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Highland Park bike advocates face another setback on Figueroa

By HELIN JUNG

HIGHLAND PARK — Plans to improve pedestrian and traffic  safety along North Figueroa Street  — including the possible creation of a bike-only lane — have been put on hold at the request of First District Councilman Gil Cedillo, a prominent critic of “road diets” that reduce motor vehicles lanes.

The safety improvements to Figueroa  were proposed as part of  the city’s Vision Zero program to reduce traffic injuries and fatalities. The Department of Transportation had proposed “repurposing” one northbound lane of Figueroa in addition to other changes, such as the installation of high visibility crosswalks, between York Boulevard and Avenue 43 on the neighborhood’s main north-south street.

The “repurposing” could apply to any of the lanes on the street, not necessarily a traffic lane, said one LADOT official. “The reference means that the lane may be repurposed to a bicycle lane, but also it could mean that it would be reserved for parked vehicles or a center-running left turn lane,” said the official in an email.

But there won’t be any lane changes for now.  A spokesperson for LADOT confirmed that the safety improvement plan was on hold pending action by the City Council. Last month, Cedillo introduced a City Council motion directing the transportation department to stop all road diets, traffic lane removals, and lane configurations in his council district that have not been approved by his office.

Cedillo has been a lightning rod in the debate over changes to the North Figueroa corridor since at least 2013, when he was first elected to the council. His consistent opposition to the implementation of road diets and bike lanes has invited criticism from cyclists and complete streets advocates.

“For the most part, these road diets appear to be disastrous with respect to what the public thinks of them,” Cedillo told the L.A. Times last month.

Cedillo’s press secretary, Fredy Ceja, told The Eastsider that the councilman introduced the motion because “we have issues with the way outreach was done.”

“We respect LADOT’s Vision Zero strategy and are merely seeking improved communication with our council office before decisions are made regarding projects in our communities,” Cejas wrote in an email. “Before any road diet or lane configurations are initiated, we must ensure that a robust community discussion is had with maximum community participation, prioritizing pedestrian safety.”

Cedillo’s motion does support the implementation of pedestrian safety improvements like flashing beacons and the extension of pedestrian crossing count time. Ceja further emphasized that Cedillo’s office prioritizes pedestrian safety.

At this month’s meeting of the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council, emotions ran high as bike lane supporters expressed frustration that the debate was focused at what they felt was the expense of safety. Many described feeling afraid to walk or bike along Figueroa.

” I stay away from Figueroa because I don’t feel safe, and I’m somebody who’s been riding for 20-plus years,” said one bike advocate.

Meanwhile, an opponent of the proposed bike lane told cyclists to “Take the Metro instead of riding your bike.”

Helin Jung is a freelance writer in LA

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21 comments

  1. “repurposing”…. really? Well doesn’t that sound pleasant. I call it traffic screwing. I do love the name, Vision Zero. Clearly named for the intelligence of the person who created it. And a thank you to Gil Cedillo for standing up to these bike fascists.

    • Down with the bike fascists!

      What this country needs is more cars!!! … and more parking lots and more obesity and more drive-thru fast food!

    • Bike riders are the most entitled objects on the road. Is there some reason why bike riders find It so difficult to use streets above and below Fig?

      • In short, it’s more dangerous. Believe it or not, visibility is lessened on residential streets, so the amount of time required to spot crossing traffic is minimized.

        As a regular rider, this is almost more scary than riding down Fig. You take a chance at each intersection and hope there isn’t a driver speeding through as usual.

      • Motorists are the most entitled objects on the road. Is there some reason why motorists can’t slow down/stop killing people, or use the adjacent freeway?!

        • We drivers are entitled. We are entitled to pay for the repair of the roads with our gas taxes and DMV fees. Seems like every time there is a budget problem governor Moonbeam signs another bill raising taxes and DMV fees on us the driver.

      • Do you realize that your statement is the exact definition of entitlement?

  2. We need new outreach? As opposed to the farcical meetings Cedillo himself set-up and led at Florence Nightingale Middle School and Franklin High School. Nice try to blame that on DOT and the City staff, but at those specific meetings, which were set up by CD1, pretty much both sides recognized that neither Cedillo or any of his staff have a clue what’s going on here. Complaining about how outreach was done, when it was done by CD1, is a prime example.

    Pure incompetence over there.

  3. “Take the Metro instead of riding your bike.” That’s like how a lady at the Fletcher Drive meeting told me to ride my bike on the river bike path instead of on Fletcher. I was like, “1) how would I get to the bike path (um, Fletcher)? and 2) the bike path run perpendicular to Fletcher, so I can’t just substitute that in.” Hard to argue with some people.

    • Ha- take the metro… how many times have I ridden my bike to the HLP Metro, tapped, and waited for train after train, that was too full. Then end up in that game of frogger on my bike anyway that is Fig in the morning.

  4. Cedillo is not forward thinking. Other council offices are embracing the future and the need for a city wide bike network.
    Ask Cedillo’s office what’s happening with those art projects scheduled for Fig. The spaces were cut in the sidewalk all along Figueroa almost a year ago……but they remain covered over with plywood. No art.
    What’s happening there? Something fishy.

  5. Nice work Cedillo, stay true to your mantra “see nothing, do nothing”

  6. I’ve lived in HLP all my almost 40 yrs and with all the road changes these past few years commute is bad but worth bike rider safety and access. I’m for bike riding but a single car lane for Figueroa is not a good idea. The single lane along York Blvd is already bike friendly and road sharing. There are connections both East of York to the Arroyo river bike route to travel north or south and West York connection to Eagle Rock Blvd and so on for bike riders and enthusiasts. If you live in HLP as I do riding on back streets to get to my local shop is no problem for me or my family at all, although I prefer walking. What Figueroa definitely does need are More flashing cross walk lights for pedestrians. They are a must.

  7. Road Diet does NOT work on North Figueroa. Traffic is always horrible. And, there is no alternative but to use North Figueroa. Thank you Cedillo for standing up for residents rights. Thank you for standing up for the truth.

    Road diet does not make roads safer. That is a scam just to the removal of car lanes.

    • Susan, tell us to whose benefit this alleged “scam” is geared towards? The families of those who have been victimized by auto related injuries and deaths (Los Angeles being the most deadly city in America for peds / bikers) I’m having a hard time understanding the motivation of a scam like proven road safety…

    • LOL, there’s a freeway literally 5 blocks over for motorists who are passing through. For those traveling somewhere local, why do you need to go any faster than 25? Life is short, take some time to smell the roses.

  8. Pedestrian safety is not prioritized in Council District One. Each of the people who have been hit and killed by vehicles on Figueroa have been in marked crosswalks-adding lights won’t help reduce vehicle speed. Yesterday a person walking was hit by a hit and run driver on Figueroa and Ave 52 in broad daylight. Until real traffic calming measures are introduced, more drivers, pedestrians and cyclists will be injured and killed.

    • I think you are right. The deaths that have occurred for years along this corridor of Figueroa indicate a major design problem. I like the crosswalks – better than nothing – but a more comprehensive approach is needed. The crosswalks have proven to not be enough. I still see drivers doing 40mph on Fig, accelerating hard through orange-turning-red lights, weaving back and forth.

      Eliminating one lane of travel on Colorado Blvd. has calmed Colorado somewhat. There is much less weaving between lanes and competitive driving which ends in people going 40, 45 mph in adjacent lanes.

  9. Totally in keeping with Gil Cedillo’s counter-Vision Zero program, Zero Vision.

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