West Hollywood Punts on LaBrea Bicycle Lanes

Map of WeHo LaBrea streetscape areaCity of West Hollywood had an opportunity to include bicycle lanes as part of the city’s reconstruction of the section of LaBrea Avenue that it controls, but instead of locking-in a key facility for safer cycling, City Council opted for a median, saying that until City of LA completes its own bike facilities on LaBrea…. That’s not satisfactory. Those who use LaBrea by bicycle shouldn’t have to look ahead to a future battle with nearby shop owners over parking in order to retrofit a bicycle lane at some point. City Council had that opportunity today. A median or a bicycle lane: which benefits you when you ride to shops on and around LaBrea?

Make no mistake: bicycle lanes will surely come to LaBrea because such corridors were intended to move people, not automobiles, but they were engineered to prioritize cars, unfortunately. That’s what makes it imperative to address the oversight now. Bus lanes and bike lanes are our region’s future.

The WeHo decision is limited in impact but potentially decisive in consequences. Limited because the city controls only a small segment of the avenue. But we on the Westside look to it for leadership on progressive transportation and planning solutions. A couple of years ago, the city convened a panel to recommend bike-friendly improvements. It was a signal that City Council wanted to find the right answers to the question of retrofitting streets for safe two-wheel travel. (Compare with the Beverly Hills pro-forma approach to participation that resulted in a weak Pilot proposal for two partial bike route segments.)

Decisive because West Hollywood’s inaction sends the message that safe cycling is not necessarily the city’s priority. Would policymakers really rather have a landscaped median than a separate bicycle lane? The decision could let the neighboring city of Beverly Hills off the hook. That city (our city) will reconstruct the Santa Monica Boulevard corridor starting in 2014. And we too face the same choice (if we don’t opt to widen the boulevard): create a landscaped median where there is none today, or install bicycle lanes where we need them tomorrow?

West Hollywood’s decision could portend ill for our own efforts to secure a separate bicycle facility on a very busy regional boulevard. For that reason, this very small segment of a very long and important mobility corridor may yet stand as an impediment to safe cycling.