City Center North: Figueroa, Spring, and Main St. Conceptual Designs

During the June BPIT meeting, DOT engineers presented conceptual designs for three projects in Downtown Los Angeles: Figueroa Street, Spring Street, and Main Street. At the recommendation of BPIT attendees, the project on Figueroa Street had an additional option created that would also bring a bike lane to Flower Street.  The amended presentation was then given to the Planning & Land Use committee for the Downtown LA Neighborhood Council just last week, receiving warm support.

Together, these projects represent 5+ miles of new, dedicated bicycle infrastructure within the city’s urban core. Below the fold, we will explore the different design options that City engineers are working on – as well as details about various constraints such as roadway width, street parking, bus lanes, etc that impact the infrastructure options for these streets. As always, please feel free to leave your comments and suggestions for how you would like to see Figueroa, Spring, Main, and (maybe) Flower re-imagined with bicycle infrastructure.

Main, Spring & Figueroa Streets

Central City North Powerpoint

First of all, we’d like to share with you the powerpoint presentation put together by one of our Bikeways engineers. It gives visuals for all the details we’re describing below. It also gives you a good idea of what kind of road widths we’re dealing with and some possible configurations for these streets.  These designs are entirely preliminary, and may be subject to change.  This powerpoint will also be posted to our BPIT page.

Figueroa Street – 7th Street to Cesar E. Chavez Avenue (1.2 miles) and the Flower Street Option

Figueroa Street, between 5th and 4th

Between 7th Street and 3rd Street, Figueroa is a one-way street.  To bring bike lanes against the flow of traffic (called “contra-flow”) LADOT would need to build a protected bike lane to buffer bicyclists from oncoming drivers.  This contra-flow lane would also include special signal phases for bicycles, especially where Figueroa has dedicated turn lanes that would force drivers into the path of oncoming bicyclists while they are turning.

An additional option was drafted for a bike lane couplet – southbound lanes on Flower Street and northbound lanes on Figueroa Street.  This option would result in far fewer roadway configuration impacts, and was drafted at the suggestion of BPIT meeting attendees.  From 7th to 3rd, bike lanes can be accommodated on Flower Street without removal of either travel lanes or parking (and minimal impacts from configuration), so no conceptual designs for Flower Street are presented in this powerpoint.

We will present both options (Figueroa only and Figueroa & Flower) in this post.  The options for Figueroa-only and Figueroa/Flower present a conundrum for the implementation of bike infrastructure in LA.  On the one-hand, the Figueroa-only option offers a protected bike lane (something that many would prefer), but would require a pilot project application to the federal government, would cost far more money to build, would be more politically difficult to achieve, and would have a construction timeline much longer than a standard bike lane.  On the other-hand, the option for a couplet bike lane on Flower Street would be much easier, faster, and cheaper to implement than a protected bike lane. One upside to going with standard bike lanes now is that we can get bike infrastructure in the near future and implement more aggressive “gold standard” treatments later.  We’ll be looking to Los Angeles bicyclists to not only help decide which option to pursue, but to also help develop the community and political support necessary to make that chosen option into a reality.

7th St. to Wilshire Blvd. (0.05 miles)

Conceptual design for Figueroa between Wilshire and 7th

This section of Figueroa is 66 feet wide with 4 eastbound travel lanes, one bus only lane, and on-street parking on both sides of the street. For the Figueroa Street option, parking is removed on both sides of the street and the travel lanes are narrowed. Notice that the design includes a protected bike lane (also called a cycletrack) in the contra-flow direction.

The Flower Street option would remove parking beside the bus lane on Figueroa to accommodate a northbound bike lane while keeping street parking on the west side.

Wilshire Blvd. to 6th St. (0.05 miles)

This stretch of Figueroa is 68 feet wide, has 4 lanes of travel, a dedicated bus lane, and has parking on only the west side of the street that becomes an additional lane of travel during peak hours. The Figueroa-only option removes the parking/peak-hour lane to accommodate a protected southbound bike lane along with the regular northbound bike lane. The Flower option is able to maintain all parking and travel lanes by narrowing existing lanes to accommodate a northbound bike lane.

6th St. to 5th St. (0.1 miles)

This section of Figueroa is a whopping 80 feet wide, with 5 lanes of traffic, a dedicated bus lane, and full-time parking on the west side of the street.  The Figueroa-only option would remove only the street parking to accommodate the protected southbound bike lane and would narrow travel lanes to accommodate the northbound bike lane.  The Flower option would remove neither parking nor travel lanes, only narrowing lanes to create space for a northbound bike lane.

