L.A.'s Plan To Make Figueroa Safer For Bicyclists And Pedestrians Begins Construction This Month
Though it's been delayed for several years, Los Angeles' first truly protected bike lanes (also called a "cycle track") are set to begin construction this month, according to KPCC. Once completed in the spring of 2017, the MyFigueroa project will add a totally isolated-from-traffic bike path, with its own signals, to Figueroa Street between 7th Street in downtown L.A. and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Supplementing the bicycle infrastructure will be a litany of other pedestrian and transit improvements that will make the Figueroa Corridor an, altogether, more safe and more appealing place those on foot or bicycle.
This is a pretty big deal, and it represents one of L.A.'s first meaningful steps as a city that actively tries to reprogram its streets into spaces that are friendly to more people than just those who are driving through in their cars.
In short, MyFigueroa will rebuild Figueroa's streetscape so both pedestrians and cyclists are isolated from the road's free-flowing traffic. The project will move street-parked cars closer to the center of the road, opening up space between the parked vehicles and the sidewalk curb for a bike lane. The parked car 'buffer', as it's termed, means cyclists will ride on a path that's completely isolated from traffic. Pedestrians on the street will benefit from further isolation from traffic, and will have an easier time crossing the street owing to the narrower section of road devoted solely to cars.
Along with the protective buffer for cyclists and pedestrians, transit users will benefit from redesigned bus stops that more closely resemble rail stations in some spots. In areas where Figueroa is wide enough, bus riders will board from elevated platforms instead of the curb. You can get an idea of what this looks like in the image above.
Aside from the new infrastructure along Figueroa, 11th street in downtown L.A. will be similarly reworked in anticipation of the DTLA streetcar, as will Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard just south of the Coliseum.
As for the bikes, in the world of cycling infrastructure, cycle tracks like MyFigueroa are the holy grail of giving people a safe and easy way to navigate built up urban environments on two wheels. Where "sharrows" are commonly regarded as bullshit, painted lanes are barely acceptable and protected bike lanes are pretty good (but still offer little protection from an out-of-control vehicle), cycle tracks give people a safe, physically separated place to ride, with designated signals.
MyFigueroa is funded through a $20 million grant made possible by Proposition 1C in 2010. Though the project has been funded, designed and cleared of the appropriate environmental review hurdles for years, it's been tied up in a litigation sponsored by a prominent landowner who owns several pieces of property (including all the car dealerships!) up and down Figueroa.