The Engineer’s Corner: Oliver Hou, Transportation Engineering Associate II

Welcome to the Engineer’s Corner. This post is a special one, because we are spotlighting one of our program’s first interns: Oliver Hou. Lucky for us, his graduate school internship in the LADOT Bike Program inspired him to stick with transportation, and we’re grateful to say he’s become an integral part of the Bikeways Division. 

LeapLA Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Oliver Hou: My undergraduate background is in civil engineering.  After college, I started at a pre-cast concrete contractor doing architectural pre-cast design and building for construction.  During this time I was able to learn how to use AutoCAD as well as manage projects.  After a few years, I decided to pursue a Master’s degree and serendipitously came across the field of urban planning, which helped to answer a question that I always had while constructing buildings – what are the drivers behind development projects?  During my time studying urban planning at USC, I was fortunate enough to intern with LADOT Bikeways, which helped to fuel my personal interests in all things transportation.

For fun, I enjoy exploring cities around the world, including Los Angeles, for their cultural diversity.  If I’m not out trying new places to eat, I’m at home with my wife cooking healthy dishes.

Oliver enjoying the new protected bike lane on Van Nuys Blvd

Oliver enjoying the new protected bike lane on Van Nuys Blvd

Can you describe your commute? What is it like getting to work?

I live in Koreatown and my daily commute typically consists of catching a Metro Local bus to the Red Line Vermont/Wilshire station.  After a few stops, I exit the Civic Center station and either walk or take an LADOT Dash bus to the office. On occasion I will ride my bike to commute the 3 miles between Ktown and downtown.

My commute time is consistent and takes about 30 minutes each way. That is the part I like the most. In addition, I enjoy using apps such as GoLA, Smartride, and LADOTbus to navigate and track my transit options.  The only downside to my commute are the multiple transfers, so on days I don’t feel like dealing with it I will drive or hail a rideshare.

So how did you become interested in becoming an engineer?

I have always enjoyed building things, starting with Legos and Simcity as a kid.  And although I’ve never particularly enjoyed taking math/science classes, I excelled in them and like the idea that there tends to be only one “right” answer. My undergraduate program offered a broad-based math/science curriculum and I ended up choosing civil engineering because of the possibility of fieldwork and the opportunity to create projects that you can see and have a lasting impact. At LADOT, I have an opportunity to work in an area where the fields of engineering and planning intersect.

How long have you worked at LADOT and in which divisions?

I have worked at LADOT for about 5 years and in addition to being in the Active Transportation division as an engineer, I have been in the Bicycle Outreach and Planning group as an intern, and the Specialized Transit and Grants division as a planner.

What do your day-to-day duties consist of?

Each day is unique because we always have bike lane projects that are in varying phases. These projects could be facilities that are part of the Mobility plan, facilities intended to close gaps in our existing network, or facilities that need maintenance and modification. Some days, I am out in the field checking installations or investigating conditions on the ground. Other days, I will be in the office working with our team to develop plans.  

Before coming up with a plan, I often seek the opinions of other engineers throughout our department and at our district offices so I can try to consider all the impacts. The size and breadth of our City is truly amazing, with DOT having a hand in anything transportation related – it seems that I am always learning about new functions and personnel!

Oliver Hou and Bryan Ochoa, Assistant Project Coordinator, hard at work in the Bikeways Division.

Oliver Hou and Bryan Ochoa, Assistant Project Coordinator, hard at work in the Bikeways Division.

Do you have a favorite part of your work or a favorite project?

My favorite part of my work is seeing projects come to fruition, and seeing these facilities be used. What begins as a concept or vision has much to go through before becoming reality, particularly when it comes to some of our more innovate facilities such as the protected bicycle lane on Los Angeles Street with bicycle signals.

What are the most important things to keep in mind when planning for Los Angeles’ transportation future?

(1) Safety is our primary concern. While this may not have been the case in the past, the driving force of our department is to get people where they need to go safely and comfortably. In fact, with the City’s adoption of a Vision Zero Policy, it really has become a citywide effort. Safety for pedestrians and bicyclists should be what guides our decision-making when it comes to street design.

(2) From a mobility standpoint, our City already has amazing infrastructure in place that has endless potential for evolution.  That is, we have lots of roads and lots of lanes. Therefore, we are able to reconfigure this space to meet our transportation objectives, often with some simple paint on the ground, as our GM and many. This makes me very excited for what our future holds – whether it is a network of bus-only lanes that can maximize our throughput, or groups of super-efficient autonomous vehicles that put an end to traffic as we know it.

When you’re not hard at work making the streets of LA more bike friendly, what do you like to do in your free time?

My free time is mostly taken up by following all types of sports. I enjoy playing basketball (although not as often as I use to) and golf (not as often as I like).

Thanks, Oliver! We’ll see you on the streets!

Safety Remains Top Priority of LA River Path

Shared bicycle and pedestrian paths are a great way to encourage exercise and active transportation. Our shared-use paths attract people with a wide range of bicycle skill levels, including young children, as well as people who walk, jog, skate, and roll. Special care must be taken in the planning, design, and maintenance of these paths to provide safe sharing of the facility with a variety of users of differing speeds and abilities

The LA River Path is a favorite transportation facility and recreation corridor for many Angelenos. Tragically, a recent collision on the LA River Path caused injuries to an elderly person who was walking. The person who hit them may have been bicycling too fast and unable to see the pedestrian or stop in time. LADOT will be working with LAPD and Council District 13 to initiate improvements that will support the enforcement of reckless and illegal riding (per LAMC 56.16)  on the Los Angeles River Path.

