Residents push for protected bike lanes on Sunset

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Lined with trendy restaurants, beloved neighborhood businesses, and a handful of historic monuments, the stretch of Sunset Boulevard between Echo Park and East Hollywood is one of the most recognizable corridors in Los Angeles.

It could also become a prime bike corridor.

A campaign called Sunset4All seeks to reconfigure the street’s traffic and parking lanes to insulate cyclists and scooter riders from passing cars and trucks. would run from Douglas Street (near Dodger Stadium) to Fountain Avenue.

“People see bike lanes as a recreational amenity, as opposed to a transportation amenity,” says Silver Lake resident Terence Heuston, who writes a blog called LA Bike Dad, and is one of the Sunset4All organizers. “This is [about] the ability to connect 100,000 people with our rail system and to attract business in a place that’s already extraordinarily parking constrained.”

Painted bike lanes already run down each side of Sunset, but they don’t have any barriers to protect cyclists.

Heuston says that’s more likely to make casual riders feel uncomfortable using the thoroughfare, which connects multiple neighborhoods and commercial districts to Hollywood and Downtown LA

Under the Sunset4All proposal, protected lanes would also be installed on a small segment of Santa Monica Boulevard, allowing riders to access the Vermont/Santa Monica subway station.

Because the corridor is listed on the high injury network—a database of streets where people are frequently injured or killed in traffic collisions—it’s already in line for infrastructure upgrades through LA’s Vision Zero program, a campaign to end traffic deaths by 2025.

These safety improvements could include many different measures, including new traffic signals or curb extensions to shorten the distance pedestrians must walk in the street when crossing.

LA’s transportation department has installed or reconfigured bike lanes on other streets targeted for safety improvements, but not all of them. Plans for a “road diet” on Temple Street that would have included new bike lanes and a center turn lane (in place of one lane now reserved for motor vehicles) were shelved last year in favor of smaller infrastructure changes.

Those pushing for the Sunset4All project stress that the proposal is not a road diet, and is not focused on slowing the speeds of cars through lane removal. The project would reconfigure parking zones on one side of the street, but would leave the boulevard’s five traffic lanes in place.

That could potentially make the project an easier sell for neighborhood residents and those who frequently drive the corridor. Road diets can reduce crashes by up to 47 percent, according to the Federal Highway Administration. But reducing the amount of street usable by cars doesn’t always go over well with drivers.

As planned, the project would require removal of some parking spots—though most would remain. Heuston says that for businesses on the corridor, the benefits of more bike travel in the area could outweigh the loss of those spaces.

“We’re forcing people to drive here,” he says. “We should be able to find a sustainable way to make these trips.”

The campaign for protected bike lanes on Sunset began more than a year ago. The volunteer group pushing for the project has met with twice with the transportation department and detailed its proposal at a CicLAvia open streets festival earlier this month. Organizer Derrick Paul says more than 350 people signed on as supporters of the project during the event.

Tony Arranaga, a spokesperson for City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell tells Curbed that council staffers have met with organizers of the proposal and are awaiting further research on the concept.

“The project would need significant support from local businesses and residential stakeholders before anything could move into the next phase, which would include cost budgeting and identifying funding,” he writes in an email.

It’s just a proposal at this point, but it represents a sincere effort by community members to take part—and even take the lead—in the city’s efforts to make its streets greener and less deadly.

“Sunset really is the center of these neighborhoods,” Paul says. “You can make this a space that’s more welcoming and more comfortable for those who aren’t driving. I think that would change the dynamic—you already have all these businesses, but they’re cut off from [one another] by what’s basically a highway.”

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