Debate on Main Street Road Diet Proposal Takes Unexpected Turn

To see their proposal, ## here.##
To see their proposal, ## here.##

After experiencing a community backlash over the Wilbur Avenue road diet and bike lanes project in the Valley, LADOT developed an improved outreach plan for a proposed road diet for Main Street in Venice.  The project would mirror the road configuration on Main Street in Santa Monica, and in the words of the LADOT would “complete” the street by providing seamless connectivity on Maon Street throughout the Westside.

But Venice isn’t the Valley.  Instead of fighting off locals concerned about the loss of street capacity, the LADOT is instead facing complaints from cyclists concerned that the configuration in Santa Monica isn’t all that great and Los Angeles shouldn’t replicate Santa Monica’s mistake.

Put briefly: the early debate is about how to give cyclists more space on the road to further slow down traffic, not how to justify taking away space from cars.

At Tuesday night’s meeting of the Venice Neighborhood Council, LADOT staff and the local representative to the Bicycle Advisory Committee, Kent Strumpell, presented a plan to take the four-lane Main Street and turn it into a two-lane street with a center-turn lane and two bicycle lanes.  The plan will go through the VNC Committee structure before coming back to the full council for a final vote of support.  Coverage of the meeting can be found at the popular news site Yo Venice! and the LADOT Bike Blog.

The main issue, that the parking lane is only seven feet large and the bike lane another five feet.  Thus, the majority of the bike lane, if not all of it, would be in the “door zone.”  For example, an SUV that is more than seven feet wide will be partially in the bike lane as almost no drivers park flush with the curb.  When you factor in the amount of space that could be taken up by an opening door, the entire lane would be taken up forcing the cyclist into the street.  Complicating matters, cyclists that were once allowed full use of the lane would now be required to ride within the bike lane, within the door zone.

So what can be done to fix the design issue?  After calling the lanes “substandard” Tuesday night, I talked to Alex Thompson of Bikeside yesterday.  The design solutions we discussed included bumping the bike lanes another foot away from the parking lane to give cyclists more space.  In a letter to the VNC, Gary Kavanagh, a Board Member for Santa Monica Spoke, recommended Sharrows and traffic calming over another door zone bike lane.

As for the LADOT’s position, staff stresses that the presentation given last night was the first step in the process and hasn’t ruled out the possibility of redesigning the plan for Main Street to give more safe, and a safer lane, to cyclists.  The early indications are that this time the LADOT is going to take heat for not giving cyclists enough space in the design.

In other words, the Main Street controversy has already become the anti-Wilbur

  • “Thus the majority of the bike lane, if not all of it, would be in the door zone.”

    The facts reveal just how much this statement obscures a complicated reality.

    The sharrows study in SF found that 85% of cars with their doors opened reached less than 9 feet and 6 inches from the curb.

    This means that a 7′ parking area + 5′ bike lane, which extends a total of 12′ from the curb, leaves a good 3’6” in which only 15% of vehicles’ doors could reach a bicyclist riding by.

    We can discuss and debate whether that is an appropriate risk to take, and this outreach period is the right time to do so. But we should keep the facts about dooring in mind. If you’re riding on the left side of a 7′ + 5′ bike lane, available data say that 15% of car doors can reach you.

    How far out would we have to put the bike lane to avoid ALL doors? John Allen surveyed door extents and found that at least five vehicles with open doors reach over 10′ from the curb. If one of these cars was parked a barely legal (in CA) 18 inches from the curb, its door could extend 14′ from the curb.

    There’s the rub: opening doors can extend as much as 14′ from the curb. Should we build all bike lanes with their right edge 14′ from the curb? (Would anything less be “substandard”?) If we aimed for that goal, it would make it a lot harder to build bike lanes. It would make the Main Street road diet very difficult. So there has to be some tradeoff somewhere in between.

