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Posts Tagged ‘road diet’

York Bl east of Figueroa, as seen prior to installation of bike lanes in 2014

In the Bicycle Program, part of our job is to make streets safer and more pleasant for bicycling. We realize that as more and more Angelenos are riding their bikes to get around, there may be more opportunities for conflicts between modes on our streets. Some, if not most, conflicts can be partially addressed by engineering and planning, but part of equation remains in individual motorist or bicyclist behavior.

Regardless of what causes the conflicts on our roadways, it is helpful to analyze available collision data to inform us where there is room for improvement, whether it is behavioral or infrastructural. Two years ago, we took a look at collision data on York Boulevard and found that overall crashes decreased 23% between Eagle Rock Boulevard and Avenue 55 after a road diet was implemented on that segment of the street. In this post we will take a follow-up look at the updated data, and get into the details of who has been identified in the data as “at fault” and the causation of bicycle-car collisions.  The data we are looking at analyzes the 3.9 mile long segment of York Boulevard between Aguilar Street and Arroyo Verde Road over a 12 year period.

If one wants to look at crash data anywhere in California, the primary repository is the SWITRS database: the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System. All reported collision data is gathered by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and made available for query.  CHP collects data from local jurisdictions (in our case, LAPD) and adds it to the statewide database, and all data is made available through the California Public Records Act, which requires all records processed by State government to be publicly accessible. Normally, the data lags about 2 years, but SWITRS remains the most comprehensive data tool available to perform collision analysis over time.

Collision data in California are pared down to manageable categories, which makes it great to track overarching trends, but leaves much to be desired in terms of understanding conditions of collisions and nuances of behavior (two of the most important aspects of planning for safer road configuration and design). In the data, there is always a party determined to be “at fault” and a short list of causes, known as the “collision factor.” A cursory glance at the raw data would make anyone’s head spin: ROW Ped, Party 1 at fault. What does that MEAN? While it may seem confusing initially, SWITRS has a codebook that elaborates on what such terms mean. ROW is an abbreviation for “right-of-way,” and Ped is short for “pedestrian.” What ROW Ped refers to is when someone fails to yield right-of-way to pedestrians or other legal sidewalk users, such as people bicycling. Even terms like “Party 1 at fault” can be intuitive with a little context. Every traffic collision typically involves at least two “parties” and differentiating the people involved entails calling the various parties involved Party 1, Party 2, etc.

In this analysis, we attempt to decode this data.  Though, notoriously, car-bicycle collisions that do not result in a “Killed” or “Severely Injured” person are not reported (which always presents a significant data challenge), we will try to interpret a better understanding of what is really at work in the history of car-bicycle conflicts, with York Boulevard as our case-study.

The Overall Picture

Between 2001 and 2012, there were 39 collisions on York Boulevard involving both people driving and bicycling (SWITRS). Those driving were deemed “at fault” approximately 56.4% of the time, accounting for 22 of the collisions that occurred. Meanwhile, people bicycling were “at fault” in 41% of the collisions, deemed responsible for 16 of the collisions that occurred. In one case, the stated collision cause was “other improper driver,” placing neither party involved – the person bicycling nor the one driving – “at fault” (which accounts for the remaining 2.6%) (more…)

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In November 2014, the FHWA published the Road Diet Informational Guide to help communities understand roads diets and their numerous benefits to all roadway users. This past month, LADOT was able to participate in a webinar hosted by the FHWA, which acquainted participants with the new guide. The lessons learned can help inform policies and influence design to create safer streets in our neighborhoods.

As a refresher, road diets (also known as roadway reconfigurations, road buffets, road redesigns, etc.)  are a traffic calming measure that reconfigures roadway space to enhance safety and efficiency for all road users. Road diets can calm and reduce traffic speeds on wide arterials and are an effective safety solution to high traffic speeds, which have caused innumerable traffic fatalities nationwide and in Los Angeles. The most popular design, the standard 4 to 3 configuration, often replaces one auto travel lane with two bicycle lanes, one in each direction, and includes a center turn lane for left turns and emergency vehicles.

Diagram depicts how a road diet is configured when converting from a four-lane roadway to a three-lane roadway.

An example of a typical 4:3 road diet design: FHWA Road Diet Informational Guide

Many of Los Angeles’ arterials were designed during the post-highway planning era. These arterials were built with very wide lanes and often to accommodate a larger volume of cars. Wide lanes are unsafe by design for many users of the roadway because they produce an environment that facilitates speeding and unsafe behavior. The road diet design narrows the travel lanes and is predicted to reduce vehicular speeds and therefore reduce collisions and injuries. Additional benefits include improvements in mobility, access, and livability. There are many misconceptions associated with road diets, but much of these have been refuted by studies and research. The AARP created a fact sheet on road diets, based on nationwide research, showing that road diets are good for business. According to the AARP, “Road diets increase and enhance business activity by reducing traffic speeds (which helps motorists notice the shops, eateries and businesses they’re driving alongside) and by accommodating pedestrians and bicyclists (who tend to spend more money at local businesses than drivers do).”

As has been demonstrated by the successful road diets along York Boulevard & Colorado Boulevard, road diets provide many stand alone safety benefits for all, while simultaneously enhancing connectivity for bicyclists. After the 1.3 mile road diet on York Boulevard between Eagle Rock Boulevard and Avenue 54 was installed in 2006, a detailed traffic analysis showed a 23% and 27% reduction in collisions and injuries, respectively, per mile per year. Many bicyclists already ride on arterials because they connect neighborhoods. Adding bicycle lanes increases safety and bolsters connectivity, while providing additional buffers for pedestrians and shortening crossing distances. Bicycle lanes also create a safety-in-numbers effect, an added safety feedback. People on bicycles may also ride more predictably if a space is designated, reducing wrong way riding and dangerous weaving between parked cars and auto traffic.