Cyclists should refrain from excessive speed, particularly in neighborhood areas of the path when people are walking and biking at slower speeds, and children are present. Pedestrians, as slower users of the path, should walk to the right as slow moving vehicles are required to do on roadways. We urge people to use caution while enjoying the path by keeping your head up, not wearing headphones in both ears, and maintaining a slow speed.

As we advocate for and implement new paths throughout Los Angeles, it is essential that we also educate people about local and state laws to ensure safety for all users.

California Vehicle Code

CVC 21207.5.  Notwithstanding Sections 21207 and 23127 of this code, or any other provision of law, no motorized bicycle may be operated on a bicycle path or trail, bikeway, bicycle lane established pursuant to Section 21207, equestrian trail, or hiking or recreational trail, unless it is within or adjacent to a roadway or unless the local authority or the governing body of a public agency having jurisdiction over such path or trail permits, by ordinance, such operation.

No motorized bicycles are allowed on the path unless allowed by Code.

CVC 21211.  (a) No person may stop, stand, sit, or loiter upon any class I bikeway, as defined in subdivision (a) of Section 890.4 of the Streets and Highways Code, or any other public or private bicycle path or trail, if the stopping, standing, sitting, or loitering impedes or blocks the normal and reasonable movement of any bicyclist. (b) No person may place or park any bicycle, vehicle, or any other object upon any bikeway or bicycle path or trail, as specified in subdivision (a), which impedes or blocks the normal and reasonable movement of any bicyclist unless the placement or parking is necessary for safe operation or is otherwise in compliance with the law. (c) This section does not apply to drivers or owners of utility or public utility vehicles, as provided in Section 22512.

It is illegal to loiter on or block a bike path except maintenance or utility vehicles.

CVC 21966. No pedestrian shall proceed along a bicycle path or lane where there is an adjacent adequate pedestrian facility.

Due to inadequate available width, no separate pedestrian path is available (like the Orange Line Bike Path) thus pedestrians are legal, and welcome, users of the Los Angeles River Bike Path.

CVC 23127.  No person shall operate an unauthorized motor vehicle on any state, county, city, private, or district hiking or horseback riding trail or bicycle path that is clearly marked by an authorized agent or owner with signs at all entrances and exits and at intervals of not more than one mile indicating no unauthorized motor vehicles are permitted on the hiking or horseback riding trail or bicycle path, except bicycle paths which are contiguous or adjacent to a roadway dedicated solely to motor vehicle use.

No cars, motorcycles, mopeds or other motorized vehicles are allowed on the path except maintenance or emergency vehicles.

California Streets and Highways Code

S&H Code 890.4. As used in this article, “bikeway” means all facilities that provide primarily for, and promote, bicycle travel. For purposes of this article, bikeways shall be categorized as follows:

(a) Bike paths or shared use paths, also referred to as “Class I Bikeways” which provide a completely separated right-of-way designated for the exclusive use of bicycles and pedestrians with crossflows by motorists minimized.

Bicycle Paths are designed for the use of people on bicycles and on foot.

S&H Code 890.9. The department shall establish uniform specifications and symbols for signs, markers, and traffic control devices to designate bikeways, regulate traffic, improve safety and convenience for bicyclists, and alert pedestrians and motorists of the presence of bicyclists on bikeways and on roadways where bicycle travel is permitted.

Bicycle Path design is overseen by Caltrans (State department) and various strategies may be utilized to make all users aware of each other on bike paths.

Los Angeles Municipal Code

LAMC 56.16 – 1. No person shall ride, operate or use a bicycle, unicycle, skateboard, cart, wagon, wheelchair, rollers skates, or any other device moved exclusively by human power, on a sidewalk, bikeway or boardwalk in a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.

Users of bicycle paths, or bikeways, are not allowed to use bicycles, skates, etc., in a way that endangers other users of the path.

If you are a competitive cyclist in training, please consider using training options such as the Rose Bowl training ride, various criterium training loops, or the Encino or Carson Velodromes.

The LA River path is for everyone.

In the coming months, treatments will be made near the entryways of the path in Atwater Village/Elysian Valley to notify bicyclists of areas where they might expect pedestrians and where to slow down to avoid conflicts. Efforts will be made to better support behavior that best suits a shared-use path that was built for active transportation as well as the recreational enjoyment of the Path-adjacent communities. Enforcement of the corridor by LAPD will be ramped up to enforce these laws in the problem areas.

Again, please remember that the path is a wonderful resource for all users. We thank Council District 13, LAPD, LADOT, LACBC, LA River Revitalization Corporation, Friends of the LA River, and local neighborhood organizations for their continued efforts to help keep the LA River Path a safe, enjoyable resource for all Angelenos.

My First CicLAvia

I love riding my bike. It’s one of my favorite things to do in LA, actually! I also really enjoy exploring this amazing city by foot.  In addition to sidewalks and bike lanes, I have experienced most of the ped and bike paths that LA has to offer. I am learning about active transportation in graduate school, and I work for LADOT’s Bicycle Outreach and Planning Program.  Naturally, as soon as people find out about my passion for walking and biking, they often ask, “Don’t you just love CicLAvia?”

