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MyFigueroa Is Undermined by Scofflaw Drivers Parking and Turning Illegally

The city of L.A.'s My Figueroa project has improved Figueroa Street in many ways. Unfortunately driver behavior is undermining MyFig's safety benefits.

I was out of town for August's opening celebration, so last Friday was the first chance I got to bike MyFigueroa.

I confess that for many years I've seen this portion of Figueroa Street as "enemy territory." I get around primarily by bicycle. South of downtown, Figueroa felt like an oversize car-centric stroad. It runs so close to the 110 Freeway that many drivers are still traveling, often speeding, in freeway mode. There weren't a lot of destinations I frequented there - feels like it was mostly car dealerships, fast food, and corporate chain stores. When a CicLAvia event was proposed there, circa 2011, I remember thinking "why bother?"

I had hopes that $20+ million in state funding for a visionary complete-streets MyFigueroa project could transform the place. But then when the project was delayed and bogged down in a lawsuit, I thought it would just never happen.

I am grateful that something did happen. With MyFigueroa complete, this portion of Figueroa definitely feels significantly better on bike than it used to. But it remains car-centric.

Kudos to the folks who made this happen. These include elected officials from Mayor Eric Garcetti to City Councilmembers Curren Price and José Huizar. Kudos also to city staff primarily from the Department of Transportation (LADOT.) And kudos to the community advocates who worked hard to keep the project on track.

First some positives:

    • Figueroa is a full-featured street which takes bicyclists and transit-riders into account. Some other protected bike lanes in L.A., including Venice Boulevard (a facility I like a lot), can feel like interactions with transit are an afterthought. MyFigueroa has full-on transit islands serving a dedicated bus-only lane. Previously, the city of L.A. had only implemented a couple of these - exactly two transit islands - on Los Angeles Street. The designs are not perfect (see below), but now these are part of the city's toolbox, and their performance can inform future projects.
    • Figueroa's bike-signal timing seems ok. After viewing Michael MacDonald's early signal-timing video, I was worried. LADOT staff pulled me over at a recent Transportation Committee meeting to assure me that they had re-tooled signal-timing to be better for bikes. It's anecdotal, but, at least on one Friday afternoon cruising up and down the facility, my bike triggered signals; often as I rolled over the advance sensors, the bike signals switched to green.

Now some negatives:

    • Scofflaw drivers are parking in the bright green bike lanes. Others have documented this - over and over and over. On Friday there were eight taxis parked in the bike lane at the convention center (on the west side of Figueroa immediately south of Pico Boulevard).
Eight taxis in the MyFigueroa bike lane last Friday
Eight taxis in the MyFigueroa bike lane last Friday

One of L.A.'s taxi commissioners has requested that bicyclists document taxis and ride-hail blocking bike lanes and tweet footage with the hashtag #LATaxiReport.

The unprotected bike lane on the east side of Figueroa just south of Exposition is another common spot for scofflaw parking. Drivers are apparently parking in front of the businesses there, instead of using the business parking in the rear.

  • Scofflaw drivers not respecting bus-only lanes and turning restrictions. MyFig has a fairly limited bus-only lane, only in the northern end of the project. Drivers are theoretically only allowed in the bus lane when making right turns. For blocks with no right turns, the buses should have the lane all to themselves. Well, not quite. Take for example, one-way northbound Figueroa at 7th Street (at the 7th Street Metro subway station). There are a few no-right-turn signs.

  • No right turn sign on Figueroa at 7th Street
    No right turn sign on Figueroa at 7th Street

    Drivers don't seem to take the signage seriously, though, so they get in the bus-only lane, then sit attempting to turn right across the heavily-walked crosswalk. This delays the buses.

    DWP vehicle and car blocking DASH bus in the bus-only lane. The sign facing away is the no right turn sign shown above.
    DWP vehicle and car blocking DASH bus in the bus-only lane. The sign facing away is the no-right-turn sign shown above.
    This Foothill Transit bus had to merge out of the bus-only lane to get around the car driver blocking the lane
    This Foothill Transit bus had to merge out of the bus-only lane to get around the car driver blocking the lane
    In the background, a car in the bus-only lane blocks a line of buses.
    In the background, a car (stopped, trying to turn right illegally) in the bus-only lane blocks a line of buses.

    I don't often call for enforcement. There are serious equity concerns. If we've built a facility that depends on constant enforcement, then we failed, because police just can't be there 24/7. But in this case, I think that MyFigueroa really does need some stepped-up enforcement - to make a dent in both illegal parking and illegal turning. In about a half hour at Figueroa and 7th I did see LAPD working the site - giving warnings to two drivers making illegal right turns. It's a little astonishing that (before the state crosswalk law was fixed) LAPD was able to issue 8,000+ jaywalking tickets a year, but doesn't appear to be able to issue tickets to keep Figueroa drivers from behavior that endangers cyclists and pedestrians.

    Readers - what is your impressions of MyFigueroa? What's working? What's not?

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