Los Angeles is still very, very far from having a comprehensive bicycle network in place—by which I mean something even half as comprehensive as what has been provided, at incredible expense, for motorists. Though bicycle facilities are far cheaper than the roads and parking required to mandate universal driving, you still can’t get on a bike in front of your home and expect to find safe and convenient bikeways leading anywhere you might want to go in town, accompanied by parking facilities of some sort, provided free or far below market price, anywhere you arrive, as you can if you drive.
For decades, almost all transportation investment has gone to sluicing cars through your neighborhood as fast as possible, and screw you if you want to walk or pedal somewhere, or even just enjoy a peaceable evening in the front yard. Or, gods forbid, a quiet meal at a sidewalk table. (If there is a sidewalk; all too many parts of our city still lack that most basic of amenities.)
While putting money into a mere bike lane, let alone Metro Rail, inevitably raises a hue and cry from the motorheads, the decision to spend a cool billion dollars to add one lane along a few miles of the 405 was, as usual, business as usual.
Yet bicycle facilities move people around town for a fraction of the cost per passenger/mile that motor lanes incur, and bicyclists have proven to be fervent if perhaps unconscious supporters of local businesses—spending more per year than drivers, if less per visit—while needing very little in expensive paving for both lanespace and parking. In fact, most bike parking (so far) in LA is relegated to the dead zone on existing sidewalks where parking meters, road signs, news and porn dispensers, street trees, and lampposts go.
There are glimmers of more sensible things to come—LA has two, count ’em, two bike corrals in place right now, with another soon to arrive in front of the Pigeon itself; there is the charming little bit of reclaimed street that is Sunset Triangle (just a “pilot program,” folks); and it looks as though My Figueroa and Grand Park might yet live to add pedestrian space to downtown.
Meanwhile, the city is building out the networks we struggled so hard for in the 2010 Bicycle Master Plan, however deliberately. And folks are responding: every day I see more and more fellow riders on the streets as I pedal around, every sort of Angeleno on every sort of bike. Even my neighbor with the giant BMW SUV just picked up a Linus to ride to work on —and he does!
Bike racks— like the one in the photo, at the Silver Lake outpost of Trader Joes—are filling up more often. Hell, last Monday I went to a music and dance event—lectures and perfomrances at MiMoDa—and found that the lonely bike rack and my favorite “overflow parking” stopsign pole were occupied; I had to lock my bike up down the street!
So even with dribs and dabs and bits and pieces of bike networks in place, even with a really insulting lack of bike racks at destinations, we see more and more Angelenos on the wheel instead of behind the wheel.
If we can ever inspire this city to amp it up, what a bicycle paradise we might have here!