5th St. to 4th St. (0.1 miles)

Figueroa St. segment from 5th to 4th concept

This section of Figueroa is also 80 feet wide, but has no parking on either side.  Instead, the street has two right-turn lanes, one of which also allows through traffic.  In all, there are 7 lanes of travel on this section of street.  The Figueroa-only option would remove one lane of travel, create a protected southbound bike lane, and make the two right lanes into turn-only lanes with the northbound bike lane placed on their left.  The Flower option would maintain all 7 lanes of travel, placing the northbound bike lane to the left of the two right-turn-only lanes.

4th St. to 3rd St. (0.1 miles)

Figueroa between 4th and 3rd is also 80 feet wide with 6 lanes of travel, but exchanges two turn lanes on the right for three on the left: on-ramps for the 110 Freeway.  There is also street parking on the east side of the street and peak-hour parking on the west side.  The Figueroa-only option would remove all parking and narrow travel lanes to build a protected southbound bike lane and a standard northbound bike lane – all without the removal of a travel lane.  This intersection would likely have a special signal phase for southbound bikes to protect them from drivers turning left onto the 110 Freeway.  The Flower option would maintain parking on both sides of the street and narrow travel lanes to accommodate a northbound bike lane.

3rd St. to 2nd St. (0.1 miles)

Figueroa Street becomes a two-way street north of 3rd, presenting a number of challenges.  The street is 80 feet wide with 3 lanes in both directions and parking on the east side of the street.  The southbound lanes at 3rd Street have two right-turn-only lanes and one left-turn-only lane that is meant only for buses.

The Figueroa-only option removes parking for the northbound bike lane and places a standard southbound bike lane between the right-turn and left-turn lanes, transitioning into the protected bike lane south of 3rd Street.  The Flower option directs bicyclists to instead turn left at the 3rd Street intersection to get them to southbound bike lanes on Flower Street.

2nd St. to 500′ South of (S/O) Temple St. (0.3 miles)

This section is 74 feet wide, with street parking on both sides, 2 lanes of travel in each direction, and a two-way left-turn lane in the center.  The first option is to remove parking on the east side of the street to accommodate bike lanes without the removal of travel lanes.  The second option removes one southbound lane to fit bike lanes and keep street parking on both sides.

500′ S/O Temple St. to Boston St. (0.3 miles)

One travel lane will have to be removed

This stretch is a bit of a squeeze, being only 44 feet wide.  It has 2 lanes of travel in both directions with no street parking.  The only option presented is to remove a southbound travel lane to make room for bike lanes.

Boston St. to Cesar E. Chavez Ave. (0.1 miles)

This stretch is 74 feet wide, with street parking on both sides, two lanes in both directions, and a central turn-lane between them.  The option presented is to narrow the travel lanes to fit bike lanes without having to remove street parking or travel lanes.

Main Street Bike Lane – Venice Boulevard to Cesar E. Chavez Avenue (2.2 Miles)

Main Street, north of 5th Street

Part of the proposed project on Main Street would have lanes on both sides of the street.  North of 9th Street, however, the bike lane would run in a couplet with Spring Street because both streets are one-way north of 9th Street.  Main Street and Spring Street both have extremely low traffic volumes, meaning that the removal of travel lanes would likely not cause severe congestion impacts.  Additionally, creating bike lanes on Main and Spring would require that current off-peak parking be made permanent, creating a parking boon for the downtown community and a constant buffer of parked cars between pedestrians and drivers.

Venice Blvd. to Olympic Blvd. (0.6 miles)

The roadway here is 68 feet wide with street parking on both sides, two lanes of travel in either direction, and a center turn lane between them.  One option would remove street parking to fit bike lanes while the other would remove a southbound lane to fit bike lanes.

Olympic Blvd. to 9th St. (0.1 miles)

The roadway here is 65 feet with peak-hour parking on both sides of the street.  There are 2 lanes in each direction, which become 3 lanes in each direction during rush-hour.  One option would make parking permanent and narrow travel lanes to fit bike lanes.  A second option would remove parking on the east side of the street to accommodate bike lanes and 3 full-time lanes of travel northbound.

9th St. to 5th St. (0.5 miles)

Options, options... Be sure to let us know which design option you think is best!

