Infrastructure Envy

Poor Los Angeles, having to put up with people like me whining and nagging about its slow ooze into the Bicycle Millennium.

The problem is that the whining and nagging are so often justified. LA does do some things well—the sidewalk bike rack program was going great guns until recently, when the city ran out of racks, and its sole and only bike rack installer retired. Now, the bike rack request page, which last year said installations would resume in November, updated the page to promise March, which has now been changed to April. I suggested a mason I know with whom I discussed starting a side business installing racks on private property (something DOT is not permitted to do), and they have referred him to the mazes of a General Services Department approval process. So now even sidewalk racks are on hold.

However, the city did sound the trumpets about the recent installation of two bike corrals on Venice Beach’s Abbot Kinney Boulevard.

While I have my reservations about the particular design LADOT has chosen (and already bought twenty of), LA is still at the sad stage where you take what you can get, and fight for better afterwards. (Though David Hembrow thinks that is a dangerous paradigm.) So I am happy that there are two bike corrals on Abbot Kinney, a street swarming with bikes, and one whose sidewalk racks are not infrequently full-up. Portland-style bike corrals are better, but we’ll take these for now, thank you!

But let’s face it: just around the corner from those new corrals, on Santa Monica’s segment of Main Street, are three bike corrals, which have been there for years, and which see heavy use—especially the one in front of Peet’s and the Ben & Jerry’s.

Meanwhile, the city has often stood in the way of progress towards a bikeable, walkable human-scale streetscape, with such well-known debacles as the initial institutional opposition to bike lanes on the Glendale-Hyperion bridge, the removal of 33 much-used bike racks from Larchmont Boulevard, the continued reluctance to put North Figueroa on a road diet, the abject bending over to a car dealership objecting to the MyFigueroa project joining Downtown to University Park, and the glacial pace of striping lanes on all but the easiest, widest streets. (Though at least the city is standing behind the bike lanes through the second Street tunnel, and finally went ahead with the Colorado Boulevard orad diet—all the above documented on this very blog as well as Streetsblog LA and many other venues.

It’s not just LADOT at fault here—often the agency is being held back by the city council or individual members thereof playing their own little political games. But the result is very slow progress.

In a way, it’s fortunate that LA has Beverly Hills to look down on—a city so backwards that it makes us look good. That town recently voted a decisive “No!” to bike lanes along the soon-to-be-rebuilt portion of Santa Monica Boulevard that creeps through Botox Central. Even though LA and West Hollywood themselves have bike lanes on their segments of Santa Monica leading up to BH on either end.

But being better than the worst shouldn’t be good enough for LA. We’re the county’s biggest burg; wouldn’t it be nice if Santa Monica and Long Beach and Culver City and Temple City could look up to us and wish they had what we have…instead of the other way around?

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