The Backbone Bikeway Network – Valley Edition

by on Feb.03, 2010, under e/n, transportation

The LA Bike Working Group was hard at work over the last few months working on what will be the Best Bicycle Plan. Not content with just spinning their wheels all over the city this group of cyclists decided to take steps in improving it as well. The Backbone Bikeway Network is the result of many public meetings, discussions and charrettes with a wide range of City staff, consultants, citizens, advocacy groups and bicycling experts. I attended nine out of the ten public meetings; coming back from those meetings I could recognize a few common notions people had about the LA Bike Plan:

1. There needs to be an easier way to get from one side of the city to the other using bike lanes.
2. There needs to be more road markings and signage to inform everyone.
3. Bicycle lanes and routes should connect to all places of commerce, education, recreation, etc.

Taking a hint from our past transportation history in Los Angeles, a “freeway” system similar to that used by cars should be implemented for bicycles to facilitate longer trips. While motorists are presented with an easy to use and efficient route for longer distances, cyclists have had to deal with a zig-zag, mish-mash of dead-end bike lanes, inadequate lane markings and poor signage. The LA Bike Working Group is not asking for multimillion dollar, specially elevated platform for riding — only improvement of road facilities and maintenance along specific bicycling arterials that are already commonly used.

The Backbone Bikeway Network was created by analyzing the current roadway situation and common bicycle routing solutions in conjunction with the proposed LA Bike Plan maps. There were many opinions on what streets should be classed as primary, secondary and tertiary. There was some debate about what streets were nearly ‘un-ride-able’ and were in most need of improvement. The goal was to find what streets could be used to facilitate the longest route of travel while also proving safe connections to popular destinations. Establishing these destinations as ‘hubs’, these were linked in a way to form a broader connective web across the many future neighborhood level networks of Los Angeles.

While the existing / proposed Bike Plan is myopic and presents development on a mile by mile basis, The Backbone gives cyclists a clear and recognizable route across the city. Gone will be the days of contemplating what string of streets to take while navigating nasty road and traffic conditions. One would simply be able to point to a sign and say “take the Backbone that direction” and enjoy their right to ride along a safe and well maintained bikeway. This is a big step in improving road safety that will increase ridership and eventually lead to health, environment and economic progress. A top level plan like this needs to be implemented along with a carefully planned and neighborhood approved plan — by focusing on the wide picture it will make it far easier to provide lower level bikeways that connect to The Backbone in a meaningful way.


Graphic courtesy of Mihai Peteu, L.A. Bike Working Group

The advantage of a powerful system such as this is that it provides transportation improvements for all level of road users. Sure, it will enhance the bicyclist’s experience; but, it will also mitigate the difficulty of sharing the road with motorists and pedestrians resulting in a safer road atmosphere for everyone. We all pay taxes. Why shouldn’t we all enjoy the benefit?

LAist – “Map: The Backbone Bikeway Network, Get Everywhere You Need to be in the City

LA Times – “LA Activists Float Idea of Freeway System for Bikes

I encourage you to offer your comments and criticism of this Bicycle Backbone Network.
To view the Central Backbone -click here-
Stay tuned for more information about this and other LA Bike Working Group tasks.

-UPDATE-
02.08.2010 – LABWG – release – Harbor Gateway map
02.05.2010 – LABWG – map revision – Reseda Bl corrected
02.04.2010 – LABWG – map revision – Cahuenga Bl corrected

02.02.2010 – Re: Draft Bike Plan, Feb 2010 BAC report
“Due to a lack of funding remaining in the Alta contract, the Final Draft is being revised by staff.”
M. Mowery, Sr. Bicycle Coordinator, City of Los Angeles

14 comments for this entry:
  1. Joe Linton

    Overall the network looks very good! A few suggestions/questions:

    What is labeled as “LA River Path” appears to be at least partially mislabeled. It might be Cahuenga Blvd. The LA River Path is east of Crystal Springs (at the right edge of the map)

    Also, the hook up to the northeast for Devonshire seems to be missing a label. Devonshire ends where that elbow is. What street is that diagonal? Is it Van Nuys Blvd?

    There’s a similar slight diagonal at the east end of Roscoe (where it actually turns into Tuxford) which isn’t shown… but perhaps that’s more detail than makes sense at the scale that is displayed.

    The line shown at the southeast end of Glenoaks appears to follow San Fernando Road, not Glenoaks, which veers more directly east(at that point it’s in the city of Glendale, so it’s academic for the city of LA’s planning purposes.)