North of 9th Street, Main Street becomes a one-way street going northbound.  This stretch of roadway is 54 feet wide, with off-peak parking on both sides of the street.  There are 4 lanes of travel, with the rightmost lane being a bus lane.  There are four different options for this section.  In all three options, the bike lane is place on the left side of the street to minimize conflicts between bicyclists and the many buses that use Main Street.

  • The first option slims the road to 3 travel lanes and makes parking permanent on the west side of the street.  Parking is shifted eastward to create a true cycletrack between parked cars and the sidewalk.  This option would also require special signal phases at intersections to protect through-traffic bicyclists from cars turning left.  Parking would remain off-peak on the east side of the street.
  • The second option would have the same configuration except for switching the position of parking and the bike lane to a more traditional configuration.  There would be an additional striped buffer space between the travel lane and the bike lane.
  • The third option maintains all four lanes of travel.  In this option, street parking is removed on the west side of the street and parking would remain off-peak on the east side of the street.
  • The fourth option creates full-time parking on both sides of the street, goes down to three lanes of travel, and has a standard bike lane without the additional painted buffer space from option 2.

5th St. to 1st St. (0.5 miles)

This section has the same configuration as 9th to 5th (4 travel lanes, off-peak parking on both sides), but is  only 50 feet wide as opposed to 54.  There are four options for this section.

  • Option 1 has a parking-lane-protected cycletrack, off-peak parking on the east side of the street, and 2 lanes of travel that expand to 3 during rush hour.
  • Option 2 has a permanent parking on the west side of the street, a standard bike lane with a painted buffer space, 2 lanes of travel, and off-peak parking on the east side of the street.
  • Option 3 maintains 3 lanes of travel, that expand to four during rush hour, by removing parking on the west side of the street to accommodate a bike lane, and;
  • Option 4 creates a bike lane similar to option 2, but without the painted buffer space between the travel lane and the bike lane.

1st St. to Arcadia St. (0.3 miles)

This section of the road is 64 feet wide with four very wide travel lanes and permanent parking on both sides of the street.  There are 3 options for this section.

  • Option 1 creates the parking-lane-buffered cycletrack and retains all four lanes of travel and street parking.
  • Option 2 switches the parking lane and bike lane, has a painted buffer space, and maintains all lanes of travel and parking, and;
  • Option 3 is the same as option 2, but without the painted buffer space to allow for wider travel lanes.

Arcadia St. to Cesar E. Chavez Ave. (0.2 miles)

Can you imagine a bike lane near Olvera Street?

This section of the road is 50 feet wide, has three travel lanes, and permanent parking on both sides of the street.  There are three options for this section:

  • Option 1 creates a bike lane by narrowing the travel lanes and parking lanes.
  • Option 2 removes one travel lane and creates a bike lane with a wide painted buffer space, and;
  • Option 3 creates a parking-lane-protected cycletrack by removing one lane of travel.

Spring Street Bike Lane – 9th Street to Cesar E. Chavez Avenue (1.5 miles)

Spring Street, south of 1st Street

This is the complementing southbound bike lane to the northbound bike lane on Main Street.  It ends at 9th Street where Spring Street meets with Main Street and becomes a 2-way street.  Spring Street has even lower traffic volumes than Main Street, and could really benefit from the safety and quality-of-life improvements that a road diet and accompanying bike lane could provide.

Cesar E. Chavez Ave to 1st St. (0.5 miles)

Remove SB travel lane or one NB bus-only lane

This street has a slightly odd configuration.  It is 70 feet wide, has no parking, and 7 lanes of travel.  Four southbound lanes are for mixed traffic, there is a two-way left-turn lane, and 2 bus-only northbound lanes of travel that go alongside City Hall.

One option removes one southbound travel lane to accommodate a bike lane, while the other option removes one northbound bus-only lane.

1st St. to 9th St. (1.0 miles)

The rest of Spring Street stays at a constant 52 feet, with off-peak parking on both sides of the street and 3 travel lanes that become 5 during rush hour.  The option presented creates permanent street parking on the east side of the street with a bike lane beside it (again, avoiding bus traffic like on Main), and maintains 3 lanes of travel with off-peak parking on the west side of the street.

There would be a difficult transition at 1st street, as the bike lane north of 1st is on the west side of the street and is on the east side of the street south of 1st.  This transition could be navigated by putting a special bicycle-only signal phase and pavement striping at this intersection, allowing bicyclists to cross from one side of the street to the other to stay within the bike lane.

