If L.A. Is Going to Invest in Bike Lanes, Then Do It Right!

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Bike Lanes are a deterrent for me to ride in and I oftentimes cringe when I hear people blindly supporting them without asking for enhanced safety standards and regulations.

So when the LA Draft Bike Plan proposes Bike Lanes and Paths all over the city without taking into consideration what the people want, it upsets me for many reasons, not withstanding the fact that all of our bike lanes in Los Angeles place the cyclists into the door zone with the exception of the short stretch on McClintock Ave by USC. That is the only bike lane in the city that I know of that has the bike lane outside of the door zone.

Anyhow, here are my reasons why I don't like bike lanes in Los Angeles:

1. Bike lanes in Los Angeles are placed in the door zone

I have always wondered how the LADOT is calculating the curb side of the bike lanes because they are so close to the door that anybody riding in the center of the bike lane would be hit in the chest by any car door that opens suddenly. This puzzle all made sense to me when I looked at this Draft Bike Plan and section 5.5.4. made the Shared Lane Marking (SLM) all clear to me.

LADOT (or Alta Planning) calculates the Door Zone Width as "generally assumed to be 2.5 feet from the edge of the parking lane" and their recommended SLM placement is "minimum of 11 feet from edge of curb where on street parking is present…"

I guess the consultants, planners, designers and engineers who worked on this plan never heard of John Forester, the father of all vehicular cyclists and cycling activist, who writes:

"With typical car body-widths of 5.8′ to 6.1′, typical door widths of 3.2′, curb gap of 0.7′, and bicycle handlebar width of 2′, the minimum total lane width required to clear typical opened doors is 12′. For larger cars, it runs to 12.5′ or more. For commercial vehicles it is about 14′." (reference)

1 foot is a huge difference when calculating my chances of being hit by a door and I would err in favor of John Forester, after all, he knew what he was doing and LADOT according to LA's bike infrastucture, doesn't know what their doing. (The drawings and designs show so many discrepencies, that your head will hurt just after viewing a few pages)

2. Bike lanes give a false sense of security to cyclists because they don't realize that they are in the door zone.

3. Bike lanes give a false sense of safety for drivers when they pass cyclists too fast, not leaving enough distance between the moving vehicle and a moving cyclist.

A recent study in Britain shows that drivers don't leave nearly enough room for cyclists when they pass them in a bike lane, whereas they leave more room between them and cyclists when there is no bike lane.

4. Bike lanes in LA are on streets where the speed limit goes as high as 50 mph.

It would be cavalier of me to encourage my friends to ride on a street that is way to fast for their comfort, just because there are bike lanes. Bike lanes have never protected anybody from being hit, the cyclists have merely been moved out of the way of cars passing faster and faster through the many neighborhoods.

5. Bike lanes are used by many to double park (look at Chandler in North Hollywood), others for jogging (see Sunset in Silver Lake), or for collecting road debris (see Anaheim in Wilmington), or as an additional lane in traffic congestions (Santa Monica Blvd Transit Parkway).

6. Bike lanes are used for storing trash collecting bins on collection days.

There is a municipal code that says that people will be fined if they put their trash bins into the bike lane because that obstructs traffic (bike lanes are part of the traffic lane and require special road closure permit if it has to be closed or obstructed in any way that would interfere with traffic) but the City doesn't enforce. Lack of political will!

In short, bike lanes are used for many things in Los Angeles, from joggers to shopping cart pushers, for parking and for storing stuff, by motor cyclists and suicide cyclists (cyclists riding against traffic) and occasionally it is used by cyclists who then get squeezed into the door zone by Metro bus drivers or righteous motorists or they get pushed out in front of fast moving vehicles by opening car doors and dropped trash cans.

Bike lanes would be very useful if their design, position and engineering would be safe for cyclists and motorists alike and if law enforcement would step up and protect the weaker and greener. :-)

There are already laws in place, we don't need a bike plan for that. Enforcing the law is what we need not by 2020 but by tomorrow.

And lastly here is a great article from 2007 written by Stephen Box for your further reading enjoyment on LAs bike lanes.II