The Eagle Rock Cultural Center was packed Monday night for Councilman Jose Huizar’s community town hall meeting on the proposed bike lanes for Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock. Twenty minutes after the scheduled start of the meeting, the line to sign-up still extended down the stairs and around the block. Television cameras from KTTV and FOX News along with KCRW were also on hand to, no doubt, capture the potential heated exchange between pro and con bike laners – but the fireworks and outbursts were kept to a minimum – at least on the podium floor.
The upshot of the presentation was that work on adding bike lanes and removing traffic lanes could begin as soon as early August if final approval is granted.
In his opening remarks, Huizar, who has previously expressed support for bike lanes on Colorado, explained this meeting would introduce residents to the improvements to the plan per recommendations received at the March bike lanes meeting at Occidental College.
“Tonight is an opportunity to listen to the community,” he said before turning the floor over to Nate Baird, bicycle coordinator for L.A.’s Department of Transportation (DOT).
Baird began by stating the progress on extending current bike lanes on Eagle Rock Boulevard to Colorado as well as taking the York Boulevard bike lanes all the way into South Pasadena.
Trying to calm fears that the traffic time delays, Baird displayed research that showed the yes, time delay would occur – about 200 additional seconds at one of the busiest intersections at Colorado and Sierra Villa Drive.
Baird’s presentation (click here to view an online version) then described four key improvements to Colorado Boulevard: the buffered bike lanes would extend to the 2 Freeway in both directions; improvements to pedestrian walkways and other features; more room would be added from the medians for left turns; and better transitions at the “Y” and the entrance/exit to the 134 Freeway on the eastern part of Eagle Rock.
Regarding the upgrades to pedestrians, the new plan calls for not only cross walks at El Rio and Glen Iris, but also rectangular rapid flashing beacons to improve the existing crosswalk at Hermosa. In addition, speed feedback signs will be placed near Dahlia Heights Elementary so drivers can be mindful of their speed around children.
Baird stressed that “in general” no parking spaces would be removed with the new plan, but when challenged by a community member, he did say that parts of some current spots would be painted red.
After Baird’s presentation, community members who filled out cards earlier were selected to voice questions and then comments. One question asked about the cost of the project was announced to be $50,000-$60,000 per mile (funds for the project are coming from Measure R).
Since more than 80 comment cards were collected, Huizar allowed each selected attendee to keep their comments to less than one minute.
Many comments – especially from parents of younger children – expressed frustration on how unsafe Colorado Boulevard is and that drivers go too fast. Bike lanes, they reasoned, will slow down traffic. Opponents focused on the potential gridlock and congestion on the streets. “We already know what is going to happen here,” one member said. “Take a look at what is happening on York Boulevard. The best solution is to have a dedicated street for bikers.”
While bikers were called on their failure to stop at stop signs and other rule abuses, pro-bikers called drivers to the task for poor driving, especially around morning drop-offs at schools and entrance/exits to the Eagle Rock Mall.
One member presented the problem (tongue-in-cheek) of bikers’ skin tight outfits as being “too titillating and would cause distractions by drivers.”
One long-time resident of Eagle Rock announced that he has been bike riding the area since 1966 (“I ride more than I drive my car”) and he doesn’t need the bike lanes. “I get along fine without them,” he said.
Still many folks – young parents especially – were advocates of the lanes so they could share bike riding with their children in a safe situation. “I am all for these lanes, and I will teach my daughter how to keep the bike rules when she is out there on the streets,” said one exasperated young mother. “Right now, I feel so unsafe when I go in and out of my car on Colorado. What is the problem?!”
By 8:30 pm, half of the crowd had moved out, but the comments were allowed until right before 9 pm.
The next steps in the process will be the final approval of the lanes and then implementation which could start as soon as this August.
Brenda Rees is a writer and resident of Eagle Rock.