The Way West

I am conflicted about Metro. They have truly improved service tremendously over the last twenty-five years—I remember as a teenager waiting for what seemed epochs for a bus to arrive, while summer changed to fall and fall to winter as the traffic howled past. But now, many routes have pretty sort headways between buses, and the rail system is growing not only in extent but in services: Metro opened all rail lines to non-folding bikes all the time last year, asking only that riders be polite to others, and now several lines wll be running till 2AM on weekends. Given the nocturnal predilections of much of our region’s bicycling community, and the necessity for so many workers, including restaurant workers who keep us happy and who are largely dependent on bikes and transit for all their travel, this is a wonderful thing.

Metro has also put a beautiful bike path along the Orange Line busway in the Valley, and is including a less-wonderful (for the most part) but still useful facility for the Expo Line.

But both of those bikeways suffer from severe glitches that genuinely impede their usability, and it looks as though the western extension of the Expo Line and its acconpanying bikeways will not be exempt from problems.

The trouble lies in intersections. Look at the photo below, taken from within the westbound Expo Line bikepath along Jefferson, where it meets La Cienega. To continue along the bike path, you must cross kittycorner to the station, go under it, and turn right—with almost nothing in the way of signage to guide you.

The natural impulse is to continue on along Jefferson, which will indeed get you to the Culver City segment of the bikepath in about a quarter mile—by riding in very narrow lanes with lots of speeding traffic.

LADOT has control of this intersection, and their solution to the problem seems to be to sharrow those narrow lanes and hope for the best.

On the Orange Line, an otherwise delightful separated bikepath repeatedly comes to diagonal crossings of immensely wide Valley streets, with no good indication of where the path resumes or how to get there. New wayfinding signs that are due sometime soon may help with that, but it’s an issue that should have been addressed during construction, when everything was torn up already. This is a dismissive approach to the needs of cyclists.

Construction has yet to begin on the western segment of the Expo Line, yet we are seeing signs that the same dismissive approach—or lack of approach—will hold sway. As one of my sources notes, plans at several Westside intersections (which are often nearly as vast as those of Valley boulevards) impose bizarre routes such as sending cyclists right through “the station plaza where large volumes of pedestrians will be converging from the platform, bus stops, drop-offs, sidewalk” (Westwood); requiring a wander along sidewalks and three cosswalks just to be able to keep going (Pico-Gateway); and forcing more sidewalk riding—across a maintenance yard driveway, no less (Centinela).

There was also, as I recall a bit of reluctance to put any bikepath at all along some segments.

Yet bicycling is seen almost universally (elsewhere, of course) as one of the best ways to bring patrons to rail stations and make for well-used trains! Bicycles triple the radius of a station’s catchment area, and so make the station accessible to many more people who would have to get in their cars to drive to the station otherwise and so might as well just keep driving then.

The puny quantities of bike parking also expose the scorn in which we are often regarded: The La Cienega station gives over 400 free and very expensive spaces in a parking structure to motorists—and about 24 free racks for cyclists, plus some lockers in the parking structure that we would have to pay to use.

Do you mind if I opine that this is not only fundamentally wrong but just plain stupid? When bicyclists take so little scarce public cash to accommodate, and have been proven again and again to be better for local businesses than people stressed, rushed, and frustrated in their crowds of cars, why is Metro dissing us?

Addendum: LACBC has published an Action Alert on this issue, with sample email to send to City Council and others and email links. Click here.

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3 Comments

  1. Posted August 15, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    Ha. If it’s any use, I had a similar reaction:

    http://examinedspoke.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/absurdist-shrubbery/

  2. Warren Bowman
    Posted August 15, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    Your comments are right on the money. I wish that the people who planned these bike routes had to use them….

  3. Posted August 17, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Now LACBC has developed an action alert on this issue; see it at:

    http://t.co/Fa3ie30B

    Includes sample email to send City Council, and more.

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  1. [...] But despite repeated promises in recent years, it sounds like we may have to keep dreaming. [...]

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