Tuesday, February 03, 2009

CityWatchLA - Season Opens at the Orange Line Campgrounds

Zach Behrens wrote of the Orange Line Bikeway on LAist and keyed in on the homelessness issue and the encampments. Dana Bartholomew of the Daily News then wrote of the Bikeway and the blight and contrasted it with the Metro's commitment to bike facilities at the stations. CityWatchLA then ran this piece focusing on the lack of maintenance, security and oversight along with the engineered isolation and unfortunate landscaping choices that work together to create an unsafe environment.

CityWatch, Feb 3, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 10

Orange Line Bike Path a Bumpy Ride
By Stephen Box

The Orange Line … an express bus service that runs across the south Valley … is a classic example of the axiom "Success has many parents but failure is an orphan."

When it comes to ridership, LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Metro CEO Roger Snoble and LA City Council Transportation Chair Wendy Greuel all speak glowingly of the popularity of the Orange Line and point at the near capacity numbers as evidence of their wisdom.

When it comes to the bikeway that runs alongside the Metro Orange Line, all of a sudden the crickets chirp and there's nobody left at the podium taking credit or responsibility for the maintenance issues, the homeless encampments, the graffiti, the crime, and the general decline of the bikeway.

Calls to the Metro are forwarded to the Sheriff's Department with an explanation that the Sheriff has a contract to provide security and law enforcement for the Orange Line. Calls to the Sheriff's Department yield an explanation that their contract is for the transitway, not the bikeway and that it’s an LAPD problem. Calls to the LAPD yield a series of referrals to the gang detail, the homelessness detail, the bike patrol and the Senior Lead Officers, all of whom seem to be missing in action, based on recent experience.

At the end of the day, it turns out that the LADOT has a Bikeways Division that has a contract with a contractor who is then responsible for the maintenance of the Orange Line bikeway, 14 miles of bike path, separated in many areas with a sound wall on one side and a chain link fence on the other, heavily landscaped, overgrown and littered with campsites.

The Orange Line opened in 2005 with a celebration that included a bike ride for supporters. Bike Activists reveled in the attention but grimaced at some of the engineering and design choices that indicated a lack of empathy for the cycling population and a sensitivity to the basic needs of a cyclist.

Cyclists compiled a report of the bikeway and provided recommendations on the intersection conflict points, the lack of cyclist oriented signalization, the poor landscaping choices and the isolation that results from putting up chain link fence and sound walls on either side of the path.

The Orange Line Bikeway was developed in conjunction with the LADOT Bikeways division and somewhere along the way the responsibility for the Orange Line Bikeway shifted from the Metro to the City of Los Angeles.

The City of LA took over like a proud parent, producing a PowerPoint show entitled "Orange Line Bike Path: Integrating a Bikeway within a Bus Rapid Transit Corridor" that they take on the road to transportation conferences.

The unfortunate reality is simple. The Orange Line Bike Path is no-man's land. It is isolated. The entrances are littered with shopping carts. The abundant trash and the overgrown landscaping give witness to the lack of supervision. The paths worn through the bushes bear indicate heavy off-path foot traffic.

This past Saturday, Nate Kapin of Sherman Oaks interrupted his Orange Line bike ride to comment. He says he's a regular, having lived in the Valley since May of 1940 "when you could hunt rabbits here." He says he's seen it all and that he rides the Orange Line every day. "This could be a real park. Put in some benches so people could sit and socialize, clear some of the brush back, put in a water fountain, some bathrooms, people would flock to this path. But not now! Look at it! It's trashed! I see people in the bushes, I see it all!"

It's too late to redesign the Orange Line bike path, but it's not too late to hold the contractor responsible for fulfilling his obligations for maintenance. It's not too late to get the Sheriff's Department and the LAPD to agree on who has jurisdiction and to get law enforcement to patrol the bike path. It's not too late to get the LADOT Bikeways Division to put the PowerPoint aside and to spend some time on the Orange Line bikeway.

Perhaps it's even time for a Bike Ride. After all, the Sheriff's Department has a bike patrol team. The LAPD has a bike patrol team. The Park Rangers even have a bike patrol team and by the overgrown look of things, perhaps they're the ones we should start calling

(Stephen Box is a transportation and cyclist advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at Stephen@ThirdEyeCreative.net)

1 comment:

Enci said...

The Orange Line bike path to me is equivalent to the River Bike Path. When we first rode the Orange Line path at the opening ceremony, I cringed at the walls and at the separated routes.

This is where crime happens. I will never ride the path alone at night. Never! And I never ride the River bike path either. Both these paths including the Ballona path are secluded. If anything happens, there won't be witnesses and there are no escape routes.

In LA it seems that bike projects are done where it is out of sight, out of mind. To "protect" cyclists, we hide the paths and the routes. And we create zones that are dangerous to cyclists and other users. And we create zones that are a safe heaven to those who don't want to be seen or who don't want their actions seen.

- Bike paths and routes should be integrated into our streets and neighborhoods like they are in Europe.
- Bike paths should be visible from the street, from homes and buildings.
- Bike paths should look open, airy, clean and sexy to all users.
- Bike paths should not have any walls and fences surrounding them.
- Bike paths should be renamed as multi-use paths because bike paths are not only for bikes.
- Bike paths should be marked clearly at crossings and intersections.

Bike paths in LA are just another excuse to get cyclists out of the way. Bike paths in LA are just another excuse to keep some staff paid for another year at a department that should handle transportation issues and not work on recreational facilities.

I hope that the next earthquake will make those bike path walls fall and open the path to our neighborhood.