Although I have lived LA for over a year, I often leave on the weekends to visit family or am busy with graduate school obligations, so I had never been to CicLAvia…

Until now! The stars aligned last weekend, and I finally made it to CicLAvia Heart of LA in Downtown.

(ʘ‿ʘ) LOOK AT ALL THE BICYCLES!

(ʘ‿ʘ) LOOK AT ALL THE BICYCLES!

I began my journey to CicLAvia from Union Station. A lot of my usual bus routes were on detour, so I decided to walk 1.5 miles to my destination. First, I noticed that there were a lot more people walking and biking than normal! Even the streets and sidewalks that were not blocked off for CicLAvia were teeming with families, couples on tandem bikes, and people dancing, and moving. The day was off to a good start.

Kids were having a blast in Chinatown.

Kids were having a blast in Chinatown. Photo by Kora McNaughton.

Now, my experience may have been a bit different than many CicLAvia goers, because I attended not solely as a person biking, walking, or rolling, but as a volunteer. A bunch of my friends and peers in the Associated Students of Planning and Development formed a team to adopt an intersection.

"Hi, we are here to keep you safe."

“Hello, we are here to keep you safe.” Ed, Garrett, and Parama were safety rockstars.

Adopting an intersection means controlling pedestrian and bicycle traffic at a vehicle crossing, pedestrian crossing, or dismount zone. At least 6 volunteers are needed to work a 3-hour shift. Our task was to slow traffic on the 4th Street bridge right before the downhill to prevent people from wiping out or losing control.

High-fives are my favorite!

High-fives are my favorite!

Adopting an intersection also means laughing with strangers, having a great time with friends, being outside, and feeling pride in Los Angeles. I highly recommend volunteering!

CicLAvia selfie!

CicLAvia selfie with Negin and Saja!

Throughout the day, I saw a lot of super cool bikes. I was amazed and inspired by all of the people who have put so much effort into creating beautiful, interesting, and useful bicycles.

Not your average Bike-Couch-Cooler in-one!

It’s not your average all-in-one bicycle couch and cooler!

Thanks to people who had speakers on their person, in shopping carts, or on bikes, we listened to tunes and had sporadic dance parties. Oh, and did I mention the dogs? There were dogs in bike baskets, backpacks, and bike trailers, as well as dogs walking and jogging.

Doggies love open streets, too.

Doggies love open streets, too.

It was a glorious day for dogs and dog people! I didn’t see any cats ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Maybe next time!

The crew of paddleboarders from WestSSUP was all smiles!

The crew of paddleboarders from WestSSUP was all smiles!

There was a celebration for all of the volunteers at the end of the day, which I couldn’t make because I had to go to school for a meeting. I heard it was a lot of fun, though!

I’m glad that I can finally say that I’ve been to CicLAvia. I am really looking forward to the next one in March! The route will be announced soon. Next time, I’ll bring my bike explore the event from the different perspective. I also want to check out the other open streets events that are coming up, including Long Beach’s Beach Streets on November 12 and 626 Golden Streets in San Gabriel Valley on March 5.

I want to see these on all of the streets all of the time.

I want to see these cabs on all of the streets, all of the time.

Being out there with all of the people on that bridge made me think about what LA would be like if we closed the streets to cars more often. I think it would be pretty great. What do you think?

I have a feeling these folks on roller blades would like to see more open streets!

 

Innovative sidewalk bike parking arrives in Westwood

There’s a new bike rack in town.

Well, it’s sort of a bike rack. It’s a steel ring that attaches to a parking meter post, and, like a U-rack, it can park two bikes: one on each side. It’s called a cycle hoop.

This morning, the first cyclehoop was installed in Westwood Village as part of a pilot program. Meter post bike racks are a convenient and secure solution for people to park their bikes and visit local businesses. Not to mention, they don’t cost as much as standard U-racks and take up less space by capitalizing on existing sidewalk infrastructure. In Los Angeles, locking your bike to a parking meter post is still illegal, but Ordinance 183951 (passed last year) lifts the ban for the purpose of allowing this cycle hoop pilot.

Folks from Great Streets, the Westwood Village Improvement Association, and Council District 5 came out to share in the excitement today.

ADOT Bike Program, Great Streets, Council District 5, Westwood Village Improvement Association, and LA Conservation Corps helped make the cycle hoop project a reality.

LADOT Bike Program, Great Streets, Council District 5, Westwood Village Improvement Association, and LA Conservation Corps helped make the cycle hoop project a reality.

Over the course of the last few months, LADOT Bike Program staff surveyed all of the parking meters in Westwood Village to find those that are best suited for cycle hoops. Our criteria for selecting parking meters was centered on safety and accessibility:

  • Parking meter is near the entrance of a business or visible through a large window,
  • Parking meter is at least three feet away from street furniture and trees, and
  • A bike attached to the parking meter does not block pathways that must remain accessible

Bright orange duct tape was used to mark meter posts at the exact installation height of the cycle hoops (18 inches off the ground). Our team wound up marking 86 parking meters to be slated for cycle hoop installation. Each cycle hoop will be installed today and tomorrow by LA Conservation Corps, which is our contractor for all sidewalk bike parking.

