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L.A. Hit-and-Run Crash Highlights State Transpo Officials’ Disregard for Safety

Still from dashcam footage of January hit-and-run crash on Glendale Boulevard

This article supported by Los Angeles Bicycle Attorney as part of a general sponsorship package. All opinions in the article are that of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of LABA. Click on the ad for more information.

A recent hit-and-run crash video highlights the unconscionably dangerous situation that Caltrans built where the 2 Freeway pours fast-moving traffic onto Glendale Boulevard in the central Los Angeles City neighborhood of Echo Park. Luckily, the cyclist - who was rear-ended by a fast-moving driver - survived with minor injuries.

The crash took place on January 16. Yesterday, LAPD tweeted out grim dashcam video footage (also posted on YouTube).

The police are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the felony hit-and-run driver.

People who bike and walk know that that part of Glendale Boulevard is even more dangerous and hostile than typical L.A. streets.

Site of the hit-and-run crash - where the 2 Freeway dumps high-speed traffic onto Glendale Boulevard in Echo Park - base image via Google Maps
Site of the hit-and-run crash - where the 2 Freeway dumps high-speed traffic onto Glendale Boulevard in Echo Park - base image via Google Maps

What's wrong there is that Caltrans left an ill-designed stub for a never-built freeway. The planned 2 Freeway, then called the Beverly Hills Freeway, was supposed to cut through some of L.A.'s wealthier and whiter neighborhoods.  When those folks put up a fight, Caltrans canceled the project, but left a stub dumping traffic onto Glendale Boulevard.

Because Caltrans took control of that part of Glendale Blvd - and owns it still to this day - it is an opaque cumbersome time-consuming process to make any changes.

For many years, Metro, Caltrans and LADOT worked to plan a State Route 2 Terminus Improvement Project. Streetsblog covered the meetings - with a telling 2009 headline that read LADOT Values Capacity over Community on Route 2/Glendale Blvd., Drags Metro along for the Ride. The process resulted in a 2009 Metro board approval of a so-called hybrid alternative that largely ignored the surrounding community's push for less traffic and more green space.

Metro published fact sheets and broke the project up into phases, declaring that "this approach ensures delivery of the improvements as quickly as possible." To make the wretched place not quite so hostile, these agencies had planned to add landscaping, ornamental street lights, and sidewalks - and to leave the deadly slip lane in place.

In 2015, The L.A. Times called for the "vastly overscaled" 2 Freeway roadway to be transformed into parkland reminiscent of Manhattan's High Line. There was a design competition.

Then, like several other freeway stub-end reimaginings that even barely shift space away from driving, the Metro Highway Program and Caltrans quietly shelved the already-inadequate plans (after completing modest Phase 1A improvements). The project has been scrubbed from Metro's website (find it at the Wayback Machine).

The city of L.A. approved protected bike lanes for this part of Glendale Boulevard in the city's Mobility Plan. But, like the rest of the non-car features in that plan, the bikeway was never pursued.

So, what can be done now?

Streets for All founder Michael Schneider wrote to SBLA, "If this was a film shoot on Glendale Blvd, there would be crash barriers and half the road would be closed for the safety of the crew." He is demanding "filming level safety for the day-to-day safety of all Angelenos... immediately."

To make this location not deadly for cyclists and pedestrians, there can be no high-speed slip lane merging onto Glendale Boulevard. There is a signalized Glendale Boulevard offramp about a thousand feet north of the treacherous slip lane; it should be possible for Caltrans to close the slip lane and direct all the freeway traffic into the signalized offramp.

If Caltrans is serious about its professed commitment to safety, multi-modal transportation, and complete streets, it should take some kind of immediate action to fix the situation. In the longer run, the agency should take the lead on ripping out its many disruptive and dangerous stubs - relics of the agency's cars-first cars-only past.

The city of L.A. also shares in the fault for the dangerous situation. The cyclist was sandwiched between speeding drivers on Caltrans' slip lane and speeding drivers on Glendale Boulevard. Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell and Mayor Eric Garcetti should move forward with quick-build implementation of the approved bikeway safety improvements there.

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