.04miles from Chandler (south) to Chandler (north) [error +0.28 miles]

Overall there are 2.53 miles of these errors, but when the pluses and minuses cancel out, it comes to a total error of 1.53 miles.

Here are places where bike lane mileage is wrong on the Year Zero list (some of these errors are the same as above, some different):

  • Reseda Blvd from Parthenia to Devonshire, shows 1.50 miles, actual 1.91 miles [error -0.41 miles]
  • Wentworth Ave [sic] shows 0.99 miles, actual 2.05 miles [error -1.06 miles]
  • Willbur Ave shows 1.50 miles, actual 2.0 miles [error -0.5 miles]
  • Woodman St shows 1.00 miles, actual 0.5 miles [error +0.5 miles]
  • York Blvd, shows 0.80 miles, actual 1.3 miles. [error -0.5 miles]

Overall there are 2.97 miles of errors here, but when the pluses and minuses cancel out, it comes to a total error of –1.97 miles. That’s a negative number, so, for this type of error, LADOT actually under-reported the bike lane mileage they implemented.

4. Inaccurate Dates

It’s not possible for me to tell when the “Signed Date” really was, so for date checking I am only analyzed the Year 0 Installed (FY 2010-11) document, which lists “Installation Date.” Also, there are quite a few dates that I just don’t have any records of… so I’ve left some blanks on my spreadsheet, and only noted date discrepancies that I am sure of.

Here are the date discrepancies I found on the FY 2010-11 list, which should only feature projects installed July 1st 2010 through June 30th 2011:

So… all in all, the city’s Year Zero Installed FY10-11 list includes 5.44 miles that I am certain were installed prior to FY2010-11.
One last caveat: LADOT does continue to implement bike facilities… yay!! I’ve reconciled these lists based on the dates they were posted. So “awaiting implementation” corresponds to May 2011,  not to today – August 2011. Since May, the city has implemented a few more bike projects.

That’s all for now.

16 thoughts on “Correcting L.A.’s Stated Bikeway Mileage

  1. Pingback: Streetsblog Los Angeles » Today’s Headlines

  2. It’s going to be quite easy for LADOT to get 40 miles of bikeways a year. When lacking in bike lane mileage, they simply have to put several miles of Sharrows on streets that have posted speeds of 35 miles an hour or less. You just have some workers go out and measure out twelve feet from the curb, then using a stensil they spray a thermoplastic Sharrows symbol on the roadway, spaced every 250 feet. This can be done without any other changes to the roadway. Simple, cheap, fast and easy to do miles of roadway in a short amount of time.

  3. Pingback: You’re invited to ThinkBikes with the Dutch, and half a week’s worth of lip-smacking bike links « BikingInLA

  4. Yes, Dennis, this is a big concern. The “5-year Implementation Plan” (from which the 40 miles per year originates) shows 40 miles of bike lanes, but I, too, worry that the city will downgrade these to just sharrows. Sharrows may be appropriate for a few short stretches – like gap closures – but shouldn’t even begin to dominate city bike facility implementation.

  5. “For some reason LADOT has included these projects based on their “signed date” (not sure what that is… maybe it’s when LADOT Assistant General Manager John Fisher signs off on the design?)”

    Is it possible that “signed date” means when the Bike Lane Begin and Bike Lane End signs are installed (by one group of city employees) but the road painting, done by another group, is delayed?

    Perhaps visit a phantom bike lane and see if those useless white signs are in existence.

  6. Next months ThinkBike workshop could be a big help in getting increased cycling in Los Angeles. I could barely contain my excitement to know that some experts from the Netherlands are coming here as consultants to evaluate and help improve cycling here. Check out the final report from last years Chicago ThinkBike workshop.

    http://www.fietsberaad.nl/library/repository/bestanden/Chicago%20report%20vs2-1.pdf

    The people who were in the two workshop groups are listed on page 18.

    Just imagine if people from Metro, LADOT, Caltrans and the Dutch experts are participants in two or three ThinkBike workshop groups in L.A. Then the Dutch experts list what they see as the strengths, weaknesses and threats to cycling in Los Angeles, as they did in the Chicago report, starting on page 26. That could be a eye-opener for quite a few people here.

  7. Pingback: Bikeway Mileage reporting « LADOT Bike Blog

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  9. Pingback: Analyzing and Mapping L.A.’s 5-Year Plan for Bikeway Implementation « L.A. Eco-Village Blog

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