Debate over northeast LA bike lanes heats up

Anti-bike lane signs like these have been popping up on storefront windows in Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock.
Anti-bike lane signs like these have been popping up on storefront windows in Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock. Flickr/Umberto Brayj

After months of meetings, locals in the Eagle Rock and Highland Park communities are still divided over a proposal to add 8 miles of bike lanes to their streets, with the latest in a series of community conversations planned for this evening.

The proposal (which you can read here) aims to add about 5 miles of bike lanes along Figueroa Street from San Fernando Road to Colorado Boulevard and 3 miles of lanes along Colorado between Glendale and Pasadena's city limits. It's part of a citywide bike plan that Los Angeles adopted in early 2011.

While the city is not required to complete an environmental impact review for the project, it does have to hold public meetings to hear points of view from the neighborhood, said Rick Coca, a representative of Councilman José Huizar. Huizar represents council district 14, which includes the sections of road selected for the new bike lanes.

“Our focus on Colorado [Boulevard] specifically has been on how do we make it safer traffic-wise? How do we support our local businesses there and create more foot traffic for them? And bringing a bike lane will help us do all that,” Coca said.

The proposal and questions about its potential impact have been contentious at neighborhood council meetings, on the streets of Eagle Rock and online on news sites and petitions on both sides

“Some are saying it’s taking away parking spots — which is not true,” Coca said. “There might be in a couple of specific cases, but it is not prolific. We would not support anything like that.”

Some neighborhood locals and shop owners on Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock have been concerned about a part of the plan that would eliminate one car lane to make way for a buffered bicycle lane. Some of those shop owners have even put up signs on their storefront windows showing a red circle and slash through a symbol of a bicyclist along with the words “No bike lanes” or “Don't take away car lanes.”

In response, one Highland Park bike store owner and advocate, Josef Bray-Ali of Flying Pigeon LA, decided to lead a bike ride to some of those businesses. Earlier in May, he and 50 or so neighbors gathered to bike from his store to Galco's Old World Grocery on York Boulevard. John Nese of Galco’s, known for its eclectic collection of soda pop, has been one of the most vocal opponents of taking a car lane away to add a bike lane.

“John Nese of Galcos is a fun and interesting guy who is unfortunately against bike lanes," Bray-Ali said. "We bought sodas and talked to him and hugged him and said 'Man, we really like your store.’”

Bray-Ali, whose bicycle shop is only three miles away from Galco’s on York Boulevard, said he didn't want to boycott the local businesses that were opposed to the lanes, but would rather keep a civil conversation going. 

“I don’t like the crazy public process we have been going through. Neighborhood council meeting after meeting, what do they even mean?” He said he’d rather spend his time focusing on doing something about the issue, rather than simply talking about it. 

He described the scene at one recent meeting in which the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council voted against the bike lane plan: 

The guy gets up in front of the room and he starts going on about how we shouldn't be taking out car lanes. We should be adding car lanes to Figueroa. And [he said] if you want to get around L.A., get off the bike! The room erupts in applause and these women in the back room start chanting, "Seniors! Seniors!"

My jaw dropped and I just thought — What is going on? Has the world gone crazy? What are these people talking about?

The L.A. Department of Transportation and Councilman Huizar will host another public meeting on Monday, June 3. Community members will be updated on changes made to the original proposal, and there will be time for public discussion. Here's the official invitation:

Meeting information: Colorado Blvd. Bike and Traffic Improvement Plan 

When - 7 p.m., Monday, June 3, 2013

Where - Eagle Rock Center for the Arts at 2225 Colorado Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90041

More information - Huizar's newsletter 

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