A short stretch of Workman Mill Road in Avocado Heights now features two noteworthy urban innovations: protected bike lanes and rain gardens. The two features were part of separate projects, both implemented by the L.A. County Department of Public Works under the leadership of L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis.
For readers not familiar with the unincorporated L.A. County community of Avocado Heights, it is located just east of the Whittier Narrows Recreation area – along the east side of the San Gabriel River – north of Whittier, and east of South El Monte.
The Workman Mill Road protected bike lanes extend about 0.4-mile from Oakman Drive to Alanwood Road. LACDWP added new protection to existing bike lanes.
The protected bikeway opened in April 2021. These are the first protected bike lanes on streets in unincorporated L.A. County. The facility arose from a 2019 Solis motion that directed LACDPW to study converting the county’s conventional bike lanes to protected bike lanes where feasible.
The project separates cyclists from other traffic using plastic bollards, also called soft-hit posts.
The Workman Mill Road rain garden landscaping features were implemented a half-decade ago. Additional landscaping was installed more recently as part of a project Supervisor Solis opened in March 2021.
Most Southern California public landscapes are engineered to shunt rainwater off impervious surfaces and into storm drains, waterways, and ultimately into the ocean. The Workman Mill Road infrastructure instead slows down rainwater flow, directing it into landscaped parkways and median areas where it feeds the vegetation and infiltrates into the earth. Slowing water down has multiple benefits: it waters the landscape, cleanses urban runoff, recharges groundwater, and helps to reduce peak storm flows that can result in flooding. (See additional Streetsblog coverage of similar multi-benefit watershed management projects in East L.A. and Panorama City.)
The rain garden landscaping is located on the north side of Workman Mill between Lomitas and Dovey Avenues.
The difference in the street is dramatic.
It appears that along Workman Mill Road there are additional asphalt median spaces that could be converted to more rain gardens. There also appears to be sufficient width to connect the protected bike lanes to the nearby San Jose Creek bike/walk path which the county is planning to extend to connect with the San Gabriel River path.
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