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Green Paint Welcomes Cyclists to a Reprioritized Spring Street

By Eric Richardson
Published: Monday, November 21, 2011, at 03:11PM
Spring Street Bike Lane Eric Richardson / blogdowntown

Councilman Jose Huizar and other cyclists ride down Spring Street's green bike lane after a ceremonial ribbon cutting.

A coat of paint can make a big difference, even to a street.

Councilmembers Jose Huizar and Jan Perry joined a large group of neighborhood and cycling advocates at the corner of 2nd and Spring on Monday afternoon to official unveil a green bike lane installed on Spring Street over the weekend.

While Los Angeles has installed more than 55 miles of bicycle lanes since 2005, the Spring Street lane joins a stretch of 1st Street through Boyle Heights as the only two stretches in the city to receive the green treatment currently preferred for delineating the two-wheel spaces.

"You feel like it's your space. You feel like other people know you're there," said Huizar as he returned from a first ride after the press conference. "It makes a difference."

"It tells both sides that there's a place here for bikes. They belong here just as much as you. Right now, even just putting down a bike lane, I think car drivers say 'Hey, let me move into that lane; no big deal.' Now you're telling bicyclists and car drivers alike that there's a place here for bikes and that you have to respect them."

The Downtown lane stretches nearly 1.5 miles down Spring Street, from Cesar Chavez on the north to 9th Street on the south. A similar lane is planned on Main Street as part of the city's Bicycle Master Plan, but traffic studies for that effort are still ongoing.

During peak commuting hours, Spring's new configuration removes two lanes of auto traffic—one dedicated to traffic and the other a curbside peak-hour bus lane. The curbside lane becomes a full time space for parking and bus stops, while the traffic lane was used to create space for the six-foot bike lane and the four-foot buffer that separates it from neighboring traffic.

Valerie Watson of the Downtown L.A. Neighborhood Council was among the volunteers who went door-to-door talking to neighborhood businesses in the weeks since the lane was announced.

"They were thrilled about the bike lane," she noted. Many had questions about how the lane would affect their parking, loading and traffic. Volunteers were able to tell them that the lane would actually increase parking and that the traffic numbers supported the move.

"It was good to have that conversation with people so that they knew this wasn't something just happening out of the blue," Watson said.

Watson chairs the council's Parks, Recreation & Open Space committee, which has been active in brainstorming ideas for how to use Spring Street as a testbed for "complete streets," roadways that give equal priority to cars, cyclists and pedestrians.

The next step in that effort will come as the city tests out "parklets," small patches of pedestrian space installed in one or two parking spaces. A demonstration project is scheduled to be installed on Spring between 6th and 7th.

Huizar, whose district includes the 1st Street lane as well as part of the Spring Street one, noted that the city's job is not done when the paint on the lane is done.

"We have to continuously educate both bicycles and car drivers about providing some common courtesy for both modes," he said, noting that on his ride he had seen drivers opening their car doors without noticing oncoming cyclists.

While the city's first two green lanes were installed within weeks of each other, they differ in materials and design. The Spring Street lane features a continuous ribbon of green paint, while the lane down 1st Street in Boyle Heights uses a green thermoplastic, and puts color only in areas where cars and cyclists are likely to come into conflict.

That lane, which was funded by Metro as part of the Gold Line's Eastside Extension, cost $250,000. The Spring Street lane cost $150,000.

The performance of the two lanes and the materials used to create them will be analyzed to see what approach the city takes going forward. Downtown's lane got a rough start this weekend, as rain hit before it had been able to fully set. Crews will be going out to patch up spots that were affected.

Watson, who is involved in designing similar projects as part of her role with landscape architecture firm Melendrez, sees the Spring Street lane as a triumph of collaboration between a community, advocates and the city.

"This project really shows that you can make things happen quickly as long as you get everyone's voice heard and get everyone at the table at the right time," she said.


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