Charting L.A.’s FY11-12 Bike Lane Mileage

Posted on 07/05/2012

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City of Los Angeles fiscal year 2011-2012 bike lane mileage installed by community area

Now that it’s July and the city’s fiscal year is over, I’ve been tooling around a bit in the city’s bike lane mileage data. As Bikas posted earlier this week, the city of Los Angeles implemented 50.26 miles of new bike lanes during the past fiscal year 2011-12. This is an order of magnitude greater than the city’s annual average of 5.1 miles/year over the past dozen years.

The pie chart above shows where the city’s 50.26 miles are located. The divisions are just a bit arbitrary; they correspond to generalized vernacular areas, not to official political jurisdictions. They’re also not balanced by size or population.  I used the same breakdown in mapping the city bike plan’s 5-Year Implementation Strategy (though for this week’s analysis, I split the Valley into east and west – with Sepulveda Blvd being the border.) One other slightly arcane data artifact to acknowledge: the overall total I reported is 50.26 miles new FY2011-2012 bike lane miles. That number is still accurate… but some of my data goes to two decimal places, some of it goes to one decimal place. When I did the current analysis I rounded each mileage measurement to a single decimal place, and that changed the overall total to 50.4 miles… which is more-or-less the same as the more accurate 50.26, but gained a tenth of a mile due to the random vicissitudes of rounding.

The area mileage breakdown, represented graphically above, is as follows:

  • East San Fernando Valley: 12.7 miles – 25%
  • Central Los Angeles: 9.2 miles – 18%
  • South Los Angeles: 8.2 miles – 16%
  • West San Fernando Valley: 7.6 miles – 15%
  • Eastside: 6.0 miles – 12%
  • West Los Angeles: 4.6 miles – 9%
  • Harbor: 2.1 miles – 4%
  • Northeast Los Angeles: 0 miles – 0%
  • TOTAL new FY11-12 lane miles: 50.4 miles – 100%

What’s probably most remarkable about this breakdown is that bike lane mileage has been spread fairly evenly throughout the city. It may be debated whether there’s greater or lesser need is various parts of the city… but cyclists live, ride and work in every community, so it’s good for facilities to be spread throughout.

What this broad breakdown doesn’t quite show finely enough is imbalances within these broader areas. Two of these not-shown imbalances that come to my mind:

  • The southern and western portions of South L.A. have received the bulk of South L.A.’s new bike lanes, while the northern parts of South L.A. (nearer to Downtown and USC) have received little to no new bike lanes.
  • Downtown has been a (justifiable) focus in Central L.A., while areas just west – Hollywood, Koreatown, Mid-City, etc. – have received fewer new lanes.

One question I get now and then is how the San Fernando Valley fares relative to the rest of the city. The Valley has just over half of the city’s land and just under half of the city’s population, but is sometimes perceived as not receiving its fair share of city projects and services.

The chart below shows the overall Valley vs. Non-Valley breakdown:

City of Los Angeles Fiscal Year 2011-2012 new bike lane mileage: San Fernando Valley vs. the rest of Los Angeles

At least for bike lanes, the Valley appears to me to be receiving its fair share. Note that historically, too, with fairly wide streets the Valley tends be the easiest place to add new bike lanes – so the more-suburban Valley has generally received more bike infrastructure than the more population-dense core areas of the city. I haven’t done overall totals, but I am pretty that more than half of the overall bike lanes in the city of Los Angeles are in the Valley. There are definitely plenty of cyclists in the Valley, and it’s good that L.A. continues to add lanes to Valley streets.

Another kinda wonky thing that Bikas pays attention to is which bike facilities are in the city’s Bike Plan vs. which facilities are unplanned. Generally, implementing planned facilities is a good thing; it’s the city making good on a promise implicit in the approval of a plan. On the other hand, I don’t think that the city should narrowly follow the plan only and ignore anything that the plan didn’t anticipate. It’s good for the city to be a bit opportunistic and add bike lanes wherever opportunities arise, for example, when a street is re-surfaced.

