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Northeast LA Residents Debate Merits of Bike Lanes

The Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council is scheduled to hear a presentation tonight by the Department of Transportation on proposed bike lanes in Northeast Los Angeles.

The bike lanes are part of the city’s 2010 Bicycle Plan that aims to promote cycling, improve the health of Angelenos and make streets safer for cyclists across the city.

The neighborhood council is in the process of deciding whether it will support or oppose the bike lanes, which would replace vehicle lanes on Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock and Highland Park, HHPNC member Teri Bonsell told EGP.

Before they decide, however, the council wants to know more about where the stakeholders they represent stand on the proposal.

At a March 27 public meeting on the proposal, an overwhelming majority of the 100 or so attendees who identified themselves as Northeast LA residents, said putting in the bike lanes is a good idea.

Ninety-two comment cards were submitted, and 73 percent supported the bike lanes while only 27 were opposed, Councilman Jose Huizar’s spokesman Rick Coca told EGP about the town hall meeting at Occidental College.

Thirty-one people spoke in favor of the plan, and only 8 were opposed, he added.

“If this were an election, this would have been a landslide,” Coca said.

The Colorado Boulevard Bike Lane plan calls for taking one of the three lanes in each direction of Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock, now dedicated to vehicles, and converting to them to bicycle lanes, he told EGP. That would still leave two lanes in each direction for cars, Coca said.

While some Highland Park residents have expressed concern that the change could impact traffic on York Boulevard, Coca says those fears are unfounded, noting that there are already bike lanes on York. He added that North Figueroa Street will not be affected by the changes on Colorado, but did say that Figueroa is a candidate for bike lanes.

AB 2245, passed by state lawmakers, exempts bike lane proposals from having to go through the exhaustive environmental studies required for many other types of planning and transportation projects, according to Coca.

Late last month, Metro launched an advertising campaign to inform the public that cyclists have the same rights as vehicles on the streets, and to remind them that cyclists sometimes need to ride in the middle of a lane to navigate safely. Adding designated bike lanes will make cycling safer, according to the city’s bicycle plan.

Responding this week to inquiries from EGP, both the Highland Park Chamber of Commerce and the Eagle Rock Chamber of Commerce said they have not yet taken a formal stand on the bike lanes, which if installed could affect vehicle traffic in commercial areas, but both groups are considering taking a stand.

Businesses along Colorado could be impacted by traffic, Eagle Rock Chamber President Michael Noguera told EGP.

Many of the chamber’s members are concerned that replacing a lane for cars in each direction for one for bicycles will cause major traffic delays, especially when the State Route 2-Glendale and State Route 134-Ventura freeways are backed up, Noguera said.

“Put yellow cones up… do a survey, see how many bicycles do travel down Colorado,” said Noguera, explaining he would prefer a temporary pilot program to study the impact on traffic and to see if there really is a need for the bike lanes.

Noguera said he personally doesn’t feel many cyclists use Colorado, since there is no destination, like a beach or the zoo, at either end of Colorado. Putting in the lanes will just cause traffic to be bumper to bumper, he said.

The department of transportation, however, says the bicycle lanes are not just to accommodate people already riding bikes to get around, but also to make cycling a more attractive alternative form of transportation in the city.

While proponents of the bike lane conversion greatly out numbered their opposition at last week’s meeting, local cyclists were nonetheless taken aback by the protests. Flying Pigeon LA, a bike shop located on York Boulevard, captured anti-cyclist signs at the meeting on video and blamed some local media outlets for stirring up local residents.

A flyer delivered to area residents, quotes one local monthly puclication as saying: “Bike extremists to rule the roads” and “commuters will be gridlocked daily.”

“If we stay home and let the bike lane haters have their way, our streets can stay scary and dangerous car-only places. If we mobilize, our streets can also become safer, more livable, and better for local walk-up business foot traffic,” Flying Pigeon owner Josef Bray-Ali wrote on his blog, encouraging cyclists to attend today’s meeting.

The neighborhood council meeting is open to the public and residents interested in listening to the Dept. of Transportation presentation are invited to attend, Bosnell said. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the Highland Park Senior Center, located at 6152 N Figueroa St., Los Angeles, 90042.

Read the 2010 Bicycle Plan at http://clkrep.lacity.org/onlinedocs/2010/10-2385-S2_MISC_07-11-2011.pdf