- The LACBC’s Alek Bartrousof keeps a tally of comments for and against proposed bike lanes in Central and South L.A. (image courtesy of Michael MacDonald)
“I’m lonely,” a man half-jokingly testified at the LADOT’s Public Hearing in support of the First Year Bike Lanes last Thursday night. “My friends find [riding in the street] terrifying.”
Terror, safety, and loneliness seemed to be the major themes of the night for many of the 37 advocates that spoke in favor of implementation of the draft plans that would add several miles of bike lanes to Central and South L.A.
On behalf of fiancées, girlfriends, little sisters, partners, and friends — male and female — that were said to be “terrified” to ride streets that didn’t have lanes, many of those offering comments asked the planners to not only implement the proposed lanes as quickly as possible, but to take extra steps to make sure they linked up to other lanes and were protected lanes wherever possible.
Making the streets feel safe and welcoming to women was of particular interest to a number of speakers. Several mentioned knowing women who wanted to ride or would sometimes ride where lanes were present, but who refused to risk taking their lives into their own hands where there was no such infrastructure, even when accompanied by experienced friends or partners.
As one cyclist explained, he might have convinced his fiancée to take a dedicated bike lane to work, but he was not able to ride with her and his little sister recreationally, such as to a USC game, because there weren’t lanes connecting his home to the campus. He and other experienced riders felt that while the absence of bike lanes was manageable, having to constantly fight for space and endure harassment was frustrating and would be too intimidating for beginners. Most, they feared, would be afraid to try their hand at riding alone.
Others testified that it was precisely the existence of bike lanes had been instrumental in getting them to take their first rides in the street. One man from Los Feliz described how he began commuting by bike after observing lanes popping up around the neighborhood and realizing he could ride dedicated lanes the whole way to work.
Still, bike lanes alone are not enough to make people feel completely safe. Some speakers mentioned that even the green and buffered lanes downtown are conveniently disregarded when drivers have other priorities on their minds.
Protected lanes might be costly, said one man, referring to the presentation made by LADOT staff about the enhancements planned for Figueroa Ave., but the increased safety and the long-term benefits of encouraging more people to ride would outweigh them. Read more…