The reason the bike lane on Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles is bright fluorescent green is so drivers and bicyclists alike can see it easily and avoid running into one another. However, the very conspicuousness of that color has brought on a collision between politics and business in the city.
Bicyclists and downtown neighborhood groups are fans of the 1.4-mile stretch of green bike lane on Spring Street from Cesar Chavez to 9th Street. But location scouts and production managers who bring filming to the city’s historic downtown core are not so happy. Spring Street is flanked by old buildings and can stand in for almost any big city in a variety of time periods. The most frequently filmed intersection in the city is 6th and Spring, according to Paul Audley, president of Film L.A.
The problem, the industry argues, is that the bright green of the bike lane is costly to erase if you’re filming, say, a scene that takes place in the 1940s and you don’t want a bright green bike lane running down the middle of your shot. It can’t be lifted out of film by the usual post-production technique known as chroma keying, and it is more expensive to remove than other greens. And it’s not just the street that needs to be color-corrected. Under the bright lights used for filming, the green bounces off the street and tints everything it touches, including actors’ faces.
As the paint begins to fade — apparently it didn’t bond well with the street in certain areas — film industry representatives are again asking that the portion that runs from 3rd to 9th Streets be removed or repainted something other than the offending neon color.
A spokesman for L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar, who represents this district, points out that this is now a thriving community, not a backlot. Huizar has introduced a motion calling on the city to repaint the Spring Street bike lane the same neon green but also to consult with FILM L.A. about alternate shades of green that would work on “future painted bikeways.”
A green bike lane is not the industry’s biggest problem. But it is a problem the city can probably fix. And it’s worth fixing. Both Huizar and the mayor’s office should hold off on repainting Spring Street until they consult with film industry representatives to see whether there’s a color that will work for everyone. Though the federal government sets standards for what greens may be used in bike lanes, there are options, apparently, other than the one that is currently being used.
There may not be 50 shades of green that will work for both bicyclists and moviemakers. But surely there is one.