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Councilmember Moves to Get Rid of One of L.A.’s Rare Protected Bike Lanes

10:52 AM PST on December 5, 2019

This article supported by Los Angeles Bicycle Attorney as part of a general sponsorship package. All opinions in the article are that of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of LABA. Click on the ad for more information.

Yesterday, Los Angeles City Councilmember John Lee put forth a council motion that could undo the city's first parking-protected bike lanes, located on Reseda Boulevard in Northridge. The Lee motion seeks a Transportation Department (LADOT) evaluation of the Reseda Boulevard lanes, with the possibility of "return[ing] to the original street design."

The motion (council file 19-1515), seconded by Valley Councilmember Paul Krekorian, states:

Since the [Reseda Boulevard Great Street] project was implemented, there have been ongoing complaints about the difficulty in navigating the lane markings and bike lane. Additionally, exiting and entering a vehicle that is parked on-street can be dangerous, as the driver is immediately adjacent to ongoing traffic.

I THEREFORE MOVE that the Council instruct the Department of Transportation to report in 45 days with an evaluation of the Reseda Boulevard Great Street pilot project, including a community opinion survey and a recommendation to improve the project or return to the original street design

The motion language is car-centric. The "ongoing complaints" about "navigating the... bike lane" are highly unlikely to be from bicyclists (who should be the only people navigating the bike lane.) The only danger referenced is drivers endangering other drivers. As Keep Rowena Safe pointed out, the motion makes no mention of the evaluation including objective safety data, instead Lee just calls for a subjective "opinion survey."

New parking-protected bike lanes on Reseda Boulevard. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
Northridge's Reseda Boulevard parking-protected bike lanes in 2015. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Northridge's one-mile long Reseda Boulevard protected bike lanes extend from Plummer Street to Parthenia Street. The parking-protected bike lanes were an upgrade from existing conventional bike lanes, which LADOT implemented after advocates caught the department denying parking removal plans in 2009.

The protected bike lanes were implemented by LADOT in April 2015. They are part of the Great Streets Initiative championed by Mayor Eric Garcetti and then-councilmember Mitch Englander. Per LADOT, the safety upgrade design responded to this stretch of Reseda Boulevard reporting 209 car crashes from 2009-2014.

According to LADOT's Livable Streets map, the upgraded portion of Reseda Boulevard has experienced no traffic deaths since 2012. Other parts of Reseda Boulevard have continued to experience serious levels of traffic death and injury.

Reseda Boulevard - photo via LAFD Flickr
Reseda Boulevard - photo via LAFD Flickr

On October 5, 2019, the L.A. City Fire Department (LAFD) rescued five injured people from a two-car collision that took place on Reseda Boulevard near Halstead Street, a couple blocks north of the Great Streets project.

Crashes south of Parthenia Street prompted LADOT to make plans to extend Reseda Boulevard's safety features. LADOT's Reseda Boulevard Complete Streets Project will be located partially in Lee's district and mostly in Bob Blumenfield's district: Reseda Blvd between Parthenia and the Metro Orange Line. The project will add "new traffic signals, crosswalks with flashing beacons, bus boarding islands, protected bicycle lanes, pedestrian islands" and paratransit passenger loading zones. According to LADOT, from "2009 and 2017, 70 people were killed or severely injured on this section of Reseda Blvd." These included a horrific triple-car collision that sent one car crashing into a building at Gault Street on February 11, 2017.

John Lee took office in August, 2019, after winning an off-year special election. He campaigned against Bus Rapid Transit and for "keeping safe and clean streets."

Next year, Lee is the incumbent in a general election that will again pit him against Loraine Lundquist. Safe streets advocacy groups Bike the Vote L.A. and Streets for All have endorsed Lundquist whose campaign prioritizes a "new clean energy green economy" including green transportation. The primary election will take place on March 3, 2020.

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