We have marked 86 parking meters to be slated for cycle hoop installation.

The cycle hoops will be dispersed throughout Westwood Village.

We special-ordered the hoops from Bike Fixtation. The size and height of the racks will make it easy to safely lock various bike frames and tires.

A few months ago, we posted about how this pilot program seeks to increase bike parking along some of LA’s most crowded sidewalks. Westwood Village was first on the list, due to its high-volume bike useage. Next, the program will provide the Hollywood Walk of Fame with brand new bike parking. Great Streets corridors will also be furnished with cycle hoops.

Additional meter post parking districts will be identified as we evaluate the program’s success and report back to Council. You can share your experiences using these meter post bike racks by tweeting us at @LADOTBikeProg.

The finished product! Who wants to be the first person to park their bike?

The finished product! Who wants to be the first person to park their bike?

For the time being, while we are testing these new racks, they will not be available for requests under our Sidewalk Bike Parking Program, like our U-racks. To request a U-rack, complete an online Bicycle Parking Request Form and check out our bicycle rack location criteria to make sure your requested location qualifies. Email us at bike.program@lacity.org with questions or if you notice that a rack has become loose, damaged, or missing.

There you have it. #BikeLA and try the cycle hoops out for yourself!

6 Ways to Stay Cool while Biking in the Heat

Given that it’s only June and temperatures have already been registering above 100 degrees F, it looks as though we will have a hot summer ahead of us. But, high temperatures needn’t stop us from our bike rides and bike commutes, which is why we want to share with you how we stay cool.

Stay hydrated

Every bit of water you consume will help your body temperature remain low. Increase your intake of watery fruits and vegetables like watermelon and tomatoes. Sodium helps your body hold on to fluids, so drink something with electrolytes while you’re riding. To prevent your drinks from getting warm, freeze one bottle at half full and another at almost-full before topping them off. Aim to drink one 20-ounce bottle every hour.

After your ride, drink something with protein, which will hydrate you quickly because protein brings water with it when it travels to muscles. If you choose to drink water, also eat a snack or meal that contains protein and sodium.

Remember, caffeine and alcohol are diuretics, which means drinking them will make you urinate more and lose more water. When it’s hot out, stick with water.

Get wet

It may be tempting to toss ice cubes down your clothing, but don’t. When you put ice on your skin, the blood vessels constrict directing hot blood back toward your core, ultimately making you feel hotter. Instead, bring an extra water bottle and a small towel to pour cool water over your neck and forearms, or wipe them with a cool, damp towel. Consider putting a wet bandana around your neck at the start of your ride.

Bike at a reasonable pace

Leave yourself plenty of time so you don’t have to rush. Heading out 15 minutes early can make the difference between a sweaty, draining hustle and a pleasant, breezy ride. It’s also worthwhile to budget a few minutes at your destination to splash water on your face and catch your breath.

Ride when it’s cool(er)

The coolest hours of the day fall between 4am and 7am, while the evening commute tends to be the hottest time of the day. It’s a good idea to have a backup plan, like a filled TAP card to take transit, or a friend you can call if you get partway home and start feeling symptoms of heat stroke (see below).

Prevent sunburn

A sunburn can be more than just painful. Fatigue and an increased metabolism are some symptoms of sunburn, and while the latter might sound good, it will be a problem on hot days as a faster metabolism increases your body’s need for liquids. So, do everything you can to prevent sunburn: wear sunscreen, choose clothing with built-in sun protection, and wear a hat under your helmet to shield your face and neck.

Wear the right clothes

Lightweight natural fibers are more comfortable, while lightweight polyester prints won’t show sweat. Loose fitting clothing will help you feel the breeze created as you bike. If you need to look professional at the end of your ride, a quick sponge bath and change of clothes will work wonders. And, don’t forget to wear your sunglasses!

Remembering these six precautions can help you avoid overheating. But, even if you follow these suggestions, heat stroke is a possibility, so make sure you can identify these symptoms:

  • Body temperature of 104 F (40 C) or higher
  • Confusion, agitation, slurred speech, irritability, delirium, or seizures
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Flushed skin
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Racing heart rate
  • Headache (source: the Mayo Clinic)

If you or someone else shows signs of heat stroke, medical attention should be sought out ASAP. While waiting for emergency treatment, get the person in shade or indoors, remove excess clothing, and cool them with whatever means available. You can put them in a cool shower, fan them while spraying them with cool water, or place ice packs on their head, neck, and armpits (source: the Mayo Clinic).

Lastly, when it is hotter outside, people tend to drive more aggressively and impatiently. So, be extra careful out there and stay cool!

#LeapLA: 4 years in the Making

In my departing blog post for the LADOT Bike Blog/LeapLA, I thought I would reflect on my path in transportation planning and the changes I’ve seen in Los Angeles in such a short time.

Last year, along with the modernizing overhaul of the Bike Program website, we rebranded the Bike Blog to Life for Everyday Active People (#LeapLA). Not everyone clearly associates transportation with people, land use, or culture, but my connection to the field has always been people-forward…

During my first year of Urban and Regional Planning school, I had the good fortune of taking a Policy Analysis class where I chose to do an analysis of corridor development on Eagle Rock Boulevard. Eagle Rock was the closest arterial street to my home, and a very wide street- an old yellow car right-of-way that had many different characteristics as you progressed through its different neighborhoods.

