Biking, MyFigueroa and Future Improvements

DTLA - It’s easy to grow frustrated with the glacial pace of public projects in Los Angeles. Case in point is MyFigueroa. The $20 million effort to make a four-mile stretch of Figueroa Street safer and more amenable to bicyclists and pedestrians was first proposed in 2010. It finally opened Aug. 30. That’s an eight-year gestation period.

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The results, at first glance, are mixed, though we urge observers and travelers to withhold final judgment for a few months, and perhaps longer. It will take cyclists, drivers, mass transit users and city workers at least that long to assess this reimagining of a primary transportation corridor. Tweaks and alterations will likely be needed as plans on paper meet reality on the streets. Hopefully the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, which implemented MyFigueroa, has the money for fixes and will be nimble enough to make required changes.

Give LADOT credit for getting to this point. Even with a regional push for more bike-friendly options, most high-traffic corridors in Los Angeles remain auto-centric. Repositioning Figueroa from Martin Luther King Boulevard to Seventh Street (with an additional six-block stretch on 11th Street) was a momentous undertaking, with repercussions not just on commuters, but also on businesses on the street. The easiest thing would have been to make no changes. Instead, LADOT tried to be proactive. 

MyFigueroa complements some other efforts to make Downtown Los Angeles more navigable for those on foot and two wheels (these days, the two wheels might mean an electric scooter, something which never could have been anticipated eight years ago, but that seems likely to be part of the future mobility scene). Green bike lanes have been painted on Spring Street, among other locations. The Second Street tunnel now has dedicated space for bicycles. Automobile lanes were stripped from Broadway as part of a traffic calming effort.

The protected bike lanes are the most salient feature of MyFigueroa, though they only run for about 1.75 miles of the route. It’s fair to ask if the average cyclist, who has reasonable concerns about pedaling so close to so many automobiles, will try the route, or if only the most avid bike riders will take advantage.

The early stage of MyFigueroa is crucial, and whatever plans and budget LADOT has to educate cyclists and drivers, we hope they will double them. That is because several new elements on the route could confuse people. There are, for example, timed sensors that let bikes go, but hold up cars, or vice versa. There are sections where a bike in the right lane makes a left turn by essentially cutting across multiple lanes of waiting traffic, but it assumes drivers pay specific attention to their signal, and are not confused by a separate signal for cyclists — given how people fiddle with their phones, the danger is obvious. 

Early on, idling cars are often blocking green lanes near the Convention Center, which can force cyclists to veer into traffic.

Ideally these issues can be mitigated, though that requires work and money. We hope it happens and that MyFigueroa can reach its potential.

© Los Angeles Downtown News 2018