Los Angeles is the eighth largest city in the world with over 10 million people calling it their home. Comparing the population to other cities, L.A. would be approximately equal to the total population of 41 states in the U.S.! Most of the cities who made the 2016 Top 50 Bike-friendly Cities list are located in the north-western states, but L.A. is 24th.
The cities that make the Top 50 List are taken from a general group of 100 top biking cities, and they are evaluated on a large number of features. In a city of the size of L.A., the fact that it is improving the streets, bikeways, and paths is a huge factor for cyclists and their safety. Lyndsey Nolan, policy and outreach coordinator with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition told the Los Angeles Times that “All streets are legal places for people on bikes to be riding,” and therefore, should be well-maintained.
On Wednesday, February 7, Councilmen Joe Buscaino and Mitch Englander agreed that they could no longer ignore seriously considering a plan to finance and repair the “crucial street and sidewalk infrastructure” in the country.
Streets In L.A. Need Major Reconstruction to Prevent Bike Accidents
In the past few years, there have been costly lawsuits over bike accidents that have occurred because of cracked pavement and other dangerous pavement issues that should have been repaired years ago. These are roadways that are heavily traveled by cyclists, and the Bureau of Street Services spoke to lawmakers about the increasing costs the city is spending on lawsuits over outdated street construction; it has caused serious injuries and even death for cyclists.
At the recent hearing concerning the deteriorating infrastructure, $700,000 was granted for six new employees to maintain the bike lanes. Assistant Director Greg Spotts said that this new funding would allow a complete inspection and improvements to miles of designated bike lanes and bikeways.
Last year, the city paid out more than $19 million in lawsuits to cyclists who were injured or killed due to the perilous condition of the local streets, reported the L.A. Times. The hundreds of potholes and general street maintenance were in dire need of attention to bring conditions up to standards for the thousands who commute or ride bikes for pleasure in L.A.
Major Settlements in Lawsuits Already Paid
Included in the $19 million already paid, these four incidents stand as the most severe.
- The City Council awarded $150,000 to a bicyclist who had crashed more than three years ago on Glendale Blvd.
- While pedaling along Griffith Park Blvd., Patrick Pascal was injured when the back wheel of his bike became embedded in a crack in the cement. He received $200,000.
- One of the largest settlements, $6.5 million, was awarded last year in a horrific crash that occurred on the dilapidated streets, which did not occur in a bike lane.
- Another crash that occurred three years ago and was recently settled, was concerning a 13-year-old boy, Chris Rodriguez, who had been riding in Boyle Heights. His parents brought the case to court and explained that there were not accurate, visible signs at this intersection where Chris was hit and killed. They said that it created a “trap” for pedestrians and drivers alike. The city council approved $2.5 million for the family.
Los Angeles has paid incredible fees for the bicycle crashes that were brought to court, and the Bureau has put the badly broken pavements traveled by cyclists at the top of the list for amending, and not a moment too soon.
L.A. Bureau of Street Services Addresses this Problem
It is apparent that L.A. is in desperate need of restoration of the streets for all concerned and especially for bicyclists, so it remains in the Top 50 Bike-friendly Cities. Also, in a decade, in 2028, Los Angeles will host the Summer Olympics, which they have done twice before: in 1932 and 1984.
This reconstruction and improvements will require more workers to evaluate the roadways and complete the large asphalt repairs to make the streets safer. To aggressively fix the damaged bikeways in the next year, it will take $2.5 million annually to keep up the maintenance. With the new workers being hired to reconstruct the broken streets this year, Spotts suggested that these new workers be brought in three months early for focus on this “bikeway repaving blitz.”
Spotts also reported that in the past year, the Bureau authorized the repair of over 300 dangerous potholes along already established bike lanes, but in attending to these, the workers found 200 more locations where the cracked pavement would need to be removed and replaced. He explained that these additional repairs could not be fixed with a pothole truck.
As of Monday, February 5, the Bureau of Street Services had fixed 19 out of the additional 200 damaged locations. Spotts said that street workers worked overtime using a portion of the $700,000 that had been allocated for the new street reconstruction. Bicycle advocates supported the idea of paving both the streets and bike lanes for safety and to avoid any more lawsuits.
Councilman Bob Blumenfield reported that the committee didn’t act immediately on all that was presented. It was recommended that a plan should be devised, which includes a timeline and estimates for correcting the network of bike paths and lanes. This will then be presented to the entire council for approval.
After ignoring the growing population and its effect on the city’s infrastructure, L.A. is attending to the task of repairing a tremendous area in 2018 to create a safer environment for bicyclists and pedestrians.