Cyclists Weigh in on Spring Street Green Buffered Bike Lane

Photo: Patrick Pascal

The poor Spring Street Green Buffered Bike Lane.  The first “outside the box” bike project in Los Angeles has come under fire from just about everyone for the peeling paint and tire tracks that dominate a portion of the lane.  Even Midnight Ridazz hosts a thread entitled, “Green Lanes Are a Joke,” although opinions ont eh lane are mixed.  In order to bring some balance to the story, Streetsblog went out and found some actual riders of the lane to see what they had to say.

The reaction was mixed.  While just about everyone loved that the lane was there, just about everyone wanted to say something about the application.  Here are some of the comments we received, all without any editing from me other than some “bolding” for emphasis.

First up is Valerie Watson, an architect and Chair of the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Complete Streets Committee rides the lane regularly:

As a Spring Street resident, I ride and walk down Spring several times a week.  It’s really remarkable how different it is.  Hard to describe, but it just feels like all traffic is flowing in a more calm, orderly way now.  The bike lane plus full time parking are a noticeable sidewalk buffer for the west side of Spring, and just walking down the street you can see how different that feels compared to the east side with cars zooming along the curb during rush hour where the parking is still under peak-hour restrictions.

Also, the 4′ bike lane buffer really makes a big difference for cyclist comfort – everyone is making a big deal about the green paint, but the 4′ buffer goes hand in hand with the 6′ of green to make this feel really different compared to a traditional 5′ bike lane.  Even though it’s still not the ideal – a separated cycletrack – it’s a step in the right direction. We should not forget that this is a 10′ bike lane - the width of a full vehicular travel lane – re-purposed roadway that is obviously benefiting all modes.

P was the first person to complain to Streetsblog about the paint condition.  Asked to follow-up on his experience, he writes:

I did re-ride the bike lane at the end of last week and much of the paint that was in the worst condition was reapplied.  I had intended to return again this weekend to give it a more thorough appraisal.

The quality of the repaint did not make me confident for the lane’s long term durability.  In addition, many of the potholes did remain (I will send you a picture of one such pothole between Temple & 1st which I took with my phone), particularly in the areas where new paint was not applied.  Most of the potholes were of a size that might fit an apple; some were the size of grapefruit.  Some of the surfaces surrounding bus stops were also unsafe.

None of these deficiencies are out of normal for most of Los Angeles’ streets, but I see these bike lanes as exactly the sort of infrastructure where bicyclists might expect better.  If you encourage bicycles to use a particular spaces, you take added responsibility for the outcomes that result.

Meanwhile, Allison Corona thinks the lanes would be better for the community if there were part of a network:

I live right outside the lanes and regularly use them to go to the grocery store or on a ride home from visiting family (they live in east LA so it’s the 1st St lane over and the Spring St. one on the way home). They don’t really go anywhere so it’s kind just used for a short period of time to commute withing the neighborhood.

It does feel a little bit safer since the buses and most of the cars aren’t really riding in the same lane as you as often as they were before.

I don’t know if it has really impacted me as much because I always rode down Spring St when it was an option. What it has been  good for is getting friends who are new to the neighborhood to be a little more comfortable riding to the grocery store or to restaurants that are in other parts of downtown.

Bicycling attorney Ross Hirsh writes:

Like I mentioned in my response to your tweet, the Spring St. green lanes are on my commute to get to my office in DLTA each morning.  Let me know what you’re interested in.

This was interesting: a fellow attorney who drives his car into DTLA via Spring Street each morning (and not a cyclist) was asking me how much I loved the new street markings–he said he thought of me when he first saw them. Obviously, I told him I think it’s great.  I asked him what his impression of traffic was like on Spring since they the green lanes were installed. He said unequivocally, that he has noticed no change in vehicular traffic whatsoever.  And he’s a tell-it-like-it-is kind of dude who certainly would have chimed in to the negative if that were the case.  Loved to hear that.

Hirsch also wrote in defense of the lanes on Midnight Ridazz:

That strip of Spring St in DLTA is on my commute to work. Would I rather have these green painted bike lanes–or not? No question Spring Street is better with them. More bikes, and I think traffic has slowed a bit. Prior to the green, Spring St. was very unremarkable and the traffic was very accommodating to bikes. Now, however, I see many more bikes using that street, and even non-cyclists see it as a very cool thing. Perhaps that may incentivize a few of those folks to give it a whirl. It’s a start. ‘

Last, we got a complaint via twitter from Nate Frogg, who complained not about the paint chipping but about buffering against traffic and not parked cars.

Spring street bike lane, shouldn’t the buffer be in the door zone? almost got hit by parked chp car door flying open

What are your experiences with the new Green Buffered Bike Lane on Spring Street?