Last Thursday, January 12th, Councilmember Bob Blumenfield’s office and LADOT hosted a community meeting on the future of the western edge of Ventura Blvd. in Woodland Hills between Sale Ave. and Royer St. Following last December’s brainstorming meeting with community members, this recent meeting allowed people to discuss more concrete ideas and concepts. The room was full of residents, business owners, and other stakeholders. There were interactive tables where people could place different street elements on a blank canvas to try out their ideas and discuss how they would work. Consultants from Sam Schwartz Engineering photographed the configurations that people came up with and later shared them with the larger group to discuss.
This stretch of the Ventura Blvd. is a neighborhood commercial corridor with a number of neighborhood-serving businesses. Currently the 90-foot-wide street has three travel lanes on each side, 5-foot bike lanes on each side, and parallel parking on the curb. Through traffic travels at a high speed so that people do not feel safe walking and biking on the street. Crossing distances are too long, or crossings do not exist for a long distance, which means that people cannot safely cross where they need to.
The consensus in the room was that stakeholders want Ventura Boulevard to be a neighborhood destination with a sense of place. People in the room agreed that reducing traffic speed is the top issue here to make the street safe. They also want to see high quality street amenities like street furniture, better pedestrian lighting, parklets, and landscaping to make it feel more welcoming to walk and bike.
A number of configurations were discussed but the most common themes were reducing the number of travel lanes and adding back-in diagonal parking (which is why the project is also referred to as the “Ventura Blvd. Diagonal Parking Feasibility Study”). Diagonal parking can generally provide more parking spaces than parallel parking for visitors and businesses, and back-in diagonal parking has additional safety benefits. It improves drivers’ visibility because drivers are facing forward when leaving a parking space, allowing for a better view of traffic and bicyclists. Drivers also do not have to back into traffic blindly when leaving, making departures safer, quicker, and easier. It also visually narrows the roadway width (they proposed 20’-wide angled parking on Ventura), contributing to slower speeds and enhancing driver alertness.
But what does it mean to people on bikes? Currently, there are bike lanes on both sides of the street. We are advocating that these bike lanes not only remain in the plan but that they also be upgraded to parking-protected bike lanes. See two possible options below.
The parking-protected bike lanes option depicts bike lanes located at the curb and protected by parked cars. This option provides the most safety for all users. Bicyclists are protected by physical barriers from cars. They ride the far right side of the road away from fast traffic.
Option 1: Parking protected bike lanes with back-in diagonal parking on one side. Bike lanes are protected by parked cars. Lanes are reduced to three travel lanes with a center turning lane.
The buffered bike lane option depicts bike lanes, with an additional buffer, that are located outside of parking. This option is an improvement on the current configuration, but people on bikes still have to ride adjacent to fast traffic, are exposed to backing cars when cars are parking, and have to ride close to the middle of the street which makes them feel less secure. Motorists can drive into the bike lanes when waiting for a parking spot to open or when unloading passengers or goods.
Option 2: Buffered bike lanes with back-in diagonal parking on one side. Bike lanes are located outside of parking. Lanes are reduced to three travel lanes with a center turning lane.
Other San Fernando Valley neighborhoods have recently added parking protected bike lanes like Option 1 on Reseda Blvd. in Northridge and Van Nuys Blvd. in Pacoima as part of the Los Angeles Great Streets initiative. The lanes have enhanced the safety of people biking (as well as all road users) and bringing them to the doorsteps of many businesses. We want to see more protected bike lanes like this all over the San Fernando Valley. LACBC will submit an official support letter for the project to the Council Office and LADOT this week recommending Option 1 as the best option for all road users.
Reseda Blvd. parking-protected bike lanes. (Photo: The Guardian)
Here’s an example of a back-in parking-protected bike lane in San Francisco. (Photo: SFMTA)