Letter to the editor

 USC should support MyFigueroa project

Dozens of people packed into the small hearing room at Los Angeles City Hall a few weeks ago. Many stood firm and spoke eloquently in defense of an ongoing project that could bring massive improvements to bike culture and neighborhood infrastructure in our corner of Los Angeles: the Figueroa Corridor Streetscape project, also known as MyFigueroa.

MyFigueroa is an ongoing effort to redesign the Figueroa Corridor that begins just south of USC (at the intersection of Figueroa St. and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard) and extends north to Downtown Los Angeles at 7th Street. The project would produce extended sidewalks for pedestrians along the three miles of road stretching between our university and the downtown neighborhood, and importantly would introduce the first ever protected bikeway in Los Angeles, separated from car traffic by a curb. The project would provide better access for students to Downtown Los Angeles’s booming economy: new apartment complexes and other housing options; new restaurants and bars and new retail locations, like the ever-expanding Fig@7th shopping mall and food court. Further, we would witness a decrease in pedestrian and bike collisions and accidents, in addition to a positive impact on local businesses. This effort would positively alter undergraduate and graduate life for USC students, as well as aid students, faculty and staff that commute to school by bicycle and public transit.

But there is a major problem: USC administrators have introduced roadblocks to MyFigueroa becoming reality. As a member of the new USC Bicycle Coalition, I stood in that room in City Hall and defended the project in its current iteration, extending along the full length on both sides of Figueroa Street. However, David Galaviz — currently the executive director of USC’s Local Government Relations — gave support of a motion to delay the project for further traffic analysis, on top of an already complete and sufficient report conducted by the L.A. Department of Transportation. The motion could also potentially push the bike lanes onto Flower Street or other roads to the east, farther from the USC community that would benefit. Making an official statement for USC, Galaviz argued that due to USC’s frequent events, MyFigueroa would create further traffic problems, and therefore USC is seeking to extend the timeline for additional analysis: unnecessary, given LADOT’s comprehensive report. Unfortunately, USC administrators view MyFigueroa as a traffic problem instead of an opportunity to connect students to Los Angeles’ many attractions and improve the quality of campus life.

As a USC graduate student, a longtime resident of Downtown Los Angeles and a regular cyclist and public transit rider in Los Angeles (yes, I still do not own a car after living here for 3 years), I cannot stand for administrators — devoid of contact with the lifestyles of USC students and employees — to mandate a blockade around a real and necessitated component of bringing vitality and safety to Los Angeles and the University of Southern California’s local community. Even though I have been commuting by bicycle for more than 10 years, my initial experiences on the roads in Los Angeles were distressing: almost grazed or hit multiple times by cars that are just not used to having bikes on the road. Within Los Angeles’ car-centric culture, the roads are still not comfortable to ride on. Though new lanes have begun to be introduced across the city, the route from DTLA to USC is still lacking. I ride at a fast pace with a lot of experience; my worries exponentially increase to real danger for people riding without that experience. USC boasts the highest rate of bike ridership in Los Angeles, yet many of these students have little experience riding a bike in a major city.

On Tuesday, Jan. 28, representatives at City Hall allowed a 30-day extension to propose alternatives to MyFigueroa’s current plan along both sides of Figueroa Street. We, the students, faculty and staff of USC, have the opportunity to challenge administrators’ misinformed decision and reverse any potential changes to this project, by making public statements — through student government and employee organizations — in support of MyFig.

Alex Leavitt

Ph.D. candidate studying communication

Communications Representative, USC Bicycle Coalition


7 replies
  1. Chris L
    Chris L says:

    Shame on the USC administration. This project should be a no-brainer. Increased safety for USC students and Los Angeles residents, better connections between USC and DTLA, and to top it all off its being paid for with a grant from the federal government. Get it together, USC.

  2. Trojan parent
    Trojan parent says:

    Many USC students use bicycles for transportation. The University should do everything in its power to protect their students on bicycles, and walking
    The University should take the lead in facilitating greater student safety. Since the university can’t provide on campus housing for all the students that they enroll, it it their responsibility to ensure student safety, as the University creates the need for students to commute to campus in the first place.

  3. Michael MacDonald
    Michael MacDonald says:

    I agree with Alex. As a university that reports 8,000 students who commute by bicycle, USC should be doing everything it can to provide for safety of all, including better visibility of people riding bikes for those that commute by car.

    These lanes will make getting to and from Downtown safe and easy for students, staff, and professors. To oppose this is painfully short-sighted.

  4. Matt Ruscigno
    Matt Ruscigno says:

    You are right- seems like USC officials are out of touch with the realities students in the area face. A safer, better, more inviting connection to DTLA from USC really makes sense!

  5. Really?
    Really? says:

    I’ll be in favor of your stupid bike lane when you fools on bikes start obeying the rules of the road. Also bicyclist should start wearing pants appropriate for their age and body type…

    • Yes, Really
      Yes, Really says:

      If you are claiming that bicyclists violate the law with higher incidence than motorists, I would like to see credible evidence for that. There are plenty of fools in cars that break the law – by your reasoning, we should take away your stupid car lanes.

      As for the pants bit, I honestly just laughed at that. What does that even mean? LOL

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