I’m not a TV watcher, but lately I’ve been watching Columbo and the Sixth Sense, shows from the seventies. I find myself looking at the styles – the clothing, the hair, the makeup – the landscapes, and the skyline of Los Angeles with a feeling of nostalgia. I recently experienced that same feeling at the Hyperion/Glendale Viaduct community meeting while viewing the proposed changes to the Hyperion/Glendale Bridge. I thought I had entered a space-time continuum and traveled to the 70s. All that was missing were the mutton chop sideburns, porn mustaches, bib ties, and wide lapels.
This wasn’t your typical ask and answer community meeting. Five or six stations had been created with a placard above each station stating its intended purpose – history, traffic pattern, bike/pedestrian safety, etc. At each station an engineer was present and as I walked to each station, I overheard each of them making excuses as to why there couldn’t be bike lanes.
Then I heard: “Ladies and gentlemen if you would take your seats and we will now watch a movie about the Glendale Hyperion project.” The announcement was done in that seventies game-showy voice. At first the people were startled, and then somewhat amused as they took their seats.
In the beginning of the movie, Mayor Garcetti introduced the project. He was followed by Councilman Tom LaBonge and finally Councilman Mitch O’Farrell. The movie was a short history of the Bridge’s veteran memorial status, and then the lights came on.
“Ladies and gentlemen I invite you to go to each station and check out the displays and ask the engineers any questions you have,” said the MC Game-Showy voice.
In this proposed restoration, there’s a crash barrier, wider car travel lanes, and the removal of the eastbound sidewalk, which would leave a sidewalk only on the westbound side of the bridge. A crosswalk would run only partially across the bridge and there is not one inch of bike infrastructure. This design would only make speeds faster for cars on the bridge and more dangerous for everyone else. I am frustrated that these engineers continue to use the same road design playbook from the seventies. There is little to no creativity, and no consideration for modern traffic styles. Yes, there are more cars on the road, but there are also more cyclists and pedestrians.
“Ladies and gentlemen we’ll conclude our meeting by going to each station and taking your comments and questions.”
At this point the MC Game-Showy voice had gone from slightly amusing to annoying. As we walk to the first station, most of the questions and comments are about the bike improvements. However the station is about the historic restoration of the bridge.
“Does anyone have any question about the restoration? We’ll answer questions about that topic here,” MC Game-Showy voice interrupts, “Now let’s move over to our next station.”
This is the bike/pedestrian station. Engineer Jeff manning the station. Eric Bruins, Policy Director from LACBC, asks why LA’s 2010 Bicycle Plan or the Complete Streets mandate isn’t being followed? Engineer Jeff responds with something to the effect of not having any room. He then adds that, “We’re putting in a pedestrian/bike bridge.”
MC Game-Showy voice asks for a display of hands of who would use the ped/bike bridge. Half the people raise their hands. Now he asks who would continue using the Hyperion Highway bridge. I and the other half of the audience raise our hands.
We now will have a break from my description of the meeting events for a message from our sponsor–also known as me…..
The problem with the new bike/ped bridge is this: It’s inaccessible to folks coming from the Silverlake side. Right now, starting from Trader Joes on Hyperion, it takes me six minutes to get across Hyperion Highway’s bridge to Atwater, and it’s basically all downhill. With the proposed changes, I will have to ride my bike to Rowena, make a left, ride a ½ mile to Glendale Blvd., make another left travelling downhill and cross Riverside Dr., and then move onto the Westbound sidewalk on Glendale for another 1 mile. From there I have to dodge the cars crossing the I-5 freeway on-ramp, which are driving at freeway speeds, ride to the entrance of the LA River bike path, ride a ½ mile to the proposed bike/ped bridge, then travel uphill on this span to get to a park or something. My normal six minute ride had now increased to 30-45 minutes
Like many people. I’m go to Atwater because that’s where the shops are. I do not use the LA River bike path to run errands, because its access points are not easy to reach. Besides it’s not connected to any shops. I use the bike path to recreate in Griffith Park. But if I want the nearest post office, I cross the bridge to Atwater. Dance classes – Atwater. Restaurants – Atwater. Bakeries – Atwater. Need to get to Glendale? You guessed it – you go through Atwater.
