Lane change disappoints cyclists

The City Council on Tuesday put the brakes on a proposal to give bicyclists dedicated lanes on a 1.6-mile stretch of road in North Glendale.

The “road diet” would have shaved off two lanes of four-lane La Crescenta Avenue between Verdugo Road and Montrose Avenue and dedicated the extra space to bicycles for a four-month period beginning in February. The trial period would be used to determine the viability of the bike lane, officials said.

But that’s been put on hold for now, discouraging some bicyclists.

“I don’t consider this to be a special interest. I consider this to be a human interest,” said Alek Bartrosouf, a member of the community group Walk Bike Glendale.

But in halting the project, City Council members cited strong opposition to swapping car lanes for dedicated bicycle lanes on Verdugo Road more than a decade ago. When Glendale began laying marks on the road to carve out a section for bicyclists, motorists revolted.

“It was extremely problematic,” said Councilman Ara Najarian, who was on the Transportation and Parking Commission at the time. “We couldn’t sandblast those new configuration lines off quick enough.”

Slimming roads for bicyclists isn’t new — Los Angeles unveiled 2.2 miles of converted path on 7th Street from Catalina Avenue to Figueroa Street — but Glendale has never made a similar transition.

The La Crescenta Avenue proposal could have led to Glendale’s first dedicated lanes for bicyclists. Glendale currently has several shared lanes — known as sharrows — for bicyclists and motorists, but none are dedicated exclusively to bikes, Public Works Director Steve Zurn said.

Driven by fiscal austerity, city officials selected La Crescenta Avenue because the street is set to be resurfaced in June, setting the stage to make the “road diet” permanent if the test period was deemed successful.

But that wasn’t enough for some on the City Council who said they wanted to make sure a lane transition was done the right way.

“Whatever we do as our first ‘road diet’ has got to be a success,” said Mayor Laura Friedman. “It’s really important that we pick that first road really, really well…. I really want to come out of those four months and have people be neutral, but not furious.”

Councilman Dave Weaver said he was generally against dedicated bicycle lanes, and would consider changing his mind only if officials could prove that they wouldn’t cause traffic congestion.

“You prove to me it will work,” he said.

Bartrosouf said although Walk Bike Glendale members were disappointed with the decision, they remained hopeful that the dialogue could lead to concessions in the future.

“At first it was a disappointment, but I think in the long run this will work out,” he said.

The City Council asked officials to bring back options for other “road diet” locations at a Jan. 31 meeting, and to include input from the community and data about how many bicyclists use the streets.

The city already has much of the data since working on updating its Bicycle Master Plan, a blueprint for improving bicycling in Glendale. Officials, however, had not done a bicycle count on La Crescenta Avenue, which serves about 13,000 vehicles a day.

The plan was to do a count before and after the “road diet,” Traffic and Safety Administrator Jano Baghdanian said.

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