LACBC Bike Counts: Strong Relationship Between Infrastructure and Riders on the Road

3_16_10_bike_count_map.jpgEach purple dot is a location surveyed by the LACBC last fall. The more purple, the more cyclists.

Oftentimes, cyclists find themselves arguing with non-cyclists about many different facets of life riding the streets of Los Angeles.  Cyclists ride the wrong way, spending money on bike lanes are a waste of money, cycling is just something people do to be trendy or exercise; these false arguments get repeated so often that non-cyclists, even ones sympathetic to the cause of safer streets for cycling, found themselves believing it. 

While anyone that’s ever taken to the street on two pedaled-powered wheels knows these "facts" to be untrue; the Los Angeles County Bike Coalition did us all a favor by putting lie to these falsehoods in their final report on last year’s bike counts completed throughout the county.  The final report will be available by the end of the day at the Bike Coalition’s official website.  In the meantime, let’s see how they’re report puts truth to lies.

Spending money on cycling is a waste of money since nobody bikes.

3_16_10_intersection_chart.jpg1 – bike path, 2 – bike lane

Of the twenty five intersections the LACBC counted, the top seven intersections all had either bike lanes or connected to a bike path.  In other words, the numbers tell the story, if you want people to take to the road on their bikes, the best way to make them feel safe is to provide either the protection of a bike path or the paint of a bike lane.  Of course, we’ve seen how sometimes this feeling of safety can be a false assumption at times, bike paths in urban areas come with their own set of safety hazards; but the numbers speak for themselves.  If the City of Los Angeles, or any city, wants more people to consider cycling for transportation; they need to spend the resources to make cyclists feel safe.

Cyclists are a public safety hazard because almost all of them ride on the wrong side of the street.

This has always been one of my favorite reasons to berate and belittle cyclists that usually comes from our car culture warriors.  You can try to respond with obvious retorts, such as "I don’t bike on the wrong side of the road, don’t I deserve to be protected?" or "How often do you speed or turn left after the light turned red" and they brush you off.  After all, just because you don’t break the law on your bike and they do all the time in their car doesn’t mean anything.  Cyclists are scofflaws.  Car drivers aren’t.

Now we have statistics to put truth to that lie as well.

3_16_10_behavior.jpg

Just over three percent of cyclists biked the wrong way on the street.  While anti-cycling advocates might point to the other two sets of statistics as proof of cycling scofflaws; it’s not illegal to ride without a helmet or on the sidewalk at any of the places that were surveyed.

People Only Bike for Exercise, Its Not Real Transportation

Not true.  The report shows literally thousands of people biking in the morning and evening rush hours at most intersections.  While there was an uptick in ridership on weekends at many places; that is no reason to discount the many, many people that use cycling as their means to get to work.  For example, over 100 cyclists per hour could be found spread out throughout the study region during the morning rush at 7th and Figueroa, the LA River at the Baum Bridge, Lincoln and Venice, Sepulveda and Ohio, The Orange Line Station at Reseda Boulevard, Santa Monica and Westwood and Amirality Way and Washington Boulevard in Marina del Rey.

The only disappointing statistic is the low percentage of riders that are women.  However, there is a solution.  Statistically speaking, intersections that had a high percentage of female riders also had either a bike lane or a bike path connected to them.  For example, across the city their bike count showed only 18% of riders were women, but at Lincoln Boulevard and Bluff Creek, the number rises to 34%.

While it would be preferable for the city to step up and do some official counts of their own, as one would expect a world class city to do; the good news is the Bike Coalition is planning on doing another set of counts next year. The group vows to do more counts in South L.A. and the Valley to balance this year’s work which the map at the top of the post shows a concentration in the Downtown and Westside.

Let’s hope their efforts pay off in a better bike plan, which should be released to the public soon.  A "secret" meeting previewing the plan was held last month.

  • The whole “real transportation” thing is a fun one to poke holes in. People drive around just for the hell of it all the time. I’m pretty sure there are still “no cruising” signs on Sunset. There’s a tendency to assume that every time a car is on the road it’s for a life-or-death, super-important trip. Not necessarily the case.

