Meet Our Artist in Residence (in Person)!

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.

What’s New with Metro Bike Share

It has been just over 2 months since bike share’s historic launch in Downtown Los Angeles. Ridership is through the roof! The program has already become an integral part of the urban landscape, which is increasing being designed in more people oriented fashion. What has led to this success? It might have to do with all the great partnerships, the excitement from the Downtown community, and the people who give their 120% to keep the program running at its best. Here’s a run down of what’s new and where we will be in the coming weeks. Schedule these into your calendar and stop by to say hi when you see us around Downtown LA!

First, some exciting updates!

You should know that September is the last month for half-off walk up rides. It now costs only $1.75 for a 30-minute ride. That’s half off the regular rate! Tell your friends and loved ones because this is their chance to try bike share at the reduced rate. Test it out and see if it’s for you. On October 1st, the walk-up ride price will be the regular $3.50. To get a bike as a walk-up user, find a bike share station by downloading the app or using the website map. When you arrive to the station, tap the screen, follow the prompts, swipe your credit or debit card, select a bike, and go! Don’t forget to bring a helmet.

Here’s the pricing chart with all the available options. Don’t miss your chance to try bike share for only $1.75 per half hour, until the end of September!

Here’s the pricing chart with all the available options. Don’t miss your chance to try bike share for only $1.75 per half hour, until the end of September!

If you are looking for the 3rd & Rose station, look no further than 1 block north. The station has been relocated to Traction & Rose . The move helped us install more docks – there are now 27 total spaces! We also made way for the expanded Arts District Farmer’s Market. You can now shop for your favorite groceries using the expandable clamshell basket at the front of the bikes. Feel free to splurge on that favorite dessert too because you will be burning it all off on Metro Bike.

Claire, the Operations Manager of Metro Bike Share, crossing all her T’s and dotting all her I’s during the station relocation to Traction & Rose

Claire, the Operations Manager of Metro Bike Share, crossing all her T’s and dotting all her I’s during the station relocation to Traction & Rose

The team was out at the DTLA Proud Festival assisting people in signing up and showing off the two festive rainbow bikes. The bikes were so popular that we decided to make them available to everyone. Look for them throughout the DTLA system in the month of September. When you find them, share your adventure with @ladotofficial and @metrolosangeles #metrobike. Every time you ride a rainbow bike in the month of September, you will be entered into the weekly contest. Winners will be contacted via text and/or email every Monday and will have the chance to win a super cute speckled Metro Bike Share shirt!

Find the rainbow bike in DTLA and share your adventures with @ladotofficial and @metrolosangeles #metrobike. One lucky rider each week will win a speckled Metro Bike Share shirt to always stay in style.

Find the rainbow bike in DTLA and share your adventures with @ladotofficial and @metrolosangeles #metrobike. One lucky rider each week will win a speckled Metro Bike Share shirt to always stay in style.

And now is the time to bring out that calendar and pencil us in!

Need a helping hand in signing up? You can stop by the LADOT Transit Customer Service Center every first and fourth Wednesday of the month from 11 am – 2 pm. The Metro Bike Share team will be available for questions and to assist customers signing up for two types of passes – the monthly and the flex pass. These passes can be purchased online or on a smartphone, whereas the walk up pass can literally be purchased by walking up to a kiosk and purchasing a one-way fare. Stop by to revel in the beautiful state of the art Transit Center that reopened in May 2016 after construction with a repainted palette and upgraded technology to get helpful information about all your transit options like DASH and more!

Celebrating the Grand opening of the Transit Center in May 2016! Strop by every first and last Wednesday of the month for help signing up to bike share. Photo Credit: Streetsblog

Celebrating the Grand opening of the Transit Center in May 2016! Strop by every first and last Wednesday of the month for help signing up to bike share. Photo Credit: Streetsblog

This Friday, September 16 find the Metro Bike Share team at Park(ing) Day. We will be located next to our station at 7th and Broadway in the heart of DTLA from 8 am – 3 pm. Come by to ask us your burning questions, get more familiar with bike share, and meet some of the folks who are working on this day in and day out. We are excited to participate in this worldwide event especially because every day is Park(ing) Day for bike share. Aside from connectivity and accessibility improvements, bike share stations also help to reimagine how city streets can accommodate more than just cars. Many of the bike share stations are located in repurposed parking spaces and allow access for on average 25 bikes instead of 3 cars. The added benefits also include the traffic calming and the creation of places for people! Don’t forget to bring a tote bag to Park(ing) Day to collect all the swag.

