By Drew Boyles, Mayor of El Segundo and SBCCOG Board of Director Chair
December 13, 2021, in his Los Angeles Times op-ed “L.A. can no longer afford to push bikes and buses aside,” Michael Schneider accurately describes the challenges Los Angeles and other cities have faced in fully embracing electric vehicle conversion and creation of a bike-friendly infrastructure. To address these challenges, the time is ripe to consider another idea to advance these goals. Let’s give our cities the proper means to effectively “right-size their rides” with a slow speed network on which to travel.
The South Bay, with its lackof robust transit, is promoting wide-spread adoption of micromobility to encourage zero-emission local trips. Micromobility is defined as small, lightweight vehicles that operate at speeds of 25-mph or less. Such vehicles include traditional pedal bikes, but also electric bikes, scooters and neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs), which are similar to golf carts. Under this next-level concept, these vehicles would be owned, not rented.
In 2013, with a grant from the AQMD, the South Bay Cities Council of Governments (SBCCOG) gave a group of residents NEVs to drive for three months as part of a study called the Local Use Vehicle (LUV) Project. It revealed 70% of car trips in the South Bay were 3 miles or less. It also found that 285,000 South Bay residents owned a second, third or fourth vehicle. The SBCCOG is not suggesting that residents give up a car for longer trips, but that they examine driving habits to determine if an NEV or other slow speed vehicle might make sense for local trips.
Advocating slow speed vehicles for personal use poses the question of where to safely drive them since they are not designated for main arterials with speed limits above 35 mph. Like many cities, the South Bay’s existing network of bike lanes were built in small segments. But bike lanes are only safe and effective as a network. Through a grant from Caltrans, the SBCCOG has developed the concept, now in the implementation phase, called The South Bay Local Travel Network (LTN). Through a route refinement study, it mapped out a complete network of existing slow speed neighborhood streets, where implementation of low-cost infrastructure and street treatments would successfully support micromobility vehicles. To ensure safety across the network’s continuum, it connects neighborhood-to-neighborhood-to-destinations by always using controlled intersections (lights or four-way stop signs) to cross busy and fast-moving roads.
The study proposes development of a 243-mile route—overlayed onto the South Bay’s 2,000 miles of existing streets—dedicated to such vehicles. The network would be constructed as a “sharrow system,” of street markings with wayfinding signage to inform riders and drivers they are using the LTN. Signage would alert motorists of slow-moving, lightweight vehicles in the vicinity, to make sharing the neighborhood streets safer for all travelers.
Last May, the SBCCOG board of directors passed a resolution supporting implementation of the network, indicating the subregion is ready to work with local jurisdictions to implement the LTN.
A known standard is that 80% of traffic moves on 20% of the streets. The SBCCOG’s game-changing strategy would move these local trips off of arterials, thus reducing traffic, eliminating potential safety conflicts, and providing safer paths on which zero emission vehicle drivers can more safely complete their journeys. Learn more/take our survey: southbaycities.org/a-local-travel-network-for-the-south-bay/.