Thoughts on the Guerrilla Sharrows in Northeast L.A.

2_1_10_sharrows.jpgD.I.Y. Sharrows on . Photo: Ubrayj02/Flickr

Yesterday, I finally had the time to take my wounded Flying Pigeon Bucket Bike back to its nest to get repaired and retrofitted for baby carrying.  As you might expect, Josef "ubrayj02" Bray-Ali was fantastic, the bike is great, and baby has already had his first fun, and safe, bike ride.  You can view a couple of pictures of us here.  But, this is not our story.

Because my bucket bike needed some repairs, I took a less-than-capacity trip on the Gold Line to the Heritage Square station before biking up 37th Avenue to Figueroa Street and then it’s just a half a block to the Flying Pigeon Bike Shop.  On 37th, I was treated to riding on the only street inside of city limits with Sharrows.  True, they’re not official, but when you’re on the street, they’re just as good.

Whoever put these down knew what they were doing.  The Sharrows place cyclists outside the door zone, are on a street with street parking, and are on a street with a fair amount of traffic.  It’s nothing like the traffic on Figueroa, but with the transit station right there, it also sees slightly more than your everyday residential street.  It’s amazing to me as an activist that these paint markings have been to D.I.Y. project that roared.  Councilmen Garcetti and LaBonge have talked about them during City Council hearings.  The LADOT has responded to their placement and bike activists have pleaded with the city to not remove them.  Given how the "D.I.Y. Bike Lanes" on Fletcher Bridge are still visible even after Streets Services "removed" them, it will be interesting to see how the city deals with these street markings.  It will be equally interesting to see if they just "reappear" after they’re taken out.

When the Sharrows first appeared, the conversation was about how the D.I.Y. team was showing up LADOT, who has spent years studying and balking on whether or not to put Sharrows on L.A.’s streets or about how our bike culture is so sick of waiting that they’re just painting they’re own streets.  Given that it’s almost two months since the Sharrows went down, it doesn’t seem like time that was poorly spent.

Riding on the Sharrowed street was empowering.  The paint on the ground didn’t cause me to slip or lose my balance and it was a clear statement that bikes belong.  Also, the Sharrows were correctly designed and placed on the road, a credit to the DIY team, which is more than what we can say about the "legitimate" Sharrows that appeared in Westwood in 2008.  And for a closing thought, when Sammy grows up and we’re looking at all the great strides that Los Angeles has made in encouraging "people powered transportation,"  I’ll be able to tell him his first trip in a bicycle was on the fabled Sharrowed 37th Avenue, done by the community for the community, while our city was too mired in red tape to get the job done themselves.

  • K


  • Guerilla

  • jo

    Re the “only street inside of city limits with Sharrows” — this may be incorrect, as there are painted Sharrows near UCLA, on Westwood Blvd. north of Le Conte.

  • Jo, you missed the link down in the article about those very same sharrows.

  • I’m wondering what you mean when you say that “correctly designed and placed on the road” is “more than we can say” of the Westwood sharrows. I ride those sharrows on the daily and they give me all the same feelings you describe here. They’re empowering, and they’re a clear statement that bikes belong. Nowhere in the city do I see more riders (appropriately) taking the (narrow) lane than when I ride the sharrows on Westwood Blvd.

    I like the D.I.Y. sharrows!

    But I also like the “legit” sharrows.

    What are the issues w/ the Westwood sharrows? Cause if there are issues, the Bicycle Coalition at UCLA might be able to work to fix ’em.

  • David Galvan

    Great baby-bucket-bike pics, Damien! May have to look into one of those sometime this year. ..

  • LADOT should leave the D.I.Y. sharrows and sanction the Dept. of D.I.Y. to allow the community to paint more. Since the sharrows are merely drawing attention to a right bicyclists already have, LADOT can save time and money by letting the community decide where sharrows are needed. Granted, this proposal is probably straitjacketed in red tape.

  • Evan

    Like Herbie, I’d also like some more clarification on the dig against the UCLA sharrows, Damien. You didn’t voice any criticism against them in the post linked to. I have not had any negative experiences riding up Westwood Plaza using them. Now, about the dismount zone, which no one outside of UCLA seems to know about…

  • I left that part blank to see if someone else would fill in the blank for me. They seem awfully close to the curb, i.e. in the door zone. Design manuals for Sharrows, which of course don’t exist for Los Angeles, usually want the Sharrows to be 12 to 14 feet from the curb. No way is that Sharrow that far away.

    Dismount zone? Email me…

  • Evan

    Damien–there is no door zone, because there is no parking where the sharrows are on Westwood. And believe me–an illegally parked car would be dealt with with extreme prejudice by UCLA parking…anything for a ticket.

  • Erik G.

    I thought Westwood Blvd. north of LeConte is not inside the limits of the City of Los Angeles. Or at least the road corridors are not the jurisdiction of LADOT and LAPD?

  • Evan

    That is true. It is UC property.

  • Well that explains it, Sharrows are mostly used on streets with street parking to keep the bikes out of the door zone.

    I don’t think there’s anything that says they can’t be used (I’m checking) on streets without, but that’s what I was thinking when I took a shot at them above.

  • Erik G.

    Correct me if I am wrong but even in the safety seat/basket, doesn’t little Sammy need to have a helmet on his noggin in order to comply with the laws of the City and the County of Los Angeles and/or the State of California?

  • Dig the story. ‘Cept one part that reads like nails on a chalkboard to NELA-ites such as myself: “37th Street.”

    Numbered roads south of City Hall are called “Streets” as in 1st Street, 2nd Street… North of City Hall roads with numbered designation are called AVENUES, as in Avenue 35, Avenue 36 and AVENUE 37. (no “st,” “nd,” “rd,” or “th.”)

    For a second there I thought I was reading about riding around USC.

  • It looks rather clear that some of those sharrows are right in the door lane: better to have them centered or near the center of the lane to prevent vehicles from passing too closely. I would not depend on those and would ride in the center of the lane or if there’s another street with more than one lane in each direction that would be even better.


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