Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Raise Some Red Flags Bike Advocates, Expo Line Bike Path/Route Not Looking So Good

I attended the Expo Line open house in Santa Monica this Monday, and after a little questioning and prodding on bike connections, I have very little faith this project will be done well. We really need to start looking at specific areas and plans more closely, because some of the ideas I heard proposed for some gaps and major intersections are pretty terrible. In Santa Monica I have seen some of the plans for trying to bridge the gap from 17th, where right away for separated path stops, to the beach, and some of those ideas seem pretty good, and I'm fairly confident once Santa Monica sets it's mind to make it work, it will do an alright job. For everywhere else along the line, what to do with gaps and intersections is up to LADOT, and this does not inspire confidence at this point.

Problem Areas For Expo Bike Path

One of the Metro representatives I talked to mentioned an idea for the complex Pico and Gateway intersection that included cyclists crossing to a sidewalk, riding the wrong way on the sidewalk to a crosswalk further down Pico, crossing at a ped crossing, and riding on the sidewalk against traffic again, this time backtracking, in order to bridge the gap to the next section of path. I mentioned how much simpler it would be if a quick bike only signal phase were added, like I saw in Portland to bridge a connection from a bike path to a bike lane. Anytime this idea was mentioned I received a lecture in a very patronizing tone about how nothing can ever be done to effect that green time for cars, and cars, cars, cars, they will back up.

Diagonal Bike Crossing To Bridge Bike Path To Bike Lane Diagonal Bike Crossing To Bridge Bike Path To Bike Lane
(Diagonal Bike Signal Crossing Connecting Off-Street Path To A Bike Lane In Porland)

I do want to take a closer look at this intersection in person, but looking at the satellite view, it seems another approach might be to have mixed bike-ped crossing at Pico down to corner at gateway, and create a bike box for cyclists to queue into without blocking the crosswalk, and then ride straight across Pico to the next section of path.

 PDX Bike Boxes PDX Bike Boxes
(Portland bike boxes, pictured right is a box for making a 2 phase left turn for cyclists uncomfortable  getting over and making a left from left turn lane.)

I did not get the impression that creative thinking way going into how to approach these important connections. Asking cyclists to ride against traffic on the sidewalk, a pattern of riding that results in numerous collisions at driveways and intersections, and is highly discouraged in safe cycling instruction is not an acceptable option.

Problem Areas For Expo Bike Path

Also worrisome is the trench where the train goes under the 10 freeway. Adjacent right of way is not yet secured. If it is not, the alternative route using residential streets would include some serious hill climbing. I'm not familiar enough with the area to really gauge how steep, but cyclists I talked to made it sound pretty serious, but I'll try and get over there to check that out as well. Concerning this area, what really boggled my mind, was hearing a Metro represenative seriously float the idea that cyclists wanting to ride the full route could always hop on the train for one stop. Really?! Seriously? We don't build highways for cars adjacent railways, then leave a gaping hole in the highway and then ask drivers to use the Amtrak Auto Train Service to get accross. Such absurd thinking shows how much bicycling is still an afterthought in the planning process.

This was just looking at a few parts of phase 2 going into the West Side, I'm even less familiar with phase 1 plans. After seeing and hearing what I did on Monday, I have very little confidence that cyclists are in good hands with Metro and LADOT.

If we want this Expo bike path and route to be anything remotely resembling a successful and viable cross town bicycling option, I think a lot more attention from bicycling activists needs to be directed at these plans. The handout directs questions comments and concerns to, but I'm sure there is a laundry list of other contacts that would be relevant toward addressing these concerns. This is a major piece of infrastructure investment being put in, and some things can always be improved later, but that should not be counted on, and some things may be next to impossible to change later due to budget constraints. So let's make sure we get this thing done right.

Another meeting, basically a repeat of the one in Santa Monica on Monday, is happening tonight at Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services in the Gymnasium. 6:30-8:00 pm 3200 Motor Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90034.


Ben said...

ah man, wish i could make it to this tonight, but work does not permit. set 'em straight, fellow vehicular cyclists!

Eric B said...

They were equally uninterested in the bike path for phase 1. I engaged them and proposed suggestions that were simpler and more cost-effective, but they made it clear that they were in the train-building business and the bike path was just fluff. Talking about bikes was seen as a waste of their engineers' time. Expo will be a great rail asset to the region, but don't hold out hope for the bike path.