    Also, on the central map, there are a few minor items that I think might be corrected:

    “LaBrea” should be “La Brea”

    Rodeo Road is shown as appearing to extend to Vermont Avenue, but it doesn’t actually intersect. Rodeo merges into Exposition near Western.

    There are a few things that aren’t clear – these aren’t really errors, but maybe these are more detail than is needed/warranted at the scale you’re working at:
    - North Figueroa is shown intersecting with Broadway, which it doesn’t.
    - Hyperion is shown intersecting with Sunset, which it doesn’t.
    - There’s a street between Wilshire (ends downtown) and Whittier (ends in Boyle Heights) that’s not labeled.

  2. Alex de Cordoba

    Excellent! The City of Los Angeles should clawback the $450K they gave to Alta and donate those funds to implementing the Backbone Bikeway Network.

  3. Joe Linton

    Another suggestion (and maybe this is phase 2?) but there seems to be a need for connectivity between the two maps – central and valley. As shown, if I bike south on Cahuenga (labeled LA River), my bike lane disappears before it it hits the central map. Same problem with Crystal Springs and with San Fernando / Glenoaks.

    Keep up the good work!

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  5. Jeremy

    Alex : thanks for the positive comments. it will really help to get some continuous routes across the city with the support of cyclists such as yourself.

    Joe: thanks for the positive comments and your perspective of the accuracy of this graphic vs. the reality of the routes and the mistake of including the river bike path. It is indeed Cahuenga.

    We offer four cross-map connections via Sepulveda, Cahuenga, Crystal Springs and San Fernando to the adjacent maps. These are shown as a simplified graphic form highlighting the major street names — so not so much detail is shown. I guess you can say it is the broad stroke of an idealistic designer’s fat tip marker. So when Hyperion is shown as intersecting with Sunset (which it does) its probably referring to the route from Crystal Springs > Los Feliz > Griffith Park Bl > Effie > Hyperion > Sunset. It’s also trying to represent the connection to San Fernando Bl > Glendale Bl > Hyperion at the same time.

    Connecting cyclists from the beach to the east side and from the valley to the south bay is our top concern. As information is released I hope that we address all those concerns.

  6. Joe Linton

    You all have done a lot of work on these, on a budget of effectively nothing… and they are worlds better than the city’s draft maps! (And yours contain far fewer errors than the city’s draft maps do.) Your work only gets even better and stronger when you put your draft out there in the world and iteratively incorporate feedback. The map is more accurate now that you’ve corrected “LA River” to read “Cahuenga” – (though I suggest using the same font as the rest of the streets.)

    (I’d also strongly suggest dating/documenting changes like that correction – that way folks can tell which version is which – the older uncorrected version is still at LAist http://tr.im/MV2t – This was one of my frustrations with the city is that their drafts would change without any notice or documentation… I would hope that you wouldn’t emulate the city’s lack of transparency regarding changes made to published documents.)

    I was definitely wrong about Hyperion not intersecting Sunset. Sorry about that. You’re right.(I was thinking it turned into Fountain Avenue… which it does… but I forgot that it also continues as Hyperion.)

    It’s good that you state that there are four central-valley cross-map connections, because the only one that I see shown on the central map is Sepulveda. I would suggest that the rest of the connections between the maps could be shown on future versions of the central map.

    Also, a mistake I failed to see until an LAist commenter pointed it out: “Reseda Ave” is incorrect. It should be “Reseda Blvd”

    Looking forward to the South/Harbor version… and to additional updates making stronger versions of the drafts you’ve released. I am happy to proofread these before you release them to the public, if you want, or after, if you prefer.

  7. Joe Linton

    New version updated today – better.

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  9. john laue

    Great concept…here are a couple suggestions to provide more direct connections to those of us who live/bike in Sunland/Tujunga–yes, we’re also within the city of LA. Add Wentworth Ave. between Glen Oaks and Foothill Blvds. This is already a designated bike route with signage, and is a lightly traveled route. Add La Tuna Canyon Drive between Glen Oaks and Foothill Blvds. A portion of this road has recently been restriped with bike lanes, and will provide direct access to Tujunga, La Crescenta, North Glendale, and La Canada. The city of Glendale is restriping Foothill Blvd to include separate bike lanes, and La Canada has plans to do the same. Wentworth and La Tuna will provide critical north-south connections for the proposed bike network which do not exist in your present plan. Don’t forget those of us who live in northern LA!

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