Despite some improvements like street medians and bike lanes, Eagle Rock Bl. still seemed very inhospitable to people, so I wanted to see what factors contributed to this condition. My analysis led me into the realm of street configuration and its relationship to community character and user behavior.

Researching human behavior around transportation was extremely captivating. Why did people jaywalk when it was clearly dangerous? Why didn’t people use the bike lanes that were built to help them?  How does all of this effect the economic development and user vitality of a street?

It was here I started my journey into understanding streets, neighborhoods, and people. A year later I found myself interning in the Pedestrian Program, a new division in LADOT born out of community neighborhood planning.

Talking with LADOT new-hires about People St's Sunset Triangle Plaza in Silver Lake

Talking with LADOT new-hires about People St’s Sunset Triangle Plaza in Silver Lake

In the Pedestrian program, my work mainly consisted of building the basis for a new program, Streets for People, later branded as People St. Soon I transitioned into a position in the Bike Program, where I began to develop programs based around business outreach and community collaboration. I worked on building partnerships between community members and the City, to bring placemaking infrastructure like bicycle corrals to City streets. Working with local non-profit organizations and educational institutions, I established a steering committee to pilot a Bicycle Friendly Business District in Northeast LA.

This pilot grew into a broader program that would incorporate bicycle and pedestrian friendly infrastructure and programming, supporting Angelenos to embrace a lifestyle of localism, walking, and biking. One of the biggest proponents of this program was not the components of the program itself, but the sheer necessity: Los Angeles data confirms that 47% of trips in the county are less than 3 miles, and therefore easily achieved by any number of combinations of walking, biking, and transit. By fostering a culture to shift these trips away from the single occupancy vehicle, our city could build culture and community cohesion, while solving the decades long problem of traffic and congestion.

In the almost 4 years since I came to LADOT, I’ve seen dramatic changes in Los Angeles. With the help and collaboration of many brilliant colleagues, I installed 14 bicycle corrals, 9 bicycle repair stations, 3 parklets, secured grant funding for 10 bicycle friendly business districts, and worked with hundreds of community members to make Los Angeles a more liveable place. As I transition to a role in the Department of City Planning, I will miss editing the LADOT Bike Blog (now #LeapLA), and the opportunity to develop new Active Transportation projects. Today though, Active Transportation has progressed to a place where it is embedded in new improvements. In my last month at LADOT I saw the installation of our first fully constructed cycle track on Los Angeles Street, infrastructure we only dreamed of 4 years ago.  I can’t wait to see what else Los Angeles has in store.

– Elizabeth

The #bikeLA team c. 2015

The #bikeLA team c. 2015

Getting ready to bike on the new Los Angeles Street

We have great news for everyone who cycles in Downtown Los Angeles– the construction of a protected bike lane on Los Angeles Street (from 1st Street to Alameda Street) has been completed. Woo-hoo!

On June 16, a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Los Angeles Street Improvement Project was hosted by CD 14 Councilmember Jose Huizar, LA Public Works Commissioner Kevin James, Deputy Mayor Barbara Romero, and LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds. During the ceremony, a group of people rode Metro Bike Share bicycles on the newly enhanced Los Angeles Street.

Ceremony Photo

The protected bike lane, featuring the city’s first side boarding islands and bicycle signals, will make bicycling safer and more comfortable from the city’s civic core to Union Station. The following image slider show the “Before and After” scenarios of the project area.

 

Special Design Features of the new Los Angeles Street

As the first street in Los Angeles to implement design elements from the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide, Los Angeles Street brings several unique roadway design features that are new to the city:

Side Boarding Islands

Bus platforms that “float” in the middle of roadway are named side boarding islands. Those who bike in urban environments know how frustrating it is to navigate the bike lane while buses weave in and out to reach their bus stops. According to NACTO , side boarding islands eliminate “conflicts between transit vehicles and bikes at stops.” Like the sound of that? Well, these bus platforms will also be implemented on Figueroa Street after the construction of MyFigueroa Project .

Bus Platform

Bicycle Signal Heads

Two bicycle signal heads are now installed, with one at the Temple Street intersection and another at the Aliso Street intersection. These signals dedicate a separate signal phase to bicycles, which will reduce conflicts between right-turning vehicles and bicycles that travel through the intersection.

Bike Signal Head

Bike Box (Two-Stage Turn Queue Box)

At the intersection of Los Angeles Street & 1st Street, and the intersection of Los Angeles Street & Temple Street, there are Two-Stage Turn Queue Boxes . This street treatment allows people on bikes to make safer left turns. As the name suggests, when trying to make left turns, bicycles should proceed to the bike box area first and then wait for another green signal to bike to the left leg of the intersection.

Two-Stage Turn Queue Boxes Diagram

Image Source: NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide

Upcoming active transportation projects will continue to make DTLA more bicycle-friendly

The Los Angeles Street Improvements Project is only one part of the larger scheme to improve the connectivity of Union Station and Civic Center. Metro finalized the Connect US Action Plan in 2015, which provides guidance to implement better pedestrian and bicycle facilities connecting Civic Center, Union Station, and neighborhoods such as Little Tokyo and Chinatown.

