The Good, the Bad, and the Clueless

As Joe Linton reports in Streetsblog LA, downtown’s Los Angeles Street will soon see a protected cycletrack replace the plain-paint bike lanes that connect Union Station and First St.

This is an undeniable Good Thing. I gladly celebrate any upgrade in bicycle facilities in any parts of the city that see, or that could see if they weren’t so daunting, lots of folks going about their business on bikes. It’s not just “One Less Car” any more; it’s well-proven that urban bicycling improves productivity at work, boosts public health, and raises small business income. It also restitches the civic fabric, as people come to view their city as something more than traffic jams, and their fellow denizens as people, not just shadows behind a windshield in the next lane over. Making safe places to ride in through urban areas means that more people will ride—and the various, albeit incomplete, bike lane networks in the central city are showing it to be so. Bikes are everywhere, and their riders are just about anyone.

But LADOT is quoted in Linton’s article as stating that that particular stretch of Los Angeles street was chosen because it was an easy sell: it’s mostly government offices along the route. In other words, it represents a sort of failure of nerve, and one that degrades DOT’s mission of providing access to all. How? Well, while it’s nice that all the bureaucrats can ride more safely to work and back now, and that LA can test yet another cycle track (there are several in town already), Los Angeles Street has absolutely zero accommodation for bikes where it counts, in the Fashion District.

I ran a tiny clothing company for several years, and I still dabble in the rag trade. I have made probably hundreds of trips up and down Los Angeles Street, on foot and by bike, and I can tell you, after a decade of observation, that that street and its neighboring roadways absolutely swarm with bikes. Beaters, cruisers, fixies, road bikes, folders, homemade cargo bikes, just about every damn sort of pedal-powered two-wheeler, all duking it out in mixed traffic all day long. Yet the Los Angeles street bike lanes, now as before, stop at First Street. The Fashion District, where bikes are a significant part of the traffic mix, begins around Third and stretches south to at least Twelfth Street.

Bad, and clueless. Really, we don’t need to “test” cycle tracks: they’ve already been tested, all over the world and in several parts of LA itself. Plenty of data has been published showing that they smooth traffic, boost safety, entice hordes of new riders onto the streets, and are good for business.

We don’t need more “tests.” We need rationalize our roads, because the present arrangement is killing us, directly and indirectly. Another “pilot project” is little more than a delaying tactic, by an agency that’s afraid to do its job.

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  1. Posted April 21, 2016 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Ouch! While I don’t think that this project is the awesomest thing ever – and I agree that it should be extended into the Fashion District and further – and that LADOT should do more and do it sooner (the Los Angeles Street project was supposed to happen in late 2014 – when it would have been more innovative and more welcome.) I think that the Los Angeles Street bikeway does break new ground for L.A. – ie: transit islands, bike signals – which haven’t been done here yet. I think that LADOT engineers will need to learn how these features work – and I think that it will be good to have them in a high-visibility central location that other city and county leaders can see. (Politically, too, I urge you to be careful about being too critical of half-measures – I think that kind of criticism gives the city an excuse for doing nothing. I think it’s better for our bike activism momentum to praise the small progress while asking for the next steps, too.)

  2. MaxUtil
    Posted April 21, 2016 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    I suspect that DOT has good intentions here. They want to move forward with real infrastructure and get it installed. I assume the “test” description is mainly PR to soothe the concerns of those who think these kind of projects are radical, untested ideas rather than conservative, proven designs.

    But I think the broader point is that the project location, description, and PR all point to a weak DOT with little institutional support from city hall other than lip service. Projects only get done in areas where DOT, Planning, etc. get the approval from local councilpeople and other power brokers who have no actual authority over what DOT does. I don’t think DOT is cautious because they’re “clueless”. I think they’re cautious because they know no one’s got their back. I like Garcetti and I think he has really good intentions too. But at some point he needs to stick his neck out a bit a start demanding that all this planning and happy talk get put into put into practice, even if it means stepping on some council toes.

  3. Ben
    Posted April 21, 2016 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    Another bike lane if born out of convenience rather than utility. Where it would actually be useful is further down Los Angeles, which is in bad need of a bike lane and a road diet and streetscaping. Status quo reigns supreme in Los Angeles, cars are more important than people.

  4. davistrain
    Posted April 27, 2016 at 12:48 am | Permalink

    “Cars are more important than people” would be more accurate as “Drivers are more important than non-drivers.” The long time attitude (which seems to be slowly changing) in LA is that anyone who doesn’t have a car is a “no-account” both financially and personally. Buses are sometimes called “loser cruisers” and a person who rides a bike to work has colleagues wondering, “Did he get his license suspended? Did his car break down and he can’t afford the repairs?” Granted, I’m an old guy who can remember when gasoline was $0.25 a gallon, and sometimes thinks that the oil industry is like dope peddlers, get the junkies hooked with cheap stuff, then jack up the price.

  5. mrsman
    Posted April 28, 2016 at 4:36 am | Permalink

    There are also plans to make Spring/Main into protected bike lanes and these are only 1-2 blocks away. Knowing that there are limited funds for bikeway construction, it would probably be better to have one long corridor instead of 2 short parallel corridors that are only 1-2 blocks away.

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] Risemberg says LA doesn’t need a test cycle track near the government offices on Los Angeles […]

  2. By Today’s Headlines | Streetsblog Los Angeles on April 21, 2016 at 9:21 am

    […] L.A. Does Not Need A Test Protected Bike Lane On Los Angeles St. (Flying Pigeon) […]

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