Bike Lanes Coming Soon to CicLAvia’s 7th Street
Bike lanes are coming soon to the CicLAvia route… soon – on 7th Street! The city of Los Angeles has them in their top priority list… and you can help get them done – by attending an L.A. County Bicycle Coalition press conference tomorrow at 2pm.
7th Street is the longest straightaway on the CicLAvia route. For many years, 7th has been a favored unofficial route for bicycling. It’s a relatively flat, relatively quiet (compared to nearby Wilshire, at least) street that connects mid-city with downtown Los Angeles with Boyle Heights. It crosses the 110 Freeway with no on-ramp or off-ramp.
In 2009, the city of Los Angeles approved the Downtown Street Standards which designate a bike lane on 7th Street from San Pedro Street to the 110 Freeway. In a May 2010 post, the CicLAvia blog recommended implementation of the lanes (scroll down to #10.) In the city’s new bike plan, approved in 2011, the lanes have been designated on 7th Street from Catalina Street (along the Ambassador Hotel school site, in Koreatown) to Soto Street (in Boyle Heights.)
The way to add bike lanes to 7th is to do what is called a “road diet” – converting the existing 4-lane road (two travel lanes each direction) into a 3-lane road (one travel lane each direction, with center turn lane and added bike lanes.) The road diet reconfiguration is safer and helps support more local traffic (cars – but also pedestrians and bicycles) as opposed to being a thoroughfare for fast cut-through car traffic.
Recently the Federal Highway Administration did a study of road diets and found that, after implementing a road diet, streets become safer for all users: drivers, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists. Right now, 7th Street has two travel lanes in each direction, with pretty much no left turn lanes. This sort of arrangement makes for a relatively inefficient and relatively unsafe street. When a driver decides to turn left, that car slows, stops and blocks the fast lane. The left turn is made somewhat dangerous in that the driver will have to cross two lanes of oncoming traffic. At times this will make for a blind spot; especially when a car in the near lane (the fast lane in the oncoming direction) stops, it becomes difficult to see oncoming cars and bikes in the far lane (the slow lane in the oncoming direction.) It is not uncommon for left-turn collisions to occur due to this blind spot.
Implementing the road diet will reduce the number of lanes and thereby eliminate the dangerous blind spot.
The western portion of the 7th Street bike lanes (from Figueroa to Catalina) are now on the city’s list of priority facilities to be implemented some time in the new fiscal year, beginning July 1st 2011. The project is supported by Los Angeles City Councilmember Ed Reyes, in whose district the majority of the length of the planned Catalina to Figueroa bike lanes are located (a small portion is in Councilmembers Herb Wesson’s and Jan Perry’s districts.) The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) has been working with local community groups to campaign for the new 7th Street lanes, and to make sure that folks along the way know they’re coming. LACBC has produced this video to show the need for the new lanes:
LACBC is holding a press conference tomorrow to get the word out on the 7th Street lanes project. Cyclists, pedestrians and other supporters are invited to attend. It takes place at 2pm on Thursday June 16th 2011 at 7th Street and Catalina Street. Full details at the LACBC site.