    Also, why can’t biking for exercise or for fun be a “real” trip? People drive to the gym. That’s for exercise. People drive to the movies. That’s for fun.

    There are many reasons why people move around: work, shopping, visits, exercise, fun etc. They’re all important, and they’re all done by multiple modes of transportation.

  • Just a quick detail to point out – the Washington & Admiralty intersection is actually the intersection of Washington & Mildred Ave, where the bike path through Marina Del Rey begins.

    also the report can also be downloaded from the http://www.labikecount.org site.

  • I had a realization when looking at the ridership for bike paths and bike lanes.

    As a Vehicular Cycling sort of guy, I am suspicious of many calls for separated paths and lanes. I think my resistance to a lot of advocacy that focuses on paths and lanes is that often, the idea seems to be that we should be like Amsterdam and Copenhagen, with no regard for the simple fact that we are NOT these cities. We are LA. Not just in negative ways, but in positive ways. I want us to make our area more bikeable by finding ways to become more authentically Angeleno, not in grabbing solutions from other places.

    But I realized that I use bike paths and bike lanes all the time. I just hadn’t realized I was doing it, because the paths and lanes I use don’t look like the Amsterdam examples people keep pointing at.

    The LA River and San Gabriel Valley bike paths are my bicycling superhighways. Riding them evokes history and urban planning and has such cultural significance. When I ride along the LA or SG rivers, I am making a positive choice to do so because of the benefits, not because I am afraid of riding in traffic. And unlike most of the paths in Amsterdam and Copenhagen, where speed is purposely kept to near pedestrian speeds, when I am on our bike paths, I can ride along at decent speeds for miles and miles. More of this sort of separated bike path I want. :)

  • asphalt_juheesus!

    These junctions where cyclists and cars meet is the right leverage point to force more bike-sharing.

    I like the Backbone idea previously discussed, but it needs to be modified somewhat to factor in intersections like Washington and Admiralty. A coordinated effort to re-stripe Washington Blvd going East into Culver City has some traction against Autopia-thinking because you’ve got users and good numbers on those users.

    Use the areas measured as an anchor to expand the reach of bike-friendly roads.

  • I’m waiting for the magic marriage of the data assembled by BikeSide with this cyclist count data from the LACBC.

    Then we’d (GASP!) know where people are cycling and where they are being hit by cars all in one map. The next time someone wants to slam cycling, we can combat their lies and misinformation with actual data. The next time some wanna-be planner/engineer working for the City tries to shut us down we can hit them with data. Since I went to my first LABAC meeting several years ago, two things have finally fallen into place: political will and data. All we need now is money to professionalize the movement to put us over the top.

    It took exactly $0 public funds and was created by the people to show our alleged leaders how to do things properly. Can we get some of the special bike and pedestrian funding that goes to Los Angeles turned toward making these reports more regular, open to the public, and not so labor intensive for the kind people assembling data?

    I really think that a car parking/bike parking swap for real estate developers will be a boon for cycling advocacy in LA. Reform LA Municipal Code, Sections 12.21-A.4(c) and 12.21-A.16! Substituting bike parking will lower project costs, making smaller more profitable projects possible. The lack of car parking, and the existence of quality bike parking, will heavily swing things in our favor. Having real estate developers funding pro-bike efforts is money in the bank for the safe streets movement.

  • Evan

    I know this is provincial of me, but a big whoo-hoo that the top 4 intersections for the average number of cyclists per hour were on the Westside.

  • Umberto — I strongly agree with your point on bike parking. I don’t think there’s a bigger disincentive to cycling than a lack of convenient and safe bicycle parking. People can’t be expected to use their bikes to replace cars on local trips when they get to their destination and find no place they can safely secure their bike. And having developers build bike parking into new construction is going to be relatively inexpensive, and be a huge selling point for prospective residents/tenants.

  • This map has made the LACBC relevant in a way it never was before. Thank you to all who did this work. I hope that this is how the coalition builds itself into the political force it ought to be!

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