Grassroots Support Grows a Bike Network in Northeast LA

August 8, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Posted in Bike News, Get Involved | 7 Comments

The City of Los Angeles has an ambitious Bicycle Plan which seeks to provide a 1,680 mile network of bicycle infrastructure by the year 2045. While 33 years is a long time to wait for a citywide network, the Northeast Los Angeles community will see a significant localized backbone network realized in the City’s 5-Year Implementation Strategy.

Planned bicycle facilities for Northeast LA. Light purple lines represent the City’s planned “Backbone Network” and gold lines represent a “Neighborhood Network”. Image credit: Los Angeles Bicycle Plan

The Role of Advocacy

Almost all of the community’s major streets – Eagle Rock Boulevard, Colorado Boulevard, North Figueroa Street, York Boulevard, and Cypress Avenue – have been prioritized in the Bicycle Plan, undoubtedly thanks to the tireless effort of local advocates. Residents have led several campaigns for bicycle infrastructure over the past few years, including:

  • The “Four Corners” Campaign kicked off by Northeast LA based non-profit C.I.C.L.E. in early 2010; this campaign sought the prioritization of bike lanes on Colorado Boulevard, North Figueroa Street, York Boulevard, and Eagle Rock Boulevard. Bike lanes on these streets would form a rectangular network of bike lanes, thus the name “Four Corners”. The campaign caught the attention of Council District 14 representative Josè Huizar, who has been a vocal supporter of the campaign, frequently mentioning “the four corners” when speaking about improvements needed for the community.
  • The ” ‘New’ York Vision Plan” initiated by Council-member Huizar’s office in late 2010 was a response to local residents’ and businesses’ desires for improvements along York Boulevard. Seeking to implement short-term and long-term pedestrian improvements to York Boulevard, Huizar notes that the campaign, coupled with the Four Corners efforts, was instrumental in prioritizing a speedy implementation of bike lanes along York Boulevard between Eagle Rock Boulevard and Avenue 54.
  • “Take Back The Boulevard”, or “TBTB” for short, has perhaps been the most publicized Northeast LA based campaign for local street improvements that includes efforts for better bicycling conditions. The campaign came to life in 2011 as the culmination of a longstanding desire of local residents and community groups to calm traffic along Eagle Rock’s main commercial street. The initiative has shown such great promise that it has been called one of the most exciting community streetscape proposals in the city by Bill Roschen, President of the Planning Commission for the City of Los Angeles. With the adoption of the City’s Bicycle Plan in 2010 community members were able to push council representative Huizar’s office to request the street be included in the City’s first environmental impact review package of the 5-Years portion of the Bicycle Plan to study the conversion of a conventional traffic lane into a dedicated bike lane.
  • Conceived in the latter half of 2011 and spearheaded by local bike advocates, “Figueroa for All” is the newest Northeast LA campaign for re-envisioning a local commercial street and improving safety conditions. Figueroa for All, much like neighboring campaign Take Back The Boulevard, is advantageously pushing for bike lanes included in and funded through the City’s Bike Plan as a means to help make immediate improvements to calm traffic and safety along North Figueroa Street. The initiative has even sparked the potential for providing buffered bike lanes on North Figueroa. As the initiative develops, involved community members will continue to strive for conditions along Figueroa so that the street is safe and pleasant for all.
  • In mid 2012, the most recent push for bicycle improvements came from students at Nightingale Middle School in Cypress Park. Students wrote letters to their local Council representative Ed Reyes, explaining why portions of Cypress Avenue and Avenue 28, streets adjacent to Nightingale, need bike lanes. According to the LA Department of Transportation, Reyes’ office requested the bike lanes be prioritized and the streets will see bike lanes sometime during the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

All these initiatives illustrate that community effort does make a difference. The role of local advocacy cannot be overstated. After environmental review and approval by Council, Northeast LA could soon have bike lanes on most major corridors. The area’s grassroots advocacy around specific campaigns is a model for other communities to follow. If you are interested in helping make your community’s streets safer, and bike-friendly, consider becoming a Neighborhood Bike Ambassador to help grow the kind of support for cycling seen in Northeast LA.

What’s Next?

May 2011 Spoke(N)Art Ride

People cycling on North Figueroa Street as part of Flying Pigeon’s monthly Spoke(N)Art Ride. Photo credit: waltarrrrr

Unlike other parts of the City, Northeast LA does not have a grid system that allows one to bypass it’s major streets due to geographical conditions, as noted by urban planner James Rojas. Instead, all utilitarian travel – by bike or other modes – must occur on major boulevards. Making Northeast LA bike-friendly requires re-prioritizing street space on the boulevards, which the bike lane projects propose to do. With the development of the area’s backbone bicycle network on these major streets, it will be particularly interesting to observe (and easier to document) the expected increased rates of bicycling. While portions of Eagle Rock Boulevard, Cypress Avenue, and Avenue 50 already had bike lanes prior to the recent community level advocacy, after the 5-Year Implementation Strategy the area will have the beginning of a real, connected network of bike facilities. LACBC’s recent 2011 bicycle traffic counts are encouraging, which showed a significant increase in bicycling rates on York Boulevard between Eagle Rock Boulevard and Avenue 54 after the installation of bike lanes. Once the bones of a Northeast LA bicycle network are in place, we hope to see a continued boom in the number of bicyclists on the streets. And if those bike facilities are buffered bike lanes, or – even better – cycle tracks, then we expect to see more women, children, and elderly people bicycling around the community.

Update: LADOT confirmed yesterday that the York Boulevard bike lanes will be completed extended from Eagle Rock Boulevard to North Figueroa Street after utility work is completed this month.

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  1. NELA bikes!! I am surprised to hear that York lanes would be “completed” (said by patch, and at this blog post) when, you, Severin, have been pushing for those lanes on the western part of York (west of their current terminus at Eagle Rock Blvd.) Extended would probably be more accurate wording. York is a very useful bike street, and I am looking forward to the additional bike lane distance.

    • You’re right, Joe, and we’ve changed the wording on the last sentence. Also, Severin didn’t write that last bit, so it’s really the LACBC staff’s fault for choosing the wrong wording.

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  6. The City of Los Angeles has an ambitious Bicycle Plan which seeks to provide a 1,680 mile network of bicycle infrastructure by the year 2045. While 33 years is a long time to wait for a citywide network, the Northeast Los Angeles community will see a significant localized backbone network realized in the City’s 5-Year Implementation Strategy.

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