L.A.’s Bike Lanes, Not Just for Bikes!

Bike Lanes are one of the most misunderstood elements of bikeways engineering, responsible for much confusion as they lie nestled peacefully between the noisy travel lane to the left and the quiet but dangerous door zone to the right.

Some folks see that empty real estate and, in spite of the fact that they lack a bicycle, they figure “Why not? I’ll just use if for a few minutes, nobody will mind!”

All pictures by Stephen Box unless noted otherwise. This Picture by Barleye

Sunset Blvd. is home to a 5’ Bike Lane that is next to a 7’ parking stall, just enough room for these two LAPD officers who needed to go shopping at the Surplus Store in Silver Lake.

They might be forgiven the CVC 22502 violation (park within 18 inches of the right-hand curb) and the CVC 22514 violation (don’t block fire hydrants) and even the poorly written CVC 21211 which forbids Bikeway parking that impedes cyclists, but only if they can convince their supervisors that investigating a sale on Dickies qualifies as official business.

Hello, is this the Governor's Office? Photo: Jeff Jacobberger

The American Automobile Association has been around since 1902 and they are highly regarded for their roadside service and their courteous drivers.

The AAA driver parked in the Bike Lane above is probably making a quick call to Sacramento, thanking Governor Brown for vetoing SB 910, the legislation which would mandate a minimum three foot distance for motorists passing cyclists when the speed is greater than 15 MPH.

At least it's well lit...

L.A.’s Department of Water & Power has a bit of a reputation for operating according to their own “We are the Roman Army!” interpretation of the law but in this case, the law is on their side. The CVC 21211 prohibition on blocking bikeways facilities “does not apply to drivers or owners of utility or public utility vehicles, as provided in Section 22512.”

Well, almost. These DWP employees failed to put out the required warning devices so that late night cyclists heading west on Sunset wouldn’t come around the curve to find this truck blocking the Bike Lane. They also weren’t parked at a work site, as required by CVC 22512, instead simply impeding traffic while contributing to the local economy by consuming donuts at the adjacent 7-Eleven store.

Big trucks have a hard time fitting into the traditional 8’ parking stalls that are common in Los Angeles and they have an even tougher time on Sunset Blvd where the parking stalls are only 7’ wide.

The operators of these trucks have parked their trucks in violation of CVC 21211 which prohibits impeding cyclists in a bikeway but they are also demonstrating a violation of the rarely invoked LAMC 88.03 which specifies that vehicles must fit “completely within the confines or limits” of the parking space.

Even if the operator of a commercial vehicle were to find a street with parking wide enough to accommodate it, LAMC 80.69.1 prohibits trailer or semitrailer from parking in public place otherwise ordinarily used for vehicular parking. That 8’6” wide trailer simply does not belong!

The proper way to park these large trucks while they are “working” is to engage in “lane closure” and to use warning devices and traffic control to ensure that cyclists, motorists and pedestrians are all accommodated safely.

In some cases, a truck driver’s business will only take a minute or two, but that’s all it takes on a busy street such as Sunset to cause a conflict that can result in a collision. Yet the work needs to get done.

One would think that a city that has been around for more than a couple of centuries would have figured out how to accommodate the delivery of packages and the collection of trash without putting cyclists at risk.

But that would be a mistake.

Even on a big wide street such as Venice Blvd., the City of Los Angeles can’t figure out how to accommodate trash cans and cyclists at the same time, so it resorts to the strategy that has worked for so many decades, it ignores the cyclists.

Over the years, the LADOT has rejected requests to address the situation, arguing that the LADOT can’t cite the owners of the trash cans, after all they have no Vehicle Identification Number! Street Services could respond but they take 24 hours to respond and if they confiscate the trash can, the resident simply requests a new one from Sanitation and they are rewarded with a new can to replace the old can.

The bureaucratic pontificating by the LADOT, Street Services, Sanitation, the LAPD and anyone else with a piece of the street has failed to improve the situation in the least. Their collective incompetence has failed to even result in reflective markings on the dark cans so that cyclists are less likely to hit them in the dark.

