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As an active transportation planner, I often think about the future: my impact on it, how I’d like to see things change, what the world will look like for the next generation, and (of course) why active transportation will help us in the future… I recently got to make a different type of impact on the future, given the opportunity to visit an elementary school and speak to young people about what I do for work!

Surveying Griffin Elementary kindergarten students on how they get to school

Once upon a time, long ago in Boyle Heights, I was an impressionable 2nd Street Elementary School student. When Career Day came around, we were introduced to a parade of civil servants including police officers, firemen, and sanitation truck drivers.  While no transportation planner ever visited my classroom to inspire me to pursue my chosen profession, I was inspired to pursue a profession where I could be of service to my city. These Career Day visitors taught me two important things: that it is important to do something I love and that I need to be prepared with the right skills for the job.

As a graduate student in Urban and Regional planning and a Student Professional Worker at the LADOT Bike Program, I have the privilege of doing something I love: encouraging Angelenos to use active transportation modes like biking and walking and making streets safer and more enjoyable for all Angelenos.

Last month I had the pleasure of reliving Career Day, this time in the role of The Professional!

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Spring (or is this one long perpetual summer?) is back and adventure options for those on two wheels are endless! After travelling to a few other places, we wanted to get back on our local tourism tip!

This bicycle tour features destinations in between the Red Line North Hollywood Station (in NoHo) and the Griffith Park Sunday Drum Circle. Yes, a drum circle! This 8.5 mile-long bike ride travels along different bike facilities (bike paths, lanes, and routes) and features a variety of LA neighborhood attractions from shops & entertainment in NoHo to nature & culture in Griffith Park.

Come along for the ride! To prepare, you need: a bike, a bike lock, some kind of map or smart phone, water, snacks, and don’t forget your sun protection, because it can get HOT!

Pleasant 8.5 mile-long features NoHo Arts District, Burbank and Griffith Park

Pleasant 8.5 mile-long bike ride features the NoHo Arts District, Burbank and Griffith Park. Photo: Google Map

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People walking, bicycling, and driving all share the road in downtown Seattle

This year’s annual conference for the American Planning Association (APA), Sustainable Seattle, was hosted in a city rich with sustainable practices and, appropriately for our interests, complete streets infrastructure.  The APA covers all faces of planning, but complete streets are increasingly a focus of urban (and suburban) planners everywhere. Complete streets that make up walkable, bikeable, and ultimately livable communities, have become the national best practice because they make for sustainable communities, a core tenet and charge of the urban planning profession. The integration of complete streets with retail, mixed-use development, the densification of cities, and sustainable practices were highlighted throughout the conference.

Though LADOT performs much implementation, we are also tasked with planning and project development, which is the area we inhabit in Bicycle Outreach and Planning. Attending the APA conference gives us a broad context for what we do, which can be really helpful in a time where cities are growing at some of the fastest rates ever.  Here are some of our take aways from the conference, followed with a few snapshots of Seattle’s pedestrian-first culture.

Bicycle, bus, and car networks seamlessly weave through the retail-lined Aloha Street

Network connectivity is the nexus of people, land, and local economic vitality

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It’s our favorite time of the year! Bike Week LA is back once again!

The annual week-long bici-centric event, sponsored by Metro, will fill May 10-15 with more bicycle-oriented activities than ever before! More?  Yes MORE! Bike Week focuses on encouraging people to ride their bicycles, raising awareness about people on bikes but also about all active transportation users in Los Angeles. Some of the week’s highlights include bike repair workshops, the infamous Bike to Work Day pit stops, and evening festivities to make sure you’re hooked up with people who share your interests! If you’ve never participated in Bike Week, do not fear, Bike Week is for YOU! It’s full of resources and activities for everyone, from the new to the experienced rider, from the bicycle-curious to the bikeaholic.

Come see Color Wheels at Caltrans District 7 on Thursday 5/14!

Bike Week LA 2015 Lineup:

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We’re proud to introduce a new segment to the blog, The Engineer’s Corner, where we interview LADOT’s talented pool of engineers to learn more about them and their work. Our transportation engineers make the city work – they design the infrastructure and systems we use every day to get from point A to point B, from signage and striping, to signal timing and so many other things.  In the second largest city in the country, with over 6,500 miles of City planned and maintained streets, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation is home to some of the most thoughtful engineers around.

In this inaugural post we will be highlighting the newest addition to the Bikeways team, Robert Sanchez. Robert comes to Bikeways from the Special Traffic Operations Division (a fancy name for special events) and fills a vacancy left by Tim Fremaux, who had performed much of the outreach during the initial implementation of the 2010 Bicycle Plan. Robert is not new to bikes though!  As you will learn, he has a long history with our Department and the City’s historic bicycle infrastructure.

