Note: On this stretch of the trip, I rode my bike on the sidewalk (!!!) for demonstrative purposes and to steady the camera. “Rode” makes it sound fast — “dilly-dallied” is more accurate. No pedestrians, dogs or scooters were injured during this process.
Between Fairfax and Crescent Heights you’ll find the only commercial storefronts along Fountain in West Hollywood, including Fountain Liquor, a beauty salon, Dubbs’ Coffee and the WeHo Wash Express laundromat.
They face some truly grim prospects ahead.
Two years of construction will not only trample the stores’ foot traffic, but swapping parking spots for bike lanes will cut off access for customers who drive, as well.
Parking on these three blocks is more limited and arguably more essential than anywhere else on the 1.9-mile strip, not only for the businesses but for the residents as well.
You notice people who don’t have assigned parking spots playing an endless game of musical chairs with their vehicles on the nearby streets. It’s not a buyer’s market — you park wherever’s closest and take whatever is available. Depending on the time/day and whether you’ve got a permit, you might score a spot right in front of your apartment building, or you might have to leave your car on Santa Monica Boulevard and carry your groceries a quarter mile up the hill.
It’s already a rat race.
As I pass Crescent Heights, I re-think my earlier statement about infrastructure improving as you head west. While buildings look newer and cleaner, you don’t see as many homeless people and Fountain itself widens and is better maintained, the sidewalks actually get worse.
More hellish hedges, errant shrubs and retaining walls crowding out the walkway.
More sign posts stuck dead center in the sidewalk.
Even less room to move or pass.
Meanwhile, drivers who are finally free of the gridlock east of Crescent Heights put the pedal to the metal, racing up and down this length of the road to make up for lost time.
There seem to be more pedestrians here, but not a bicyclist in sight.
I reach La Cienega without a clear-cut answer to that question of questions….
What should be done with Fountain Avenue?
Personally, as a car-owning bicyclist, I think City Hall’s plan in its current form is going to inspire far more scowls than smiles.
The demand for bike lanes just doesn’t appear to be here. And though advocates keep saying variations of “If they build bike lanes, people will come and use them,” that’s clearly not what happened in Culver City and other locales.
Sidewalks are a different story.
It’s unbelievable that West Hollywood, probably the most affluent, image-obsessed city on the planet, has ignored the varicose veins on its tanned, toned legs for so long.
Let’s be clear: While WeHo talks a big game about “uplifting” marginalized people and “amplifying” their voices, the city’s pedestrians — those blue-collar, minimum-wage earning people the city claims to care so much about — are silently struggling just to get from Point A to Point B every day, as they’ve done for decades.
But fixing sidewalks isn’t glamorous, and that’s why WeHo hasn’t given a fuck thus far.
Even now, the impetus for reconstructing Fountain Avenue wasn’t to benefit pedestrians or disabled people. They were an afterthought.
Installing bike lanes, the cause celebre of every young politician and hip urban planner, was the point of this project.
And WeHo is only re-doing the sidewalks because they’re being forced to. No ADA-compliant sidewalks, no new bike lanes, the law says.
There are no obvious solutions to the Fountain quagmire. Years of neglect — and not enforcing proper setbacks when all those ancient apartments and bungalows were built* — have put WeHo in a real pickle.
If I were in charge, I’d keep four lanes of traffic, widen the sidewalks as much as possible, let bikes and scooters choose between riding slowly on the outer edge of the sidewalk or sharing the asphalt with cars, install more street lights and crosswalks, roll back encroachment on the sidewalks, straighten out the roads and add as many parking spots as could fit.
Oh, and let residents park for free in that million-dollar dirt lot on SMB and Crescent Heights till everything was finished*. Maybe even give them a free shuttle service from their cars to their curbs.
P.S. I’m very, very, very glad I’m not in charge.
*Source: Alan Strasburg’s brain