Following the Way

Little things count for a lot, or they often can. Wayfinding for urban cyclists is one that I think can be valuable as we transition into the Bicycle Millenium. After all, the most convenient car routes are not always the most comfortable bike routes. Many an incipient rider has been scared off two wheels by a harrowing passage of some howling eight-lane hell that was the only route they knew of from A to B when they were strapped in the hotbox.

So residents request, and planners often place, bike routes along lesser-traveled streets—which are often not\ the streets that house a rider’s destination.

A few simple signs can do wonders. Here’s a pair of examples from Culver City on the west side of the county:

Although they’re not as good as the similar signs in the Bay Area (which I wrote up on this blog here), they are better than almost anything else in LA County, although Santa Monica and Long Beach are moving up fast despite having more territory to cover.

In the City of Los Angeles, however, bikeways are mostly marked with a sign that says “Bike Route,” with no indication of where said route might take you—let alone the distances to destinations, such as you see on East Bay signs. I’ve been hearing assurances of a wayfinding program for two or three years now, but I haven’t seen much in the way of signs.

Yet, as more and more inexperienced cyclists take to the roads, these simple (and inexpensive) signs become more important. If we truly want to entice people out of their cars, we have to make it as easy for them to pedal about the city as to drive.

Considering how much money municipalities save on roadbuilding and repair costs alone, not to mention public health, when people pedal instead, the cost of a few metal signs becomes not an expense but an investment.

Los Angeles should be following the way of its neighbors and getting serious about bike route signage.

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