Through it all, the Mayor promises 40 miles of Bikeway improvements each year for the next 5 years, a promise that means nothing if it isn’t complemented by a Mayoral Directive to the LAPD, the DWP, the LADOT, Street Services, Sanitation, and anyone else from the City Family that operates vehicles on the streets, instructing them to stay out of the Bike Lanes unless they’re on a bike.

  • J

    This is why you need protected bike lanes. Make it physically difficult to park in the bike lane and people won’t do it. You then get a much more comfortable biking environment. The protected lanes are working in NYC, (although nothing’s perfect) and the result has been an explosion in bicycle use.

  • Anonymous

    And paint can be removed in the blink of an eye.  Concrete, asphalt and curbing not so much.  Ask the Dutch and the Danes.

  • Rick Risemberg

    Contrast the DWP’s lackadaisical attitude towards bike lanes here with a similar department’s protocol as I saw on a recent Bay Area trip: 

    http://tinyurl.com/3gvexno

    Full article on SF bikeways for those who might be interested:

    http://orange20bikes.com/2011/10/built-it-and-they-came/

    Rick

  • Anonymous

    I started a group on flickr to document enforcers of the law breaking it http://www.flickr.com/groups/copsinbikelanes/ 

  • Don’t need to read the byline. That gently acidic humor, expert citation of dusty sections of CVC & LAMC, gently stirred with effortless prose is trademark Stephen Box! Bartender, Make It A Double!

  • Looks like the biggest problem here isnt people ignoring the bike lane, its that the parking stall is simply too small. If the stall is 7 feet wide, and your vehicle is 8.5 feet wide….theres nothing you can do about it.

    If thereés not enough room for parking, then simply dont have any.

  • Roadblock

    funy because I was just noting to myself today how much the bike lane was violated on sunset by big trucks, UPS, a lazy drive and a wide open unattended door… this all occurred in just under 2 miles.

  • Mig

    Parking rows are typically designed at about 8 feet.. but they are not always striped.  Virtually all passenger vehicles, including a cop car, can fit in a 7 foot parking lane.

  • The bike lane on Venice is one of the worst for being blocked by parked cars, trash cans, etc.. Lately, I’ve been seeing people drive in the bike lane on Venice.

  • iblockthebikelane.com stickers. I don’t leave home without ’em.

  • graciela.

    This is so true! I ride Venice to work and I’ve noticed more and more people treat the bike lane as a car lane. Then they have the audacity to honk at me when they get stuck behind me in the bike lane. Crazy people.

  • Matt

    We’re fighting this problem in Newport Beach, where parking in bike lanes near schools is actually allowed, and the city turns a blind eye to landscape trucks parking in bike lanes.  Not to mention parking in a no-parking zone along a high speed arterial road, with cars pulling in and out while bikes are racing by at 35 MPH.

    Over the last few months, about 15% of reported bike crashes have been doorings.

  • Here’s even more of the bike lane SNAFU down here in Newport Beach.  The City of Newport Beach’s Bicycle Safety Committee has effectively shrugged its shoulders about the issue:

    http://bikenewportbeach.org/?p=269

    I am now contemplating the obvious, which is direct written requests to the commercial operators who park in the bike lanes to cease from doing so.  I’d like to hear the experience of anyone who has done so in the past.

  • Gallups Mirror

    A genuine effort at protection would involve increasing fines to an amount that reflect the actual danger created by the traffic violation. Make it a $500 fine to park or drive in a bike lane, then post signs. Make it a $1000 fine to “buzz” a cyclist. Watch how fast that bike lane clears of everything but cyclists.

    It won’t happen, though. Bike lanes are for motorist convenience, not cyclist safety. The motoring establishment doesn’t want to protect us, it wants us out of the way.

  • walkmore

    why aren’t we making protected bike lanes.. next to the sidewalk, with parking outside of it? seems much safer and maybe kids could actually bike

  • The other day in burbank I saw a film shoot, and they set up craft services in the bike lane. I almost grabbed a free coffee. Figured it was only fair. 

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