Bike share stations are opportunities for traffic calming and the creation of places for people, especially when coupled with the investments such as parklets and corrals, such as this station at 11th & Hope.

Bike share stations are opportunities for traffic calming and the creation of places for people, especially when coupled with the investments such as parklets and corrals, such as this station at 11th & Hope.

This Saturday, September 17 find us twice! First, we will join Cartwheel Art Tours and the Wheelhouse Bike and Coffee Shop for a Coffee by Bicycle Tour in the Arts District. The ride begins at The Wheelhosue where coffee and bicycling come together. From there there will be four or more stops at coffee shops in the neighborhood to get your caffeine fix for the nighttime activities. Blacktop, Blue Bottle, Bulletproog, and Shreebs will each prepare a small tasting of their favorite drink for us to enjoy.  After our last stop, we will pedal our way back to The Wheelhouse for a small parting gift including an individual container of a cold-brewed coffee from Califia Farms. During the tour, Cindy Schwarzstein, founder of Cartwheel Art Tours, based in the Downtown Los Angeles Arts District, will provide insight on the art, history and developments of the neighborhood. Coffee played a part in the history in the Arts District as businesses such as Maxwell House, Hills Brothers, and Ben Hur Coffee & Spice Co., all operated in buildings here that were built between 1916 – 1929. The tour can be taken on personal bike or with bikes from the Metro Bike Share station outside the Wheelhouse.

Later in the evening, we will be at Grand Performances Benefit Concert. Lee DeLaria of Orange is the New Black will take the stage at DTLA’s California Plaza in a salute to the late, great David Bowie in a benefit concert for Grand Performances. To attend, purchase your tickets and arrive on bike share. When you ride Metro Bike Share to the Grand Performances Benefit Concert you get a free ride back! Ride from any station to the Grand & 3rd station just north of Grand Performances, visit the Metro Bike Share Street Team (look for the flag) at Grand Performances and receive a free ride to use after the show, because bike share and the arts support one another.

concertbikeshare

On Wednesday, October 5 from 6 – 8 pm join de Lab on a tour of Making LA: Metro Bike Tour in Downtown LA. Program staff will be giving an overview of the technology, showcasing how the bikes are designed for city streets, and talking about planning for all Angelenos. Then, we will get on the bikes and go on a ride to check out some of the newest and greatest bike infrastructure in the City. We will see protected bike lanes, bike boxes to help people make turns, transit boarding islands, and the City’s first dedicated bike signals! The ride will take place after the sun sets, but not to fret, the bikes come with lights powered by your pedaling. All those wishing to participate in the event must purchase a ticket ahead of time. The ride is optional but those who wish to join can either purchase a pass online prior to the ride or do so at the kiosk on the day of.

We hope you are excited about all that Metro Bike brings to improve accessibility and connectivity in the City as well as to create great places for people! Let us know your thoughts and questions at any of the above events. If you can’t make it, not problem! The website FAQ is a great place to go for any common questions.  You can also call customer support to speak to someone by dialing (844) 857-BIKE or email support@bikeshare.metro.net. Happy riding LA!

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!

Just keeping you in the HOOP: Parking Meters are the New Bike Racks!

We got a #bikeLA SLAM DUNK! By mid-summer 2016, you will start to see meter post bike racks popping up in Westwood Village, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and Great Streets corridors. Cycle Hoops will help to expand your bicycle parking options in some of our city’s most congested business districts and corridors. Meter post bike racks are just what they sound like: Bike racks on meter posts! I know what you’re thinking… I ALREADY park my bicycle on parking meters all the time! Well, let us do what we do best around here on #leapLA: we gonna get technical witchoo.

Cyclehoop_Severin

Our new Cycle Hoop meter post bike rack being tested by Active Transportation Division Student Worker Severin Martinez.

Unfortunately, parking your bicycle on a parking meter is currently illegal, but City Council gave us the opportunity to test a meter bike parking program. As stated by Section 88.10. of Chapter VIII, Division U of the Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC), “It shall be unlawful for any person to attach anything or to allow a bicycle, newsrack or any other article or thing to lean against a parking meter or a parking meter standard.” After much internal work, in late 2015, the LA City Council allowed Ordinance  No. 183951 for a pilot program to provide an exemption for the use of parking meter posts for bicycle parking purposes. As a result, our division is already programming the implementation of the meter post bike rack pilot program for your bicycle parking enjoyment!

