Three proposals currently being considered for the $50 million Glendale-Hyperion bridge improvement project now include bike lanes on the 1,200-foot-long span linking Atwater Village and Silver Lake. But in order to make room for bikes, motorists might be squeezed into fewer lanes. Only one proposal calls for keeping all of the four existing traffic lanes. The other proposals envision only three lanes for motor vehicles, with one northbound lanes for traffic headed downhill into Atwater and two southbound lanes for motor vehicles traveling uphill into Silver Lake and Los Feliz. During a recent meeting of the Atwater Village Neighborhood Council, some residents and council members contemplated which neighborhood might fare worse if traffic is forced to be funneled through fewer lanes under a lane reducing road diet.
“I would be very worried for Glendale Boulevard businesses [in Atwater],” said one neighborhood resident at the meeting. “If you are going to have two car lanes [into Silver Lake] and only one [into Atwater], that’s really going to prevent and really cut down business. I think the council should be concerned about that.”
But one Atwater council member said Silver Lake might have more to lose in the form of increased traffic congestion as evening traffic on Hyperion would be squeezed down to two lanes as it hits the bridge. “It would probably worsen traffic in the Silver Lake area,” he said. “For folks who live in Silver Lake, I think they would find it awful.”
The Atwater council like others in the area are being asked to weigh in on the proposals before the city makes a final decision. How would eliminating a lane on the bridge impact traffic flow and congestion on surrounding streets? Know one knows for sure and the city is currently conducting a traffic study that will also be taken into account as the three proposals are evaluated.
The proposal that keeps two traffic lanes in each direction – as well as two bike lanes – includes a single sidewalk only on one side of the span, raising fears that pedestrians would simply walk in the bike lane or gutter. Many who expressed their opinions at last week’s meeting seemed to prefer the proposal that included two sidewalks and two bike lanes. But providing room for sidewalks on both sides of the bridge – as well as leaving enough for bike lanes, buffer zones and a median strip – means a lane of traffic gets squeezed out.
“Something has to give,” said Segio Lambarri, Government Relations Chair of the Atwater Neighborhood Council, which will eventually have to vote on which proposal it favors. “Either we lose a [traffic] lane or we lose a sidewalk.”
But some persons – primarily cycling and pedestrian advocates - said losing a traffic lane would not be so bad. Eric Bruins, with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, argued that the loss of a northbound traffic lane into Atwater won’t have a big impact on traffic counts because a long stretch of the road between Atwater and Silver Lake does not have signals, allowing traffic to flow freely. In fact, the reduction in northbound lanes might help slow down speeding traffic into Atwater, Bruins said. “It may actually calm the traffic going downhill going into Atwater Village,” he said.
Others who favored the three-traffic lane option said the combination of sidewalks on both sides of the bridge and bike lanes would only strengthen ties and encourage pedestrian traffic between Atwater and Silver Lake. “We need to start connecting two cool communities,” said activist Tomas O’Grady.