New bike lanes create new tensions in L.A.

We all know Los Angeles is one of the most car-centric world cities. But L.A. also has a tiny but growing population of people who choose to commute on their bicycles instead of in their cars.

To encourage that trend, the City of Los Angeles is moving forward with an ambitious plan to create hundreds of miles of new bicycle lanes over the next 30 years. Planners at L.A.’s Department of Transportation hope the new lanes will both make cyclists safer and help congestion by encouraging people to leave their car in the garage and pedal to work. That, in turn, is supposed to improve people’s health and the environment.

But not everybody is happy with L.A.’s expanding bicycle lane system. As the system grows, some neighborhood groups and merchant associations believe the bike lanes will only worsen congestion and parking by taking away valuable pavement from cars.

Los Angeles currently has about 300 miles of bike paths, which is a big increase over past years. But there are plans to do even more. L.A. would like to establish a 1,600 mile bike path system over the next 30 years. (Photo by Saul Gonzalez)
Los Angeles currently has about 300 miles of bike paths, which is a big increase over past years. But there are plans to do even more. L.A. would like to establish a 1,600 mile bike path system over the next 30 years. (Photo by Saul Gonzalez)

 

Depending on the place, bike lanes come in different designs and colors. More elaborate ones are painted green to better catch the eyes of motorists, the thinking being if you see the color, you'll see the cyclist. More expensive bike paths create a physical barrier between the lane for bikes and the lane for cars. (Photo by Saul Gonzalez)
Depending on the place, bike lanes come in different designs and colors. More elaborate ones are painted green to better catch the eyes of motorists, the thinking being if you see the color, you’ll see the cyclist. More expensive bike paths create a physical barrier between the lane for bikes and the lane for cars. (Photo by Saul Gonzalez)
L.A.'s regular cycling population is now fairly small, but city transportation planners hope that making more bike lanes will lead more people to choose their bikes over their cars for their daily commuting needs. Planners are focused on creating new bike paths along busier city boulevards, where less confident cyclists now fear to pedal because of the automobile traffic. (Photo by Saul Gonzalez)
Transportation planners hope more bike lanes will create more cyclists. Planners are focused on creating new bike paths along busier city boulevards, where less confident cyclists now fear to pedal because of the automobile traffic. (Photo by Saul Gonzalez)
As L.A.'s bike lane system has grown, so have concerns about how the lanes affect local residents and merchants. Some fear creating new bike lanes on busy city streets will further slow traffic and make it harder to find parking. In response to such concerns, transportation planners and elected officials are holding community forums in neighborhoods where concerns have been raised. This sign is in L.A.'s Eagle Rock neighborhood. (Photo by Saul Gonzalez)
As L.A.’s bike lane system has grown, so have concerns about how the lanes affect local residents and merchants. Some fear creating new bike lanes on busy city streets will further slow traffic and make it harder to find parking. In response to such concerns, transportation planners and elected officials are holding community forums in neighborhoods where concerns have been raised. This sign is in L.A.’s Eagle Rock neighborhood. (Photo by Saul Gonzalez)
Although more people are cycling in Los Angeles, according to a survey by the League of American Bicyclists, less than one percent of people in L.A. cycle to regulalrly commute. U.S. cities with the largest number of cyclists include Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Minneapolis and Washington D.C. Studies show more people bicycle as cities improve their cycling infrastructure. (Photo by Saul Gonzalez)
Although more people are cycling in Los Angeles, according to a survey by the League of American Bicyclists, less than one percent of Angelenos cycle to commute. U.S. cities with the largest number of cycling commuters include Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Minneapolis and Washington D.C. Studies show more people bicycle as cities improve their cycling infrastructure. (Photo by Saul Gonzalez)

Comments

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  • wlerik

    Washington DC has done a very good job adding bicycle lanes over the past few years. It has been fantastic! Bike commuting has increased dramatically. Safety for cyclist is much improved and congestion (for cars) has not gotten any worse.

  • MW

    Bicycle transport and bike lanes should be encouraged. Studies have shown that the addition of a bike lanes increase revenues at businesses along that bike lane. Bikes also ease congestion. Next time you see a lane of stop and go traffic, take a moment to notice how many vehicles have only one occupant. Now imagine how much easier traffic flow would be if each individual traveler were on a bike or bus or subway train.
    Regarding the bike lane opposition in NE LA and San Pedro, it seems to be not about bikes but about local opposition to gentrification. Most of these longtime residents cannot vote against house flipping and new businesses that cater to the gentrifying demographic, but they can agitate and vote against bike lanes, which do seem to embody the newcomers in a gentrifying area. It’s a shame because the traffic calming and business improving tendency of bike lanes make livable streets for all.

  • kelly thompson

    Bike lanes are good for everyone. There is no need to drive 80 mph in a 30mph zone. If traffic slows down due to bike lanes it will not only be safer for cyclists but pedestrians and drivers as well. Los Angeles should be at the forefront of this movement we have perfect weather conditions for all year bike fun and commuting. Think Globally LA!!!

  • This is LA we dont think Globally, we are selfish. Don't think so? when was the last time you saw someone NOT on their phone when behind the wheel? That being typed, Bike lanes are One thing, but making the entire car lane legal for some guy on a bike? It'll just slow Everything down, guys on bikes are in NO HURRY to go Anywhere, that's why they can take a bike, and i fear they'll never get outta our way

    • There are important safety reasons why it's legal to use an entire lane of traffic on a bike. Generally, most lanes on urban roadways are too narrow for a car and a bike to operate safely side-by-side, meaning you need to leave the lane in order to overtake the person on the bike. If you don't, you'll end up sideswiping them. It's better if you recognize this from way back behind the bicyclist and have time to plan your lane change, instead of getting right up on their rear tire and suddenly realizing there's not enough space for you to fit.

      It's also a good idea to use a full lane when riding through an intersection; it discourages drivers from cutting off the person on the bike when making right turns. It's also necessary when avoiding hazards — this may include potholes at the side of the road, but it mainly involves the 'door zone' of parked cars where a cyclist might be struck by a driver carelessly opening their door into traffic. This often ends with the person on the bike getting thrown into the traffic lane. If a car is approaching from behind and the driver is unable to stop for a cyclist suddenly falling into his/her path, the cyclist could end up under the car's wheels.

    • Lastly, I should add that no one who rides a bike prefers riding in front of cars; they do it because they have to and because it's the best of limited options. If you don't want to follow behind people on bikes, support more bike lanes.

    • Morgan

      " making the entire car lane legal for some guy on a bike?"

      To start out with, it's not a "car" lane. It already is the law in CA that the cyclist can where necessary take the entire lane.

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