Is That All There Is to a Bike Lane?

York Boulevard got spiffed up with a road diet back in 2006 or so, and of course some folks started whining that the reduced lane space was “bad for business.”

Well, maybe it was, and maybe it wasn’t. When Cullen McCormick did a study of it in 2011, it definitively showed that the road diet had not harmed business, and that there had been a slight positive trend in the road-dieted portion of York as opposed to the portion that remained in standard configuration.

However, the bicycle lanes were not added to the road diet portion of York till 2010, which didn’t leave enough time for residents and visitors to get used to the idea that they could now comfortably bicycle to York’s many shops, before the study took place. Who knows what a couple of years might have shown?

You see, road diets are often put in for safety, not commerce, but the experience of other cities shows that if you use them to prioritize bicycling and transit, they have often stunning economic effects.

For example, just this week New York City’s DOT released a report on the effects of what they call “streetscape changes” in that rapidly evolving metropolis. The New York Daily News, reporting on the findings, reveals, among other things, that:

  • “On 8th and 9th Aves., between 23rd and 31st Sts., the city created a curbside bicycle lane that is separated from traffic by parking spots and pedestrian safety islands. Sales receipts for businesses were up as much as 49% three years after the project was completed, compared with the full year before the changes, according to the report, “Measuring the Street: New Metrics for 21st Century Sts.” The boroughwide increase was just 3%, the study says.”

  • “On Fordham Road in the Bronx, where the city and MTA created a Select Bus Service route with off-board payment and new parking and traffic schemes, retail sales rose 71%, compared with 23% for the entire borough.”

  • “And on Pearl St. in Brooklyn, where the city created a landscaped plaza with outdoor seating, retail sales soared 172%, compared with 18% boroughwide, according to the report.”

So maybe the York Boulevard bike lanes are just too young—the NYDOT waited three years to study the effects of the changes.

Or maybe just moving stripes around isn’t enough, without making sidewalks and intersections more attractive, as New York did with its bike lanes and with Pearl Street (and Times Square!).

Meanwhile, on Spring Street, with its new green bike lane, I’ve noticed (though I haven’t officially counted), more and more bikes parked in front of more and more shops.

I’d suggest that LACBC (Mr. McCormick’s employer) was perhaps premature in surveying York Boulevard so soon after opening a couple of striped lanes. Let’s see what happens after three years—and study Spring Street as well.

Bikes on spring Street
Bikes on Spring Street

Because I doubt that Los Angeles and its residents are so lame that we would not derive the same positive economic benefit from bike lanes as almost every other community that’s tried them and done them right.

Folks, how a bout a study comparing known successful road diets and bike lanes elsewhere with ours, form factor vs. form factor?

Are we doing it right? Is paint all there is to a bike lane?

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13 Comments

  1. Jen Sims
    Posted October 26, 2012 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    I am a HUGE fan of the bike lanes. I am a runner and I use the lanes in the early AM instead of driving to the Rose Bowl. Not commerce, I guess, but it make me love my neighborhood a whole lot more. The bike lanes, as well as other improvements, have inspired my family and me to stroll, eat and shop along York as opposed to driving to Old Town, Los Feliz, Echo Park, etc. LOVE the bike lanes.

  2. baloney54
    Posted October 26, 2012 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Bic lanes are here to stay. if you don’t like them don’t use york.

    I won’t I’ll go some other place

  3. Daphne
    Posted October 26, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    BIKE LANES ARE DANGEROUS AND SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED. BIKERS HAVE NO PLACE ON CITY STREETS. THEY PRESENT A HAZARD TO LICENSED DRIVERS.

  4. Son
    Posted October 26, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    There’s nothing wrong with bike lanes but it is very aggravating when we give up our roads for them and they don’t even use them. Instead there driving in the middle of the streets slowing down traffic and causing possible accidents due to them driving in the middle of the road. Especially at a stop they go in cicles in the middle of the street instead of stopping in the proper location dedicated to Bycyclist.

  5. El Cid
    Posted October 27, 2012 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    I welcome the bike lanes! Makes me want to go out and purchase a bike too! It brings forth happy memories of my childhood, better, and happier times!

