Council Approves La Brea Streetscape Improvements, Addresses Bike Lane Concerns

The West Hollywood City Council unanimously approved plans for adding landscaping and improving lighting along La Brea Avenue at its Monday night meeting. However, those plans do not include adding bike lanes on the busy thoroughfare, a concern expressed by members of the West Hollywood Bicycle Coalition.

Using a grant from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the city plans to add trees, medians with drought-resistant plantings and blue street lights to the five blocks of La Brea within the city limits (from Fountain Avenue to Romaine Avenue). This “streetscaping” would match the landscaping and lighting along Santa Monica Boulevard.

While the current redesign plans do not include bike lanes, they are supposed to accommodate their construction in the future. For now, the council members are waiting to make sure Los Angeles installs the bike lanes it has planned for its portion of La Brea, which bookends WeHo’s section of the street to the north and south.

WeHo bike advocates insist the city should match that plan and that it’d be unsafe to do anything else.

Matt Baume of the West Hollywood Bicycle Coalition said La Brea is “too fast and too scary” for bicycle riders.

“The number of cyclists who can reach their destination on La Brea right now is effectively zero,” said Baume. “I ride on the sidewalk when I’m on La Brea. I don’t want to, but the street is just too terrifying.”

“Our life depends on someone seeing us,” said bicyclist Karen O’Keefe.

Councilmember John Duran, who took up biking two years ago when he started training for the annual AIDS LifeCycle ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, said he understands how dangerous riding on busy streets can be. However, adding bike lanes to the few blocks of La Brea within the West Hollywood city limits would be pointless unless the city of Los Angeles also includes them on the rest of La Brea, he said.

“Our efforts on La Brea need to be about getting Los Angeles to join us (in having bike lanes),” said Councilmember Abbe Land. Councilmember John Heilman said he is convinced bike lanes will be in La Brea’s future at some point.

In hindsight, Mayor Jeffrey Prang said the city should have looked at adding its own funds with the MTA grant so that bike lanes could be included.

Councilmember John D’Amico asked city staff to create signs telling pedestrians and bikers alike that it’s OK for bicycles to be on the sidewalk along La Brea and other busy streets that don’t have bike lanes.

After the meeting Baume said he understood that bike lanes were out of the scope of the project, but hopes the council will add them soon.

“I’m glad the project was approved so it can benefit pedestrians as soon as possible,” Baume told WEHOville. “And I’m glad that every single member of city council made statements in support of safer streets and better bike access.”

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Below, see a video from Baume showing a cyclist’s point of view on WeHo roads with and without bike lanes.


7 Comments
  1. It is disappointing that WeHo didn’t look far enough into the future to see that lanes will come to LaBrea, just as they will surely come to our other major thoroughfares.

    Los Angeles has undertaken an ambitious plan to make our streets more inclusive of all means of mobility, and, notably, they have established an implementation plan (and a process behind it). That should be enough to assure WeHo policymakers of the city’s commitment.

    As for ‘old streets, these corridors were *intended* to move people, not automobiles, after all. Unfortunately they were *engineered* for cars. That will change as non-auto mobility becomes a more important priority. Bus lanes and bike lanes are our region’s future.

  2. I ride and obey all traffic rules. I stop at stop signs and red lights. Riders too can be educated about obeying traffic laws and rules of the road. I hesitate to ride on the mean streets of Hollywood, the close calls in the video are not exaggerated, I get almost taken out every ride; (
    What is the big deal about painting a stripe in the road; p

  3. Joel has it right, and Todd has it wrong. The streets being “old” has nothing to do with it. LA and West Hollywood have tremendously wide streets compared to cities like Vancouver, Berlin, and New York, where there are far more dedicated bike lanes. Our wide streets are actually an advantage for bike infrastructure. The only thing lacking here is the WILL to make it happen.

    As Joel said, “road diets” that remove a lane in either direction allow for dedicated bike lanes. There is no need to remove parking. Road diets also usually result in a new turning lane being carved out, which can improve traffic flow and make up for the removal of the 2 regular lanes.

