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Does York Boulevard Bridge Need a Road Diet?

What can be done to improve cyclist safety on the York Boulevard bridge?

Highland Park cyclists who ride into South Pasadena have likely noticed the new stretch of bike lanes recently painted on Pasadena Avenue, right after the termination of the York Boulevard Bridge.

Writing for Flying Pigeon's blog, Los Angeles cycling advocate Richard Risemberg suggests that the short stretches of bike lane could become the first step in creating a bicycle way that connects Highland Park to South Pasadena.

The one obstacle, however, is the York Boulevard bridge spanning the Arroyo Seco. The narrow and craggy bridge is a harrowing ride for cyclists and, on first blush, doesn't appear to be a great candidate for a bike lane given how narrow it is.

Risemberg's solution? A road diet:

From A Bridge Not Far Enough:

... yesterday I looked again, and thought, Why not a road diet?

It could work—if you rethink the way you use the lanes just a little bit.

In the usual road diet, you make room for bike lanes and sidewalks by turning a four-lane road into a three-lane road, with the center lane being a continuous left-turn channel. This removes cars waiting to turn left into side streets or driveways from the traffic flow, greatly reducing accidents and often actually improving automobile throughput, since the smoother, albeit slower, traffic doesn’t jam up any more.

Now, no one who isn’t suicidal is going to turn left on the bridge, so you’d think a road diet makes no sense at all there.

But: What if the center lane were a reversing traffic lane instead of a left-turn lane?

After all, rush-hour traffic goes one way in the morning, and the other way after work. So one of those lanes is barely in use even at peak hour!

What Risemberg proposes is a little complex, but it has worked in other cities. Flashing signs would be installed to inform motorists of when the center lane was available to them, and when it was intended for motorists heading in the opposite direction. As traffic is rarely heavy in both directions on the bridge, it's unlikely that a road diet of this type would have a major impact on motorists, once they got used to the new configuration.

Risemberg argues that businesses would in the area would also benefit from the extended bike lane, as cyclists are more likely to stop and enter shops than motorists are.

What do you think? Does the York Boulevard Bridge need a Road Diet?

Richard Risemberg May 03, 2012 at 02:12 PM
Given that the bridge is not a major thoroughfare, I don't think it will be widened. I bike on it several times a week, but it's not the best bike route. I don't know the traffic counts on the bridge, but if rush hour traffic is not that heavy, it could just change to two car lanes and two bike lanes. There may or may not be LOS stats on it. Obviously, not every segment of the 7,000 miles of roads and streets in LA is studied comprehensively. Maybe the community should hook up with the Los Angeles County bicycle Coalition and do some traffic counts. As the Gold Line is picking up a lot of travelers who would otherwise drive the bridge, we might receive a pleasant surprise!
edem May 03, 2012 at 03:25 PM
First step to making that whole area by San Pasqual (before the bridge) more bike friendly, would be to make the corner curbs bike accessible on the South side of York. Seems like a good start to me, and a fairly easy fix. I know if I can get up on that side walk crossing York bridge, I feel a whole lot safer. As things stand I take the Metro to Mission and bike from there. Bridge definitely hairy.
Shawn Richardson May 03, 2012 at 03:49 PM
I lived next to the 4th street bridge downtown for over a decade, and the reversible lane was a nightmare of horn blowing, screeching tires, and accidents.
mamacita May 04, 2012 at 06:08 AM
It used to be only two lanes a long time ago. I would walk my bike across instead of ride. It's too uneven and pretty dangerous. Pretty costly to do so much for a few people who ride bikes. And the way people drive around here it still will be scary.
Ryan May 04, 2012 at 09:09 PM
Just make it two lanes with bike lanes on each side. Two lanes is plenty for that bridge.

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