    There is no evidence that putting a 7′ + 5′ bike lane in will make the street less safe than it is in the current configuration.* To the contrary, there are many studies that show increased ridership and safety correlates with more miles of bike lanes. None of these studies gets down to the nitty gritty of bicycle lane widths, though, so as we make this decision about how narrow is too narrow, keep in mind that we’re largely speculating about both the safety and ridership consequences of the different choices.

    *[A Long Aside: The difference between the two configurations is that we know of something concrete and specific, i.e. dooring, to fear in the 7’ + 5’ configuration, while in the no bike lane configuration, there is also lots to fear, and lots of safety problems, but most of those dangers are either complicated or unspecified. There’s a real psychological bias that causes humans to tend to shy away from specific threats they know how to prevent and be consequently more willing to engage in behaviors that have complicated dangers with complicated mechanisms. Ironically, it’s the same psychological bias that makes parents afraid of letting their kids walk and bike to school. On the one hand, they KNOW about kidnapping and they know how to prevent it. On the other hand, the risk of becoming obese because of Not walking and biking to school is vague and has a less direct mechanism, even though it is just as real, and far more likely than kidnapping. Many American parents even when confronted by well-meaning Safe Routes to School planners say that there is no sidewalk or bike lane that could make them change their choice to drive their kids to school because they are worried about crime. For a final irony, consider that this same psychological bias contributes to people’s perceptions of biking as unsafe, and their preference for driving everywhere (and consequently upping their risks for heart disease and obesity and depression).]

    for reference
    SF Sharrows study:

    Allen’s door extent data:

  • Charlie

    Bike lanes work! We have many 5′ bike lanes against 7′ parking lanes in the Boston area, and they all work very well. A study by the City of Cambridge showed that bicyclists actually ride further from parked cars with the bike lane than without the bike lane. When the only alternative is a shared lane (with or without sharrows), the bike lane is pretty much always the better option.

  • The bike community should not really hold out for the “perfect” bike lane at the expense of a “good” or even “great” bike lane. The last thing we need is for LADOT to give up on the road diet on Main. We can ask for a “perfect” solution but remain realistic here… Let us not take a page from the playbook of NIMBYs obstructing rail lines and insist on the “perfect” solution or else.

  • Eric B


    A few points:

    Not to nitpick, but your math is a bit off. 12′ – 9’6″ = 2’6″, not 3’6″

    The difference there is between riding on the white line and riding comfortably in the bike lane. If I’m riding on the line, then I am much closer to passing cars than I would be without the bike lane.

    That said, I am a fast, experienced rider and I know that the facilities that make me comfortable look very different than those that entice new riders onto their bikes. I do not expect bike lanes to be designed for me, but I do expect bike lanes to not make my riding more dangerous. Mode share and safer streets overall should be the stated goals for this project.

    A 15% dooring risk is fine at 12-15 mph when there is enough time to react. At 22-25 mph, the speed that I ride that street nearly every day, I will not take a 15% risk. There is no way that a driver can be expected to see me coming at that speed and no way I should rely on their looking. Bike lanes that mandate that I take that risk are unsafe.

    There are multiple bicycle user groups on that street. There are the transportation riders on cruisers and mountain bikes that would undoubtedly benefit from having a defined space for them to ride. I see beach cruisers there all the time tenuously hugging the parked cars despite the fact that they should be taking the lane. They are the primary intended users of the bike lane.

    However, that street is also the primary route between the Marina and the Santa Monica beach bike path for large group rides. It is not reasonable to expect that these riders would single up to ride in a door zone bike lane, nor should they. For these users, the LA section of Main Street is great because they can take the right lane, ride 2-3 abreast, and not interfere with passing cars. The minute the groups get to Santa Monica, there is engineered conflict because the bike lane does not accommodate the riders, but the motorists expect bikes to stay in the bike lane.

