4th Street Neighborhood Greenway

March 16, 2011



What’s in a name?

We'd like to welcome you to the Fourth Street Neighborhood Greenway project!

And no, it's not a new project, not at all; the LACBC has been working on it for well over a year, with many others having put in countless hours before that.

In fact, you've probably heard of it before--but under a different name.

It began long ago, with Ingrid Peterson and her Fourth Street Bicycle Boulevard project, complete with website and a fair bit of impassioned outreach, and it was still a "Bicycle Boulevard" when LACBC agreed to manage it. Then, as it was folded into the LADOT's 2010 Bicycle Master Plan, it became a "Bicycle Friendly Street."

Which was all well and good--except that both descriptions really sold the project short. Because what we've been talking about doing with Fourth Street will benefit far more than just the cyclists that pass through on their commutes (of which there are already many--in fact, fourth Street has been a signed "Bike Route" for over forty years!). It will benefit the entire neighborhood, including those who never swing a leg over a top tube--local motorists, strollers, kids, old folks, and even those who simply like to garden or sit on the porch of a balmy evening.

You see, it's not a zero-sum game.... For what little you change for motorists--which is only the opportunity to drive recklessly on a residential street, something that's already prohibited though still routine--you give in exchange a new freedom of choice in how you use the street. Strolling, walking your dog, escorting your kids to a play date, or simply enjoying a peaceful conversation on the corner. Or, of course, riding a bicycle to visit a friend or go to the store, even to the office. Making the car an option rather than a mandate!

After all, most of our journeys, even in LA, are less than two miles long, and there's simply no need to wrap yourself in three tons of steel to get an ice cream cone or a library book--unless you're scared of those infernally-hurried drivers who see your street as nothing more than a substitute freeway. So much traffic is, ironically, generated by fear of traffic itself. The Greenway will make it possible for kids to walk or bike to school (eliminating the drop-off traffic jams that comprise up to 25% of rush-hour congestion in Fourth Street's environs), and by discouraging cut-through traffic, it will let you enjoy all of your neighborhood as you stroll or pedal to Larchmont's eateries, the antique shops, museums, and galleries of the Miracle Mile, the fields and library at Pan Pacific Park, or the Grove and Farmers Market (both of which offer excellent bike parking facilities!).

A "Neighborhood Greenway" project makes room for everyone, from gamins to grannies, from cyclists to reasonable drivers. It does this by building in modest obstructions, most often landscaped traffic circles that frustrate scofflaw speed demons, but do nothing to impede cyclists, walkers, or neighborhood residents who will of course drive at decent speeds past their own front yards.

It makes of the street a sort of linear town square, rather than a singleminded highway.

So you see, the names "Bicycle Boulevard" and Bicycle-Friendly Street" tell only a tiny part of the story. It's not a freeway for bikes we foresee on Fourth Street, and no one ever has. It's rather a promenade that serves the neighborhood and, by its nature, allows cyclists, who can't after all exceed the legitimate 25 mph speed limit, to pass through, slow and silent, on their way to somewhere else

And the more that people feel comfortable traveling our city on bikes, the less they'll feel they "have to" drive everywhere, and the less congestion there will be on all our streets, neighborhood or not, when one does drive a car.

So once again, welcome to the Fourth Street Neighborhood Greenway!

What Is a Neighborhood Greenway?

Neighborhood Greenways are lightly-trafficked, usually neighborhood streets that prioritize pedestrians and bicycles. While automobiles are still allowed to use Neighborhood Greenways,  street treatments make it so that cut through traffic and non-local drivers don’t diminish the safety of these streets.

The atmosphere created by Neighborhood Greenways is one that is inviting to bicyclists, pedestrians, families, children and joggers. Neighbors can once again enjoy their streets together, no longer threatened by speeding automobiles. With Neighborhood Greenways there are opportunities for more tree plantings, green space, traffic circles, mini-parks and gardens. One of the best examples of a great network of greenways is in Berkeley, CA, which you can see in this video.

Businesses also can rejoice at the coming of Neighborhood Greenways. Studies have shown that large numbers of local business patrons arrive by means other than a car. And infrastructure that encourages more cycling will improve business for stores near a Neighborhood Greenway. One important reason for this is bicycles are very space efficient, parking 12 in a space that accommodates a single car; and of course cyclists can window-shop as they travel and park quickly at a whim, unlike drivers.

Campaign Background

4th Street is one of the major east-west commuting streets for bicyclists in the City of Los Angeles. Running almost four miles from Hoover just west of MacArthur Park to Cochran just east of Park La Brea, 4th Street is an ideal Neighborhood Greenway. Neighborhood Greenways are created on low traffic streets where bicycle and pedestrian traffic can be prioritized. Most, like 4th Street, run parallel to major thoroughfares and pass though both residential neighborhoods and commercial districts. Furthermore, they link neighborhoods and create a strong sense of place.

LACBC has been working on the 4th Street Neighborhood Greenway campaign for over a year, continuing the work that members of the bike community have been doing for years. In the summer of 2010, we were able to get sharrows installed along a portion of 4th street and by the end of the year sharrows were installed for the full length of 4th Street.  We also worked to get LADOT to recalibrate the loop detectors at major intersections so bicycles can trigger the signals, and we are currently working to have LADOT install markings on the loops to inform bicyclists where best to wait in order to trigger the signal. Additionally, we envision a 4th Street with smooth pavement, roundabouts, and additional traffic calming features that make it an even better street for bicycling, walking, and the residents that live along 4th Street. The city has set aside funding for some of these treatments and we are actively looking for additional funding sources to make sure 4th Street becomes a model Neighborhood Greenway for the City of Los Angeles and the county.

We’ve gained support from several neighborhood councils and business improvement districts, local individuals, and L.A. Councilmember Tom LaBonge of Council District 4. 

If you want to become more involved with this exciting campaign, please contact 4thstreet@la-bike.org for more information. You can also join the Google group e-mail list here and check out more drawings of our initial ideas for 4th St here.

If you want to get more background on the 4th Street Neighborhood Greenway Campaign, check out our past coverage at the links below:

Two Projects Moving Forward on 4th Street!

Walk and Ride for a Safer 4th Street

Sharrows on 4th Street, LaBonge Bike Ride, and 4th Street Campaign meeting!

Volunteers Needed for Next Step in Sharrows Pilot Project; Gathering Data on Bicyclist-Motorist Behavior

AIA LA Chapter Shows Support for 4th Street Bicycle Boulevard

4th Street Style: An LA take on bicycle boulevards

Wilshire Center BID approves letter of support for 4th Street Bicycle Blvd.

Good Magazine and 4th Street Bike Blvd!

Rampart Village Neighborhood Council supports 4th St. Bicycle Blvd. and other 4th St. Campaign Updates!

4th Street Bike Blvd. Photos and Renderings

L.A.’s Sharrows Pilot Project Funded and Coming Soon!

4th Street Bike Boulevard Campaign

What’s Happening Now?
4th Street is currently at the top of LADOT’s 5 year Bike Plan Implementation Plan for building “bicycle-friendly streets,” the City of LA's term for a Neighborhood Greenway treatment, developed in the city's 2010 Bicycle Master Plan to indicate residential streets to receive traffic calming and roundabout treatments.  We are working to make sure the treatments implemented on 4th Street meet the vision of the community, cyclists, and maximize the city's dollars by prioritizing implementation where 4th Street intersects with other proposed bicycle friendly streets.