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A Safer Eagle Rock Boulevard Means a More Walkable Eagle Rock Boulevard

Los Angeles is seeking feedback on three options for Eagle Rock Boulevard. BikeLA is joining our friends at Equitable Eagle Rock to support Option #2. Read more below and fill out the survey HERE.

By Colleen Corcoran, Eagle Rock resident

Living in Los Angeles, I am extremely fortunate to spend the first hour of my morning walking my two kids to school. My neighborhood, Eagle Rock, is a rare part of LA that is incredibly accessible for children, as well as older adults, and people of all abilities. With its walkable business corridors, Eagle Rock has the potential to set an example of what a safe and accessible LA neighborhood can be—an economically and demographically diverse area that supports walking, biking, transit, small businesses, and community members of all ages. But when we don’t prioritize this properly on our major streets, we are selling our community short.

Let me tell you about my morning, much of which is spent on Eagle Rock Blvd. I start off with a short walk to the kindergarten gate at Eagle Rock Elementary. Many children arrive on foot, but most are driven a short distance to school. A friend of mine lives near Sprouts Market (.25 mile from the school) and drops her kids off in her car. When I asked her if her children will walk to school when they’re older we both laughed. The intersection of Eagle Rock Blvd and Yosemite, where they would cross, is the site of excessive speeding and frequent crashes. We need to be thinking about these types of unnecessary car trips caused by unsafe streets.

By 8:10am, I leave the elementary school and continue my journey south on Eagle Rock Blvd with my two-year-old in his stroller. We often stop to get a breakfast burrito at Zweet Cafe or an empanada from Muddy Paw (or “the nanada place” as my son calls it). Eagle Rock is home to so many local businesses that give our community its culture and flair, yet many are barely getting by, in threat of shuttering at any time. We should do anything in our power to protect these businesses, and the design of our streets impacts them. Prioritizing the pedestrian experience on this street is an incredibly high priority to get customers into businesses.

At Eagle Rock Blvd and Avenue 45, where I cross to my son’s preschool, I barely have enough time to get across the 113-foot-wide street. Drivers turning from all sides of the intersection cut me off or nearly crash into each other. With the current street width here, it’s impossible for drivers to pay attention to what people are doing in the other lanes. This is an incredibly terrifying space to be for a 30 second walk cycle, with a toddler. It’s no surprise most parents at his school also opt to drive.

Thankfully, the City of LA’s planned “Rock the Boulevard” improvements will address many of the issues on this street—and it can’t come soon enough! The early planning for this project began in 2018 with a series of meetings where the community overwhelmingly supported the idea of adding parking-protected bike lanes, various pedestrian amenities, and improvements to slow traffic along this street where drivers often travel at highway speeds.

Once the project received funding in 2019, the final design and implementation seemed to stall as the pandemic dragged on. So, I was beyond excited to see Streets LA begin to re-engage the community around the project this year. Their February virtual community meeting introduced three new design variations on the original concept and asked the community to vote on them. These include:

  1. An option for a parking protected bike lane, as originally proposed.

  2. An option to raise the bike lane to be level with the sidewalk in some places

  3. An option to move the bike lanes to an expanded central median.

But, looking closely at these options, they seem to rehash questions discussed in the earlier community meetings, without providing much more. What I believe is missing is a holistic consideration of the street that includes the experience of people of all abilities using the sidewalks, people visiting businesses, and even people driving.

Option 1 is most similar to the plans developed in 2018. It provides a safer bike lane, but comes with the removal of a lot of street parking, without widening sidewalks very much.

Option 3 is a completely new design proposal that puts the bike path in a widened median, landscaped with many new trees. This sounds amazing, if this project was being constructed on quier, rural road. But it completely ignores the pedestrian experience of walking along the boulevard next to the businesses. This option would remove most street parking, placing fast car traffic directly next to the sidewalk (and next to the bike path). In fact, because many existing left turns would be closed off for this median path, I worry that cars would travel even faster on the street — it could become even more like a highway. Pedestrians would be deterred from the sidewalk, and bicyclists using the path would not have a convenient way to visit businesses.

Option 2 is the best of these three, with the fewest parking impacts, wider sidewalks throughout much of the boulevard, and a safer sidewalk-level bike lane. This option would be amazing, but I still think we can do more to improve the pedestrian experience on the boulevard.

A coalition of community members and street safety advocates have come together to propose an alternate plan, The Walkable Boulevard, which includes a sidewalk-adjacent bike lane AND doubled sidewalk widths along much of the boulevard. This would reduce the long crossing distance across Eagle Rock Blvd for pedestrians, provide sidewalk trees and shade, and more outdoor seating opportunities for businesses. Considering the design options and my experience as someone walking on the street daily with small children, I really believe it’s the only option that considers the diverse needs of Eagle Rock, our residents, and small businesses — and the variety of ways people use this street.

I am looking forward to a day when my children are slightly older, when I’ll let them walk or even bike on Eagle Rock Blvd to get to school, to the grocery store, or to their friends’ houses. Young children and older adults will be able to get across this street without fear, customers will easily be able to stop in on businesses, on foot, by car, or by bike, and wave to their neighbors from quiet sidewalk seating. This is a vision of Eagle Rock Blvd that fits with the values and diversity of our community, and I know that it’s achievable. In fact, I believe this vision is possible for many parts of Los Angeles, and Eagle Rock is the place to start.

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