Sometimes a Bike Lane Isn’t Enough

5_9_09_truck_in_bike_lane.JPGThis Fed-Ex Truck wasn’t the only thing we found in a bike lane.

Yesterday, I had the distinct pleasure of riding with a handful of bike activists from around the city to the A.B. 766 press conference in Coldwater Canyon Park.  I expected a pleasant ride to and from the park, after all most of it would be on Chandler Blvd., which has bike lanes on both sides of the street and runs parallel to the Orange Line Bike Trail.

What I got instead were a series of lessons that there is nothing magical about paint that prevents drivers from behaving like jerks.

First, we found the bike lane was often used as an extended parking lane.  Just behind where I was sitting when I took the above picture was about twenty feet of streetside parking lanes.  On the way back to the NoHo Red Line Station, we found a Rec. and Parks truck ideling with the air conditioning on under a bridge in one of the lanes and a couple of LAPD cars just hanging out elsewhere.  They weren’t monitoring traffic, since we saw a car run a turn arrow while we were waiting for people to catch up.

On top of that, the street parking area isn’t wide enough to accommodate parked buses without them spilling into the bike lane, causing any passing cyclist to have to move into the traffic lane to keep moving.

Second, the press conference was held across the street from Los Angeles Valley College, yet there was no real pedestrian amenities for people that wished to walk to the college or arrive via transit.

Next, when cyclists were trying to turn left on Colfax Avenue going South and turning east onto Chandler Blvd., the light wouldn’t change for them.  There is technology that allows signals to "pick-up" cyclists, but it isn’t installed on Colfax because it doesn’t have a bike lane, even at intersections that connect to streets that do.

Last, it’s strange to have a transit station like the North Hollywood Station split in two by a street.  It’s even stranger that the light protecting the crosswalk will flash red after a couple of seconds, turning the "red light" into a stop sign.

None of this is to say that we shouldn’t expect bike lanes, sharrows, or other street markings from the city.  However, as Joe Linton implied in the comments section, we should expect both street markings and enforcement of parking rules regarding bike lanes, bike recognition at lighted intersections and road design that protects pedestrians.

Because yesterday proved, sometime a Bike Lane isn’t enough.

  • One thing you didn’t mention, and which we desperately need, are re-qorked engineering and design goals for our roads in the LA area.

    Jahl Gehl architects provide set of metrics which would make a lot of these problems impossible to ignore for engineers and planners.

    What you experienced yesterday is a bike and pedestrian transportation system that is totally given over to automobile speeds and throughput.

    The questions the road designers were asking were something like this: “What is the best bike lane to build (that won’t slow or impede cars in any way and which could conceivably speed them up)?” The same goes for pedestrian amenities – again and again Los Angeles’ political class and professional transportation planners intentionally overlook the interests of those of us not using a private automobile.

  • Biking makes it really easy to see how car-focused our streets are. To get the light to change when I’m biking to my neighborhood grocery store, I have to leave the street and push the button on the crossing indicator for pedestrians, and then hope that no cars have pulled up to keep me from getting back into the street.

  • Without enforcement, a bike lane is just paint and asphalt.

  • vcspinner

    On that street pictured, sharrows would be better than a door zone bike lane.

  • Sharrows would only make sense if all cyclists wanted to move at or near0the speeds if passing automobiles! I a?erage 5 to 12 mph wheb I ride with my daughter. Sharrows are a nonstarter in that scenario.

  • angle

    @ubrayj:

    My understanding of sharrows is that they are generally used in lanes that are too narrow for a bike lane, so a safe-riding cyclist would be slowing motorized traffic by taking the lane in that situation regardless.

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