- Written by Joseph Mailander
11 Oct 2013
MAILANDER’S LA-Every now and then, even here in my less-steady dotage, I ride a blazing department store derailleur across the long, semi-dangerous Hyperion-Glendale Bridge from Los Feliz to Atwater--the very route that Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilmembers Tom LaBonge and Mitch O'Farrell want to spend $50 million rehabbing, to the consternation of so many bicycle advocates.
Here's how I do it. I roll up to the ramp that goes up to Waverly and park there for as long as I need to, until all the traffic roars by. Then crane my neck and watch the signals at Rowena behind me. After the last car passes and the light coming the bridge's way turns red, I pedal like mad and count to twenty-two. I know that by the time I finish counting to twenty-two, there will be roaring traffic again. I had better be clear of the narrows running under the Waverly Bridge by then--otherwise I am Prius-bait.
This strip that connects "the lands the freeways forgot," as they used to call Los Feliz and Silver Lake, to up-and-came Atwater is about half a mile long. It may be rife with danger, especially at the summit--where a short bridge and cutout concrete walls with no sidewalk option and narrowing lanes commence the downhill breakaway on the long slide to Atwater--but it's still manageable, and cyclists mostly either know how to shotgun the traffic or consign themselves to the slower sidewalks on either side once past the narrows.
But now the Mayor and his most bicycle friendly allies on Council want to pump all this money into rehabilitation in the name of auto safety and rehabilitation.
And how are they making this bridge safer? By making the traffic even faster and daring the cyclists to mix with the motorists even more.
The plans call for a bona fide, freeway-styled center divider running down the center of the bridge, encouraging traffic to make the hill at an even greater clip than they do now. I don't know who thinks these things through or what fresh Preliminary EIR hell this generates on paper, but I know intuitively that anything that makes this bridge and attendant tangle easier to cross will change the character of Hyperion south--already one of the City of LA's most dangerous strips for cars and bikes alike.
And Glendale Boulevard through Atwater at the northern end of the long bridge is already stupid with cars, often six or seven deep at every light up to San Fernando Road.
Almost without exception organized and less-organized but formidable bicycle coalitions oppose the plan. Streetsblog LA called it a "looming disaster." Some rerouting options have looked like Zorro's trademark swiping but with a couple of slipped cuts stitched in. Midnight Ridazz folks got very sarky about it: "That'll work," one snapped at the zigzag patterning where presently resides a straight shot, and that soon became the attitude.
Myself, I believe the Hyperion-Glendale Bridge, while a nervy thrill, is not even as dangerous as Hyperion itself between Rowena and Sunset. I've seen all kinds of accidents on that mad speedway, very inadequate space for cyclists--and I've seen some of the awful, inevitable results, for cars and bikes alike.
While the detractors appear to be on the verge of losing, this is becoming more interesting politically, as the cyclists form one of the most dependable spokes of the winning Garcetti Mayoral calculus. Hyperion-Glendale seems to be becoming something more than a community issue, thanks to the cyclist groups.
And it's worthwhile noting that an intersection of messy bridges very nearby is in even more need of reworking: the shabby confluence of the 2 and 5 just a few blocks east, which experienced a terrifying explosion last spring, and which is pedestrian and cycle unfriendly beneath.
There are some pedestrian-friendly overtures in the Garcetti-O'Farrell-LaBonge package. Utilizing long abandoned piers over the LA River, a new pedestrian bridge would add a seventh span to today's six bridges that is the Glendale Hyperion traverseplex. The span of the proposed ped bridge is far out of scale to the old concrete Red Car piers supporting it. It doesn't add much other than a function for the presently functionless piers; there's also a pedestrian bridge half a mile west and another further upstream forthcoming.
Written public comments are due ... today: Friday, October 11. Assemblyman Mike Gatto made some noise as the only elected official on the record against. The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition called for an "Action Alert" here.
(Joseph Mailander is a writer, an LA observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He is also the author of Days Change at Night: LA's Decade of Decline, 2003-2013. Mailander blogs here.)
Vol 11 Issue 82
Pub: Oct 11, 2013