    I’m hoping that we can come up with some innovative way to serve both types of user groups in the new street design. Sharrows are great in some ways, but don’t quite entice new riders. Five-foot Bike lanes are good at recruiting new bicyclists, but poorly serve a large user group of this street. I’m really curious to see the results of Long Beach’s green sharrows pilot project. That is a facility that could be very relevant to the redesign of this street.

    My own gut reaction is that bike lanes should be designed for two riders to ride side-by-side out of the door zone. On a street with such high bicycle demand, even without facilities, we’ve got to find a way to serve all user groups.

  • Eric B

    Two more thoughts:

    My first reaction seeing the proposed cross section is that having 10′ vehicle lanes and 6′ bike lanes (rather than 11′ and 5′) solves most of the problem.

    My second thought was remembering that this is also the route of the 733 and 33 Metro buses. Is there any data on how well Metro can fit in a 10′ lane?

    The added benefit of 10′ lanes is that cars might actually feel like driving 25 mph in them.

  • @ Eric B. Agreed, agreed – on all points.

    I agree with regard to your point that 2’6” might put a rider on the white line around some vehicles, and that faster riders need to stay further to the left because the danger of dooring is more severe (and the time to react to an opening door is much shorter).

    I think your points emphasize the need for some legal changes to affirm cyclists’ right to ride outside of a bike lane whenever they deem it necessary. This would solve the points mentioned above, and it would also facilitate group rides.

    @ Eric B – also agreed on the issue of sharing with transit vehicles. It’s something important to consider. I’d like to see the specs on Metro bus widths. ADT on the street is another important factor. If it’s low enough, buses, cars and bikes have some wiggle room to ride over striped lines. If it’s high, we really do need to fit everything into its designated space at the same time. All of this highlights the importance of good engineering judgment, which in turn highlights the importance of having really competent, experienced bikeway engineers at LADOT (something I’m not confident we have now).

    PS i’m home sick which is facilitating rapid comment response :)

    I think what it comes down to is that good bike infrastructure (and good communities that support bicyclists) doesn’t need the legal requirements we currently have for bike lanes that require riders to use it. Build a good bike lane, and most riders will use it most of the time. No need for a law requiring them to be inside the lane and superceding riders’ judgment or the possibility of group rides and special situations.

  • Eric B


    Even if there were no legal requirement to use bike lanes, motorists would still have the expectation that bicyclists ride there. Sometimes (most of the time, really) it’s not about the law, but about the social norms and expectations. This is the problem with “substandard” bike lanes–they create an expectation that bicyclists can’t safely fulfill. Then bicyclists are blamed for not staying in their lane, being ungrateful for the (crappy) facilities they have, being arrogant jerks in general for riding in the “car” lanes, etc.

    A bad bike lane is a lose, lose situation.

    I should qualify this by saying that I really do love bike lanes. I love not feeling pressured to keep up with traffic and not worrying about whether each and every car coming up behind me will do the right thing. They are absolutely essential for allowing people to ride comfortably and not break a sweat on the way to their normal-people destinations. They take a lot of the guesswork out of the car-bike interaction. But if they’re done poorly, then they set terrible expectations for how cars and bikes should interact–and the bikes always lose that battle.

  • So let me get this straight. We’re debating over how wide a bike lane has to be in order to accommodate massive SUVs?

    Call me crazy, but anyone foolish enough to waste their money on a Hummer, Expedition or Escalade should have no expectation that we’re going to redesign the world to make room for them.

    The solution isn’t to kill a good project designed to slow traffic and make the street more livable, it’s to ban oversized SUVs from parking there. Paint a white line on the left side of the parking lane, and ticket or tow any parked vehicle that crosses it.

    Instead of placing responsibility for avoiding dooring on cyclists or the on road design, let’s put it back where it belongs — on the drivers who are legally required to make sure the way is clear before opening their doors. Put up signage instructing motorists to watch for bikes, ticket any driver who opens his or her door when it’s not safe, and arrest anyone who causes injury with his door.