Logic dictates that no one is going to use a pedestrian bridge which is out of their way. They and I are going to continue using Hyperion Highway Bridge.
We now return to the meeting….
The audience throws more questions at Engineer Jeff, and he becomes flustered. MC Game-Showy voice sensing the crowd’s frustration and anger intercedes:
“Ladies and gentlemen make sure you give us your comments. That’s how we will know to consider changes. Now we must move to the next station.”
The next station was about safety. Again the audience starts peppering Engineer Jeff with questions regarding the lack of bike lanes. Alek Bartrosouf, Campaign and Policy Manager for LACBC, made the point that the increased speeds on the bridge made it unsafe for everyone, including those in cars.
“How can you make this a freeway going through our neighborhoods?” asked Don Ward, a community member. As it is, the average speed is 60 mph.”
“Who drives 60 on the bridge?” asked another woman.
“People drive at least 55 mph now.“ I chime in.
“What’s the average speed now?” asks Ward.
Engineer Jeff says, “It’s 55 mph.“
The audience lets out a collective groan.
“What’s the proposed speed after the restoration?” asks Ward.
“55 mph,” says Engineer Jeff, his tie askew, shirt disheveled and stomach peering out from under his shirt.
“Ladies and gentlemen remember to give us your comments. We have to conclude this meeting. There will be time to speak with the engineers after the meeting,” MC Game-Showy voice says quickly as he tries to corral the audience away from Engineer Jeff and toward the last station.
Most of all the other engineers and elected officials have long since left and I’ve grown tired of this dog and pony show, too.
Many of us went to the kitchen to retrieve our bikes, (Yes, that’s right, the bike parking was in the kitchen), Matthew Mooney, a Silverlake resident says, “And I thought we would have a bike path across the bridge akin to the Brooklyn Bridge.”
“That would take a lot more imagination from the engineers we have here,’ I say, “and it would have to take them out of the 20th century.”
As we walk out in a line through the auditorium with the white and red lights flashing on our bikes, the remaining engineers clap. I still don’t know what they meant by that.
Some people remember the seventies as an era of the worst fashions – remember the pastel polyester leisure suit – or of the ushering in of the overly processed corporate baked goods, like green-colored jello with canned fruit cocktail and mayonnaise. I thought of an old favorite – the no-bake cookies. They’ve since fallen out of favor and I don’t understand why because they are so easy to make, and they taste delicious. But most importantly you don’t bake them! Here’s the recipe.
1/2 Cup butter or 1/2 cup margarine
2 Cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
4 Tbsp cocoa
1/2 Cup creamy peanut butter
2 tsp vanilla
3 -3 1/2 Cups dry quick-cooking oats
Put the first four ingredients in a pot and place it on a stovetop burner set to medium heat. Allow the mixture boil for one minute then remove the pot from the burner and turn off the heat. Stir in the peanut butter until melted and add the remaining ingredients, stirring well. Drop tablespoon-sized portions of the mixture onto a sheet pan covered with wax paper. Let cool until set.
The time it takes to make these cookies is the same amount of time it takes me to get across the Hyperion Highway Bridge now. Why not make the bridge safer for everyone one who uses it? This is a decision that should be as natural and simple as it is to make these cookies.
These cookies remind me of the seventies which many remember as a simpler time. Unfortunately, the seventies also ushered in an era of unsafe infrastructure for bicyclists and pedestrians. It can be fun to look back at what happened in the past – fashion trends we can’t believe we embraced or the foods we were eating or even the politics of the time. We can laugh about it. We can learn about it. We shouldn’t continue to live it.