Even as the City of Los Angeles advances its bike plan, no one is lost on the reality that biking in LA remains a harrowing ordeal. Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez concluded as much when he joined city bike coordinator Michelle Mowery on a ride that explored some of the new facilities on Glendale Boulevard and 2nd Street (the latter featuring a buffered bike lane in a tunnel) near Downtown LA. Despite new bike lanes running along existing city streets, some of these, including the buffered lane in the aforementioned tunnel, required taking a lane away from car traffic, leading to automobile congestion and frayed nerves. Moreover, drivers perceive that the bike lanes are hardly used for the amount of street space they take. Nevertheless, Mowery states that the city hopes that 5% of all commuters will use bikes even as elements of the bike plan come online in the coming years.
When Los Angeles officials last fall released its proposals for a reconfiguration of the Hyperion Street Bridge as part of a seismic retrofit, bike and pedestrian advocates assailed the plans as being too car-centric, with no allowances for alternative modes of transport. After a sudden and passionate outcry from opponents and further brainstorming, LADOT released new designs that would eliminate a car lane and provide bike lanes and sidewalks on both sides of the bridge instead of just one side at present.
CicLAvia organizers recently announced the next 3 dates of the popular event, with the next one coming Sunday, April 6. However, CicLAvia leaders also hinted at what may be in store for 2015 and beyond, starting with a possible event outside the central city for the first time. CicLAvia itself aims to establish as many as 9 events annually from 2017 onward. Moreover, groups unaffiliated with CicLAvia are proposing their own events at disparate locations within Los Angeles County. Funds provided by Metro would make CicLAvia and similar events a more regular occurrence in future years. Architectural pundit Chris Hawthorne argues that holding more of these events will prove crucial inchanging people’s attitudes towards bicycling, mass transit and walking in a city otherwise designed for the automobile.
With the increase in bicyclists over the years, officials are mulling whether or not to charge bicyclists licensing fees that could finance bike facilities. Chicago is the latest setting for this fight, as a recent proposal to levy a $25 annual cycling tax floundered amidst confusion from citizens and festering hostility from both bicycling and automobile advocates. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has made improved cycling conditions a top priority in his administration, but the message of bicyclists not “paying their fair share” continues to resonate among the general public. Automobile drivers and business owners note that bicyclists often either share roads with cars or are given as much as a full segregated lane that cannot be used by cars. Bicyclists respond that many of them also drive cars and must pay the associated operational fees that go to maintaining streets.
In a Q-and-A between Patt Morrison and Michelle Mowery, the senior bicycle coordinator at the Los Angeles City Department of Transportation, Mowery reveals some pieces of the puzzle of how LA is taking steps forward to better accommodate cyclists. Mowery compares how Copenhagen is similar to LA and how fourth graders in the Netherlands receive bike education. She says a grant is in progress that would take such education to high schools, similarly to driver’s ed. Other goals for the city include a mile grid (where, regardless of location, people would be within one mile of a bikeway) and implementing roundabouts instead of speed humps that the city no longer funds.
What happened to bikesharing in Los Angeles? The LA City Council voted last December to move forward with the plan, but nothing has come of it since. Much of the problem stems from permit issues and the advertising plan, which caused conflicts with previous advertising agreements between the city and ad purveyors. BikeNation, which promised to bring bikesharing at no cost to the city, initially banked on the idea that the concept could be built through advertising revenues. Now Metro has come into action, as its Board voted last week to find a vendor that would bring bikesharing to Los Angeles County and discern the state of the industry. However, bringing bikesharing to the county may add its own hurdles, particularly when it comes to working with municipalities on installing bike stations and hiring operators.
If you’ve driven or cycled on the road, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve broken the law. It is not surprising to Damien Newton, founder and editor of Streetsblog LA, who is also a bicyclist. He owns three of them, and also has a car. Newton is happy with the new state law mandating drivers to keep a distance of three feet from cyclists. Newton moved to Los Angeles in 2008 from the east coast and became involved in advocating for cyclist causes by hounding city council members. Since moving here, Newton has seen the improvement in the city’s bike-friendliness with an increase in bike lanes, among other things.
The Los Angeles Daily News asked its readers if Southern California would ever grow comfortable with the idea of bicycling to work. The newspaper received a variety of responses, with most approving the notion. However, some letters to the editor note that, while riding a bicycle to work would be fantastic, the concept simply isn’t practical for the majority of people for a variety of reasons. One letter stresses the importance of both bicyclists and private automobiles to cooperate in sharing the roads. Another letter adds the idea of “bicycle freeways” that may make bike commuting even more attractive.
Los Angeles’ seventh CicLAvia was held Sunday from Downtown LA to Miracle Mile. A 6.3-mile stretch of Wilshire Boulevard (between Grand [at the "One Wilshire Hub"] and Fairfax Avenue) was closed off to vehicles from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for people to ride their bikes, roller blade, walk, run, skate board, and other related activities. Along the route were performers, sites for participants to see, and even free water handed out by a church. At the end of the trail were Oscar statues. Despite a somewhat gloomy day, more than 100,000 participated in the event. Each event costs $350,000 to host, and is sponsored by CicLAvia, a non-profit organization, and the city. The next CicLAvia is scheduled for Oct. 6 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
It wasn’t too long ago when bike transportation was mostly an afterthought for transportation heads. Today, however, bicycle use is on the rise, mostly as an alternative to car use. Cities like Los Angeles are quickly adapting to this new reality by preparing and implementing bike plans that provide a smorgasbord of solutions that make bike travel easy and safe. Sharrows, protected bike paths and painted bike lanes are just some of the innovations that have sprouted in recent years. However, some of these efforts have experienced growing pains, as vehicle drivers continue to resent sharing road space with bicyclists and residents and businesses remain hostile over certain designs.