Your Opinions Welcome

The LADOT Bike Program has already included additional design options received at June’s BPIT meeting, and is looking for more input as we continue the approval process for downtown bike lanes.  So, what do you think, LA Bike Community?  Do you want bike lanes in the near horizon, or a cycletrack at a later date? Can the community and political support be gathered for more robust treatments, or should we stick to the most practical, achievable solutions?  Or is there room somewhere in between? Both? Are there additional street configuration options you think should be considered?  Share your thoughts in the comments section, and they will make their way to both our bikeways engineers and to City Planning.

0 replies
  1. Dennis Hindman
    Dennis Hindman says:

    These projects could have some of the largest increases in bicycling for Los Angeles due to a cities core having the greatest bike modal share for countries around the world. It’s already practical enough to bike downtown in L.A. that businesses use bike messengers, LADOT personnel write parking tickets using bikes, there are police patrols on bikes, businesses have safety patrols on bikes and even Domino’s pizza makes deliveries on bikes. Having a visably large amount of bicyclists commuting everyday along a street would help to convince city council members to continue financially supporting new bikeways.

    Love the protected bike lane idea for the contra-flow on Figueroa St. Some sort of barrier between the biker and motorized traffic should be standard procedure for a major street, along with bike signal phases at a junction. This would make it much more appealing to a greater percent of potential bicyclists.

    That being said, I am willing to concede that if the bike lane is six feet wide and running next to a bus only lane, then that would be much more attractive and comfortable to potential bicyclists than a five foot bike lane next to mixed traffic and parked cars.

    Given the much greater political resistance that would come with trying to get two bike lanes on Figuroa St, along with the added costs and delays, my support is for a couplet bike lane on Flower St.

    To help visualize bike lane widths, here’s a View from the Bike Path video from the Netherlands that measures several different bike lanes and paths. Notice that six feet is wide enough for bicyclists to pass each other without going into the lane for motorized traffic.

    Here’s a University of British Columbia study–that I previously posted– in which bicyclists have indicated their willingness to go two blocks out of their way to ride on bikeways.

    Having bicyclists cross two lanes of traffic at 5th to 4th to get them out of the way of two right only lanes is adding potential conflict. They not only have to move two lanes over, but are caught in between fast moving lanes of traffic. It’s taken for granted that drivers will look in their right hand mirrors for bicyclists even though most people don’t expect them to be there and in order to change lanes bicyclists must look far behind them to see if much faster motorized traffic is approaching. This is the standard procedure for the MUTCD and I do not believe it was well thought out in terms of safety for the bicyclist. According to the federal MUTCD this rule is due to “A bicyclist continuing straight through an intersection from the right-turn lane or from the left of a left-turn lane would be inconsistent with normal traffic behavior and would violate the expectations of right or left-turning motorists.” Yes, but didn’t they consider that expecting a bicyclist to look far behind them for fast moving traffic–while moving forward–is not normal traffic behavior for a cyclist? Well the answer to that is obviously no or else they didn’t want to spend the time thinking of alternatives with less potential conflicts.

    I would like to see L.A. do a pilot project for the federal government that keeps the cycle lane to the right of right turn only lanes. That would move the needed changes forward and also get funding from an outside source.

    Here’s two more videos from ‘A view from the bike path’ blog that shows how the Dutch deal with the right turn only lane problem at the intersection. For their design to work well there needs to be a bike only signal at the intersection to keep the cyclist and motorist separated by time. A defect is that the bloggers animated example does not have a waiting area at the intersection and so any bikes stopped there would block people from continuing right on the bike lane.

    For Main St. I would recommend a buffer of parked cars and a cycle track to increase the sense of safety to potential cyclists. This is contrary to my view on how to proceed with Figueroa, but seeing how Chicago and New York have already proceded with protected lanes, it cannot be that difficult for L.A. to follow. Arterial streets should have some sort of barrier between motorized traffic and bicycles. You wouldn’t expect vunerable pedestrians to walk down these streets between two stripes and so why would you expect vunerable cyclists to do that?

  2. Dennis Hindman
    Dennis Hindman says:

    My suggestion of using black paint as a background to increase the contrast for sharrows pavement markings is approved in the 2003 CAMUTCD. On page 3A-2, under section 3A.04, it states: Black may be used in combination with the above colors where a light colored pavement does not provide sufficient contrast with the markings…when used in combination with other colors, black is not considered a marking color, but only a contrast-enhacing system for the markings.


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