Los Angeles Business Journal

Los Angeles on the Move

OP-ED: Fourteen-mile run around eastern part of city offers look at how streets should serve multiple users. By Luis Lopez Monday, December 2, 2013

Onward I charge.

Then I emerge. I cross over the Los Angeles River into Silver Lake and, literally, greener pastures.

Welcoming space

After a right turn off Glendale Boulevard, the Silver Lake Meadow unfolds before me with the reservoir as backdrop. Carefully designed and lushly landscaped, it’s nothing short of glorious. The space is welcoming, and not just for me. Dog walkers, bicyclists, kids on scooters, parents and grandparents with strollers, families picnicking, and people stretching and jogging are all out enjoying the open space. The nearby stretch of Silver Lake Boulevard is active and vibrant with people window-shopping and patronizing local businesses. It clearly invites everyone, not just motorists.

I hit Sunset Boulevard, among the most renowned of urban thoroughfares anywhere in the Southland. The street scene is dynamic, a little chaotic.

Buses loom large – some roaring, some gliding past. Movement is constant: Pedestrians zip in and out of storefronts, procuring services from hair styling to carryout seafood. Bikes stream past, in and outside of designated lanes. Litter dots the street and discarded belongings loom curbside. But the street is accommodating multiple users in various modes of transportation.

I keep going. My midway point is Echo Park Lake. I marvel at this redone park with its beautiful fountain in the middle of the lake – a public works project that beautifies and engages, and finally got done. I think about how long it took for this persevering project to be completed. Back in 2005, I was serving on a city parks oversight committee that allocated Proposition K dollars for this project. That memory makes the lesson clear: It requires time and a lot of money in addition to a fair share of patience to achieve a human-scale spectacle with wow factor.

In an era of tight budgets, improving our quality of life and our right-of-ways with complete streets is possible if we share in the vision and make it a priority.

Turning around, I head back seven more miles to my own community of Rock. As I run on the sidewalk, I see the buffered bike lanes that mark a step in the right direction of complete streets. Now, bicyclists don’t have to compete with cars quite as doggedly, or dangerously, for use of public pavement. This took years of consultation and coalition-building to accomplish.

I finally finish, exhausted, and unable to contemplate how I could possibly run even one more mile. But I know that in a day or two I will feel differently. I will confront the exertion and its promise of exhilarating reward once again. And I will take up the dual challenge of all those miles of pavement. There is running them. There is also the potential to improve them, to complete our streets.

Luis López is a non-profit health care director. He also is a former Los Angeles city planning commissioner and now is a board member of the Eagle Rock Association.

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