Alumni Avenue Traffic Calming

Alumni Avenue is a fairly pleasant street to cycle on due to low traffic volumes, this is perhaps why the street is a designated bike route. However, this doesn’t mean the street couldn’t be made better for cycling or benefit from traffic calming devices. The Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) is planning some traffic calming along Alumni Avenue as part of Northeast LA’s part of the Los Angeles Bike Plan. While plans for bike lanes on Colorado Boulevard and North Figueroa Street are receiving a lot of attention at the moment, the LADOT hopes that traffic calming for Alumni can be implemented in the not too distant future as well.

As I’ve contemplated the prospect of bicycle infrastructure on Alumni Avenue, I’ve often thought about how traffic calming can be implemented on the street and have the greatest impact. Primary goals of implementing traffic calming on residential streets in the LA Bike Plan, as is proposed on Alumni Avenue, are to make cycling comfortable and to discourage cut-through motor vehicle traffic.

In my experience, there isn’t terribly much cut-through traffic on Alumni Avenue itself. There are, however, a considerable number of drivers that use Avenue 45 and Avenue 46 – streets that intersect with Alumni Avenue – as shortcuts between Eagle Rock Boulevard and York Boulevard. The below map shows how these streets are used as shortcuts:

alumni ave now

Note the red arrows indicating how Avenue 45 and Avenue 46 are used as shortcuts by drivers to travel from Eagle Rock Boulevard to York Boulevard and vise versa. Map via Google Maps

Westbound traffic on York Boulevard sometimes cuts north onto Avenue 46 or Avenue 45 to reach Eagle Rock Boulevard for northbound travel. Also common, is southbound traffic on Eagle Rock Boulevard using these same streets as a means of reaching York Boulevard for eastbound travel.

Convenient as it may be for drivers, this use of the residential streets disrupts their otherwise quiet and peaceful nature. Anecdotally, it also seems that drivers prone to using these residential streets as shortcuts are also the short-tempered ones that drive aggressively, which makes walking and cycling less pleasant, even on the residential streets.

When planning traffic calming along Alumni Avenue, the LADOT will have a special opportunity to also calm traffic on Avenue 45 and 46 if specific traffic calming measures are implemented thoughtfully.

One clever traffic calming device that is often used to prevent unwanted cut-through traffic on multiple streets is a “traffic diverter,” which forces car traffic to turn either left or right at an intersection but allows people on foot or bicycle to proceed through. They look something like this:


This intersection was formerly a regular, four-way intersection like we are accustomed to seeing. Now a planted diverter forces car traffic to make a left rather than using the street to cut-through the neighborhood.

Below is a video demonstrating a diagonal diverter in practice

If strategically placed on Alumni Avenue, traffic diverters can stop the cut-through traffic on Avenue 45 and Avenue 46 in addition to any cut-through traffic experienced on Alumni Avenue. Overall, this will vastly improving the cycling conditions on the neighborhood streets around Occidental College as a whole– the whole neighborhood can benefit from strategic traffic calming on a single street. Below is one example of how diverting traffic on Alumni Avenue would make cutting across Avenue 45 and Avenue 46 between Eagle Rock and York Boulevard less appealing:


Traffic wishing to cut north to Eagle Rock Boulevard is noted with solid red lines. Traffic wishing to cut south onto York Boulevard is noted with dashed red lines. The diverters are highlighted in green. Map via Google Maps

What the diverters in the above map do is make taking “the shortcut” through the residential streets more circuitous, time-consuming, and hence less attractive for the  impatient drivers that prioritize their time over the quality of life on their neighbor’s streets.

At the same time, reducing the cut-though traffic on these streets suddenly makes Avenue 45, Avenue 46, and Alumni Avenue all much more pleasant streets for cycling since one is less likely to encounter and interact with car traffic other than the local variety from the residents that live in the immediate area.

What do you think?

Note: This post was inspired by an email I received from a reader expressing a desire to do something about the cut-through traffic they experience on Avenue 46.

Also, today there is a meeting about the city’s plans for traffic calming on streets in Northeast LA. If you can, go to the meeting and help participate in the planning process.

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