A total of 51.9 miles of road diets have reshaped the landscape of streets in Los Angeles since the City began implementing them in 1999. However, many new road diet projects were implemented after the adoption of the 2010 Bicycle Plan. It is important to note that road diets are not just meant to serve bicyclists. Discussing the safety impacts of road diets clarifies that road diets equalize the playing field and create safer streets for people walking, bicycling, taking transit, and driving.

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The FHWA Road Diets Informational Guide is detailed and thorough, but if you don’t have the time to read through all of it, here’s a quick list of the key safety and operational benefits for drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians found in the guide:

  • Decreased number of vehicle travel lanes pedestrians must cross, therefore reducing the multiple-threat crash (when one vehicle stops for a pedestrian in a travel lane on a multi-lane road, but the motorist in the next lane does not, resulting in a collision) for pedestrians
  • Provide room for a pedestrian crossing island
  • Improved safety for people on bicycles by adding bike lanes (such lanes also create a buffer space between pedestrians and vehicles)
  • Provide the opportunity for on-street parking (also a buffer between pedestrians and vehicles)
  • Reduced rear-end and side-swipe crashes for automobiles
  • Improved speed limit compliance and decreased crash severity when vehicular crashes do occur due at lower speeds

With this new information in hand and the FHWA guide in our back pockets, we look forward to working with more neighborhoods to determine where to implement safer roadway design across the City.

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Small businesses and bikes blend on N. Figueroa St., Photo courtesy Flying Pigeon LA

We are happy to announce that the City of Los Angeles is working on establishing its first Bicycle Friendly Business District in Northeast Los Angeles.  For the past year, the Bike Program has been developing a Bicycle Friendly Business District (BFBD) program to foster a broad and engaging range of bicycle friendly features in business districts or corridors.

The program aims to provide districts with adequate bicycle facilities including bicycle parking and repair stations, bikeways, creating maps of the bikeway network, installing signage, and facilitating bicycle wayfinding.  By cultivating bicycle friendly business practices in local businesses and developing local business districts to welcome patrons on bicycles, these districts seek to build community, increase physical activity, and make streets less congested while supporting Los Angeles neighborhood businesses.

Bicycle Friendly Business Districts – What are they?

A BFBD is a partnership between the City, neighborhood and business organizations, and local businesses that improves a business district’s Bicycle Friendliness through bicycle infrastructure and local business promotions to people travelling by bicycle.  The district encourages and promotes short, local trips, especially for shopping, dining and recreation.

The BFBD program complements complete streets and traffic calming objectives in order to capture local dollars and further neighborhood development in Los Angeles.  Districts cooperate with the LADOT, the Council Office, and local community partners to implement services already offered free of charge through the LADOT Bike Program.

These services, infrastructure, and other program elements combine with  local investment in bicycle amenities and programs privately funded by neighborhood and business partners.

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Credit: LADOT Bike Blog

This woman looked very happy to be riding on the newly extended 7th Street bicycle lanes (Credit: LADOT Bike Blog).

Last Friday, LADOT crews began the work of extending the bicycle lanes and road diet on West 7th Street into Downtown LA’s Financial District and Historic Core. Since this is such an exciting project that will form a major connection in the Downtown bikeway network, we wanted to provide an update on the work that’s been performed so far (as of Friday, November 1) and what still needs to be done. (more…)

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July’s Bike Plan Implementation Team meeting was packed!

At our most recent Bicycle Plan Implementation Team meeting, Bikeways Engineer Tim Fremaux briefly noted that the LADOT implemented a number of road diets in the past fiscal year. Although it was only mentioned in passing, after looking at the exact mileage, it turns out this is actually a big accomplishment. Of the 100 miles of bike lanes installed over the last fiscal year, 20.1 miles came in the form of road diets. This comes as particularly promising news from a traffic safety perspective in light of the great safety improvements recently observed on a section of York Boulevard that received a road diet in 2006. So let’s take a page from the SFMTA, and be proud of our road diets, and see exactly where these road diets are:

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Did implementing a road diet on York Boulevard make the street safer? Yes, it did! Photo credit: Walk Eagle Rock

When the LADOT proposes a road diet (also known as a roadway reconfiguration) on a street, it primarily does so with the intent of improving traffic safety. As it happens, road diets are frequently opportunities to specifically enhance conditions for people walking and bicycling – the most vulnerable users of our streets – while improving overall safety for all. After decades of study on the national level, road diets are officially acknowledged by the FHWA as a proven means to improve safety and the logistics of why road diets succeed in doing this  have previously been laid out on this blog. (more…)

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During the June BPIT meeting, DOT engineers presented conceptual designs for three projects in Downtown Los Angeles: Figueroa Street, Spring Street, and Main Street. At the recommendation of BPIT attendees, the project on Figueroa Street had an additional option created that would also bring a bike lane to Flower Street.  The amended presentation was then given to the Planning & Land Use committee for the Downtown LA Neighborhood Council just last week, receiving warm support.

Together, these projects represent 5+ miles of new, dedicated bicycle infrastructure within the city’s urban core. Below the fold, we will explore the different design options that City engineers are working on – as well as details about various constraints such as roadway width, street parking, bus lanes, etc that impact the infrastructure options for these streets. As always, please feel free to leave your comments and suggestions for how you would like to see Figueroa, Spring, Main, and (maybe) Flower re-imagined with bicycle infrastructure.

Main, Spring & Figueroa Streets

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