Riverside-Figueroa Bridge Destruction: Insult to Pedestrians
April 27, 2012 § 17 Comments
If there was any doubt that the city of Los Angeles’ wrongheaded destruction of the Riverside-Figueroa Bridge is nothing but zombie engineers fulfilling a now obsolete paean to the automobile, this just in! Not only is the end-product (due 2015) a massive freeway-esque car-centric bridge… but, already this week, the construction zone itself is a dangerous gauntlet for pedestrians.
(No thought has been given to bikes, either, but thick-skinned intrepid bike commuters can pretty much go wherever cars can go… so we cyclists can still use the bridge roadway that’s set aside for cars.)
Around 2006, when I was working for Friends of the L.A. River, the city’s first environmental reports on this project (a negative declaration, if I remember correctly) came across my desk. I disliked this project then and I still despise it. I’ve pushed harder on more intact historic river bridges that are in the city’s demolition and dis-figuration cross-hairs… but as I look at Riverside-Figueroa’s imminent demolition, it saddens me.
The city is taking out an L-shaped bridge that has a pinch-point where it narrows down to just one lane in each direction. The replacement will be 2 lanes in each direction. The L will be replaced by a smooth curve. Think freeway. The elbow in the L served to slow cars down to somewhat safer speeds. When the excessive replacement bridge is complete, cars that had gone 20mph will do 50+mph… in a historic, transit-rich neighborhood that’s a 10-minute bike ride from downtown Los Angeles and a 15-minute walk to the Metro Gold Line. And in order to cram more and more and more cars into the middle of the city and the supposedly bike/ped-priority (per city’s River Revitalization Master Plan) river corridor… a decent-looking historic-cultural landmark bridge, built in 1929 and re-built in 1939, will bite the dust.
I got a good look at the construction barriers already up at the site today. It looks like a suburban cars-uber-alles design, perhaps worthy of James Howard Kunstler’s Eyesore of the Month. It’s a design that keeps cars flowing in the most direct trajectory, but forces pedestrians about a quarter-mile out of their way. Anyone who has a brain or who has spent 20 minutes walking in a city knows that pedestrians aren’t going to walk a 5-10 minute detour. Today, commuters on foot were walking across car-traffic lanes and hopping over the concrete barriers.
In a post on Facebook earlier this week, Colin Bogart of the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition stated:
BOE [L.A. City Bureau of Engineering] tells me there’s a sidewalk on the east side of the road. Eventually it will be off-limits. They told me there will be some sort of pedestrian shuttle for those peds who need to get across the bridge.
So… can anyone out there tell me what’s wrong with this timeline: 1) set up dangerous barriers today… and then 2) start running shuttles later? I hope it doesn’t take a pedestrian death or dismemberment and ensuing lawsuit to show the car-heads the errors of their ways.
(Bogart also reported that “The City’s contractor will be putting up signage for bicyclists in the next week or so. Don’t know why it wasn’t installed from the start.”)
All this makes me fuming mad.
The city is bending over backwards to make sure that cars can get across the bridge during all phases of construction. The bridge will be torn down half at a time, so enough of it is always standing for cars to get across the river. I expect that this increases (perhaps doubles?) the expense of the project… but while no expense has been spared to cater to car traffic (even though drivers actually have a few options to cross the river; the 5-Freeway is immediately upstream) it appears that no expense has been anticipated for healthy, environmentally-friendlier modes.
I don’t think that we’ll ever get to a healthy river until we begin to drive a lot less and to respect pedestrians and cyclists. Someday, perhaps soon, cars will be treated as an afterthought and will have to wait for their tardy shuttle to get through bike/ped construction sites… though truly I don’t wish this kind of disrespectful, unsafe treatment on anyone.