DTLA – Downtown Los Angeles is one of the city’s ripest areas for pedestrian activity, and bike access is expanding with dedicated lanes and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s coming bike share pilot program.
The shifts have been noticed by 14th District City Councilman José Huizar, who last year introduced a new program to address the needs of people on both two feet and two wheels. He recently revealed new details of the plan dubbed DTLA Forward, which aims to improve pedestrian and bike travel, create green spaces, and streamline traffic flow around the Central City.
“Every great city needs a great Downtown and DTLA Forward aims to bring smart, innovative public space policy and programs to a rapidly growing Downtown L.A. that will not only make DTLA more functional, accessible and safer, but greater,” Huizar said in a prepared statement.
While the initiative touts a number of elements, the most dramatic is the creation of protected bike lanes on Main and Spring streets between Cesar Chavez Avenue in Chinatown and Olympic Boulevard in South Park. Unlike existing painted bike lanes, these would create a physical buffer, with some designs putting street parking between traveling cars and bicyclists.
Final designs are under discussion, but the change could cut driving lanes on portions of both streets. Plans call for two phases of construction, with completion by 2017.
The streets were selected because they cut through some of Downtown’s densest areas, according to Huizar’s office. Main and Spring streets will also see Metro bike share kiosks and will be intersected by the Regional Connector and its Second Street/Broadway station.
While L.A. has trailed other cities in building up bike infrastructure, Eric Bruins, policy director for the Historic Core-based nonprofit Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, said the “stars are aligning” with proposed improvements to Main and Spring streets. A silver lining about being late to create more protected bike lanes is that L.A. can take lessons from other urban bike projects to shape its policy and promote biking, he added.
“I think upgrades will take it to the next level, but we also need some Second and Seventh street connections to create corridors and a real network,” Bruins said.
DTLA Forward also calls for kick-starting three pilot programs to activate deserted alleyways. The “Green Alleyways” program would support and springboard off three proposed alley projects in South Park, the Historic Core and the Arts District, each led by a private group. Ideas include creating seating and installing artwork and greenery in the alleys.
Other portions of DTLA Forward include the creation of the Spring Street Community Garden, to which Huizar’s office contributed $15,000. The amenity at 220 S. Spring St., formed by Historic Core stakeholders, will allow people to rent a large planter to grow vegetables and other goods or work several community plots. It is slated to debut this month.
The city Department of Transportation has also installed 16 crosswalk signals that give pedestrians a four-second head start before the green light, with the aim of preventing collisions between walkers and turning cars. Finally, the City Council on March 23 approved a DTLA Forward motion to create a “Master Tree List” for Downtown so that tree-planting standards are streamlined.
Huizar broached DTLA Forward last year, when he issued a series of motions after convening a planning workshop between DOT, City Planning and other departments. It is one of several plans to improve pedestrian and bike travel in and around Downtown.
MyFigueroa, which will cut driving lanes and create protected bike lanes along the Figueroa Corridor and up through Seventh Street, is slated to begin construction this year and wrap up in 2017. The Seventh Street Improvement Project, funded by public improvement dollars tied to the Wilshire Grand replacement, would also potentially create protected bike lanes and widen sidewalks along Seventh Street between Figueroa and Olive streets.
Finally, Huizar’s own Bringing Back Broadway campaign touts the Broadway Streetscape Master Plan, which wrapped its pilot phase last year after cutting driving lanes and installing temporary public spaces and bike lanes. The second phase, estimated to cost $42 million, would widen sidewalks, create protected bike lanes, and add permanent dining and leisure spaces on Broadway between First and 11th streets.
The Broadway project expects to get about half its funding from Metro and state grants, and the city Bureau of Engineering will begin working on the first block, from Eighth to Ninth streets, in 2017, according to Huizar’s office.
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