    And while we’re at it, let’s change state law to give cyclists the same level of liability protection that pedestrians enjoy in a crosswalk. The mere existence of a bike lane should imply the presence of bikes, and drivers should be held 100% responsible for any collisions that occur with a cyclist using one in a safe and legal manner.

    Honestly, this entire debate isn’t whether we need 12″ or 13″ to accommodate bikes, it’s whether we need that much space to accommodate the most wasteful, dangerous and inefficient private vehicles on the road. And that’s just crap.

  • I suggest that folks get on a bike and ride Main Street today. There are two distinct sections: Santa Monica and L.A. – you can spot the city boundary because it’s where the street goes from bike-friendly to bike-inhospitable. I don’t do it every day, but I think it’s night and day. The road diet bike lane is way better.

    Road diets make streets safer – don’t take my word for it – the federal highway study shows it reduces crashes for everyone – folks in cars, on bikes and on foot:

    I suspect that the design can be improved by a foot here and there – generally it may work to take away a foot from the center turn lane and create 7.5-feet for parking next to a 5-foot bike lane… but even the DOT’s proposed 7/5 is better – safer, more bike-friendly, more neighborhood-friendly, easier for parking, better for business, better for peds – than what’s out there today!

    @Eric B – What does this mean:
    “A bad bike lane is a lose, lose situation”
    The way I see it, a no-bike-lane, cars-uber-alles-sewer is a lose-lose situation – and that’s what we’ve got today. I think (and studies show) that a so-called “bad bike lane” (your words – a creature I’ve yet to encounter in my travels) is better than what’s out there today. The Cambridge study shows that bike lanes, including ones next to parked cars, result in safer positioning for both cars and cyclists. See

    Here’s the way I see it: with bike lanes next to parking, some beginner cyclists will sometimes ride in the door zone – yes. With no bike lanes, those same beginner cyclists will: a) not ride at all (likely driving, likely less physical activity than bicycling, hence long-term illness), b) ride in the sidewalk, or c) ride in the door zone – all these behaviors are dangerous. The road diet bike lane is better than what we have today.

    Let’s discuss the allocation of space, down to the foot… let’s critique the public process… but please, let’s not give the LADOT an excuse to do nothing. I can hear them saying “We tried a road diet on Wilbur and on Main and it didn’t work… we just don’t do road diets any more… and could you please print some more of those peak-hour parking restriction signs, so we can cram in another peak hour car lane on that street…”

  • Joe Borfo

    “Sharrows and traffic calming over another door zone bike lane.”

    YES! x 1,000

  • Don Ward

    Bike lanes are better than not here is why:

    Every experienced cyclist that I know chooses to ride 4-5 feet from parked cars whether or not there is a bike lane myself included. If there is a bike lane, experienced cyclists ride on the left line or close to it. I do this or ride outside the lane on Sunset blvd daily when the bike lane is simply not wide enough. Car drivers seem to understand and respect this especially on stretches where my speed matches that of traffic.

    Every INEXPERIENCED bike rider I know rides much slower and well within the door zone, bike lane or not. In this sense bike lanes make no difference with regards to riders in the door zone, because with or without the bike lanes it was going to happen anyway. But at least one of the major inexperienced cyclist issues solved WITH a bike lane is that you won’t have the weaving riding style with those who wiggle in and out of empty parking spaces when available because the beginner cyclist understands that the right line of the bike lane is their boundary and they tend to stay in that boundary which I argue is a net gain in safety.

    What does have potential to change is the attitude of the drivers when they see paint on the streets. Firstly in taking more caution when opening their doors, knowing from the paint on the ground that cyclists are welcomed on that street specifically. And perhaps more importantly by drivers giving the beginning cyclists their due space as those drivers zoom past on the left side.

    Bike lanes are a net win for both experienced and inexperienced cyclists.

