If you haven’t heard about the new bike lanes being installed on LA’s major surface streets yet, you will soon enough. Stories about the impacts of bike lanes get loads of readers engaged in comment section flame wars over stop-sign running bike riders and the sanctity of the Earth Mother.
The City of LA passed its 2010 Bike Plan a short while ago and has since been plugging away at easy projects on side streets in the city that are wide enough for a bike lane without impacting car travel. The time for the easy stuff has passed, and now we’re on to the “Backbone Bike Network” phase of implementation. To get through this phase, the city had to prepare a special environmental review to assess the impact that bike lanes would have on “the environment”. It is an expensive document to produce – costing between $250,000 to $1 million in staff and consultant time and taking about a year to produce and publish.
The advocacy work so many in Los Angeles’ bike community engaged in for the past 6 years has paid off. Mayor Villaraigosa and numerous Los Angeles city council members have become ardent bicycle supporters. Our community in North East Los Angeles has been gifted Ed Reyes and Jose Huizar – two councilmembers who have demanded their districts lead the city in bike facility installation. Every serious candidate for mayor in 2013 has taken a strong stand on bike lanes, bike rights, and road safety. CicLAvia is turning out legions of Angelenos on bikes every couple of months – and leaving us dazed and smiling each time.
This sounds bananas, right? I mean, is this a car town or not? All I ever read and hear about LA has to do with how great cars are and how much we all love them to bits here.
In what has quickly become countless online, and in-person, clashes of opinions on whether or not bike lanes should replace car lanes it often seems that the world has gone crazy. Are we really a people so insane as to support the modest slowing of car speeds on major urban surface streets just to benefit some scofflaw bike riders?!
There are those who have been trying to break through the insanity with their witty ripostes in online blogs and newspaper articles.
From Rancho Park Online’s “Bike Lane Draft EIR Goes to Public Hearing” by Calla Wiemer on February 20, 2013, I have heard from “barney desimone”:
“Once you do achieve the bike lanes and the increased number of bikers that you want, you can expect more regulation. Now bikes are loosey goosey go where you want, no restrictions except for freeways. The day may come when bike riders will have to be licsensed with riding tests like motorcycles and special bicycle written exams. They could be required to carry insurance and of course mandatory helmets for adults as well as children. Look for stricter law enforcement with tickets and fines. You’re going to make yourselves an attractive target for regulators and law enforcement. There will be new regs being pushed by ever more annoyed motorists. There’s always a backlash.”
The Highland Park-Mount Washington Patch blog’s “Report: Bike Lanes Will Slow Traffic on Figueroa, Colorado ” by David Fonseca and Ajay Singh on January 29, 2013 has produced the following from “Jeffrey Williams” who let me know:
“If bikers are already using York & Figueroa, why rip the roads apart to accomodate them? “Available bike lanes” is low on the list of reasons people aren’t flocking to bikes in droves. Bikes are fun, but they’re generally inconvenient and slow. For you, those trades offs are personally significant. For the rest of your neighbors, it’s zealotry.
Slowing down traffic for 99% of people on the roads just to appease your opinion of bike usage is a bad idea, and it’s extraordinarily disrespectful to the rest of your community. Educating bikers and drivers on how to share the road successfully – that’s a good idea.
Focussing on bike lanes as the sole means to an end is also a bad idea. Making cars less convenient isn’t going to make everyone hop on a bike, it’s just going to irritate drivers and drive people away from the neighborhood.”
Over on The Eastsider LA’s “New Northeast L.A. bike lanes will leave motorists seeing red” on January 23, 2013 we had “Ollie” present us with this wisdom:
“There is a bike path that runs along the arroyo. Use that. Traffic is bad enough as it is on N Fig and cutting it down would be catastrophic. The road closure at Griffith Park and Sunset has caused the traffic to be backed up at times to Benton way. Not saying that there is no place anywhere in the city but major commuter arteries need to be kept clear for cars and buses.”
Even professional journalists have gone a little mad-dog when it comes to fighting Los Angeles’ coming Backbone Bike Network. LA Observed’s Mark Lacter lashed out on February 19, 2013 with his op-ed “Good times for L.A. bikers, but what about the rest of us?”:
“Biking supporters are pushing for these changes, but the truth is bike lanes are frequently empty. Yet at City Hall, these initiatives have become a fashionable – and cheap – way of showing constituents that they’re doing something to deal with congestion when in fact they’re doing next to nothing. This is otherwise known as cynicism wrapped under the cloak of public service. Actually, increased ridership has only made L.A. streets more dangerous.”
Sadly, these status quo types have an avalanche of public health studies, transportation research, safety statistics, and economic analyses piled against their sad arguments in favor of happy motoring uber alles. Let’s sidestep the sledge hammer of peak oil, the mandates of reality in a climate crisis, the swelling hordes of people ditching cars and riding bikes or transit, and our inability to sustain our highway system through ponzi-scheme “growth” in sprawling developments. Let’s ignore all that liberal, green, Maoist, communist drek assailing the automobile culture for a minute.
Let’s focus on the law.
The bike lanes that are going to be installed on L.A.’s major surface streets this fiscal year (on streets like Westwood Boulevard, North Figueroa Street, and Colorado Boulevard) have been put through a simple computer algorithm at the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT). The LADOT’s computers have calculated a worst-case, world-ending, apocalypse scenario of sorts for motorist delay added with a bike lane: 10 seconds added here, 40 seconds added there. The next thing you know it is 3 extra minutes and 36 seconds to drive from North Figueroa and Colorado to North Figueroa and San Fernando Road 5.1 miles away.
The findings are clear: bike lanes will likely add to motorist delay.
People gasp. Women clutch their purses. Children huddle in the corner of the public hearing room, crouched low over their coloring books – peeking up to see what the fuss is about.
“Cars! Cars could be slightly delayed!”, the critics shout.
Yes, cars could be slightly delayed by the installation of bike lanes.
Here is how important that is: slowing down motorists was recently removed by the state legislature from the list of things that would trigger an environmental review for a bike lane project in the future.
The body of elected representatives in both the assembly and senate, as well as Governor Jerry Brown himself, deemed motorist delays as so beneath consideration in urban planning that they took it off the list of environmental impacts that previously stood in the way of creating a high-quality, connected, bike network in cities like LA.
The author of this communist, liberal, leftist, “green”, fish wrap of an assembly bill (AB 2245 in 2012)? Republican Cameron Smyth of Santa Clarita. The bill is now The Law.
Tough turkey. Nobody cares. Your time to bitch and moan about how important it is to drive 45 miles per hour beside Los Angeles’ schools, churches, businesses, and private residences only to hit a dastardly red light and wait for 45 seconds to 1.5 minutes is coming to a close (averaging 12 to 26 mph on your surface street trip). This is how the world will work from now on: you might have to feather your brakes while you gently cruise down the boulevard between 12 to 26 miles per hour during rush hour. Not that anyone cares anymore anyway.
A word of advice from my neighbors over on Johnston and Manitou: slow and low is the way to go. Orale carnal! I think LA is finally getting over the habit of abusing itself with a focus only on car travel over all other local interests.
Goodnight, sweet car culture.