Anonymous said...

Would you rather have a 70% efficient bike lane than no bike lane? Granted, we all want 100%, but unfortunately we are not on the winning political side at all times, so we get what we can.

Also, though you criticize bike lanes, what about car lanes? Not everybody is happy with a 3 lane street and 1 lane for parking, but not cars. Or no left turn lane.....

I'm a bike enthusiast and not a car fan. But to continously criticize bike lanes seems like we are our own worst enemy in getting any sort of infrastructure in LA.

Gary said...

@ Anon
It's not an all or nothing proposition. The bike facility is going in with the expo-line, a bunch of money is being dumped into it, and either it can be done with poor intersections and poorly thought out gaps, or it can be done well.

Bicyclists have historically not done well politically, in part because I think we've been complacent and content with poor consideration or accommodation.

Concerning bike lanes I have at times criticized the design of them, but I am not against bike lanes. I'd love more bike lanes, but I think the state minimum standards for them are insufficient for most people to feel comfortable riding a bike on the street.

Joe said...

Regarding the Pico/Gateway intersection, there are a few other precedents you might look to in the Bay Area. In San Francisco, the SFMTA has been taking big strides to address biking on some busy car/bus corridors. There is a left-turn bike signal at Baker and Fell streets. (Baker turns from the South left into the Westbound one-way Fell Street, and the bike lane is on the left side of the street. Fell is a very busy street that is a conduit for much of the central-western traffic of the City.

Also, there is a bike signal at the intersection of Masonic and the Golden Gate Park panhandle. Masonic is another very busy cross street, and this signal has worked wonders for the bike thoroughfare that runs parallel to Fell in the panhandle.

On the other hand, the City of Richmond has a similar dilemma. We have a bike path that runs under the West Contra Costa BART tracks until BART turns left towards central Richmond. Currently, there is no easy way to cross the busy San Pablo Avenue (CA-123) after El Cerrito Del Norte Station to connect to the westbound bike path. The city is taking concrete steps to bridge the multilane high-volume roadway and create a signal just for bikes (although for Richmond, cost is an issue), so maybe the Westside planners will be convinced that this could be feasible for Expo as well.

Joe said...

fyi: the website for the gap closure project. Maybe this can give you some ideas/contacts.

Anonymous said...

The bike lanes installed last week on expo are terrible, and a bad sign of things to come. I dont think they even meet the minimum width standards set by the state.

jenni x said...

Actually, there's plenty of room in that tunnel under the I-10 for a bike Path. It was made when the i-10 was built even though the rail was mostly unused when the Freeway was constructed to accommodate TWO tracks and a service road.

I think it will be nigh unto impossible to get them to actually put the path there, but factually the trench that track is laid in was man-made (a half mile of earth was moved by the Southern Pacific rail company to accommodate the "Balloon Route" to Santa Monica) in the 20s because there is NO route from SaMo to the Culver area which does not involve a steep climb to the Westwood mesa, unless you go all the way out to Lincoln Blvd on the west, or up to Santa Monica Blvd. on the north.

FWIW, the climb up said mesa is no less than 50 feet from Lincoln/Rose on the west to SantaMonica/Wilshire on the east. The roads closes to the Expo line are Manning and National. Manning climbs from 126ft/above-sea-level @ Palms blvd. to 175 ft, then down to Motor, back up to 221 ft @ Gilmerton, down to 170ft @ Edit, back up to 215 ft @ Dunleer before dropping to 150 ft (15 ft below the rail grade) near Roundtree Rd. Taking National across the freeway requires a climb from 126ft @ Rose/National to 170ft @ the freeway.

This tunnel is HUGE when discussing good routes to/from the Westwood and Culver City areas and beyond. It would be a tremendous loss to the community if the train is built without a bike path through that tunnel.

Karl said...

@jenni The tunnel under the 10 is not "huge" as you claim. There is currently only one track that goes through the tunnel, and Expo is considering widening the tunnel on the north side just to be able to fit both tracks, let alone any maintenance access or bike path. Not sure what your source is on the tunnel width, but Rick Thorpe himself disclosed this info last month at a Transit Coalition meeting. Might want to check your facts. I agree the bike path is important, but making it fit along the entire alignment is not an easy challenge.

Karl said...

Like I said, not "huge"