If, like us, you enjoy reading about bicycle planning and advocacy, you may have heard about a new initiative known as Active Streets LA, which officially launched last month. Active Streets LA is a planning and community outreach partnership between LADOT, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC), and TRUST South LA. This partnership will build upon the 2010 Los Angeles Bicycle Plan by engaging the community in a design process for bicycle-friendly streets (BFS) in three neighborhoods, starting with South Los Angeles and eventually moving on to Boyle Heights and Sylmar. Active Streets LA is holding a community event at Budlong Elementary School on Saturday, October 19th, which all are welcome to attend.
The initiative is being funded through a Healthy Eating/Active Living (HEAL) grant from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. LACBC is overseeing the four-year effort, while LADOT Bicycle Program staff will provide technical assistance and engineering expertise. TRUST and LACBC will be conducting much of the community outreach.
Building out the Neighborhood Network
You may recall the many public meetings earlier in 2013 regarding bike lanes on what the Bike Plan calls the Backbone Network, which is meant to support fast travel by bike to major destinations. Active Streets LA will focus on implementing the Neighborhood Network, meant to support relaxed, comfortable riding by bicyclists of all ages and levels of experience. The Bike Plan envisions that the Neighborhood Network will consist mainly of Bicycle Friendly Streets located on local and collector roadways and that it will have generally low traffic volumes and slower speeds.
Some BFS designated streets in the Bike Plan are already comfortable for bicycling today but need wayfinding (we’re also working on a wayfinding signage project, by the way). Others might need modifications, like traffic calming and diversion measures, to make them truly comfortable streets for bicycling, walking and to reduce cut-through traffic and motor vehicle speeds in neighborhoods. You can read about the range of possible treatments for bike-friendly streets on the BFS page of this blog.
We are currently working with LACBC to develop an outreach toolkit based on these treatments. The partners will use the toolkit in a series of workshops, rides and charrettes to ask community members what they feel are the most appropriate treatments for each street. Based on this input, the initiative will work to generate a series of ready-to-build project designs along connecting BFS corridors.
At first, Active Streets LA will focus exclusively on corridors in South LA. Once the plans for these corridors are complete, the partners will begin shifting their efforts to Boyle Heights and Sylmar, replicating the successful elements of the South LA initiative while incorporating the lessons learned in the earlier phases.
Larger Implications for Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning
Active Streets LA envisions that by the time the initiative reaches its conclusion, the design process will be a well-oiled machine with an established and effective toolkit of BFS treatments that both community members and engineers are comfortable discussing. Thus, the process established by Active Streets LA will become a normal part of future bikeway implementation projects, scaled up or down to suit the particular needs of each corridor.
The selection of South LA, Boyle Heights and Sylmar as focus areas for the initiative is no accident. These areas are all economically disadvantaged communities of color with significant health disparities resulting from low levels of physical activity and a lack of healthy food options. The initiative’s focus on South LA, Boyle Heights and Sylmar also fulfills the Bike Plan’s Program 1.1.2.C, which prioritizes the implementation of bikeways in lower-income communities. The LA Bike Plan is one of only a few bike plans in the country to include this requirement.
Building on Past Outreach Efforts
Active Streets LA is a natural extension of outreach work on bicycle projects the LADOT Bike Program has been doing in South LA over the past several years. LADOT staff were heavily involved in Think Bike! LA, a September 2011 workshop that involved stakeholders from the neighborhoods surrounding USC and produced a set of conceptual designs for the area. LADOT staff have also participated from time to time in community rides organized by TRUST, LACBC and other organizations to evaluate existing South LA bike facilities and discuss where improvements should be made. And of course, LADOT has been involved throughout the extensive planning and outreach process for the South Figueroa Corridor Streetscape Project (MyFigueroa), which will improve pedestrian and bike linkages along Figueroa between downtown and Exposition Park.
Active Streets LA is holding a community event on Saturday, October 19th at Budlong Elementary School to raise awareness of the initiative and begin a conversation on how best to bring safe, healthy and fun streets to South Los Angeles. The event will include a community walk and ride around the school, as well as a raffle and free snacks. See below for full details.
As mentioned above, LADOT and LACBC are working to develop a design toolkit of possible Bicycle Friendly Street treatments for use in the outreach process. This toolkit will be finalized in the coming weeks, after which it will be presented to the City of LA Bicycle Advisory Committee at one of its regular meetings. The partners are also working with a Community Stakeholder Workgroup to discuss specific corridors within South LA on which to focus the initiative’s efforts.
In 2014, Active Streets LA will hold two public events for each corridor: a problem identification ride utilizing a mobile community mapping tool developed by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and a design intervention ride (“rolling charrette”) with LADOT planners and engineers. It’s anticipated that the first ride will happen in winter 2014.
Active Streets LA Community Event
Saturday, October 19
10:00 am – 1:00 pm
Budlong Elementary School
5940 Budlong Street, Los Angeles, CA 90043