LADOT Set to Install 2 Miles of Bike Lanes on Wilbur Avenue

Bike lanes have been approved along 2.0 miles of Wilbur Avenue from Chatsworth Street to Nordhoff Street.  Combined with the 2.0 miles installed on Reseda Boulevard, 4 new miles of bike lanes have been added to the valley in the month of August.  LADOT Bike Blog will hash it all out for you, but first we’ll have to take it back to the beginning.

Preliminary bike lane markings on Wilbur Ave, via Streetsblog

Reseda Boulevard

Reported August 15th by Joe Linton on Streetsblog and again on August 23rd by Joe Linton, 2.0 more miles of bike lane have been added to Reseda Boulevard in the Valley. While only preliminary markings were down when Joe reported them on the 15th, thermoplastic bike lanes and appropriate Bike Lane signage were put in place by LADOT crews over the weekend – though Joe points out that not all markings had been completed as of his latest article.

As Joe correctly points out, the bike lanes on Reseda Boulevard are called for in the 1996 LA Bike Plan. The newest 2 miles of bike lanes stretch from Parthenia Street to Devonshire Street. These 2 new miles will complement the existing .8 miles of Sharrows on Reseda from Vanowen to Valerio, as well as the whopping 4.4 miles of bike lanes on Reseda from Vanowen Street to Winford Drive. A 1.6 mile gap, from Valerio to Parthenia, lies between these new bike lanes and the test Sharrows on Reseda. This last remaining gap on Reseda Boulevard is currently in design stages for bike lanes at LADOT. When more information is available for this last stage, LADOT Bike Blog will be there to let you know about it. Once completed, Reseda will offer almost 9 miles of uninterrupted bicycle infrastructure as well as a connection to the Orange Line Bikeway.

Wilbur Avenue

Originally reported on Streetsblog as a 1 mile bike lane from Lassen Street to Nordhoff Street, the scope of the project on Wilbur Avenue is actually 2 miles of bike lanes from Nordhoff Street to Chatsworth Street. The installation of new bike lanes should take place over the next two weekends, starting this Saturday, August 28.

Wilbur Avenue took a very different path towards installation of bike lanes than did Reseda Boulevard.  Although, in his Streetsblog articles, Joe Linton claims that the bike lanes on Wilbur are not in the 1996 plan, he’s only half right.  The 1996 LA Bike Plan calls for bike lanes on Wilbur Avenue from Tampa Avenue to Plummer Street.  While the southern section of the planned bike lane is below Plummer Street, 1.5 of the 2.0 miles along Wilbur Avenue receiving bike lanes are part of the 1996 Bike Plan.

Road Diets

This still would raise the question: Why are we putting bike lanes on Wilbur Avenue below Plummer Street?

The answer is quite simple: There’s now enough room.

Wilbur Avenue is being subjected to a road diet, where 4 travel lanes are being converted to two travel lanes with a continuous turn lane between them.  This configuration allows for much safer left turns by drivers without impacting the flow of through traffic.  It’s also great for bikes because it creates enough space on the roadway to add bike lanes in both directions.  While the new 2 miles of bike lanes on Reseda Boulevard were installed without changing the lane configuration, the bike lanes on Wilbur would not fit without a road diet.

This road diet was triggered by a resurfacing project on Wilbur from Lassen Street to Nordhoff Street and from Devonshire Street to Chatsworth Street.  The connecting 0.5 miles of roadway from Devonshire to Lassen, though not being resurfaced, is being subjected to the same road diet to connect these two stretches of newly paved and striped bike lanes.  Since a resurfaced street needs to have its lane striping reapplied, resurfacing projects are a great opportunity for LADOT to implement road diets on streets that need them.

This is the time-line:

  • Wilbur Avenue is scheduled for a resurfacing project by the Bureau of Street Services (BSS).
  • The BSS alerts LADOT Design about their resurfacing project and schedule, allowing LADOT Design to review and update the striping plan and add bicycle infrastructure.
  • LADOT Design determines that a road diet, changing Wilbur Avenue from a 4 lane roadway to a 2 lane roadway with a continuous turn lane, would make the street much safer without impacting the current volume of traffic using Wilbur Avenue.  Such a road diet allows for the installation of bicycle lanes.

While not the exact dimensions of Wilbur Ave, this gives you a good idea of what a road diet entails

Community Concerns

As covered by LAist writer Zach Behrens, the Wilbur bike lanes installation were subject to an amount of community criticism.  The LACBC then mobilized supporters of bicycle lanes to counter this criticism. CD 12 asked LADOT to address community concerns that had been brought to him about the project.  With said concerns addressed by LADOT staff, the project proceeded.

When people see bike lanes being added and travel lanes being taken away, the automatic assumption is that travel lanes are being taken away in order to put in bike lanes – and at the drivers’ expense.  The truth of the matter is that travel lanes are being reconfigured to make the roadway safer for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians – often without any effect on street traffic.  Part of the culture change taking place at LADOT is that whenever such a road diet project is taking place, the first question asked is: Can we fit a bike lane? In the spirit of the soon-to-be enacted Complete Streets legislation – AB 1358 – LADOT is no longer satisfied with simply conducting a road diet to improve driver safety, but looks to use such projects to the advantage of pedestrian and bicycle safety as well.

Criticism for the project seemed to confuse two very distinct aspects of what is happening to Wilbur Avenue. Opposition to the project inferred that it was the installation of bike lanes that necessitated the road diet, but it is the opposite that is true. The fact that bike lanes are being blamed at all shows the continuing culture-change that is going on in the City and at LADOT.

LADOT Bike Blog also wants to make clear that we understand the frustration with the lack of notice or public outreach on this road diet/bike lane project.  When resurfacing projects go through at BSS, time is of the essence for LADOT Bikeways to get bike lanes added where we can.  In the future, LADOT Bike Blog will do our best to dog-whistle for the bicycle community when road diet/resurfacing projects are upcoming.

With all that being said, LADOT Bike Blog is always happy to see more miles of bike lanes in Los Angeles. When more are added, we’ll be there to let you know.

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