Van Nuys Boulevard, the main thoroughfare in Pacoima, has changed.
The median that separated the north and south lanes of the street is gone. The southern section now features a curbside bicycle lane, and parking spaces are next to the passing cars in marked stalls away from the curb.
The changes at Van Nuys Boulevard stretch from Laurel Canyon to San Fernando Road. The renovations are part of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Great Street Initiative.
Resurfaced streets and new sidewalks are coupled with the addition of an entrepreneur center, and other features along this stretch of road already filled with schools, city services, nonprofit agencies and businesses.
The mayor’s office said the safety improvements, costing $1 million, seek to “enhance the economic, cultural and transportation viability” of Van Nuys Boulevard.
According to the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT), the overhaul of this area in the Northeast Valley will also include weekly overnight street sweeping, the installation of solar powered benches, and bus shelters upgraded with USB charging stations, Wi-Fi, and real time updates.
“Van Nuys Boulevard is the cultural and commercial heart of the Northeast Valley, and we’re going to keep it thriving by making sure it is safe and accessible to everyone who comes to enjoy what it has to offer,” said Garcetti, when he officially unveiled the street changes.
“These upgrades will improve everyday life for local residents and business owners, and they’ll let everyone who visits Pacoima explore the community in a new way.”
Transportation officials said the changes would make the most important street in Pacoima more bicycle friendly and add parking spaces, while also making Van Nuys Boulevard less congested.
But not everyone agrees. Residents have been disappointed by the overall appearance, saying it doesn’t improve the look or functionality of the main street.
Jose Reyes, 52, uses his bicycle everyday for transportation. While he is pleased with the protected bike lane, he said it’s too narrow and may pose problems if there are two cyclists going in the same direction, or even worse, in opposite ways.
“It’s too small a space. If there’s another cyclist, they wouldn’t be able to pass and you could get hurt,” he said.
He prefers the wider bike lane built along San Fernando Road, next to the railroad tracks, which he says allows riders to pass by without problems.
Still, Reyes did feel more protected with the new bicycle lane.
“It’s a little bit safer because you don’t have cars driving right next to you,” he told the (italics) San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol (italics end).
Garcetti’s office said this stretch of Van Nuys Boulevard is part of the Vision Zero’s High Injury Network, which focuses on streets where a majority of severe and fatal traffic collisions involving pedestrians and bicyclists occur. The improvements expect to make the street safer.
The upgrades get a thumbs up from Guiselle Sandoval, who works at Global Cargo, a package shipping store along Van Nuys Boulevard.
“I think it’s very good,” she said, pointing out there are more parking spaces along the street, and in front of her store.
Before, “people would drive all around trying to find parking,” she said. ”Now they can park in front, stay there a bit and leave space for someone else. It’s a thousand times better.”
But Maria Paulina Rodriguez simply hates the changes.
She lives in a small apartment building, next to the post office at the corner of Van Nuys Boulevard and Kewen Street. The parking spaces next to passing cars is not her cup of tea.
“I don’t know who thought this was a good idea,” she said, as she was unloading the kids from her car.
“I think it’s very dangerous because I have to get my baby right next to cars. I’m worried that my kids might get run over. This makes it harder in every way,” she said.
A member of a church just up the street, Rodriguez said her fellow parishioners have also complained about the changes — especially the bicycle lane next to the curb, separating them from their parked vehicles.
“The cyclists get mad because you’re passing through trying to get to your car,” she said.
Rodriguez added that traffic hasn’t improved with the changes either because now it accumulates on both sides of the street.
“Nobody wants to come here to Van Nuys [Boulevard] anymore,” Rodriguez said.