    Thankfully, LA is starting to do these kinds of road diets, but they really need to pick up the pace. The city also needs to work on the bike lane positioning. Currently, lanes are squeezed between the parking lane and the traffic lane. In New York, Washington, Portland, and other cities, they often put the lane on the OTHER side of the parking lane, between the parked cars and the sidewalk. This allows the parked cars to act as a barrier between cyclists and traffic, and makes biking feel much safer. If we got just one of these projects going in LA, people would realize how much better it is and they’d be clamoring for more protected lanes.

    1. LA has a massive transportation transportation problem and bike lanes are only a small portion of the long-term solution.

      If we had a real mass transit system like NYC or Berlin (I don’t know much about Vancouver) it would be very helpful to reducing the need for car traffic. It would also help if LA County wasn’t such a gigantic geographic region with valleys and mountain ranges. But it seems that any massive transportation infrastructure project take forever and cost a stunning amount of money. We spend billions widening the 405 between the Valley & the I-10, but when it’s finally done, everyone knows that the 405 will be just as bad as before.

      We already have a pretty good idea what happens when gas prices rise. People drive less (no family trips to the lake) or carpool for work. Some people try mass transit, but unless you live and work near a major artery, the time you spend getting places makes the whole proposition very difficult. Some people will ride bikes.

      But in LA, what people have done the most in reaction to gas price hikes is buy hybrid cars. The Prius is now the #1 selling vehicle in California, followed by gas-sippers like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. When gas is $8, maybe electrics, plug-in hybrids or extended range EVs will become mainstream in LA. And at $8/gal, I hope that much of that is a gas tax that will be used to fund public transportation and better infrastructure for transportation.

      Road “diets” are nice on paper, but removing one lane of traffic each way without a meaningful reduction in cars on the road is a recipe for even more traffic gridlock. As it stands today, in West Hollywood, Santa Monica Blvd and Sunset turn into parking lots during rush hours and traffic isn’t so great during the rest of the day and evening.

      If you eliminate a lane of traffic in each direction on Fountain, you’d have to eliminate all left turns and do some carve outs from side parking for right turns.

      I like the idea of putting a bike lane between the parked cars and the curb, but it still means that car traffic is choked and remaking sidewalks is an expensive proposition.

      Both Chris and Joel have good ideas, but I question whether they will work when the other pieces of the puzzle aren’t also in the works or don’t fall into place.

      Also, ever since I can remember, LA has ignored the possibilities of elevated trains like the monorail at Disnelyand. The public right-of-way extends above the streets and highways, yet it’s never even part of the transportation solution equation.

  4. There were bicycles in LA before there were cars. And there is a solution, take two lanes off the wider streets, add two lanes and widen the sidewalks. That’s what Vancouver looks like, that’s what Berlin looks like, that’s what New York is starting to look like. When gas is $8 a gallon it will happen whether you want it to or not.

  5. I came for the footage showing the bike rider blowing through stop signs/red lights without stopping and am leaving disappointed.

  6. There really are no easy or good answers for bicycles in West Hollywood or Los Angeles. The streets are old and never designed for bicycles. Traffic is a nightmare on most of the major streets. You can’t use San Vicente Blvd south of Santa Monica Blvd as an example of what all the streets should look like because only San Vicente is that wide and most of the street parking on the west side was removed between SMB & Melrose.

    Want to “fix” Fountain and La Brea for bicycles & cars? Take out all the street parking, paint the curbs red, repave and restripe. See how that goes over with the residents who have no other place to park. Then widen Fountain at all the choker points that cropped up over the decades. So we can have Fountain with two lanes each direction, 24/7 with zero street parking and lovely bike lanes.

    Then we can teach all the motorists how to drive and be aware of their surroundings and stop distracted driving. Good luck. And while we’re at it, the bicyclists could use some instruction in the meaning of traffic signals, signs and crosswalks and prohibit them from sidewalks.

    You can find all the solutions on at NeverGoingToHappen.com.

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