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‘Figueroa Streetscape’ road improvement project set for final approval

By Hayley Fox
Published: Monday, August 19, 2013, at 03:52PM
rendering via Meléndrez

The overhaul of Figueroa will include a stretch in Exposition Park near USC, a neighborhood that already has a very active bike community.

The Figueroa Streetscape project, which aims to turn the Downtown thoroughfare into a more pedestrian and cyclist friendly space, is now entering its final stages of approval.

The final Environmental Impact Report has been submitted and it may be certified as early as this week. The $20 million makeover is intended to improve the stretch of road that connects Downtown to Exposition Park, making it more accessible for all types of transit.

Some motorists were concerned the plan favored cyclists and would lead to more congestion along the already busy street.

David Somers is the bicycle planner with the Los Angeles Department of City Planning. He said the revised streetscape does show a compromise between vehicle and bike traffic, but drivers do have alternatives to Figueroa, like the 110 Freeway.

The streetscape project includes installing new trees, bus platforms and continental crosswalks — a zebra-striped crosswalk that is supposed to be safer than the standard ones. There will also be basic street improvements, including more public art and street lighting.

There will be two types of bike lanes: buffered and protected. Buffered lanes use a strip or two of paint to distinguish where the bikes should travel, while protected lanes, or cycle tracks, put a physical barrier between the bikes and adjacent traffic.

“The bicycle community has really gotten excited about this project because it’s the first project in the city to essentially feature a protected bicycle lane,” said Somers.

To create these cycle tracks, a bike lane is put where a parking lane is typically found, and parking is moved over towards the first lane of traffic.

This creates a safer zone for cyclists and pedestrians. Creating these types of lanes takes up more space though, so these cycle tracks have been reduced in scope for the Figueroa project.

Eric Bruins is the Planning and Policy Director at the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. He said that they would have liked to see more of the protected bike lanes installed on Figueroa, but any amount is a step in the right direction.

“There’s a huge trend across the entire country right now where people are trying to build these protected bike lanes because they get people that feel a little bit less safe riding next to cars and fast moving traffic, to be willing to ride bikes," he said.

Bruins added that the USC neighborhood has the most bike activity in the city, and Downtown follows are closely behind. By connecting these two neighborhoods with a bike-friendly thoroughfare, there could be huge increases in ridership.

"What we've seen in Chicago and New York is that these types of protected bike lanes are really the game-changers in terms of getting regular people to feel comfortable riding on the street," he said.

The final certification for the Figueroa Streetscape Project could come as early as this week. The project must be completed by the end of 2014 in order to use grant money from Proposition 1C.


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