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Bicycle Safety

More Bike Lanes for Los Angeles? One Cyclist Says, “No Thanks.”

10:10 AM EDT on June 1, 2007

highway.jpg

In an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, Will Campbell writes that bike lanes in Los Angeles are useless and dangerous. Campbell is an avid recreational and commuter cyclist who set a goal of riding 2,007 miles in L.A. this year.

L.A., which averages 329 sunny, bike-friendly days a year, should be one of the most forward-thinking cities on the subject. Instead, greater Los Angeles remains a vast patchwork of bikeways, bike lanes and bike routes that haven't coalesced.

That's not to say nothing is happening. The city has an 11-year-old Bicycle Plan, and city and county officials cite the proliferation of on-street bike lanes as an example of the great strides being made. Yet the numbers leave a lot to be desired. Of Los Angeles County's 6,400 miles of surface streets, only 481 miles have bike lanes (320 inside the city limits - five fewer miles than much smaller Tucson).

Whether one sees that glass as half full or half empty, I personally wish the city would just stop filling it. Quit while it's behind and not stripe another inch of bike lane.


Here's why: By law, my bicycle is considered a vehicle with the same right to the road as your car or truck. Bike lanes provide an arguable buffer zone of safety (as well as a great place for people to put their garbage containers on trash day), but they marginalize cyclists and reinforce their status as second-class commuters who shouldn't be on the road.

Some bike lanes even put cyclists at greater risk, such as the newest lanes along Santa Monica Boulevard between Century City and the San Diego Freeway. Cars have to make quick cuts across the bike lane to get to side streets, shopping centers and parking spaces. The eastbound bike lane literally vanishes midblock, as if the Department of Transportation ran out of paint before reaching Avenue of the Stars.

L.A. Department of Transportation officials quote chapter and verse how the city's newest bike lanes safely conform to state regulations - and not counting the disappearing act I mentioned, I'm sure that's true. But it's not enough.

What will be enough? I'll never be satisfied until Silverados and Schwinns can peacefully coexist on all surface streets. But an update of the city Bicycle Plan - something the plan stipulated should have been done last year - is a good place to start. Our city and county transportation agencies should be trying out fresher bike-transit concepts, such as shared-use arrows, known as sharrows, and bicycle-priority streets, also called bike boulevards.

Photo: jamaldona/Flickr

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