Note that I call these unplanned facilities “Myras” after I first noticed the city had implemented unplanned unapproved bike lanes on Myra Avenue in Silver Lake.

City of Los Angeles fiscal year 2012 bike lane mileage: planned vs. unplanned

I think that the breakdown of 80% planned and 20% unplanned is very good. It means that the city is primarily doing what was anticipated and approved in the bike plan, but also taking advantage of other opportunities as they arise.

Lastly, and dipping even deeper into insider wonkiness, Bikas charted how FY2011-2012 bike lane mileage corresponds to the city’s approved 5-Year Implementation Strategy. Bikas was initially very alarmed when the city initially disregarded its 5-Year Plan instead favoring cheap quick unplanned sharrows. After receiving criticism, the city responded appropriately, making good on (actually even exceeding) the 5-Year Plan’s commitment to actual bike lane mileage.

Below is a chart breaking down the FY11-12 bike lane mileage relative to the city’s approved 5-Year Implementation Strategy.

FY 11-12 new bike lane mileage corresponding to the city’s 5-Year Implementation Strategy

First, here’s a bit of explanation on the blue “existing or funded” category. During the protracted bike plan process, the city identified a series of projects that it anticipated would be completed before the bike plan was approved. These were expected to already be done before the 5-Year Plan. Many of the “funded or existing” lanes were implemented in FY10-11; a few dragged on into FY11-12. (I’ve been meaning to double-check to see if there are any still out there un-implemented – anyone interested in taking that on?) So… I consider both the blue and green parts of the chart as following the 5-Year Plan, though the blue stuff doesn’t appear in the actual 5-Year document.

The 5-Year Plan approves a specific relatively well-connected network throughout the city, hence not following it may result in a fragmented series of facilities. In a few cases (a recent example is what the city is calling the Downtown Bikeway Network) network connectivity installed is better than the 5-Year Plan network. This is good… but, if  could result in an uneven situation where some areas have great networks, and other areas are ignored. Following the 5-Year Plan does create an overall interconnected “Backbone Network” extending throughout L.A.

All in all, only about 60% of the FY11-12 bike lane mileage corresponds to the city’s approved 5-year plan. This isn’t awful, but it’s a bit less than I think would be most appropriate. Similar to the overall planned/unplanned above, I don’t think that the city needs to slavishly stick to 100% of the 5-Year plan… but I think that something more like ~75+% would mean that the city is making good on its approved 5-Year Plan.

Overall, the 5-Year Plan commits the city to implementing 183.5 bike lane miles over 6 years; that’s 30.5 miles of bike lane each year. This isn’t an absolute requirement; theoretically the city could do tiny bit of this each year, then a huge amount in the sixth year and still comply with the 5-Year Plan.

As the chart above shows, in FY11-12 the city did only 18.3 new miles in the 5-Year Plan. That’s a little over half of the approved 30.5 annually… that isn’t awful or alarming… but it does mean that in future years, the city will need to step up the 5-Year Plan mileage to keep on track for network implementation. 18.3 miles represents good progress (almost exactly 10% of the 5-Year Plan’s bike lanes) and bicycle activists will need to watchdog to ensure that the city continues to implement all of the worthwhile approved facilities.

(Also, relative to building the network in the 5-year plan: the 12.4 miles of “existing and funded” bike lane are part of the 5-year plan’s network, so it makes good sense to get those more-or-less-overdue projects done right away.)

So… what are my take-home messages from all this analysis?

All in all, the city’s 50.29 miles of new FY11-12 bike lanes are a great unprecedented accomplishment! The new bike lanes are making a positive difference on L.A. streets. The facilities are fairly well-distributed throughout the city. The city is generally following through on the promises in its bike plan, while also taking advantage of opportunities outside the plan.

(updated 5 July 2012 noon: meant to also share these spreadsheets where I parsed the mileage data and created the charts.)

Posted in: bike lane