Proposed bikeways include beach path extension to Marina del Rey

BY VINCE ECHAVARIA

A plan that would guide the development and maintenance of a comprehensive bicycle network in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County and create 832 miles of new bikeways over the next 20 years is one step away from realization.

The county Regional Planning Commission voted Jan. 11 to approve the county of Los Angeles Bicycle Master Plan, which calls for a diverse regional bicycle system of interconnected bikeways, support facilities and programs to encourage more people across the county to travel on two wheels.

The plan, an update to the 1975 Plan of Bikeways, will now move on to the Board of Supervisors for approval.

The document is intended to provide direction for improving mobility and increasing bicycle ridership and safety in unincorpoated areas, including Marina del Rey, through efforts like creating greater local and regional connectivity, county staff said.

Following the adoption of the county’s General Plan Update, the bicycle plan will become a component of the mobility element of the General Plan. According to county staff, the bike plan addresses the General Plan’s goals as they relate to reducing vehicle traffic congestion and providing improved opportunities for alternative transportation.

“The plan is a great step forward and I think it will be used by a number of cities as an example as to where they need to go, and how they can update and interface in the whole county process,” regional planning commissioner Harold Helsley said.

Proposals for improving the bikeway network include colored bicycle lanes, buffered lanes in which bikes are separated from automobile traffic and “bicycle boxes,” which designate an area for cyclists to move ahead of cars at some intersections. Various plan recommendations include infrastructure improvements, bicycle-related programs and policy and design guidelines.

Alexis Lantz, planning and policy director for the Los County Bicycle Coalition, which has advocated for a comprehensive bicycle master plan, said the group was excited to see the plan move forward toward creating better opportunities for cyclists.

“We’re really excited whenever we see counties and cities adopt bike plans and they’re starting to implement them,” Lantz said.

Last year, the city of Los Angeles adopted an update of its Bicycle Plan, which designates the creation of more than 1,600 miles of bikeways throughout the city, with 200 miles slated for construction every five years.

Lantz said that since the plan was originally released, the bicycle coalition worked hard to help increase the total mileage of bikeways over the next 20 years from 695 to 832, as well as other improvements. There are currently only 144 miles of bikeways in the unincorporated communities, according to the coalition.

“The plan goes quite a bit further than it initially did so we’re excited about that,” Lantz said of the revisions made.

Of the 832 miles of proposed bikeways, nearly 72 miles will be dedicated for bike routes and nearly 274 miles for bike lanes, as well as nearly 23 miles for “bicycle boulevards.” A majority of the network, approximately 463 miles, is planned for Class III bike routes, offering signage but no dedicated space. Westside communities are expected to see more than 16 miles of new bikeway facilities.

During a November public hearing before the commission, some speakers called for additional revisions including the removal of a section of the bike path along the Sepulveda Channel in Mar Vista due to safety and security concerns. Mary Reyes, who oversees the bikeway program for the Department of Public Works, said the bike path will remain in the plan but the project is considered low priority and would be vetted by the community before implementation.

“We made a lot of positive changes in the last couple of months and we hope we’ve been able to address the concerns we’ve heard sufficiently,” Reyes said. “We’re eager to get this plan and EIR (environmental impact report) approved so we can move forward and ultimately start on implementing these important projects and programs.”

One proposal for a local bikeway that was excluded from the city’s bicycle plan but has been listed in the county’s plan is the extension of the Marvin Braude beach path from Washington Boulevard in Venice to Yawl Street near the Marina del Rey channel. Currently, the bike path travels down Washington and around the Marina before reconnecting with the South Bay trail near the south jetty.

Supporters of the beach extension say it would afford cyclists the opportunity to continue a scenic coastal ride without having to make a detour along a thoroughfare and provide improved connection to the Marina.

“On any given sunny day, pedestrians and bikes are forced to share the dark, narrow and pitied speedway alley with cars. It’s frustrating for everyone,” Jim Kennedy, an avid cyclist who has pushed the proposal, said of how riders currently try to reach the Marina channel.

“It would be safer for those in the alley and more secure for neighbors if a nice bike path took people down the beach and away from people’s homes. Having that option in the L.A. County plan allows for an honest discussion about this bike path’s implementation to continue.”

Abu Yusuf, county bikeway coordinator, said a goal of the plan in the Marina del Rey area and other communities is to find ways to improve connections between other destinations.

“Whatever the community, the goal is to increase connectivity, and this is especially relevant in Marina del Rey because it’s a mecca for tourists, a place that is visited by a lot of people, and it’s next to the (beach) bike path,” Yusuf said.

Residents living along the Marina Peninsula have long opposed continuing the beach bike path to the Marina channel due to concerns such as crime impacts, environmental effects and increased congestion.

Mark Winter, director of the Marina Peninsula Neighborhood Association, said the county has reduced the number of beach garbage cans and its maintenance cycle due to budget cutbacks, which would make the beach extension option even less desirable. Extending the bikeway on that stretch of beach is impractical and “makes no sense,” he said.

“The Marina Peninsula Neighborhood Association is happy to have any discussions at these early stages with the county so that they understand what the issues of concern are from various residents opposed to (the extension), and so they can make good and informed decisions,” Winter said.

Yusuf explained that the extension option would likely be considered for implementation in the last five years of the 20-year plan. Regardless of a project’s priority, the county will seek public feedback for any improvement and proposals where there is substantial community opposition will likely be reconsidered, he said.

Lantz noted that implementing the plan recommendations is dependent on the county’s ability to secure grant funding, and she encouraged bicycle advocates who want to see certain improvements take place to convey that need to their county officials.

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