ThinkBike Los Angeles: an eye opening experience

This past Thursday and Friday, city staff, advocates and local stakeholders got the opportunity to learn from Dutch bicycle experts on how to design streets for bicyclists and pedestrians the Dutch way. Late Friday afternoon, at a well attended Closing Session at LAPD Headquarters, the public got a chance to see what the working groups came up with. The workshops focused on maintaining an open mind towards facility design, which was exemplified by our Dutch guest Hillie Talens’ admonition to say to each other “okay, and” instead of “okay, but”. The teams did a wonderful job with their presentations and designs. You can view them for yourself under our “Resources” tab or by clicking here. (And this evening, ThinkBikeLA will be on Channel 35, at 7pm and midnight.)

ThinkBikeLA - discussing options for Van Nuys Blvd.

ThinkBikeLA - discussing options for Van Nuys Blvd.

Downtown L.A. (Spring St./Main St.)

Downtown L.A. design

Options for Main St. & Spring St. focused on making the streets more human scaled

Spring St. and Main St. represent an exciting opportunity for the City’s dense urban core. The Downtown L.A. team looked at street character and assets when formulating their design proposal. Some prized assets that the team noted were wide roads with minimal traffic, beautiful buildings, and lots of social gathering places (shops, restaurants, cafes). The street is used as a public space for a variety of users and needs. The team relied on the following five design needs recommended by the Dutch for designing good bicycle infrastructure: coherence, directness, safety, comfort, and attractiveness. From these came a design focused on the human form with specific roadway profiles unique to different segments of the streets.

Where roadway width was wide enough (at the “head and legs” of the project, north and south, see the presentation for more explanation on this design terminology chosen for the project), the team came up with a cycle track design that removed vehicle travel lanes and replaced them with separated bicycle facilities and expanded sidewalk space . Where roadway width was more limited (at “the heart”, centrally), sidewalks were widened and an eight foot green on-street bike lane was proposed.

Pacoima (Van Nuys Blvd.)


A design for Van Nuys Blvd. brought to the ThinkBikeLA Pacoima workshop

Team Blue tasked itself with accommodating nearly ever mode of transportation in Los Angeles: pedestrians, cyclists, heavy-freight, and personal automobiles. They wanted to connect businesses and schools with residential areas and to provide routes to mass transit outlets to connect Valley residents to the rest of the region. By creating a complete street on Van Nuys Blvd., the team hoped to improve livability, and encourage social cohesion via a bike-friendly environment. The team also explored Pierce St., a nearby parallel neighborhood street designated as a Bicycle Friendly Street, as well as ways of encouraging bicycling via “soft measures”, such as programming and bike parking.

There were many challenges to making Van Nuys Blvd. a complete street, so the team developed a gambit of options based on the needs of the thoroughfare and the near term feasibility of implementing the options. The first option they proposed would squeeze bike lanes into the existing configuration making use of existing roadway width, implementable “today”. The second option made use of the “lane-diet” concept to remove a lane on either side and replace with separated bike lanes, implementable “tomorrow”. The final option included separated bike lanes and a median running Bus Rapid Transit line, implementable as a “dream big” option. This third, most radical, option would have just one regular traffic lane running in each direction, adjacent to separated bike lanes made possible by 1′ curbs.

Pierce Street is identified as a potential Bike Friendly Street in the Los Angeles Bicycle Plan. The team proposed improved signage and shared lane markings, along with additional measures like bike signals at a couple intersections with major thoroughfares. An existing pedestrian bridge and a tunnel already provide access across what would have been major impediments, a wash and a freeway. Cosmetic changes like trees, better pavement, lighting around the pedestrian bridge, and enhanced bike parking were also proposed.

U.S.C. (Vermont Ave./Jefferson Blvd.)

USC designs

The U.S.C. team tasked itself with creating a design that would better accommodate areas with existing high bicycle use. They specifically sought to tackle safety issues, including wrong way riding and an intersection with one of the highest rates of bicycle collision incidents in the City. With that in mind, the team sought to: create safe routes for students from the surrounding communities to the university, create safe routes for the local community and for neighborhood trips, create safe and direct access to Expo Park, avoid conflicts between parked cars and bikes, provide sufficient bike parking (both on campus and in the surrounding community), and increase connectivity to mass transit. The team dug deep into the Bike Plan’s technical design handbook to hammer out designs that would accomplish those objectives.

The team came up with solutions for five particular problem areas around the University Park community. They proposed a Class I bike path along Vermont in Expo Park along with a foam treatment (that they heard about from Hillie) over Metro’s Expo Line to deter bicycle tires from getting caught in the light rail tracks. They also proposed cycle tracks along Jefferson, with an intersection wide speed table to help slow down vehicular traffic. At University Ave., the team proposed creating separated pedestrian and bicycle facilities along with signalizing intersections at 30th and 32nd. A bike box was also proposed for the intersection of Grand and Jefferson, along with aesthetic and safety improvements along Jefferson under the 110 freeway. Finally, a 36th Place Bicycle Friendly Street was proposed that would have chicanes, bike boxes, way-finding signage, improved street lighting, and a bike corral.

Your Thoughts

We want to hear from you. What did you get out of ThinkBikeLA? Did you think the teams did a good job with their visions or did they not go far enough? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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