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Spring Street's less-green bike lane: It's road-test worthy

October 07, 2013|By Carla Hall
  • A bicyclist rides the new darker green bike lane on Spring Street south of 2nd Street in downtown Los Angeles.
A bicyclist rides the new darker green bike lane on Spring Street south of… (Alexandra Le Tellier / Los…)

The fluorescent green Spring Street bike lane that bicyclists and downtown residents loved but film location scouts and production managers hated has been stripped off the street. It’s been repainted a darker shade of green. In fact, it looks more turquoise than green.

That should make the film folks happy -- or at least, happier than when Spring Street, one of the most filmed and photographed locales in Los Angeles, featured a 1.4-mile strip of green so bright that under lights for filming it bounced off and tinted everything it touched, including actors’ faces. Film industry advocates said it wasn’t the same green that is easily removed from a shot with chroma keying. This green, they argued, was costly and tedious to erase.

Some bicycle advocates aren’t sure what to make of the newly painted lane that stretches from Cesar Chavez to 9th Street. The city didn’t just change the paint; it altered the configuration of the green paint on the lane.

FULL COVERAGE: Sharing the road in L.A.

The white borders of the southbound bike lane on the right-hand side of Spring remain the same. At the north end of each block, the pavement between the borders is painted with a solid chunk of green. At the southern end of each block, where cars might turn right and cross the bike lane, the city added horizontal panels of green across it. But the entire lane isn’t continuously green, which it almost was before.

Overall, there’s just less paint. But that doesn’t mean the bike lane is less safe than when it was more green.

“I will say that, unlike the old design, it’s an unproven design,” bicycle advocate Damien Newton told me when I asked him what he thought of it. Newton, the editor of L.A. Streetsblog, says he sees it as the city getting rid of a design that was popular with bicyclists and residents in favor of one that isn’t “road-tested” but pleases the film industry.

That’s at least partially accurate. As far as I can tell, what the film industry ideally wanted was no color, just some white striping to mark a bike lane, which is what Main Street has. But beyond that, yes, city officials wanted to find a compromise that would work for filming. Los Angeles has lost enough revenue from location work to other cities; it doesn’t need to lose more.

However, downtown is not a studio backlot; it is a growing community of residents, workers, merchants -- and bicyclists. Their needs should be considered. And they were. City officials did not back down on keeping a bike lane and keeping it green. They found another shade of green and a new design. There may be less paint, but there’s no question that there’s a big green bike lane as a driver turns onto Spring Street.

Esthetically speaking, I like the new, bluer green better: more jewel-toned, less screamingly green.

We wanted the city to find a compromise, and it did. Let’s bike the new green and see how well it works.

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This post is part of an ongoing conversation to explore how the city’s cyclists, drivers and pedestrians share and compete for road space, and to consider policy choices that keep people safe and traffic flowing. For more: latimes.com/roadshare and #roadshareLA.      

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