Since passing the bike plan Mayor Villaraigosa’s administration has taken an aggressive stance on bike projects borrowed, perhaps, from the redneck comedian Larry the Cable Guy: “Git ‘r done.” Unlike Larry the Cable Guy, Villaraigosa is in charge of a big city, and his bike lanes confront the everyday interests of people and industries that are used to getting their way in the right-of-way. Our big city Spring Street bike lane is being confronted with all the usual big city crap – work trucks, construction, lazy op-ed writers. Since we’re also home town to the entertainment industry, we also have The Biz blocking our lanes too. LA, it’s a helluva town.
The brilliant Spring Street bike lanes in Downtown LA were installed perhaps too quickly for the old-guard LA-is-a-car-town types. It took a while, but they were able to muster a feeble and baseless counter argument to the bike lanes in a recent LA Times Op-Ed:
“That mile and a half of Spring Street turns out to be the most filmed stretch of street in town. Or rather, it was until about last November, when the green lane spoiled the shots that made Spring the perfect stand-in for Anytown, USA. It was the perfect street for car commercials, the perfect backdrop of stolid bank buildings, the perfect mix of marble columns and Art Deco spandrels, the perfect modern or 1920s downtown — until the wide green stripe appeared.”
-L.A.’s bike lane blooper, LA Times Editorial, February 14, 2012
In an era when most major American cities have installed green lanes in this exact same shade; in an era when digital effects masters and amateurs on a laptop alike can put together eye-fooling special effects – LA is not losing film shoot business because of some green paint on the road.
As a big city paper, the LA Times abused it market reach and spread a myth about this federally approved green painted bike lane – when the truth was so much more believable.
The truth is, as Ted Rogers explained in his post “Green bike lanes aren’t worth a damn if they’re blocked by Hollywood production trucks“:
“[I]t didn’t take long for the bike-hating LA Weekly to ferret out the reason behind the reason.
While they weren’t happy with the city’s choice of USDOT-dictated green, the studios were actually upset that they’d lost their access to free curbside parking.”
The day after the LA Times article, I had a bike delivery to do in Downtown. I loaded up the bakfiets and got on my way.
As I made my way through Chinatown, I passed, and was passed by, three other cyclists. We all caught up to each other at the intersection of North Spring Street and Cesar Chavez – all of us were using the Spring Street green bike lane! This had never happened to me before. Usually, I see someone riding and we hang together for a block or two until they veer off course – because prior to high quality bike lanes, one crap street is as good as the other.
Our first roadblock wasn’t a Hollywood production truck, but an LADWP work truck. These guys could have parked twenty yards ahead and not blocked the bike lane – but who cares? It’s just a bike lane, right? Welcome to the big city: this type of crap happens to car drivers all the time. I imagined a sign on the back of the truck, “Welcome to the mainstream, bike riders!”
Further down Spring, I ran into something both funny and sad.
This is LA playing NYC in a big film shoot in a bike lane that the major periodical of note said was film-industry-unfriendly.
Ah, the shades of grey! The controversy!
I could have sworn I heard someone with a walkie talkie say, “Welcome to the mainstream, bike riders!”
This is where it stands:
Does LA have an awesome green bike lane? Yes.
Do the usual suspects block it with impunity? Yes.
Do lost drivers in downtown, checking their “smart” phones, ignore it completely? Yes.
Am I surprised? No.
This is a big city, and you take the good with the bad and hopefully end up with a balance that keeps you coming back for more.