This new program will allow for the installation of new bike parking facilities on parking meter posts located along some of LA’s most crowded sidewalks. The pilot program’s implementation will make its first debut in Westwood Village some time in early summer 2016. Next, the program will travel to the stars, dotting the Hollywood Walk of Fame with brand new bike parking! Biking to the Oscars has never been easier!

Additional meter post parking districts will be identified as we evaluate the program’s overall success and report back to Council. During a series of field visits to Westwood Village, LADOT staff observed a high demand for bicycle parking. Recently we saw five bicycles locked to parking meter posts along a single block of Westwood Boulevard. Meter post bike racks are a convenient and secure solution for people to lock up their bikes where they need to and visit their favorite local businesses.

Crowded Sidewalk with Bikes

We anticipate Westwood Blvd. will see great benefit from this program!

While we’re still testing and evaluating these new racks, the facilities will not be available for open requests like our standard inverted-U racks. That said, we encourage people to provide feedback about their experience using the new meter post bike racks once the program launches by tweeting us at @LADOTBikeProg.

We would also like to remind Angelenos that the Department’s Sidewalk Bike Parking Program (inverted-U racks) continues to grow and we’re upgrading our equipment along the way. To request an inverted-U bike rack, you can complete an online Bicycle Parking Request Form. To determine if your requested location qualifies for one of our program’s bike racks, please review our bicycle rack location criteria here. You can also email us at bike.program@lacity.org if you have additional questions or notice a rack has become loose or damaged.

Cyclehoop_alone

Testing of a bike ring rack on a City’s parking meter stand.

We’ve come a long way since our first U-racks, introducing meter hitch parking, bicycle corrals, and now… the Cycle Hoop. Thank you #bikeLA for continuing with us on our journey to better streets for people!

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.

Progress moves forward on the MyFigueroa Project

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Tim Fremaux and David Somers present on the MyFigueroa project at the Planning and Land Use Committee Meeting.

Yesterday, the Department of City Planning and LADOT Staff reported back to the Planning and Land Use Committee (PLUM) on the MyFigueroa project. MyFigueroa aims to redesign the Figueroa corridor into a multimodal street that promotes walking, bicycling and transit use while fostering economic and community development. As the project moved through outreach and design phases, concerns were raised regarding how the final design balances the needs of all users and affects vehicular traffic in the downtown network. In their report to PLUM, staff addressed these concerns, specifically, how the project will work in conjunction with the 110 HOT lanes, future integration of the downtown street car, foreseeable economic impacts of the project and the feasibility of an alternate couplet design which would feature bicycle lanes installed along Flower St. and Figueroa St.

Ultimately, the Transportation and City Planning staff report concluded that a couplet alternative would have more impacts than the original concept due to street width constraints and immediate funding timelines established by the project’s funding grant.

Following the City’s staff report, Council District 9 and the Mayor’s Office spoke of the outcome of a half-day MyFigueroa stakeholder summit that took place the previous week. The summit brought together Transportation and City Planning staff along with key stakeholders to discuss how to move the project forward while effectively addressing concerns about the project. The Mayor’s and Council District 9 Staff submitted specific requests, outlining concrete steps to address public concerns about the MyFigueroa project without stalling the progress that has been made to date. City staff will continue to work with MyFigueroa stakeholders to produce a project that will suit all stakeholders’ needs and will report back to the PLUM committee with an update in 3 weeks.

The Brutal Truth

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“Scene of a cyclist fatality that resulted from a dooring incident in a door-zone bike lane in Cambridge, MA”. Credit: humantransport.org

As I explained in my recent post, “Learning Bike Safety the Hard Way”, for a cyclist, getting doored can be emotionally and physically deflating. Getting back on the bike was an inspiring moment, although I found it important to recall my own experience to provide the Los Angeles cycling community with safety tips and the lessons I have learned in this experience. My last post focused on my own collision and recovery; below, I will discuss the experiences of others, dooring collision studies, municipal safety programs and my own ideas about cycling infrastructure and safety in hopes that cyclists will learn from the mistakes I and the perpetrator made- so they hopefully wont have such an experience themselves.