And, there are a lot of active transportation projects to be implemented this summer. The Metro Regional Bike Share Project  has begun to install its stations and will formally launch on July 7. The long-expected MyFigueroa Project,  which features similar roadway improvements to Los Angeles Street (bus platforms, bike signal heads, etc), is beginning construction this summer as well.

As more and more active transportation enhancements get implemented, DTLA will become a better place for people to enjoy walking and cycling!

 

Starting in Summer 2016: MyFigueroa Construction

The complete streets movement continues to gain momentum around the world and here at home in Los Angeles. Alongside People StGreat Streets Initiative, and Vision Zero, the Figueroa Corridor Streetscape Project, aka MyFigueroa, aims to create vibrant, safe streets across our city.

After 6 years of careful planning and overcoming obstacles, MyFigueroa will transform the car-centric Figueroa Corridor into a complete street that serves people who walk, ride bicycles, take public transit, and drive. MyFigueroa will improve safety and encourage access to multimodal transportation options through a number of streetscape elements:

Render of Figueroa and 11th. Courtesy of MyFigueroa

Render of Figueroa and 11th. Courtesy of MyFigueroa

The project area covers four miles of streets from downtown to LA Memorial Coliseum. Improvements will be different along the corridor, depending on the transportation needs of the area.

Figueroa Street from 7th Street to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard

  • On-street protected bike lanes
  • Separate bike signal heads
  • Bike boxes at intersections
  • Demarcated on-street protected bicycle lanes in conflict zones
  • Bicycle Wrong Way signs to discourage travel in the non-intended direction
  • Bus platforms to accommodate transit service, including Metro and LADOT DASH F Line
  • Curb ramps from the sidewalk to ADA accessible bus platforms
  • Protected, painted on-street buffered bicycle lanes
  • Relocated parking between the bicycle lane and first lane of traffic
  • Diamond lane for on-peak Silver Line
  • Center turn lane and right turn pockets as needed

11th Street from Figueroa Street to Broadway

  • On-street parking that is protected with curb extensions at intersections
  • One-way westbound bicycle facility, separated from moving traffic by a painted buffer
  • Expanded sidewalks
  • Seating and planting on sidewalks
  • Pedestrian and bicycle connections to downtown, neighborhoods, and local businesses

Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard from Figueroa Street to Vermont Avenue

  • Repaired sidewalk paving
  • Street lighting
  • Improved transit waiting areas
  • Highly visible crosswalk striping

The $20 million Figueroa Corridor Streetscape Project is managed by LADOT and funded by a Proposition 1C grant. Proposition 1c funding aims to make streets, sidewalks, and transit more accessible for affordable housing residents.

During construction, which is set to begin in Summer 2016, there are many alternative ways for people to get around. Check out this great map showing where construction will take place and alternate ways to get around in the meantime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MyFigueroa’s Let’s Fig it Out! campaign educates Figueroa users how to figure out (get it?) how to get around during construction. You can become familiar with the alternate routes and public transit lines now so that the transition is easier when the construction begins.

Alternative routes are available for public transit, cars, and bicycles during construction. Courtesy of MyFigueroa

Let’s Fig it Out! offers alternate routes for people who walk, bike, drive, and take public transit during MyFigueroa construction. Courtesy of MyFigueroa

To communicate the upcoming construction and improvements to the public, MyFigueroa has worked with LADOT, Figueroa Corridor BID, USC AthleticsUSC Transportation, and Metro. Promotional stored-value Metro TAP cards that display Let’s Fig it Out! and MyFigueroa logos will be given out for free and for sale at special events in the corridor area. Street pole banners along Figueroa advertise the upcoming construction and improvements in order to provide visibility of the project to people who travel the corridor.

A number of innovative partners have collaborated on the Figueroa Corridor Streetscape Project, and from the start, community members, organizations, and business improvement districts have shaped the planning and design process.

Courtesy of MyFigueroa

Project design team. Courtesy of MyFigueroa

As a project designed to encourage access to multimodal transportation, MyFigueroa will continue to refine how we conceptualize streets in Los Angeles. The completion date of March 2017 can’t come soon enough!

Biking-spiration from the Netherlands

Last month, City Hall was visited by a team of 10 business students from Rotterdam School of Management in the Netherlands. Hosted by Mayor Garcetti’s Great Streets Initiative, avid bicycle rider and Economics Professor Louis Uljee and his students discussed their latest research on biking in Los Angeles.

The class spent their spring semester studying current transportation culture in Los Angeles and opportunities for improvement, and they finished off their research by spending two weeks bicycling all over the City of Angels. They concluded that by creating awareness of the economic and health benefits of riding a bike and increasing safety of bicycle infrastructure, LA can normalize bicycling, generate an inclusive bicycle culture, and increase ridership. You can learn more about their project on their Facebook page, HopOn.

Business students from Rotterdam University visiting USC. Courtesy of HopOn

Rotterdam University business students biked to USC. Courtesy of HopOn

From their presentation, we learned a lot of interesting things about bicycling in the Netherlands. Dutch bike culture is so ingrained in every day life because most people begin biking at a very young age. Usually, families and friends in various neighborhoods accompany young children on the ride to school from when they start school at four years old until they turn 10, at which time all children take a “bicycle exam” at school. The exam tests students’ abilities to be safe while riding, including proper hand signaling and bicycle positioning. Passing the test proves to school districts as well as children’s parents that the student can ride to school alone.

