New LA River Crossing? Yes, but let’s talk the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge

I can’t differentiate myself from anyone else who attended yesterday’s press conference which was meant to introduce the future pedestrian/bike bridge over the old red car crossing over the LA River.Hyperion1

Not that we aren’t grateful, but as the adjacent Glendale-Hyperion Bridge nears the start of its earthquake retrofit, the larger concern is over its new configuration.

Currently, the bridge has two lanes of traffic in each direction, a narrow median and sidewalks on both sides. After the initial redesign presented no bike lanes, the community revolted and a reworking offered three new options, all including bike lanes.

Mission accomplished.


Nothing else to see here.

Yes, I’m setting you up for the rub. Two of the options call for the removal of a traffic lane in the northbound direction for these improvements. The favored plan by cyclists is named Option 3, providing sidewalks and protected bike lanes on both sides.

This is an option both Council District 4 candidates, Carolyn Ramsey and David Ryu, both support, but the Bureau of Public Works recently made its recommendation for Option 1, which will keep four lanes, but eliminate a sidewalk while doing so.

The Graphics for the new LA River Crossing
The Graphics for the new LA River Crossing

In light of this ongoing controversy, yesterday’s press conference was an opportunity to let the people’s voices be heard. The majority on hand supported option 3, but there was a small, but vocal opposition.

The pro-multimodal group did contain a distinguished group of supporters, including Deborah Murphy of Los Angeles Walks, Gerry Hans from Friends of Griffith Park and Don Ward. Mr. CiclaValley was able to differentiate himself in a substantial way as being the only guy donning lycra.

Hey, I biked from the valley! I can wear these clothes to most weddings.

If you looked past my fashion faux pas, the crowd consisted of a strong constituency of locals concerned with the livability of their neighborhood. This is no rogue group as I saw the large stack of signatures of supporters that Damien Newton of Streetsblog LA posted a list of.

Tom LaBonge was the first to speak because he was the first to leave. Mitch O’Farrell, the councilman from the other side of the river, was left to conduct the rest of the presser on his own. While it was a cloudy morning, O’Farrell did his best to pump sunshine into celebrating this new bridge without committing to a position on Hyperion.

There were no questions taken at the podium and he quickly shuttled off to City Hall, leaving all the attendees to mingle among themselves since everyone thought this was going to last longer than ten minutes.

Off to my side were the three most vocal(and maybe only attending) opponents engaged in a heated discussion with the mobility crowd over the traffic lanes. I tried to keep my distance, ignoring the feud while trying to find my moment of zen, but I’m only human(allegedly).

Appeals for safety, especially for the children who cross the bridge to go to school, fell on deaf ears. I tried finding my inner mute button, but then I heard a back and forth about the inconvenience of a possible ten second delay from the reduced lanes.

O'Farrell and the Crowd
O’Farrell and the Crowd

I’m not going to get all existential about this, but if I’m going to get angry over wasting ten seconds of my life, it’s going to be about listening to Coldplay, not making our streets safer for everyone.

On the surface, one sidewalk may seem like enough, but this is no typical bridge. Built in 1927, the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge has an awkward connection as the two streets intersect at the same point where the red car used to converge.

It may seem to be a luxury to have sidewalks on both sides, but in reality it is about three-quarters of a mile between crossings meaning many walkers will have to significantly backtrack and cross the expansive Glendale Blvd., which sometimes takes two lights.

If option 1 is approved, the concern is that pedestrians will use the protected bike lane in lieu of a sidewalk. Compounding problems, this condition will exist on the northbound descent where cyclists can easily reach speeds above 30 mph. As much as I push cycling concerns, the people who wish to walk the bridge have it far worse. This is not an elegant solution.

We are given few opportunities to reshape vital portions of our infrastructure, such as the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge. Seeing the amount of construction needed for the retrofit, we are getting only one shot at this. This decision will be generational.

Los Angeles has made a great deal of progress in it’s thinking, but still lags in it’s practice. It’s time to answer the question, who do we want be? Are we still holding out hope that we can build our way out of traffic or are we going to make our city more livable? Let’s get it right.