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New State Law Easing the Way For Miles of New LA Bike Lanes

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Los Angeles is in the middle of recalibrating its expectations for its Citywide Bike Plan's Five-Year Implementation Plan following a gamechanging state law that makes it easier to approve bike lane projects. The state legislation, called AB 2245, makes most bike lane projects, even those that will reconfigure the street (e.g., the infamous "road diet," which removes vehicle lanes) exempt from review under the very controversial California Environmental Quality Act. In effect, the new law will radically assist the process of reviewing and approving about 200 miles of priority bike lanes targeted by the city's five-year plan. The AB 2245 review process still requires safety impact analysis and public hearings, which means that the draft Environmental Impact Review that the city released for the five-year plan back in January will suffice for the AB 2245 requirements. Already, 123 miles of the bike plan have been implemented, mostly without any CEQA review. Now the Los Angeles Department of Transportation is in the process of figuring out which of the top priority 200 miles will move forward immediately, which still require some tweaks, and which will be put off indefinitely. Exactly which bike lanes will be built, and when, has yet to be formally announced, but more news is expected soon.

Despite the political support for bike projects exhibited by AB 2245, opposition from some of the communities in line for the next round of bike lanes has been vocal. LAObserved recently covered a Westside hearing for bike lanes on Westwood Boulevard and Sepulveda Boulevard, and even went so far as to give opponents of the lanes a forum to vent their frustrations. LADOT's Bicycle Coordinator Nathan Baird acknowledges that there is a perception of opposition to some bike lane projects, but that is not the prevailing public sentiment: "It is a tough sell for some communities ... But some communities are really ready for [bike lanes], and we're hoping that the ones that move forward first will serve as an example."

The best argument for bike lanes and road diets, according to Baird, are the safety benefits: "A lot of good research and studies show that bike lanes reduce bicycle injuries, and they also help prevent motor vehicle crashes." Adding a bike lane often requires that the middle vehicle lane be pinched, which slows traffic down for an overall traffic-calming effect. Many of the bike lane projects also add center left turn lanes, which makes the street safer and less congested for everyone. Bike lanes also improve the pedestrian experience.

According to Baird, the "twin goals" for the 200 miles of priority bike lanes are to connect gaps and serve low-income communities. When complete, Baird says, the city will have facilities resembling of a real network of bicycle facilities, "We've been forced to look at these miles because they are so important ... we're still not getting the really good networks we need." Those priority miles include that sexy MyFigueroa project that complete streets advocates have been lusting for since, it seems, the dawn of time (it would makeover Fig between LA Live and Exposition Park).

Helpful maps of the planned bike lanes are available at the LADOT Bicycle Services website.
· Breaking News: City Releases DEIR for 5 Year Bike Plan Implementation/My Figueroa Project. Further Study Not Needed [Streetsblog]
· LA Starts Process to Close Gaps in the Backbone Bike Network [Curbed LA]