    PS are you all sure that it is required by law to ride in bike lanes when they are present? I seem to recall that if the cyclist is traveling at speed of traffic they are not required to be in the bike lane. With a road diet in place it is very likely that experienced cyclists would be traveling at speed through that area.

    Lastly, I would like to know if studies have been done with drunk drivers re bike lanes. My theory would be that a drunk person would be more likely to observe lines on the street which could certainly help a bit protect a rider in the bike lane.

  • Looks like a math error on slide 2 of the LADOT’s presentation:
    see,2,Slide 2 – linked above under the image

    The slide shows current configuration as:
    “7 + 11 + 11 + 11 + 11 + 7” = “56” … but when I add it up I get 58

    If we really have 58 feet, then there’s room to do something like:
    7.5 / 5.5 / 11 / 10 / 11 / 5.5 / 7.5

    Looks like we cyclists need to go out and measure.

  • Don Ward

    sadly After 6-8 months of riding the sharrows on reseda, lake, fountain, 4th st westwood and others… I’m not convinced that they are an adequate replacement for bike lanes. So far, the ones on reseda are placed in the tire treads of cars and have blackened to obscurity. The ones on Fountain and 4th are thicker and easier to see but still not clearly pronounced. bike lanes are much more pronounced to drivers.

    I still support sharrows because I support simply having more of everything to notify drivers that bikes are a normal part of the traffic grid, but bike lanes with a good healthy width are better IMHO.

  • Eric B


    I love bike lanes. What I don’t love are bike lanes that don’t support proper positioning. Per Ted’s comments, the real battle should be over how much space the cars get on the street. Given a constrained situation, my personal preference is for sharrows that reinforce good position over bike lanes that guide bikes into a dangerous place.

    But my larger point was to bring up the fact that there are multiple bicycling publics that use this street. The Santa Monica section is far from perfect, so let’s take it as inspiration and then do it better. Engineers generally use some kind of “design vehicle” to make decisions about the layout. For this street, with already high bicycle use, the “design vehicle” needs to be two bicyclists riding side-by-side. If that is the goal, then this whole door zone thing becomes a moot point.

    This project is well overdue, but that doesn’t mean we have to settle for design standards that don’t actually reflect how the street is used.

    As far as bad bike lanes, I refer you to Venice Blvd, particularly in front of Culver Center (at Overland). The door zone from the completely unnecessary street parking extends through the bike lane and into the traffic lane. If we can’t get even our most prestigious bike lanes right, then something is seriously wrong with our priorities.

  • @Joe Borfo (and Gary Kavanaugh as mentioned in the article) regarding “Sharrows and traffic calming” vs. road diet bike lanes.

    Cost of bicycle lane (engineering + thermoplastic paint)
    = ~$20,000 / mile
    time horizon: ready to tomorrow

    Cost of traffic calming (engineering + concrete curb work – assume bulbouts? if that’s not what you’re thinking, then please tell us what you have in mind)
    = ~$1M+ / mile
    time horizon: assuming city applies for Metro Call for Projects funds this month, probably 2015 at the earliest

    So… I think you’re comparing apples and oranges. Two orders of magnitude different. Traffic calming is great – I love it – and we’ve pushed for it on my street in 2001 and we got it installed in 2008 – a million dollars and seven years later – and it’s good, really good… but please don’t sacrifice a huge step in the right direction today for a vague step that may or may not get approved/funded/implemented some time in the indefinite future.

    The great thing about bike lanes and road diets is that they’re really really cheap. We could do all the lanes in the current bike plan (~200 miles) for less than the cost of a couple traffic calming projects… and, in the long run, we should do both! They’re not mutually exclusive – we can do lanes today, and traffic calming when the political will and the funding have been approved for it. And I expect that the road diet bike lanes will help us generate the additional cyclists and pedestrians that will get us toward the political will for additional traffic calming.

