With Second Street blocked off for road work south of Hill, there are fewer cars than usual using the tunnel out of Downtown, In fact, both times I rode through it on the nicely-buffered bike lanes today, there were NO cars in it. That is, none at all. I had, in fact, seen three turning left into it from Hill, but by the time I came to it, it was vacant. One run was at morning rush hour, when, road work or not, there should have been a steady stream of cars pouring onto Hill Street from Echo Park, Glendale, and beyond. Only…they weren’t there. All those traffic jams predicted by mouth-foaming motorists when the bike lanes went it haven’t materialized even with a complete blockage of the continuation of the roadway.
Nor were Third or Fourth Streets looking particularly busy. Maybe all those predictions were wrong, and the few traffic jams that did materialize would have happened anyway, from other causes? You know, such as too damn many cars?
I remember driving through the Second Street tunnel in the bad old days, and it was no great pleasure then. Substandard lanes all the way, you know. Today’s vehicular vacuity gave me the leisure to make an eyeball comparison of the buffered bike lane to the mixed traffic lane beside it, and it seems to me that, if you removed the bike lane and its kindly buffer, you would not receive a full-sized car lane in return. This tunnel may have been built for the Model A Ford, not today’s considerably fatter vehicles. It was designed during World War I, and construction began almost exactly one hundred years ago, in 1916. It shows its age, too, with many of its signature white tiles long since fallen and lost. Trash abounds in the bike lanes as well, sad to say—though it’s easy enough to swerve around it, now that velocipedalists have their own space.
And they use it: what I did see today was cyclists, heading to, through, around, and out of the tunnel, both during rush hour, and even more so around two o’clock, when I headed back to Hill Street. It’s a well-balanced facility now, with plenty of capacity for motor vehicles, and room for cyclists of every level of skill and courage. Downtown, as I have noted recently, is chock-full of bikes these days, and many more will be coming apace. One of my new work colleagues has moved downtown and will soon be shopping for a bike to serve as her primary transportation. A quick look around is enough to tell you that she will be far from alone….