Los Angeles News Papers Ask Whether City Can Ever Be Bike Metropolis, Reveal Their Own Bias

The wildly disappointing “Summer of Cycling” series sadly pedals on in the pages of The Daily News, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Long Beach Press-Telegram and other papers that are part of the group. The series seems to be as much about painting cyclists as a bunch of weirdos, different than the normal people of the Los Angeles Newspaper Group, than it is exploring bicycling or bike culture.

Today, after publishing some critiques of their most recent disaster in the series, an op/ed by “futurist” Syd Mead that rolled out every tired cliche against building bicycling networks; the Series continued by asking their readers if “Will Southern California ever really bike to work?”

Of course, the editors who wrote the piece then went on to justify their own decisions to not bicycle to work, which apparently stops them from bicycling anywhere by noting that many of “us” choose to live really far away from where we work.

So, I decided to help them out by giving them a much longer answer than I usually do in newspaper comments sections. I hope they decide to publish part or all of it. But if not, I’m including it after the jump.

This entire series has been incredibly frustrating to read as someone who chooses to ride a bicycle for many, but not all, of his trips. Whether consciously or not, you continue to paint cyclists as some sort of weird “other” and everyone else as the normal people. Instead of actually trying a bicycle-transit commute, at least once, you continue to publish sentences such as:

“Most of us, unfortunately, face commutes of far longer than a mile or two. It’s a mass sprawl from the desert to the sea, and some of us have either chosen or been forced into commutes that go from one to the other each morning and evening.”

Most of “us.” Some of “us.” Conversely, your comments about cyclists are tinged with sarcastic sounding compliments such as the entire third paragraph of this article.

On top of that, you published an op/ed by a “futurist” who rolled out a lot of lame cliches with no actual facts or statistics and continue to treat that rant as the baseline for discussion. The comments you reference in this article clearly debunk Syd’s points, but of course those come from weirdo advocate cyclists, not good people such as the “us” that you mention all the time.

In answer to your question, of course Los Angeles can become a city with a significant portion of people choosing to make trips by bicycle. Nobody is claiming that everyone will ride a bicycle for all their trips, so the people making decisions about this “Summer of Cycling” series can continue your really long car commutes in peace while listening to John and Ken on the radio. Even in cities such as Portland the bike commute share is closer to 5% than anything else.

However, as the city builds out its bicycle network, we’re seeing more and more people bicycle. Studies completed by the Downtown Neighborhood Council show how just painting a bike lane on Spring Street resulted in a doubling of bike traffic on that street. If the city continues to create safe and attractive bike facilities, more and more people will bicycle. As more people bicycle, more people walk and ride transit. I can get you the statistics and reports if you want…the comment system doesn’t allow hot links.

As Wesley points out above, 47% of car trips are three miles are less. If we get 10% of those to switch to bike trips, you and your friends will see a lot less traffic congestion on local streets. You might also notice your neighbors having more money to spend and their waistlines decrease. Don’t worry about that. It’s a side effect of being a weirdo.

And this is a second problem with your question. Most trips made by a household aren’t commutes to work. So you can continue to commute from Desert Hot Springs to Santa Monica and make other trips by bicycle…assuming you don’t shop in Santa Monica, take your kids to school in Santa Monica, eat out in Santa Monica AND need to make separate trips to Santa Monica for every trip you need to make. You can make many of those trips within Desert Springs and leave your commute mobile at home.

In conclusion, nobody is going to try and force the “us” to join us. Most people won’t and that’s the choice many of “us” choose to make. But the reality is we don’t need futurists or newspaper editors to start riding their bicycle for commutes or trips to the grocery store for L.A. to become a cycling method.

The rest of us will figure this out on our own.