  • Joe Borfo

    I’m all for bike lanes that are done right. However, I don’t see why sharrows have to get thrown out the window when they work well in other cities like SF and PDX. Along with proper signs and infrastructure, sharrows seem more cost effective than lanes. No need to disregard them. But if LANES are the focus here, then fine – Let’s get them done right.

  • Don Ward

    I second Joe Linton.

  • Joe Borfo


    I see. I guess the numbers speak for themselves.

    As far as “traffic calming” goes, it does seem like a monetary issue. But a sharrow stencil placed well on the right lane? That seems pretty simple to me. And I’m still in favor of them over lanes. Just a preference. I honestly don’t get a chance to experience riding them, so my opinion may be flawed. It is just an ideal that I lean towards.

  • @Joe Borfo “I don’t see why sharrows have to get thrown out the window when they work well in other cities like SF and PDX. Along with proper signs and infrastructure, sharrows seem more cost effective than lanes.”

    Sharrows are one tool – and they’re slightly cheaper than bike lanes, but more or less the same cost. The are emphatically not as effective as a road diet, though! See the Federal Highway Study!

    There’s a good exchange on this over at Gary Rides Bikes – they’ve been more effective where speeds are lower due to other road design cues (for example: Long Beach’s green stripe, Hermosa Beach signage, etc.) and less effective where plopped down on relatively high-speed multi-lane streets with no other supporting design cues to reduce speed (for example: Adams, Reseda – both in L.A.)… but then again further interventions, even signs, drives up the cost…

    I heard that San Francisco bike advocates were very frustrated that, as soon as sharrows were approved for use on SF streets, their DOT began to downgrade streets from bike lanes to sharrows. Advocates were very frustrated when the pro-car engineers dropped in sharrows, instead of actually making space on the street for bike lanes. They fought back – for bike lanes, not sharrows.

  • Joe wrote:

    If we really have 58 feet, then there’s room to do something like:
    7.5 / 5.5 / 11 / 10 / 11 / 5.5 / 7.5

    It could be even better.

    8 / 6 / 10 / 10 / 10 / 6 / 8

    No door zone problem there at all.

    From what I understand, all bus’s in the country are the same width. Many cities with buses use 10′ lanes. Boston recently applied for a waiver for a 9.5′ lane on a very busy bus route and got it.

  • I’m for getting as many people bicycling on the streets as possible and sharrows are far inferior to a bike lane for doing that. The number one reason for most people not bicycling on a street is the fear of moving vehicles and placing them in front of the much faster moving vehicles, which sharrows placement often recommends, is going to convert very few people to cycling on the street. Bike lanes place the cyclist to the side of moving cars, which is more comfortable for most people riding on the street. There tends to be much less honking and yelling at bicyclists from moving vehicles on busy streets when they ride between parked cars and the travel lane as opposed to in front of the moving vehicles.

    I was a bike rider participant in the LADOT sharrows pilot study on all six streets around Los Angeles and I would have to conclude that the irritation, by either driver or passenger, seems to rise as the average speed of the vehicles increased. That’s one of the reasons I would not recommend sharrows use on any arterial street in the San Fernando Valley placed at 12 feet or more from the curb, as the average vehicle speed there is routinely at 40+ miles an hour. The yelling or yonking by motorists or passengers towards us on Reseda Blvd may have been greater there than at any of the other locations. I was even followed by a policeman in a car during the study who told me twice thronugh his rooftop intercom to “get in the bike lane” which didn’t exist.

    Another reason I would not recommend sharrows on streets with fast moving vehicles is that perhaps one or two out of 100 experienced cyclists would be brave or fool hardy enough to even use them. If few people use it, and it doesn’t encourage more cycling, than what is the point of it?

    I very rarely see someone bicycling in front of cars in the San Fernando Valley and on Reseda Blvd sidewalk riding predominates by a factor of about three to one. Contrast that to Abbot-Kinney in Venice where during my 12 hours or so of sharrows study participations I didn’t notice anyone riding a bicycle on the side walk and I saw several people skateboarding down the street which I don’t ever recall seeing in the San Fernando Valley.

