Politics

Making LA walkable? Hyperion bridge remake brings only one sidewalk

A cyclist bikes alongside the Los Angeles River near the Glendale-Hyperion complex of bridges, which are the subject of reconstruction plans.
A cyclist bikes alongside the Los Angeles River near the Glendale-Hyperion complex of bridges, which are the subject of reconstruction plans.
Sharon McNary/KPCC
A cyclist bikes alongside the Los Angeles River near the Glendale-Hyperion complex of bridges, which are the subject of reconstruction plans.
The Glendale-Hyperion complex of bridges was completed in 1929 as a memorial to World War I veterans. In all six bridges span the Los Angeles River and Interstate 5.
Sharon McNary/KPCC
A cyclist bikes alongside the Los Angeles River near the Glendale-Hyperion complex of bridges, which are the subject of reconstruction plans.
Bambi Black pauses alongside the Glendale-Hyperion complex of bridges as she walks son Moon. She uses the Glendale Blvd. bridge, which is planned for reconstruction with two sidewalks and bike lanes on each side.
Sharon McNary/KPCC
A cyclist bikes alongside the Los Angeles River near the Glendale-Hyperion complex of bridges, which are the subject of reconstruction plans.
The line of piers that once held the Red Car trolly tracks may someday bear a bridge for bikes and pedestrians. Behind the piers is the Glendale-Hyperion complex of bridges that connect Silverlake, Los Feliz and Atwater Village.
Sharon McNary/KPCC
A cyclist bikes alongside the Los Angeles River near the Glendale-Hyperion complex of bridges, which are the subject of reconstruction plans.
Deborah Murphy, who advocates for safer walkable streets as executive director of L.A. Walks, wants to delay approval of reconstruction of Hyperion Ave. bridge over the Los Angeles River until July when a new council member takes office. She opposes a plan that would rebuild the bridge with a sidewalk on just one side.
Sharon McNary/KPCC
A cyclist bikes alongside the Los Angeles River near the Glendale-Hyperion complex of bridges, which are the subject of reconstruction plans.
Walkers balance a stroller on the narrow sidewalk of Hyperion Ave. The pedestrian advocacy group L.A. Walks is pressing Los Angeles to install full sidewalks on both sides of Hyperion. A city engineer's recommendation recently adopted by the city Board of Public Works recommends a single 6-foot wide sidewalk on the north side of Hyperion.
Marino Pascal
A cyclist bikes alongside the Los Angeles River near the Glendale-Hyperion complex of bridges, which are the subject of reconstruction plans.
Two L.A. City Council members propose building a new pedestrian and bicycle bridge, shown at lower right in this City Engineer's rendering, over the Los Angeles River to improve cross-river access.
Los Angeles City Engineer


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As Los Angeles seeks to become more bike and pedestrian friendly, old, narrow roads create challenges for city engineers to accommodate everyone in a "complete streets" strategy.

Take the Hyperion Avenue bridge. The six-part bridge complex, its graceful arches and white towers, is a city cultural and historic monument formally known as the Glendale-Hyperion complex of bridges. It was completed in 1929 as a memorial to World War I veterans.

The Board of Public Works on Friday approved an engineer's plan to revamp the aging structure. 

Councilman Mitch O'Farrell said in a letter to constituents that the proposed remake of the bridges brings residents a safer walk. It wold be the first-ever uninterrupted walking route between his Atwater district and the Silver Lake and Los Feliz communities.

But pedestrian advocate Deborah Murphy put her reaction a little differently: "I wanted to jump off that bridge."

Murphy, founder and executive director of L.A. Walks and chair of the city's Pedestrian Advisory Committee, said residents are losing 10 feet of sidewalk on two sides of the bridge and getting only 6 feet on the east side.

Under the new plan, she said a pedestrian can't safely or legally cross to the other side of the street to use the single sidewalk without a lengthy detour.  She lives in Silver Lake and said she often walks across the bridge to Atwater Village.

But Councilman Tom LaBonge, who represents Silver Lake, said the bridge's current sidewalk is a mess and the single sidewalk would revitalize pedestrian traffic on both sides of the bridge.

"I walked it the other morning. Right now, there's about 18 inches (of sidewalk) that you can walk on. It's very very dangerous. There should be no pedestrian traffic there at all," he said.

He and O'Farell have another solution. They announced plans last week to add a bike and pedestrian bridge atop the foundations of a defunct Red Car Trolly bridge that parallels the Hyperion Bridge.

But in a sign of how high tensions get around these projects, Murphy crashed their press conference announcing the trolley revamp to distribute her own flyer asking the public to push the city to install two full sidewalks over the Hyperion bridge.

She said she would ask the City Council to delay approving the bridge plans until after July 1, when LaBonge's successor in Tuesday's council election takes office.

The facelift is a part of larger retrofit, intended to make the bridge complex better withstand an earthquake. It also includes some traffic signals and rebuilding of I-5 freeway ramps to improve the flow of traffic, officials said.

The plan also calls for new bike lanes. Right now, none of the bridges in the complex has bike lanes or wide shoulders, so cyclists ride in the traffic lanes.