Thoughts on the Guerrilla Sharrows in Northeast L.A.
Yesterday, I finally had the time to take my wounded Flying Pigeon Bucket Bike back to its nest to get repaired and retrofitted for baby carrying. As you might expect, Josef "ubrayj02" Bray-Ali was fantastic, the bike is great, and baby has already had his first fun, and safe, bike ride. You can view a couple of pictures of us here. But, this is not our story.
Because my bucket bike needed some repairs, I took a less-than-capacity trip on the Gold Line to the Heritage Square station before biking up 37th Avenue to Figueroa Street and then it’s just a half a block to the Flying Pigeon Bike Shop. On 37th, I was treated to riding on the only street inside of city limits with Sharrows. True, they’re not official, but when you’re on the street, they’re just as good.
Whoever put these down knew what they were doing. The Sharrows place cyclists outside the door zone, are on a street with street parking, and are on a street with a fair amount of traffic. It’s nothing like the traffic on Figueroa, but with the transit station right there, it also sees slightly more than your everyday residential street. It’s amazing to me as an activist that these paint markings have been to D.I.Y. project that roared. Councilmen Garcetti and LaBonge have talked about them during City Council hearings. The LADOT has responded to their placement and bike activists have pleaded with the city to not remove them. Given how the "D.I.Y. Bike Lanes" on Fletcher Bridge are still visible even after Streets Services "removed" them, it will be interesting to see how the city deals with these street markings. It will be equally interesting to see if they just "reappear" after they’re taken out.
When the Sharrows first appeared, the conversation was about how the D.I.Y. team was showing up LADOT, who has spent years studying and balking on whether or not to put Sharrows on L.A.’s streets or about how our bike culture is so sick of waiting that they’re just painting they’re own streets. Given that it’s almost two months since the Sharrows went down, it doesn’t seem like time that was poorly spent.
Riding on the Sharrowed street was empowering. The paint on the ground didn’t cause me to slip or lose my balance and it was a clear statement that bikes belong. Also, the Sharrows were correctly designed and placed on the road, a credit to the DIY team, which is more than what we can say about the "legitimate" Sharrows that appeared in Westwood in 2008. And for a closing thought, when Sammy grows up and we’re looking at all the great strides that Los Angeles has made in encouraging "people powered transportation," I’ll be able to tell him his first trip in a bicycle was on the fabled Sharrowed 37th Avenue, done by the community for the community, while our city was too mired in red tape to get the job done themselves.