On Local Government: Proposed bike path missed the cut off
by Bob Pinzler
Flagler Alley in Redondo Beach and Torrance has long been a source of controversy. It connects Diamond Street in Redondo to Towers Avenue in Torrance.
During the 1980s, consideration was given to connecting Diamond to Flagler Lane in Redondo to alleviate vehicle traffic clogging Aviation Boulevard leading to what was then TRW. Redondo even started to purchase lots along Flagler Lane to facilitate its widening.
When that failed, the alley went untended, but was used by bike riders looking for a shortcut from Redondo High to the northern part of the city. The problem was that at the northern end, the alley fed directly onto Flagler Lane, where it bends sharply into Towers Street, which then proceeds downhill to the east. This residential street is very active and overused, particularly during the school drop-off and pick-up hours. Many accidents occurred.
Part of the problem has been that those exiting Flagler Alley add to a mix of skateboarders, pedestrians, cars, and commercial traffic, which those streets were never meant to bear. E-bikes have been added to the mix, and the speeds at which those riders emerged onto Towers has exacerbated the safety issue. The danger finally forced Torrance to build a partial barricade at its end to force riders to dismount. It has been reasonably successful.
Many years ago, as part of the planning for its proposed expansion into residential care for the elderly, the Beach Cities Health District obtained a grant from LA County to build a high-end bike path. It would, they said, create a means by which riders could safely take advantage of that Flagler Alley shortcut.
The opposition from the Torrance residents at the bottom of the hill grew so loud that Torrance rejected BCHD’s program, and refused to allow their land to be used for the path. Torrance was emphatic that the altered traffic flow, including bikes and e-bikes that would inevitably use the “shortcut,” would create even more serious and frequent safety issues, especially for children.
The grant BCHD got was for $1.8 million dollars. They were to use that money not only for building the entire Flagler Alley path, but for sidewalks and other amenities. The proposed bike path is also abutted by a large, steep hill. Substantial work on that hill would have been needed, but Torrance has very strict hillside use ordinances, and said no to the hillside work.
Recently, BCHD did a complete switch. They claimed they would build about one third of the path in the Redondo portion of Flagler Alley only. Yet, BCHD also claimed now it would cost $1.5 million of the $1.8 million grant to accomplish that diminished distance. The bike path is now more expensive per mile than a mile of freeway.
The “shortcut” which BCHD now proposes would leave bike riders in the middle of an alley, careening head on into traffic — pedestrian and vehicle. This area is not engineered nor even dedicated for high-volume traffic.
Bicycle lanes are an important mobility element for any city. Making them safe must be the first priority. The Flagler Alley proposal does not meet that test. If BCHD insists on spending on the Redondo portion, it would be in the best interests of Torrance to completely shut off that access.
Closing the alley would be safer, and not inconvenient for bikers. Since the “shortcut” was envisioned more than a decade ago, bike lanes have been added to Beryl Street to facilitate safer traffic, thus making the more dangerous alleyway a moot point.
Why would BCHD be so insistent on building this dangerous, unneeded, and incomplete bike path when the city that controls two thirds of it has said no?
That $1.8 million could be better spent elsewhere. ER