LADOT Bike Blog: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Robet Sanchez: My name is Robert Sanchez, I am 34 years old, and I am a mechanical engineer by trade but I am licensed as a traffic engineer in the State of California. I grew up in Boyle Heights, east of Downtown near El Mercado de Los Angeles where the Lorena St. Gold Line station is now. I’ve been working at the LADOT for some time now and I really enjoy my work.

What is it like getting to work, can you describe your commute?

Typically I have a three and a half mile bike ride to the El Monte Busway and then I’ll jump on the Silver Streak or one of the rapid buses that bring me to Downtown. Then I ride from Union Station to our District 7 Headquarters here where I lock up my bike in the bike corral in our garage. If the corral is full (because now that more folks ride it gets full sometimes), I lock it to whatever I can find. Heading home, I sometimes ride east along 1st St or 4th St through Boyle Heights, then through East L.A., Montebello and into the City of South El Monte where I live. When I feel adventurous I have a nice 15 mile ride that I can do.

Do you have a favorite walk or bicycle ride you like (whether for recreation or utilitarian purposes)?

I do, actually. I ride and run quite a bit as well. My favorite bike ride is on the San Gabriel River going up towards the Santa Fe Dam or down towards the beach. It’s a really cool river, it has a soft bottom and has water most of the year, so you get to see wildlife and a lot of birds. The San Gabriel River is probably my favorite ride.

So how did you initially become interested in engineering?

I became interested in engineering when I was a little boy, I used to like to take things apart. I didn’t exactly know what engineers did until I was in college, but I always knew I was good with hands-on application, and I liked math and science. It was just something that came naturally. Once I found out exactly how much math was involved, I almost thought twice about it.

You mentioned earlier you have been working in LADOT for some time, how long exactly have you been here?

I believe this July it will be 13 years.

What were you doing before you joined Bikeways?

Before this assignment, I was with Special Traffic Operations Division for approximately 6 and a half years. What we did in that division was planning for any major special event, which could range anywhere from First Amendment events, to presidential motorcade, to parades, to large events like the Los Angeles Marathon and CicLAvia. It is major logistical work, and involves creating detour routes, messaging, signal-timing adjustments. A whole lot of stuff related to special events.

And what do your current day-to-day duties consist of?

That, I am still learning. Right now my day-to-day is focused on active transportation projects with a heavy emphasis on cycle tracks. I am also involved with early stages of development and design of future projects for our division.

You point out you are involved in cycle track design, the LADOT is experimenting with new bikeway treatments that have not been implemented in the City before. What is it like adapting to these changes in Bikeway engineering?

Actually it’s very interesting. I did work in this Bikeways section once before and it was a much different time. It feels like it has been ages because back in those days bikeways were very low priority. But it is interesting to see how open the City is now to do some of these new treatments, and it’s nice to see the City take a leadership role as opposed to just stepping back and watching what other cities do. So yeah, it is very exciting and I’m glad to be part of it.

One of these new projects include cycle tracks planned for Los Angeles Street… what has the process been like, working on this?

LA_Street

Early rendering of potential treatment for Los Angeles Street cycle track, including left turn boxes which could be coupled with right-turn-on-red restrictions.

That was actually the first project I was given when I came back to this division. We’ve tested some of the different traffic control devices for separation including armadillos and bollards of different sizes and shapes. That was my first role with this project, securing the different materials, having them installed, and then actually testing them. It was fun, we coordinated a small demonstration of the project and got people out here to visualize what it will look like. We are also working with the Fire Department and the Department on Disability to make sure they are okay with the spacing and the location of the separation treatment since they need to access fire hydrants in particular and the bollards can pose a tripping hazard while they are working.

In addition to experimenting with new roadway treatments, the Department recently adopted a “Vision Zero” policy that seeks to eliminate fatalities attributed to traffic collisions. How can bicycle facilities assist the City in meeting this policy goal?

Bikeways can have a significant role. I think bicycle facilities in the past were just treatments that we squeezed in. I feel now they are being built in to the street designs in a way that makes a lot more sense, not just for people on bikes but also for vehicles and pedestrians, and organize the streets better. If you make a person bicycling safer, you inherently also make it safer for a person walking. People on bikes oftentimes have conflicts with pedestrians and vehicles. I think if you organize the street better, especially with the use of treatments such as cycle tracks, you put people in a more predictable location and everybody can learn the way the intersections, in particular, are supposed to work.