  6. Les
    Posted October 27, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Bicycle lanes do a pretty good job of reducing uncertainty between bicycles and autos sharing the same space. However, bicycle lanes generally are phased out before stop lights and interrupted at intersections. Consequently bicycles do not have safe, designated areas to cross intersections, so naturally there are more unexpected events there. Bicyclists who move away from the curb into traffic lanes where cars are stopped are usually either trying to clear out the far right lane so automobiles can turn right on the red or trying to make sure they are not trapped in a non-lane with nowhere to ride on the far side of the intersection. And, of course, there are the inconsiderate drivers and bicyclists we all are forced to endure.

  7. Bob
    Posted October 27, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    When they learn what a stop sign or traffic light is then I say let them have bike lane. But not before. This after noon I watched a group of about six or seven ride down Meridian st they did not stop for any of the stop signs.

  8. Posted October 27, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    Bob, you’re a hoot! For two months recently I counted the number of car drivers who stopped at four-way stop sings. Total: two! And I rarely if ever get past 9:30AM when I’m out before I’ve seen my first–=not last–driver running a red light.

    I see drivers exceeding the speed limit on my residential street by 20 mph several times an hour, day after day after day. Swerving around the gentle folk double-parked, with their four-ways giving them “permission,” sometimes six on the block here in the Miracle Mile.

    So I agree with you: no drivers should have any lanes till all obey the law.

    If you’re into the New Testament, check out Matthew 7:3.

  9. Posted October 27, 2012 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    I suspect Bob, Son, and Daphne are sharing knee-jerk reactions and didn’t read the article… (or any of the number of studies that demonstrate bike lanes and bike infrastructure tends to improve cyclist behavior)

  10. Tomas M
    Posted October 28, 2012 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    I’d love to see a survey done on the traffic caused by the removal of the extra car lanes. It’s not really needed as it’s obvious, It looks like a parking lot at certain times of the day, but something that makes it official for all the naysayers.

    Highland Park never had a traffic problem on York blvd. until this change happened. I hope they don’t plan on changing Figueroa St. as well.

  11. Posted October 29, 2012 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    Tomas– the LADOT only removed a lane on York because their traffic projections showed that there’d be minimal impact on travel times. It may look like a parking lot but speeds are probably steady flowing

  12. Gino D
    Posted November 1, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    The removal of car lanes on York Blvd has made traffic a nightmare, especially in the early mornings and late afternoons. The DOT survey was wrong. For example, heading east on York now takes an extra 3-5 minutes to get from Eagle Rock Blvd to Figueroa. Most of the delay is the additional time it takes to get past the lights on Ave 50 & Ave 51. Sometimes traffic is backed up all the way to Hazelwood Ave. Now they’ve extended the removal all the way to Figueroa heading west and I’m sure they’re about to do the same thing eastbound.
    Whatever happened to “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”?

  13. Posted November 1, 2012 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    Gino, traffic on York Blvd. during a typical day, and according to over a decades worth of LADOT traffic count surveys, is around 15,000 to 24,000 average daily trips. York has just enough traffic that a single lane can comfortably deal with that volume of traffic at the posted speed limits and with an amount of motorist delay that is deemed acceptable to the pseudo-scientists who measure such things.

    Don’t be fooled by the bunch up at rush hour. The rest of the business day, and especially at night, York Blvd actually has a small to modest amount of car travel – not nearly enough to justify two full lanes.

    Give peace a chance. This isn’t just about bikes. A survey of York Blvd recently found that over 2/3’s of the shoppers on York DID NOT DRIVE THERE. A little less than 75% of the shoppers walked, biked, or took a bus to shop on York.

    We need to encourage the people who are pouring money into local businesses – businesses that, in turn, pay property, sales, and business license taxes to the city. What, you think that Prop 13 protected property is paying for all the roads, water, sewer, electric, fire protection, police protection, schools, and parks we have in the community?

    These bike lanes are about helping foster local business, local community. We need to make sure that the people who are using these streets are given priority over those who are abusing these streets. Motorists in single occupant vehicles take from us a pleasant and attractive place to live and shop. They give us pollution and noise. The bike rider, the pedestrian, the transit user give, and give, and keep on giving to those around them – quiet, community, local revenue, and fun.

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