Bike riders and cycling advocates came out in force to a Monday night public hearing to demand the addition of bike lanes and more room for pedestrians in a $50 million proposal to renovate the Glendale-Hyperion bridge between Atwater Village and Silver Lake.
The cycling activists far outnumbered a group of Atwater residents who feared that making changes to the current proposal would endanger the entire project and alter the span’s historic character.
Part of the forum covered possible solutions to address mounting criticism of the Bureau of Engineering’s proposal that is outlined in a preliminary environmental impact report. City officials said the Glendale-Hyperion bridge, which is actually composed of three bridges that run 1,200 feet over the Los Angeles River and the I-5 freeway, say the existing structure fails to meet modern seismic and highway traffic standards.
Some member of the public who spoke at the hearing pointed out the $50 million plan ignored the Los Angeles Department of Transportation Bike Plan, which proposed including a bike lane over the bridge, and the Caltrans “Complete Streets” directive that recommends state support for projects that protect pedestrian, public transportation and cyclist usage.
“We are all pedestrians. Even if we drive motor vehicles,” L.A. Walks Director Deborah Murphy said to a clamoring of applause.
City officials pointed out they must come up with a final plan relatively soon. During the presentation Bureau of Engineering Senior Engineer James Treadaway said the project will lose access to federal funding if they fail to submit necessary documentation by March 14.
Some Atwater residents opposed making changes to the current proposal, which has been in development for nearly a decade, expressed anger that the bicyclists waited until the last minute to demand changes. They say the current plans were formulated after a significant amount of public involvement and will address a pressing need.
“Just imagine if the big one hits during rush hour and the bridge fails and crushes traffic on the I-5,” said one opponent of the cyclists.
“Enough is enough,” said said Atwater Village activist Luis Lopez, who critiqued the bicyclists for proposing changes at the last minute. “We need to protect the bridge from earthquakes and preserve our historic monuments.”
The challenge facing engineers is how to squeeze enough room on the bridge to safely accommodate motor vehicle traffic, bikes and pedestrians. The current proposal calls for the construction of a second, smaller crossing for pedestrians and cyclists just south of the Glendale-Hyperion bridge.
Some potential solutions discussed Monday night:
- The city suggested creating two lanes of traffic in each direction, with the outer lanes being 11 feet wide and the inner lanes 10.5 feet wide. Each side would be flanked by three foot striped shoulders. A four and a quarter foot pedestrian crosswalk would run along one side with a two foot crash barrier in the middle for the 58 foot section of the Hyperion Avenue bridge near Waverly Bridge. The 69-foot wide portion of the bridge that extends over the freeway would have four 11 foot travel lanes, each with a four foot striped shoulder, separated by a two foot wide barrier. A seven foot walkway would on one side would carry pedestrians, according to the city, and replica railings would line either side. In the bureau’s plan, cyclists would use the striped shoulder.
- The engineering department also presented an alternative design formulated by the Los Angeles County Bike Coalition. In the cycling advocacy group’s design, the wider section of the Hyperion Bridge would have four, eleven-foot wide traffic lanes, two six-foot wide bike lanes and a seven-foot wide pedestrian sidewalk with a small one foot wide barrier between cars.
The cyclists, who comprised the majority of speakers, critiqued the bureau’s plan for entrenching automobile culture, not providing enough space for bikers and not endeavoring to slow down automobiles on the “Autobahn of a block.”
“You want to put up a divider to keep cars from crashing into each other, but you’ll only put down a thin strip of paint to protect us?” said one speaker.
Several victims of hit and run accidents—including a cyclist named Adam who spent six months in the hospital after suffering broken ribs, neck and rended jaw after a collision on the bridge—spoke about the dangers of the bridge.
“I’m so much more afraid, as a cyclist, of being hit by a car than of an earthquake,” said one speaker.
The public has until Nov. 7 to submit written comments in response to the proposal and the finding of a preliminary environmental impact report.
Tony Cella is a freelance reporter who has covered crime and grime in Los Angeles, New York City and the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. Click here to contact Cella with questions, comments or concerns.