Stepping out of the #182 bus into the five-way intersection of Sunset Boulevard, Santa Monica Boulevard, and Sanborn Ave, I could immediately see that it wasn’t built to benefit anyone, even drivers. A tangle of crosswalk and traffic signals seem to encourage crashes at this particular intersection, where drivers making left turns run the risk of hitting people biking and people on foot who are frustrated with long signal cycles hedge their bets by jaywalking (myself included). At this intersection alone, there have been 36 total crashes with 40 injuries over the last ten years, with a disproportionate amount of crashes involving people walking (8.3%) and people biking (33.3%) ( TIMS). The entire thing is a mess, which is in large part why I was there.
I am a third-year undergraduate student at Occidental College and am incredibly lucky to be interning with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition while pursuing my degree in Urban and Environmental Policy. Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, biking has always been my primary mode of transportation, along with public transit and walking. I know how important street infrastructure is to preserving the health and safety of folks using alternate transit, and was excited about LACBC’s partnership with the community-organized Sunset4All campaign. Sunset4All would bring protected bike lanes and improved pedestrian amenities to Sunset Boulevard, from East Hollywood to Echo Park. For the past two months, I’ve been working on the project closely with LACBC executive director, Eli Kaufman, as well as community members and organizers Avital Shavit and Terence Heuston.
I believe that there is no better way to get to know an issue you’re working on than to experience it in person—and this is exactly the opportunity that I had two weeks ago! Avital and Terence invited me to ride a portion of the proposed route with them and to meet our consultant partners, Rock Miller and GTS Engineering. Despite focusing on the Sunset4All project during my internship, I still hadn’t actually ridden the corridor, and this was an exciting opportunity to change that. The uprooted nature of being a student means that I don’t have a bike of my own in Los Angeles, but, thankfully, I was able to easily rent one from the Metro Bike Share station nearby. Soon enough, we were off, Terence leading the way down Santa Monica Boulevard toward the western edge of the route.
An infrastructure project on the scale proposed by Sunset4All has the potential to impact hundreds of thousands of people, and we want to do it right. That means riding the corridor: experiencing the hazardous intersections, the partially and fully blocked bike lanes, and the sections where the bike lane disappears entirely. We also rode along parallel-running residential streets like Lockwood and Willow Brook Avenues, that are currently used by cyclists to avoid riding on Santa Monica Boulevard, discussing the project’s potential impact on surrounding people and spaces, and how to best mitigate it. At the end of the afternoon, I came out of the ride with a now-lived knowledge of what it’s like to be a cyclist along Sunset, along with a renewed belief in Sunset4All’s vision for what a better, safer boulevard can be.