Equity, not Parity

More bikes than racks on Wilshire Boulevard
To hear the motorheads moan and rant over every tiny bit of bike infrastructure ever proposed anywhere in this country (even Portland), you’d think we were trying to take over the entire road system.

Though you’d also think the motorheads would have some sympathy for that position, were it true, as that’s exactly what they’ve done–pushed everyone but private car users off the public streets. In other words, used your tax dollars and mine to make the asphalt we have paid for their private playground.

The fact is, however, that cyclists don’t need all the bloated infrastructure that motorists incessantly demand–and receive. (To no avail, since the bigger roads have gotten, the more congested they’ve become. The phenomenon of “induced demand” is well-known among traffic engineers, but has been, up to now, politically infeasible even to mention.) We can “do more with less.”

The time to indulge the carbabies is past. They’ve had it their way for seventy years, and the result has been an unholy mess on the streets, a cramped economy, and the wholesale destruction of civic culture. Even the Houston Chronicle recognizes this–note this quote from their recent editorial pushing Complete Streets:

Complete Streets have narrow traffic lanes, wide sidewalks and easy crossings. Often, they include bike lanes, landscaping and street parking. With all those visual cues, cars naturally move more slowly. The slower traffic helps small businesses thrive, and those businesses make the place lively. You wouldn’t set up a sidewalk cafe on a freeway. But on a Complete Street, it feels natural.

So even Texas gets it!

Still, thanks to the efficiency of cycling, we don’t have to ask for dominance, or even parity–just a bit of equity would do. And I’d suggest we start small, with more bike parking in Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation has actually been doing fairly well in this regard, with the racks-on-demand program going great guns. I myself have gotten around 200 sidewalk racks put in over the last couple of years, and it’s easy for you to call in your own. Also, Metro has released funding that the city can use to install two–count ’em, a mighty two–bike corrals per council district.

But we need more. So how about this:

In LA, as elsewhere in the US, about 50% of all car trips are less than five miles long, and 40% are less than two miles long. Most people can ride five miles on a bike, and almost everyone with legs can ride two miles. (A friend of mine who, because of injuries, can’t walk even a mile, is able to ride fifty with ease.)

So rather than a one-to-one match of bike to car parking, let’s go for equity: a two to five match–40%. Two public bike parking spaces, everywhere in LA, for five car spots. Or at least in all retail or commercial districts, since LADOT is not allowed to install racks in front of private dwellings.

Since a U-rack technically holds two bikes, that’s a modest investment of just one bike rack for evey five car slots. Since bike racks go on the sidewalk in the same plane as meters, trees, and trash cans, they–unlike car parking–don’t take any space from pedestrians, other motorists, or businesses. And they are cheap.

Studies have repeatedly shown that accommodating cyclists actually saves cities money and results in higher receipts for merchants, so it’s a win-win situation.

After all, if you can’t lock up your bike when you get someplace, what’s the point of bike lanes to take you there?

How about it, LA? Let’s improve the economy, the public health, and the city’s financial standing all at once with a little formal parking equity for LA’s cyclists.

Everyone will benefit if you do.

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  1. Posted March 1, 2012 at 1:13 am | Permalink

    I think you’ll be glad to hear that I have been requesting bike racks left and right in Eagle Rock and much to my surprise they are being marked and installed within a week of my request in some cases! However, there’s a downside to all my requests, I’m running out of places to request racks! That’s right, LADOT only installs on sidewalks, with certain restrictions, and now much of Colorado Boulevard has, or will have as many racks as are possible!

  2. Posted March 1, 2012 at 1:17 am | Permalink

    I’d like to add that I’m equally surprised by the effect of the bike racks! At Pete’s Blue Chip Burger there used to be no bike racks, and I’d only see bikes leaned against the building on occasion and now there are two bike racks and they are used relatively frequently! There are a couple bikes parked there on a regular basis and I wonder, did those people just not cycle before because they had nowhere to park?

  3. Posted March 1, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    No committee meetings necessary for this one – you are remaking the Boulevard!

  4. grrlyrida
    Posted March 1, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    We just got our first bike corral in Silverlake. The corral is shaped like a peloton of bikes.

  5. Posted March 1, 2012 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

    But let’s not forget that, sad to say, Sunset Triangle (site of the new corral) is, in typical LA fashion, a “pilot project,” and may be dismantled in a year.

    Though I sincerely hope not. Can’t imagine it not being a huge success!

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