Sunday, October 15, 2006

The 11th Hour!

Mr. and Mrs. SoapBoxLA spent Friday afternoon lobbying the Los Angeles Department of Transportation for improvements to the bikeway element of the Santa Monica Boulevard Transit Parkway.

The meeting with John Fisher, Assistant General Manager of the LADOT, Sean Skehan, Principal Transportation Engineer and Bearj Sarkis, Transportation Engineer, lasted an hour and a half and consisted of a presentation of signage, striping, surface color and treatment solutions to the unique, not-MUTCD approved, egress/ingress conflict points.

Cars cross the bike lane to enter, cars cross the bike lane to exit, and the cyclist travels through this “engineered conflict” with no signage support, no striping support, no surface treatment support.

In short, the Parkway contains uniquely and creatively engineered egress “off-ramps” allowing autos to exit the Parkway without slowing down, traveling at full speed across the bike lane. This is “engineered conflict” and it will kill cyclists.

The current striping plan was revised last week and a hastily green-lined set of plans was submitted to the LADOT along with the following requests:
  1. That the bike lanes be complete, from one end of the Parkway (through Century City to the Beverly Hills border) or that they be removed. Why lull a cyclist into a segregated and protected “bike lane” journey only to end the lane on the eastbound approach to the most congested section of the Parkway - Century City

  2. Install MUTCD R4-4 “yield to bikes” signs at the beginning of all exclusive right-turn lanes

  3. Install MUTCD W11-1 “Bicycle Warning Signs” at all egress/ingress points to warn motorists that they about to cross a cyclists’ line

  4. Continue the bike lanes through all open and shared space with broken or dashed lines on both sides of the bike lane (except where one side is a curb)

  5. Color the surface of the bike lanes at conflict points so that there is even greater indication to a motorist that they are crossing a bike lane

  6. Install Bike Boxes at crosswalks so that bike-lane positioned cyclists can reposition to the turn lane during a red-phase
John Fisher has always proven himself to be open and approachable and he was no different in this meeting, which was set up as the result of SoapBoxLA testimony offered on Wednesday at the City Council Transportation Committee meeting. As pleasant as he is to spend time with, he gave little ground on the requests made during the meeting.

The LADOT responses to the SoapBoxLA requests are:
  1. That there is no room for bike lanes through Century City and that any opportunity to run the bike lanes to the Beverly Hills border would only follow a Beverly Hills action to connect West Hollywood to Beverly Hills and then Beverly Hills to Los Angeles.

  2. (Note: SoapBoxLA first went on record months ago with a “take the bike lanes off the Santa Monica Boulevard Transit Parkway” position that was flatly rejected. The SoapBoxLA argument from the beginning was that the bike lanes simply don’t fit, they inhibit the safe movement and positioning of a cyclist, the egress/ingress points are simple “engineered conflict” points that will kill cyclists and that the bike lanes are present when convenient and then they disappear at the most congested points leaving a cyclist on his/her own which would actually be the safest and most effective choice for the whole Parkway!)

  3. Sean objected to putting up too many signs on the Santa Monica Boulevard Transit Parkway because he believes it will only confuse or desensitize motorists.

  4. A mild objection was offered that that the warning sign did not strictly meet the MUTCD intentions for use. I countered by quoting the MUTCD, which states that The Bicycle Warning (W11-1) sign can be used for “other crossing activities that might cause conflicts.” Surely having a motorist veer across a bike lane at full speed would warrant a warning sign.

  5. Sean pointed out that there was no room along the Bus cutouts for both the Bus pad and the bike lane. Again, if the bike-lanes don’t fit, then why squeeze them in when convenient and leave a cyclist hanging at conflict points? I pointed out that the funding for this project and the community approval was all based on this Parkway being a multi-modal project. Partial accommodation of cyclists does not constitute multi-modal transportation. I argued that if a bus and a cyclist are meant to “share” space, cyclists lose.

  6. I offered examples from other communities of surface color innovations but this
    suggestion received a mild MUTCD objection.

  7. Sean said he had never heard of Bike Boxes until I brought them up. I had previously sent Sean pictures. He said they looked like pictures from Europe. (they were!) I offered pictures from West Hollywood, California, U.S.A. He said that the behavior of a small town hardly drives the behavior of a large city such as Los Angeles, that these decisions open the city to questions of liability, and that these decisions will have an impact on the city of Los Angeles as a whole. (Is this an argument against change?) I then gave him pictures of Bike Boxes at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. No response from Sean.

The meeting concluded with a “wait-and-see” proposal from Sean, which was flatly rejected by Mr. and Mrs. SoapBoxLA.

The death of cyclists should not be required in order to drive the safe and efficient completion of the largest roadway project in the City of Los Angeles.

Surely the City of Los Angeles can spend $90 million on a 2.5 mile roadway project and then deliver a Parkway that is both safe and efficient and that comes with COMPLETE bike lanes supported by the appropriate signage, striping and surface treatment.

Take a moment to call these people and give them your opinion.

This is your city, this is your Parkway, this is your ride!

LA City Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

LA City Deputy Mayor of Transportation Jaime de la Vega

LADOT General Manager Gloria Jeff

LADOT Assistant General Manager John Fisher

CD5 Councilmember Jack Weiss

City Council Transportation Committee Chair Wendy Gruel

Project Manager – DPW – Carl Nelson
310-785-2300 x 208

Project Manager – DPW – Luis Ganaja


Ian McI said...

Stephen, you are a one person whirlwind of bike activity! Your blog on the boulevard is very well done, especially the link to the Portland video - did any of the people you have met with take a look at the video?
I think we now need to get all of our members and whoever else we can round up to reiterate the points that you have made so that you don't seem like a lonely, crazy voice in the wilderness

Ian McI said...

Great post on the SM boulevard, especially the video from Portland. Now we just need to get the bike community out there to echo the things that you are saying.