In the presentation, the business students shared a brief history of how the Netherlands became one of the world’s most bike-friendly nations. Before World War II, bicycling was the most widely-used form of transportation. After the war ended, increased affordability of cars encouraged the Dutch to trade in their bikes for vehicles, and bike lanes disappeared as roads became designed for fast-moving vehicles. Over the course of three decades, injuries and deaths of people on bikes, especially children, caused by accidents with cars spurred a series of protests in the 1970s.

In the 1970s, people in the Netherlands protested car-dominant roads with sign that read "Stop Child Murder". Courtesy of the Dutch National Archive

In the 1970s, Dutch people protested car-dominant roads with signs that read “Stop Child Murder”. Courtesy of the Dutch National Archive

Also during this time, increased oil prices simultaneously encouraged people to ride bicycles. With a renewed sense of the health, safety, social, and economic benefits of bicycling, Dutch citizens and government began working to create an expansive transportation network that was accessible and connected by bike.

Fast forward to four decades later in 2016 and the Netherlands is home to some of the most innovative bicycle- and people-oriented infrastructure in the world. The Rotterdam students described these exciting innovations in the Netherlands and Scandinavia:

Hovenring Bicycle Roundabout

The Hovenring Bike Roundabout courtesy of Huffington Post Canada

The Hovenring Bike Roundabout in Eindhoven. Courtesy of Huffington Post Canada

Students from the University of Delft designed the suspended Hovenring to allow for safe bicycle crossing above car traffic. Can you imagine if we had a bicycle roundabout like this above our freeways? Bikeway connectivity would skyrocket!

Van Gogh-Roosegaarde Bicycle Path

Van Gogh-Roosegaarde Bike Path. Courtesy of CNN

Van Gogh-Roosegaarde Bike Path in Nuen. Courtesy of CNN

Designer Daan Roosegaarde and Heijmans Infrastructure made the Van Gogh-Roosegaarde Bicycle Path out of thousands of twinkling stones inspired by ‘Starry Night’. A sparkling bike path? Yes, please.

BikeScout

BikeScout was installed in March in Eindhoven.

BikeScout was installed in March in Eindhoven. Courtesy of Heijmans

Dutch company Heijmans Infrastructure created the BikeScout to increase safety at intersections. Radar trackers positioned along the road for 150 ft. leading to the intersection measure the changing positions of people who bike, walk, and drive. If there’s a collision risk, the LED lights lining the intersection flash, warning cars to stop. A BikeScout in LA would for sure help us reach Vision Zero goals.

CycloCable

The lift was originally built in 1993 and was remodeled in 2013. Courtesy of CityLab

The lift was originally installed in 1993 and was remodeled in 2013. Courtesy of CityLab

The POMA Group, a French cableway company, built the CycloCable bicycle lift on a steep hill in Trondheim, Norway. The user places their right foot on a footplate while the left foot remains on the bicycle pedal, and once a button is pressed, the bicyclist is pushed to the top of the hill. I can think of a few hills in Los Angeles that would become a lot easier to bike up with the help of a CycloCable!

Red Bike Lanes

Red bike lanes keep Dutch bicyclists visible to cars and clearly communicate where bikes should be used. Courtesy of Maurits90

The Netherlands has designated red as the official color for all bike lanes. Courtesy of Maurits90

Red bike lanes keep Dutch bicyclists visible to cars and clearly delineate where bikes should be used. Currently, Los Angeles and many other US cities are working to paint bike lanes bright green to enhance safety for all road users.

Even though I left the presentation and discussion with serious bike envy, it was inspiring to hear from the Rotterdam students about bike culture and infrastructure successes in the Netherlands. Here in LA, we have a lot of basic bikeways improvements to be made before we can even think about some of the complex infrastructure that was described to us by the Dutch students. The fact that it has taken about 40 years for the Netherlands to accomplish what they have reminds us that the changes we are making today will undoubtedly have an incredible impact on future generations. Working toward a safe, accessible multimodal transportation network is what keeps us going everyday at LADOT.

My Commute: Palms to USC and DTLA

 

I like to ride my bike along the Ballona Creek Bike Path.

Hi! It’s me, Gwen. I love riding my bike along the Ballona Creek Bike Path.

When I moved from Deep Springs, California to LA for graduate school, friends and family shared concerns that without a car, my commute would be terrible. Well, I am happy to report that I have proved them all wrong! Yes, walking, biking, and taking public transit has its challenges, but so does driving (traffic congestion, parking, climate change, to name a few). Rather than live in fear, I actually look forward to my multi-modal commute every day. First, I look at it as a learning opportunity. As a student in urban planning and public administration at USC, it is important to me that I understand and experience public transit and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. Second, I embrace the economic benefit! I save a lot of money by not driving, which helps me afford life in Los Angeles as a student.

I save $4,020 each year by not driving

Thanks to a partnership between Metro and USC Graduate Student Government, I get to buy an affordable, unlimited Metro TAP Card each semester. You can see if you are eligible for a discounted TAP Card, too.

