Now on your smartphone: A virtual-reality vision of your future street

April 5, 2017

Michael Andersen, PlacesForBikes staff writer

The view from, created by Owlized. 3-D renderings by Toole Design Group.

Los Angeles is testing a new tool that helps residents see their streets with new eyes.

S Spring Street and W 6th Street today. (Image: Google Street View)

Want see what a proposed left-side protected bike lane would look like at 6th and Spring? Stand on that corner, call up a website, hold up your smartphone and turn left.

Any direction works.

The 360-degree 3D rendering of Los Angeles’s Spring and Main protected bike lane project (which, of course, doesn’t work the same way on a desktop browser) resembles services used in the architecture world for years. But in this case, the building is a street and the client is the public — so the service is being opened to anyone who can pull up the website.

“It was something of a pilot for us,” said Oliver Hou, an engineering associate for the city’s active transportation division.

“We decided we would give a shot because we had a very high-profile project,” said Robert Sanchez, another engineering associate. “It is not cheap.”

Sanchez said the service, from San Leandro-based Owlized, can range in cost from $15,000 to $50,000 depending on the software and hardware involved. For top dollar, cities can install dedicated hardware at the street corner in question that invites people to pick it up and see the street rendering.

A less fancy option, used by Los Angeles for this project, is to put up a sign at the corner in question, letting people know that they can visit the site on a smartphone to view the city’s concept for the street.

Sanchez said the service may be useful for getting people on board with changes that are dramatic enough for it to be hard to visualize them.

“We were really changing the way that the street operates in a big way,” he said.

The website doesn’t ask people to immediately weigh in on the changes, but it lets people sign up for project emails and listed community meetings about the new design.

“It’s another way, other than our public events and online surveys, that we could also capture some good information,” Sanchez said.

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