LADOT’s Connect the Green program works to create safer bike paths in the city

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation is working with the South LA community to build safer bike paths for its residents.

Every day when Jordan Gonzales bikes from South Central to USC, she constantly fears that she’ll be hit by a car or a car door on the busy roads.

“Even with the bike lane, cars don’t really pay attention to you,” said Gonzales, “and they typically aren’t looking at any signage or anything that’s going on in the bike lane.”

Closer to the university, construction for apartments gets in the way of creating a sustainable bike lane for community members, Gonzales said.

“A lot of bike lanes are closed and cars do not pay attention to you when you have to get over as a biker,” Gonzales said. “On (Figueroa Street), they have ‘protected bike lanes’ but you have doors and pedestrians opening up into the bike lanes … and they get in the way and it is safer still to ride in the street.”

With so much traffic and no safe places to bike, Los Angeles is considered to be the worst city for bikers with 1,369 bicycle injuries reported in 2020 according to the California Transportation Injury Mapping System. 

To combat this, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation is organizing a bike ride on Saturday to understand how the organization can create a stress-free neighborhood for bikers in South LA.

The event will help LADOT identify barriers to biking and walking on neighborhood streets and reduce cut-through traffic by creating speed humps, curb extensions, and traffic circles.

Through its program Connect the Green, LADOT hopes to develop stress-free neighborhoods that reduce collisions and fatalities between bikers and cars. So far, the program has received feedback regarding certain streets around the neighborhoods in South LA and is researching potential solutions.

David Somers, the manager of Connect the Green, describes what the department is doing to implement this plan.

“LADOT is identifying locations where street design solutions can take place to calm traffic and increase safe connections along neighborhood streets to help Angelenos bike and walk more comfortably to where they want to go,” Somers said.

Somers said the department is focusing on the South LA area because the community has been severely underserved and input from community members is often ignored.

Connect the Green worked with an organization that knows the South LA area well and was able to help LADOT identify the dangerous streets around the area.

“In Watts, we worked with a really great organization called Eastside Riders Club that led the rides and also completed the network audit,” Somers said.

Somers said he and his team are working to reduce accidents and collisions that occur more often in communities where people of color are living.

“The focus on the communities that we felt had a level of urgency just in terms of those background statistics about collisions and fatalities, and they tend to align with communities of color, where you see that unfortunate kind of association between those outcomes,” Somers said.

Before solutions can be implemented, LADOT has to secure funding from numerous sources through grants and other initiatives.

So far, Colin Sweeney, the communications director at LADOT, said the organization has received a planning grant to gather data for a proposal, but the organization must work to secure additional funding.

The grant that LADOT received for its data collection ends in February, but the department plans to work with CalTrain to reapply for another grant and start implementing projects around the neighborhood.

LADOT said that it plans to use the feedback from the two bike riding events to improve bike safety in all Los Angeles neighborhoods as the issue is citywide.

“Hopefully, a couple years from now,” Somers said, “you’ll see bikeways that say ‘Angeleno bikeway,’ and it’ll connect all these different neighborhoods and you’ll see signs that tell you how to get to LACMA.”