On any given week day, I travel from Palms to USC or DTLA on:

  1. The 733 Rapid bus: I love taking the bus, because I can read the news, do homework, meet new people, and bring my bike. Oh, and during my commute, I’ve also taken up learning a language. By using this time to practice Spanish on Duolingo, I have gone from 0-33% fluent in just 10 months! A este ritmo , voy a hablar con fluidez en un par de años más.
  2. The Expo Line train: The train is great for all the same reasons as the bus, but it’s faster. I guess one downside is that it warrants less time for language learning.
  3. My awesome bike: This is my favorite mode of transportation. I get to be outside, exercise, and meet other people who ride bikes. I hope that people who see me on my bike think, “Hey, that person looks pretty happy on their bike. Maybe I can ride a bike, too!”

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking: Palms is way closer to UCLA than USC. Why am I choosing this epic commute? Well, to start, I need to get out and living far from campus helps me to explore more of LA. Plus, I have a lot of friends at UCLA, and I think it’s a cool school to live by (don’t tell Tommy Trojan). Some people are bi-coastal. I like bi-campusal.

Riding from Palms to USC

Before I hop on my bike, I run through an ABC Quick Check to make sure everything is in working order. It is better for me to solve a problem like a flat tire, broken chain, or faulty brakes at home than when I am rushing off to work or school. For example, when I take my bike down from a wall mount, sometimes the brakes become disengaged. I prefer to notice this in the comfort of my apartment, not when I’m trying  to stop at a red light.

Once I know my bike is good to go, I ride to Culver City Station and park at the station bike racks (with not one, but  TWO U-locks). Did you know you can rent a bike locker from Metro? I am seriously considering this, because my bicycle can never be too safe.

I keep an extra set of bike lights in my bag, and my helmet is reflective.

For the ride home, I keep an extra set of bike lights in my bag.

Since some classes end after 9pm, I often get home late. I love Venice because of the bike lane. Venice has the longest connected bike lane in Los Angeles! But cars drive at high speeds, which is even more terrifying at night. So, I’ve mastered at-night riding. Check out my super reflective backpack!

My reflective backpack helps me stay visible at night.

This picture of me wearing my backpack at night shows how hard it is for cars to see me when it’s dark. Good thing they can really see my backpack!

I also have a reflective jacket and helmet cover. You can never be too visible on the road!

Ok, back to my commute. At Culver City Station, I hop on the Expo Line train for a seamless commute to Expo Park/USC station, which is closest to my department, but there are actually three Expo Line stations at USC:

  • Expo/Vermont
  • Expo Park/USC
  • Jefferson/USC

This bike-train commute from my apartment to school takes anywhere from 35 to 50 minutes, depending on how long I wait for the train.

While I usually ride my bike to the train station, I sometimes like to bike all the to USC! My route travels along Venice and Exposition and takes about 45 minutes.

I really like this route because there's a bike path or bike lane the whole way

I like riding all the way to USC, because there’s a bike path or bike lane the whole way.

On my way home, I often swing by the grocery store. Thanks to my folding pannier baskets, which I bought from Palms Cycle, I can carry two full grocery bags (one in each basket).

Palms to DTLA

On days when I head directly to work, I take the 733 Rapid bus, which is pretty much a straight shot.

Taking the bus gives me a chance to read, do homework, and learn Spanish.

Taking the bus gives me a chance to read, do homework, and learn Spanish.

My walk to the bus stop is great because it gets me outside. It also reminds me that most streets in Los Angeles are not designed for pedestrians. I have near misses with cars almost as often as I do on my bike, and it’s especially bad during rush hour. Being a pedestrian can feel really powerless when streets are made for fast, heavy vehicles. People who walk should feel safe and connected. I’m grateful to be part of LADOT’s Active Transportation Division, working to make LA neighborhoods walkable through programs like People St.

I prefer the 733 Rapid to the 33 Local, because it's faster

I prefer the 733 Rapid to the 33 Local, because it’s faster.

My walk-bus trip takes about an hour, depending on how long I wait for the bus. I use Transit App to track arrival times, which helps minimize my wait.

DTLA to USC

Getting from DTLA to USC is super easy, because it’s only 4 miles on my bike. There aren’t always bike lanes, but I confidently take the lane and ride 4 feet away from parked cars when that’s the case. I was “doored” a few years ago, so I learned the hard way to never ride in the door zone. Learn from my mistake! This commute takes 25 minutes.

When I’m not on my bike, I take public transit. There are a lot of options spanning 28 to 36 minutes:

  • 910/950 Silver Line bus
  • 81 bus
  • DASH A bus
  • DASH F bus
  • Purple Line train
  • Red Line train
  • Expo Line train
I love that from work to school, I can either take public transit or ride my bike

I can take public transit or ride my bike from work to school.

This commute is about to get way better thanks to the Figueroa Corridor Streetscape Project (aka MyFigueroa). As part of MyFigueroa, complete street elements will be installed along a 4 miles stretch of Figuera. These improvements will include a protected bike lanebike signal heads, and bike boxes at intersections, among others. Construction starts in summer 2016 and will be completed by March 2017.

Well, there you have it. My commute saves money, gets me outside, gives me opportunities to be productive, and makes me feel connected to my communities and the greater Los Angeles.

Thanks for reading! How is your commute?

Gwen von Klan is an intern at LADOT’s Active Transportation Division.