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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