New Bike Lanes on Laurel Canyon Blvd in Sylmar

Posted on 05/25/2012

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Start of the new Laurel Canyon Boulevard bike lanes at Laurel and Rinaldi

The city of Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) recently striped 0.6-mile of new bike lanes on Laurel Canyon Boulevard. The lanes extend from Crestknoll Drive to Rinaldi Street. They’re in the Los Angeles City community of Sylmar, along Sylmar’s southern border. The lanes are located immediately east of the 5 Freeway just south of where it intersects the 405 Freeway in the northern part of the San Fernando Valley – just west of the city of San Fernando. 

This section of bike lane, announced recently via a list published on the LADOT website, was approved in 2011 via the city’s bike plan. The bike plan designates bike lanes on Laurel Canyon Blvd from Sylmar all the way to Ventura Boulevard. This new Sylmar stretch was not included in the city’s 5-Year Implementation Strategy – so it’s one of those going-ahead-where-space-permits-easily projects. According to LADOT, the project was completed May 13th 2012.

Bikas didn’t spot any other cyclists using these lanes when I visited briefly yesterday. It’s probably the steepest part of Laurel Canyon Boulevard once it exits the Santa Monica Mountains in Studio City. These lanes do close a gap between existing bike lanes on Laurel (Crestknoll to Polk) and on Rinaldi. Hopefully they’re sort of an early phase of marching Laurel’s bike lanes across the Valley.

There’s an interesting aspect of the bikeway design on this stretch of Laurel: sharrows.

Sharrow on southbound Laurel Canyon just north of Rinaldi

The northbound bike lane is continuous. The southbound lane has to deal with  a preponderance of southbound car traffic turning right at Rinaldi. There’s both a right-turn lane and a second lane that permits right and through traffic – that kind of lane is incompatible with an actual bike lane. To keep non-turning cyclists out of the way of those turning cars, ideally, LADOT would only allow drivers to turn right from a single lane. They could shave a bit of space off of other lane widths, and continue with an actual bike lane… but in this case, where there are few bicyclists and they probably have quite a bit of momentum from going downhill, they can share the lane here.

(A minor design point: In San Francisco [photo] or Santa Monica [photo], they would probably also sharrow the right-turn-only lane, assuming that cyclists go straight and turn right here.)

This one of a few L.A. bikeway projects where lanes and sharrows are used continuously. This lane-sharrow combo is done relatively well in San Francisco (ie: Polk Street) and not so well in L.A. (ie: Reseda Blvd.) I think it’s a treatment that would work well for many L.A. streets, including Fountain Avenue, where many stretches are wide enough for bike lanes, but there are also narrow parts where adding bike lanes would require removing space from cars. I like this lane-sharrow treatment (especially when it’s lots-of-lane-little-of-sharrow), but it’s a bit of a slippery slope. Studies emphasize that sharrows are not a substitute for the proven safety benefits of actual bike lanes. There is the danger, though, that wherever things get just a little tight LADOT will just slap down sharrows instead of lanes.

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Posted in: bike lane, sharrow