Before we close, we want to know- have you had a favorite part of working in bikeways so far? 

Yes, I think in my first stint with the Bikeways section I enjoyed the staff that was here at the time, folks like Jonathan Hui and Mike Uyeno who taught me a lot about integrity and civil service. I was much younger, and new to the work force, it was a time for learning the City way and soaking in all the knowledge. This time around, I’ve only been here a few months, but I really enjoy the fact that we get to try some cool new things and have an expanded toolbox. Coming back and seeing the potential, that’s been the best part so far.

Thanks for your time, Robert, is there anything else you would like to add?

Only than I am happy to be back in Bikeways and I’m very excited for some of these new projects we have coming up. I hope we can keep the momentum going and be strategic to make sure we meet everybody’s safety needs.

In early March, the bronze plaques which were installed to honor Alex Baum, were stolen from the Alex Baum Bridge. We just received news that two of the three plaques have been recovered!

Baum Brige eastside

From left to right, empty slots for re-dedication bronze plaque and 2002 bridge inaugural bronze plaque. Image: Jose Tchopourian

 

Here’s a little history about the man, the legend… The bronze plaques were installed to call attention to Alex Baum’s accomplishments and legacy in supporting bicycling as a mode of transportation and recreation throughout his lifetime. The first pair of bronze plaques were installed at the inauguration of the Baum Bicycle Bridge in 2002. Fast forward to 2012, and as part of a re-dedication of the Baum Bicycle Bridge on its 10th anniversary, the second pair of bronze plaques with biographical information about Mr. Baum were added.

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Re-dedication ceremony of the Alex Bicycle Bridge on its 10th anniversary in 2012. From left to right, Alex Baum and Councilmember Tom LaBonge. Image: Stone Canyon Neighborhood Watch

 

Just around the time City of LA’s longest serving bicycle-advocate Alex Baum (1922-2015) passed away on Sunday, March 1st, the three bronze plaques were reported missing. As you can imagine, our team was saddened to hear the news. A few days after the bronze plaques were stolen, South Coast Recycling contacted the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) to report that someone had tried to sell these bronze plaques to their facility. Luckily, the Center was able to recover two out of the three stolen bronze plaques. A third bronze plaque (like the one in the photo below) is still missing. LADP continues to search for the missing plaque. Anyone with information should contact LAPD.

Baum Brige westside

From left to right, re-dedication bronze plaque currently missing and 2002 bridge inaugural bronze plaque (the only plaque that was not stolen). Image: Jose Tchopourian

 

LADOT staff is currently in the process of installing the two bronze plaques returned to us by our friends at the LA Recycling Center.

Thank you for your support,

LADOT Bike Program

I use a lot of different modes and methods for my commute to work. For the past two years I’ve been both a local and regional commuter for my jobs- two days a week, I drive to Cal Poly Pomona (I teach Urban and Regional Planning) and then I use a multimodal mix to get from Highland Park, where I live, to LADOT, Downtown. From home, all methods take roughly the same amount of time. Driving in morning traffic takes about 35 minutes. By train, I walk a couple blocks to the Metro Gold Line and then walk a few more, from the Little Tokyo Station to 1st and Main, which takes 40 minutes. And then biking takes around 37 minutes.

My trusty Schwinn World Tour road bike

I really love riding my bike to work. It’s actually the way I like to ride most. I think a lot of people prefer social rides- I like bike rides as a meditative time or else time I have one-on-one with a friend so we can talk.

Bike rides to work calm me down and wake me up. You might think those things opposite but if you ride a bike you probably know what I mean. On the mornings I ride in, I don’t really need coffee (and I am very dependant on coffee!) I’ve read studies that found that children who walk or bike to school performed at a higher level in their studies than children who were driven. I guess I’m just trying to nurture my inner child (and perform better at work!)

The magic of morning/Things about the ride

It’s just such a great way to start your morning, with all the visceral things you experience while riding a bicycle. The neighborhood smells different in the morning… trees and plants are just opening up, there’s still some dew in the soil and then there’s the birds, everywhere, making noise and singing their songs (if you’re familiar with Northeast LA, you know I really mean screeching parrots). Due to its hilly terrain and abundant historical streams, Northeast LA has a lot of microclimates. Often the moisture in the air makes for a magical foggy ride… totally into the magic bike ride!

People are also doing different stuff in the morning. Everyone’s getting going and starting their day, there’s an energy outside… When you ride a bike you’re making eye contact with all kinds of people. You’re seeing things around, you are the eyes on the street. This is a social experience that you don’t have when you ride in a car.

