Friday, August 01, 2014

"a tiny, but vocal segment' and LA Bike Lanes

A July 17, 2014 (yes, I'm trying to catch up on a backload of unfinished posts)  Los Angeles Times article, chronicled the problems of carrying out the LA bicycle plan. 
Last week, City Councilman Gil Cedillo announced he is halting work indefinitely on northbound and southbound bike lanes planned for a three-mile stretch of North Figueroa Street, despite an aggressive two-year campaign by cycling advocates.
Cedillo said he feared the loss of a single southbound car lane would slow emergency response times of police officers and firefighters on Figueroa, which runs roughly parallel to the 110 Freeway. He dismissed cyclists as a tiny but vocal segment of the population.  [emphasis added]
It's always a 'tiny but vocal segment' that gets things done.  These are the folks who care enough to work hard and get things done through the political process.  It's often these 'tiny, but vocal segment' folks versus the tiny, but rich segment who have the money to influence politicians.  And it's only a "tiny but vocal segment' when they oppose you.  When they are on your side it's "democracy in action.' 

Here's the 'bike lane' I ride on part of my route to Venice Beach when I'm at my mom's.  It doesn't even have a line to separate the bikes from the cars.   If it did, there wouldn't be enough room for the cars.  It's a dance between drivers and riders.  It's only about 3/4 of a mile stretch like this with lots of stop signs so the cars are going slowly. It's the most direct route.  But I have to be constantly watching for car doors that could open in front of me and I pray that the drivers aren't going to clip me.

Here's what it looks like from the bike. 

The article sums up the opposing sides:  
Bicycle advocates have long argued that the addition of dedicated lanes can achieve multiple goals: spurring more people to take up cycling — and reducing the number of cars on the road — while calming traffic in a way that cuts down on accidents and keeps drivers within the speed limit.
Opponents argue that too few bicyclists are on the road to justify the loss of so many car lanes and the suffering that comes with lengthier commutes.

I'd say this was a pretty narrow view of things.  The real problem is that transportation infrastructure in LA (and elsewhere) was created for the automobile.  Trolly tracks in LA were pulled out in the 50's to make more room for cars.

Bikes need to have their own, car-free, paths.  Not simply for recreation, but for transportation.  They do in the Netherlands, and to some extent in Anchorage and Portland and other places.  And along the beach at Venice and Santa Monica.

Below is the dedicated bike lane along Santa Monica beach.  No motorized vehicles.  (Well, that's not completely accurate - people ride rented Segways there too.)  There's a separate path for pedestrians, though there are parts of the path where there are both pedestrians and bikes.  This path is full of bikers of all ages, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds.  People like to bike.  And they will when it's safe.

If there were lanes like this that all over LA (or fill in whatever city) that riders could use to commute, there'd eventually be a lot fewer cars on the road, a lot less space used up for parking, a lot less carbon fuel used, and a lot of people who'd get good exercise on a daily basis.  

Making bike lanes on streets built for and still dominated by cars will always be a poor way to go.  It's a makeshift adjustment that leaves cyclists in mortal danger and pisses off drivers.  In already existing cities, my guess is that eventually some streets will become bike only routes, with a lane restricted to cars that live or deliver on that block.

Without exclusive bike routes, cycling can only grow so much.  Biking in traffic is for those who still believe in their own immortality or are knowingly risking their lives to be pioneers for future generations of non-motorized transportation options.

Not everyone can ride a bike to work.  Not everyone can ride a work every day.  But a lot more people can than do.  Some of the barriers are mental - it's not part of their mental habits to think about biking to work.  But most barriers are bad infrastructure - like sketchy bike lines that suddenly disappear and don't deal with the need for cars to make right turns and don't really separate cars from bikes.  


  1. Segways around where I live--people on them look ridiculous.

    I used to love being on a bike as a kid, but the housing in the area grew up around my parents' house, and I wouldn't want to cross the major street to go to my old grammar school now. Back then, people weren't coming flying down a hill at 50 MPH (or higher) in their SUVs. Instead, it was a horse ranch, and now it's million+ dollar homes.

    1. nswfm - email me. I want to tell you something 'off the air' Email link above Blog Archive on upper right column.


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