Well, after a Hurricane-Sandy-sized deluge of vituperation and recrimination, seasoned with a dash of intimidation, the election is over, the populace voted for Big Government by a small margin, the Right Wing has again vowed to become an overdose of human Kaopectate in the government’s guts, and it’s time to pay attention to details.
Big Government is fine when you’re confronted by Evil Empires, Perfect Storms, Fiscal Cliffs, and all that, but most of us live in a day-to-day environment where the worst BG can do to us is protect us from salmonella and help fund bridges and bikepaths. So, if we’re lucky, while Tea Partiers gun their Hummers along subsidized roads in search of free parking, our cities will be quietly refining the transportation networks that most folks take for granted, but that require a lot of fiddling little decisions and corner-by-corner paving, painting, and welding before they can work for all the residents of our millions of neighborhoods.
Some seemingly easy decision sometimes took years to come to. Those who casually roll their bikes onto Metro trains might not remember that when the trains first returned to LA, you needed to pay for a bike permit before you could do that— and that the urban rail systems we had had for nearly a century in LA had been dismantled by a consortium of private-sector companies dedicated to mandating the motorcar for all who wished to travel.
More recently, the firestorm of invective greeting any article or announcement proposing or promoting bike lanes, bike corrals, or anything else supportive of the bicycle shows that motor addicts very simply want all the asphalt, all the time—as long as they don’t have to pay for it. Even a simple sidewalk bike rack can become controversial—to the point that, in Los Angeles, a business owner can refuse to allow a bike rack in front of his business on the public sidewalk you and I pay for.
Below-market-rate car parking (something conservatives should hate, assuming you can find any traditional conservatives any more), is always a go—even though, as I pointed out here last week, it’s less effective than transit and cycling infrastructure in bringing customers’ money to local merchants.
Case in point is illustrated by that photo, which I took in South Pasadena a few days ago.
All those bikes are locked up to the racks at the Gold LIne station—racks provided by Metro, a county agency.
Yet I suspect that not all those riders came to take the train to Pasadena or downtown. It was a Sunday, and the sidewalks of Mission Street were crowded—though not with bikes. Because there are no bike racks on Mission Street. None at all. Yet it’s the most charming little shopping street you are likely to see in LA County.
South Pasadena has begun striping bike lanes here and there, and they adopted a pretty good plan last year. The plan‐which is almost as large as the tiny city it serves—is sincere and comprehensive, and it does mention bicycle parking, promising to “Install bicycle parking within the public right-of-way, especially in commercial areas.” In fact, it even proposes a bike station at the Gold Line stop.
But, where are the racks, then? Many, many people—both residents and visitors—already bicycle to Mission street and its shops and eateries. And there’s no place to park a bike, except the Gold Line stop at Meridian. Adding bike lanes first might bring yet more riders to Mission, making bike parking yet more difficult. Bikes alaready crowd the sidewalk, competing with baby carriages, wheelchairs, and feet for precious pavement.
Meanwhile, there’s a massive block-long underground parking structure at the corner of Mission and Meridian that no one even knows is there, a cavernous chamber with room for hundreds of cars.
Given this over-provision of car parking, and the existing bike traffic to the area, don’t you think it might make sense to put a bike corral on the block of Mission east of the Gold Line tracks?
This would be an inexpensive way to support both community and commerce, and exactly the kind of thing that Small Government—that is, our local municipal administrations‐ should excel at.
Santa Monica’s Main Street miracle depends as much on bike parking as it does on bike lanes.
We’re already riding to Mission Street in droves. It would be awfully nice if we could safely park there too.