Safe routes to work

My scenic six mile commute

My route starts in Highland Park. My street is not very good for people because it’s also an on-ramp to the 110 Freeway. Since living at my place I’ve seen a cat, many cars, and even a person hit by drivers because it segues into the freeway on-ramp. Needless to say, the active transportation challenge starts with leaving my front door.

I have biked by myself to work but I prefer to bike with a friend because it feels safer. Normally I meet up with my friend Jamie and we bike-pool! Jaime and I went to grad school together for Urban Planning and she lives(ed) up the hill from me. We both work Downtown- Jaime works in Chinatown, which is on the way to my job. We’ve been biking to work together since 2013 which has been a great way to stay in touch after graduation. Jaime just moved further north and east, but we still plan on biking together, since she can multi-mode it on the Gold Line to Highland Park.

Me and Jaime biking to work circa 2013

Jamie and I meet at the intersection of Avenue 57 and Via Marisol where we then take back roads through Highland Park to get to Avenue 52 (which turns into Griffin, which is eventually a buffered bike lane). There’s no direct route other than the freeway, so we do this weird little jog through the neighborhood. This part of the ride is like the video game Paperboy: there’s a lot of stuff going on; a lot of people pulling in and out of driveways, debris, bad pavement, dogs chasing you, cats, trash bins… very scenic!

Then we get to the sweet, long stretch which is why we take this route. Griffin is a neighborhood street which is sharrowed, then becomes a bike lane, and then turns into a buffered bike lane, which is basically the Cadillac of bicycle facilities on the Eastside. This whole stretch on Griffin is very comfortable and pleasant. If the whole city had this kind of infrastructure and connectivity, I would bike everywhere.

But alas. Then comes the cold hard reality of Main Street. Oh Main Street… Main Street is in my opinion the best way to go because it doesn’t have as many cars (people commuting in the morning and the evening can get pretty agro, I like to stay away from them!) and the road is relatively well paved, unlike some of its parallels. The unfortunate piece is that cars that drive on Main St. drive very fast, which is scary for me… Taking the lane is pretty doable here and I definitely do this when I ride because the lane widens and narrows throughout and if you’re not taking the lane, it is possible that you might have a speed and space conflict with cars that would be driving between 35 to 50 miles per hour.  I don’t take that risk of fighting over space on the road, I just take it. These fast cars are another reason I primarily only feel comfortable biking with a friend; together we’re more visible as well as more justified to take the lane.

From Main, I drop Jamie off and then head on to Los Angeles Street which takes me straight to work in a buffered bike lane. Luckily my job supports me biking to work! I can get a monthly stipend if I walk or bike at least 50 percent of my trips to work. There’s also a shower I can use upon arrival with a day use locker for my clothes. This is especially important because I have a job where I need to look professional and go to meetings without looking like I rode my bike six miles to work. There are also multiple secure places to lock my bike. A bunch of people bike to work in the Caltrans building… my boss even has a bicycle locker on site, cause she’s the Bike Boss.

How I roll

There’s some stuff that I’ve learned to do in my time biking to work that I’d like to share. Early on, I realized two things: the first is that I don’t want to carry all my stuff on my body (ew, sweat!) and the second is that I need some jams to get me through the traffic. Like camping, biking to work is comfortable when you are well prepared. For me that means packing my panier (especially my clothes!) the night before so I don’t forget important things when I am sleepy in the morning. I keep a set of toiletries at work so I only have to carry my change of clothes. For the jams, I invested in a Jammypack, which all my friends will attest is the coolest part of my bike ensemble. A Jammypack solves the problem of wanting to listen to music but putting yourself at risk by wearing headphones (never do this, it’s very dangerous and illegal!). My Jammypack has a rechargeable battery and plugs into my iPhone’s headphone jack. More recently I got some serious bike-to-work clothes which includes a fluorescent yellow lightweight jacket and some really comfortable leggings. I noticed when I wear the jacket, people in cars do not come as close when they pass me.

My favorite bike commute accessories: my Ortlieb classic pannier, Jammypack with rechargeable battery, No 6 Clogs or Swedish Hasbeen ankle boots, lightweight fluorescent jacket, fun leggings, sunscreen, sunglasses, and of course my LADOT water bottle

The last thing I want to say about the ensemble is that biking in some kind of heels is actually really nice because it gives you pull that you would have if you had clip on shoes. I really like clogs and my clogs make great bike to work shoes!

These are just some of the things about my bicycle commute to work.

Elizabeth Gallardo is an Assistant Bicycle Coordinator in LADOT’s Active Transportation Division. 

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