Foothill Boulevard Bike Lane Before the Foothill Trails NC

(Ed. Note: I, Christopher Kidd, am back from the Comprehensive Exam for his degree in Urban Planning at USC.  We’ll have a recap on yesterday’s BPIT meeting up in the next few days.  In the meantime, here’s an update on our department’s attempt to bring bike lanes to Foothill Boulevard.)

The LADOT Bike Program has, among other projects, been working to bring nearly 4 miles of new bike lanes to the north-eastern San Fernando Valley on Foothill Boulevard.  LADOT Bikeways engineers last month presented to the Foothill Trails Neighborhood Council on a 1.5 mile section of this street.  In taking comments from the NC, the specter of equestrian-bicyclist conflict once again raised its head, though in different form than we saw during the hearings for the LA Bike Plan.

Below the fold we’ll cover the project particulars, the concerns raised by the Foothill Trails NC, some possible compromises drafted by LADOT, and what you can do to make your opinion heard.

Foothill Boulevard Bike Lanes

LADOT Bikeways Engineers are in design stages for a bike lane on Foothill Boulevard stretching from Osborne Street in the west to Wentworth Street in the east.  In all, the bike lane would run for nearly 4 miles.  After a few other bike lane projects are completed in this area of the Valley (Wentworth Street & Tuxford Street), bike lanes on Foothill Boulevard would connect to a contiguous network of bicycle infrastructure stretching over 17 miles across the eastern San Fernando Valley.

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Road Conditions

Foothill Boulevard is a very rural street.  For much of the stretch being considered for bike lanes, there are two lanes of traffic in each direction, a two-way left turn lane, a 6-8 foot asphalt shoulder with no street parking, no sidewalks, and sometimes a stretch of dirt right-of-way between the street and the property lines of houses along Foothill.  There are a few limited areas that have street parking instead of an asphalt shoulder.

Design

Out of the 4 miles of Foothill targeted for bike lanes, design is complete on a 1.5 mile stretch of Foothill Boulevard from Wheatland Avenue in the west to Wentworth Street in the east.  The project would convert the asphalt shoulders on either side of Foothill into bike lanes and include the removal of a minimal amount of street parking.  Most of the areas where street parking needs removal are adjacent to single family homes with ample private parking, negating much of the minimal parking removal’s impact on residents.

LADOT Bikeways engineers last month met with the Foothill Trails NC to present the project and secure their approval before finalizing design.

Foothill Trails NC Concerns

The Foothill Trails Neighborhood Council voiced a number of concerns with the project, most of them centered around possible conflicts with equestrians; Many equestrians in the Foothill Trails community use the dirt shoulders on Foothill Boulevard as a de-facto horse trail.

The major point of contention at the meeting centered around the removal of street parking on a stretch of Foothil Boulevard bisected on the south by Foothill Place.  Equestrian members of the Foothill Trails NC claimed that the street parking on the north side of Foothill Boulevard provided a buffer between moving cars and their horses.  By converting the area to a bike lane, they claimed the City would be setting up a conflict between horses on the dirt shoulder and bicyclists in the bike lane.

They requested that LADOT come up with alternatives to the current design plan that would create more separation between bicyclists and equestrians.  Most of the NCs’ suggested alternatives (street reconfiguration, travel lane removal, etc) would require environmental review due to the likelihood of traffic impacts – a long and expensive process the City is eager to avoid when possible.

Plausible Alternative

One alternative recommended by the Neighborhood Council, however, would keep the street parking buffer and avoid environmental review. The NC suggested LADOT Bikeways engineers take a second look at Foothill Place.  This street is on the south side of Foothill Boulevard and bisects the looping curve where the Foothill Trails NC would like to keep street parking.

Bike lane to the north, bike route to the south: the Neighborhood Council's recommendation

The alternative proposed by the NC would involve keeping the street parking and adding bike lanes on the north side of Foothill Boulevard.  To make room for both bike lanes and street parking on the north side, there would be no bike lane on the south between the two points where Foothill Place runs into Foothill Boulevard.  Instead, Foothill Place (a very low volume residential street) would be converted to a bike route to close the gap.  Westbound bicyclists would have an uninterrupted bike lane and eastbound bicyclists would detour for a quarter-mile on Foothill Place to meet back up with bike lanes on Foothill Boulevard after passing the area with street parking.

This alternative, along with the original proposal, will be presented to the Foothill Trails NC for their approval.  Without their blessing, and council office approval, this project will not be able to proceed.

What’s Your Opinion?

This project is emblematic of the nitty-gritty work (and the compromises required) in implementing the LA Bike Plan.  While some streets have low-enough traffic volumes to allow lane removal without environmental review (7th Street, Hoover Street), other streets meet a traffic threshold triggering the EIR process.

Although there is sufficient room on Foothill Boulevard to accommodate bike lanes without travel lane removal, we also want to be respectful of the community’s desire to keep on-street parking as a buffer for equestrians.  Sometimes there is little room to maneuver between triggering environmental review and gaining NC approval.

If you have opinions on the right configuration for bike lanes on Foothill Boulevard, get in touch with the CD 2 representative of the Bicycle Advisory Committee, Ayla Stern.  Ayla has been in contact with both Council Member Krekorian’s office and with the Foothill Trails NC.  As the official liaisons between the City, the neighborhoods, and the bicycle community, this type of project falls right in the wheelhouse of the Bicycle Advisory Committee.  Contact Ayla to show support, give your opinion, and help bring more bike lanes to Los Angeles.  Any comments made below will also be forwarded to Ayla.

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