I am excited about the new bike lanes on First Street in Downtown Los Angeles!
Bikas reported on the First Street lanes announcement as part of a downtown bikeway network, and twice about their preliminary striping. Today, Bikas covers the somewhat disappointing history of these lanes. The moral of the story is something along the lines of “your bike plan don’t mean nothin’ if you aint got political will.”
Way back in 1996, before Bikas was born, the city of Los Angeles approved a bike plan that designated bike lanes on First Street in downtown Los Angeles. Here’s the map of the downtown bikeway network as approved in 1996 (full 1996 maps online here):
To date, none of the bike facilities on this map have been completed, though First Street is nearly there!
Around 2007(?) the city took another look at its downtown streets. One of the issues pushing this process was a clear sense that downtown’s streets didn’t need to meet the same wide-ass suburban standards that pertain to the rest of the city (and this is still a big problem in nearly all of L.A. – but that’s another story.) The city hired consultants to
wrestle with LADOT come up reasonable street standards. The consulants pushed for bikeways, but John Fisher’s LADOT got the upper hand, so the final street standards, approved 2009, only approved bike lanes on 7th Street, Figueroa and Flower. No bike lanes on First Street. The final Downtown Design Guidelines and Downtown Street Standards are online.
Also in 2009, the city proposed a draft Bike Plan which mapped the First Street bike lanes as being “infeasible.” Here’s the disheartening proposed map from 2009, never adopted, thank goodness:
Cyclists organized and fought very hard and many of the worst aspects of that draft plan were elminated or lessened by the time the “2010” Bike Plan was approved in 2011.
Here’s the “2010” bike plan map for facilities in downtown Los Angeles:
So… after a whole lot of activism… the city brought back those planned First Street bike lanes that had been approved in 1996. Woooot! Wooooooot! and whew. But they were still just lines on a map, with no implementation scheduled (they’re in the city’s 5-Year Implementation Strategy but only east of Central Avenue.)
And, now, with Mayor Villaraigosa’s push for actual bike facility implementation, the initial (Grand Avenue to San Pedro Street) phase of Downtown’s First Street lanes is nearly completed. To me, it shows that we can spend a lot of time fighting over lines on a map in a plan… but if we don’t have the political will to get the actual lanes on the ground… well… that map will gather dust.
I am looking forward to riding the new First Street bike lanes – expected to be completed this weekend!