After my dooring accident in January, I heard many anecdotes from other cyclists about their experience being doored and how those accidents affect themselves or loved ones. One friend had a door opened in front of him and ended up flying over the door, yet escaped with a few minor scrapes. Another had a door opened right into his kneecap and felt excruciating pain, but was able to walk it off and get back on the bike about 20 minutes later. A woman I was speaking to about my experience told me that her mother had also been doored and required a year of physical therapy for her injured hand. I received a message from a friend who knew someone who was also doored recently: the victim suffered a dislocated shoulder, was prescribed two different pain medsications and missed a week of school. Throughout this unfortunate litany of injuries and accidents, a recurring theme was a lack of awareness from the individual opening the car door into the path of an oncoming cyclist. Because of this, I believe it essential that drivers be educated on the importance of observing their surroundings. It is also incumbent on cyclists to be aware of the door zone in order to reduce the rates of this entirely preventable accident.

In fact, in 2007 New York City started the “Look” campaign to address this issue following a 2006 report that showed “nearly all fatal crashes were the result of poor driving or bicycle riding behavior, particularly driver inattention and disregarding traffic signals and signs.” By using public education and outreach in campaigns, organizations and municipal agencies can teach individuals exiting their car to look for passing cyclists. In Northern Europe, individuals are taught to open their car door with the hand that is opposite the door (say, one’s right hand on the driver’s side, or one’s left hand on the passenger side), which would force an individual to look behind them for a cyclist before opening the car door. Cyclists should also use defensive riding techniques such as not being too close to vehicles that appear to be parked as there may always be somebody about to open their door!

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New York City’s successful bicycle and pedestrian safety campaign. Credit: New York City Department of Transportation

Tragically, there have been several documented cases across the world in which a doored cyclist lost their life, highlighting just how severe these accidents can be. A majority of the fatal dooring incidents involve the cyclist being struck by passing vehicles after being forced into the traffic lane to avoid being hit by the door. Most of these fatalities involve large vehicles like trucks or buses.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to find data on the total amount of dooring incidents that occur in Los Angeles in a given year. There is no “dooring” category for reporting purposes in the collision databases the state maintains. Because of this, it is a hidden, unrecognized hazard that is difficult for advocacy groups and municipal entities to quantify. Nevertheless, there have been some attempts to understand the rates of dooring accidents, such as a Chicago study that found dooring was the primary collision factor in 19.7% of bicycle crashes; in Boston, door zone collisions account for around 5% of collisions; in Santa Barbara, dooring accounts for around 16% of collisions. The League of American Bicyclists Guide to Safe Cycling suggests that the third most common motorist-caused bicycle collision is opening a door into the path of a cyclist, while cutting off a cyclist while turning, and running stop signs are the top two, respectively.

These experiences suggest the need for added bicycle infrastructure, such as segregated cycle tracks, to protect cyclists and identify a predictable space for them on the road. Outreach is also important, not only to highlight the risks cyclists face, but also illuminate the many benefits that can be realized when one uses a bicycle as their main mode of transportation. These include an active and healthy lifestyle as well as heightened spiritual, mental and emotional health that many cyclists enjoy. Los Angeles has some of the worst congestion and air pollution in the country; cycling serves to mitigate some of their negative effects as well.

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A young girl riding in this separated “cycle track” bike lane suggests the perceived safety of such a facility. Credit: Livin in the Bike Lane

Cyclists share a great deal of responsibility for traffic safety. Cycling has some inherent risks, so bicyclists must ride legally and alert at all times. Indeed, this collision could have been avoided if both myself and the woman who opened her door had been paying better attention and if we had not been in such a rush. I would suggest you take a look at the LADOT Bicycle Program’s recommendations on following California bicycle laws; with respect to the door zone, this means cycling at least three feet from parked cars. It is also advised that cyclists not pass cars on the right side (oops).

Despite the pain that I have endured throughout this experience, I am only more inspired to pursue bicycle safety and driver awareness in my work here at the LADOT Bicycle Program. Many individuals have a difficult time making that transition back to the bike after such fearful collisions- and so I dedicate my work to them. Although my ordeal wasn’t that severe, I am interested in exploring solutions to reduce the risks associated with cycling. Hopefully, this story and more like it will contribute to the discussion of implementing protected bicycle lanes, or cycle tracks, in the city of Los Angeles, which separate cyclists from the roadway and reduce the probability that a dooring can occur. Please feel free to share any of your own dooring experiences (or other collisions) in the comments below.

How to submit repair requests with MyLADOT Service Request

Chances are, if you ride a bike on any one of L.A.’s 6,500 miles of streets, you may end up seeing something that needs repair. Did you know that there is a quick, simple way of reporting these issues so that the city can address them?

By visiting MyLADOT Service Request on your home computer, phone or tablet, you can submit a service request and ensure that you’re sending it to the city department responsible for that type of repair.

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The MyLADOT Service Request form

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