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Opinion: Glendale-Hyperion Bridge, bad for bikes, might get worse

October 25, 2013|By Paul Thornton, Los Angeles Times
  • In 2010, L.A. approved a plan that would put bike lanes on the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge, pictured above. Recently, however, the city has been moving forward with a bridge redesign that leaves the bike lanes out. (Los Angeles Times)
In 2010, L.A. approved a plan that would put bike lanes…

Following an outcry from cyclists and walkers over a proposed redesign of the Glendale-Hyperion Bridge, Los Angeles officials sent out a notice saying they will conduct a hearing Monday evening.

Holding this hearing is a smart move. To this cyclist, and I would guess to many others, the historic and photogenic bridge across the Los Angeles River and the 5 Freeway is one of the scariest stretches of road in Los Angeles. And this city, enlightened as it is about making streets more hospitable to walkers and riders, wants to redo it.

By making it more dangerous.

FULL COVERAGE: Sharing the road in L.A.

The saga over redesigning the bridge that connects Silver Lake to Atwater Village and Glendale has been reported extensively by Streetsblog LA, the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition and elsewhere. In a nutshell, despite being designated for new bikes lanes in L.A.’s 2010 Bicycle Plan, the city and the state are redesigning the span as a mini-freeway with wider lanes meant to move cars along at 55 miles per hour. And those bike lanes?

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They didn’t make the cut.

My personal experience on the bridge some years ago had me swearing off ever riding the span again — after only one crossing. But first, some history.

In short, I love the bridge. As a teenager growing up in Glendale, crossing the bridge by car was sort of like traversing the tunnel into Roger Rabbit’s Toontown. It connected by road the familiarity of my suburban upbringing with the edginess and instability of L.A.’s core, allowing for a brief 400-foot interlude between the two urban worlds to contemplate the difference. As a teenager I was so drawn to those concrete arches and era-evoking streetlamps looming over the L.A. River that late on the night before I left for college, I impulsively jumped in my car for one last crossing.

So naturally, when urban cycling became something of a personal obsession in 2008, the bridge called again. Aware that motorists emerging from traffic-choked Silver Lake onto the open span for the sprint into Atwater tend to push the gas pedal down pretty hard, I decided to visit the bridge on a Saturday afternoon during a ride between Hollywood and Glendale.

The calm weekend traffic and perfect weather would make for an idyllic crossing. Or so I thought.

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