    Another advantage that a bike lane has over sharrows is that a motorist can easily see a continous line on their right which indicates where their car should be placed. Sharrow markings, on the other hand, can be up to 250 feet apart and are much more difficult to dicifer than a continuous stripe and as a cyclist you are at the mercy of the car drivers gas and brake pedal choices or miscues.

  • Joe Borfo

    ““get in the bike lane” which didn’t exist.”

    Because that’s where we bike riders belong… hmmmph.

  • Joe Borfo

    ““get in the bike lane” which didn’t exist.”

    Because that’s where we bike riders belong… hmmmph.

  • As usual, Don is right. As per CVC 21208:

    21208. (a) Whenever a bicycle lane has been established on a roadway pursuant to Section 21207, any person operating a bicycle upon the roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride within the bicycle lane, except that the person may move out of the lane under any of the following situations:

    (1) When overtaking and passing another bicycle, vehicle, or pedestrian within the lane or about to enter the lane if the overtaking and passing cannot be done safely within the lane.

    (2) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.

    (3) When reasonably necessary to leave the bicycle lane to avoid debris or other hazardous conditions.

    (4) When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.

    (b) No person operating a bicycle shall leave a bicycle lane until the movement can be made with reasonable safety and then only after giving an appropriate signal in the manner provided in Chapter 6 (commencing with Section 22100) in the event that any vehicle may be affected by the movement.

    There are enough loopholes in there to drive a truck through. Or a bakfiets.

  • Don W

    thanks for confirming my suspicions Ted…

  • Joe Borfo

    Let’s follow in their pedal strokes:

  • Eric B

    Agreed with Dennis on all points.

    I very much understand the weaknesses of sharrows. Now can we have a good discussion about the weaknesses of (narrow) bike lanes? I love bike lanes and I think that ultimately they are the right direction to go on Main Street. My critique of the proposed bike lanes isn’t that we shouldn’t do them–it’s that we should learn from current applications to improve future implementations.

    In my mind bike lanes do two things:
    1) They communicate to bicyclists that this is a safe, welcoming place to ride.
    2) They communicate to motorists that this is a place (in the bike lane) where bicyclists are expected to ride.

    If a bike lane is not clear from the door zone, it does not do either. Instead, it tells motorists that bikes will stay out of their way without actually providing a safe place for bikes to ride. That is a problem. It comes down to a matter of real estate, which is why I nitpicked Herbie’s math. If you could give me 3’6″ outside the door zone I’d be in heaven.

    Ted and Don, I know you’re right about the CVC–that also wasn’t the issue. It doesn’t matter what the code says–it matters what drivers think the code says. If I am legally riding in the traffic lane at 25 in a 25 mph zone and a driver comes up behind me honking wanting to drive 30, the CVC doesn’t make it a comfortable situation for either of us. When was the last time that reciting the CVC got a reaction other than F&#* You?

    I am also not arguing that Main Street is good the way it is–it most certainly is not. What I’m looking for is a way to make the street bike-friendly without exposing bicyclists to undue risk.

    I previously mentioned that maybe Long Beach’s green sharrow pilot could be relevant here. No one picked up on that.

    Another thought is that I rarely if ever see cars turning left from Main onto other streets or driveways simply because there aren’t too many places to turn in to. What if we took out the middle turn lane and used that real estate for wider, buffered bike lanes? Where a turn lane might be useful, we can remove the two or three parking spaces on each side of the street to make it fit. That’s fairly standard practice elsewhere in the City, just not necessarily for the purpose of fitting bike lanes.

    This isn’t about bike lane or no bike lane. As the community reaction showed, it’s about providing more than just a cookie-cutter narrow bike lane where more is needed.

    I tried to identify the various user groups and ask for solutions, but it seems the response was that we should be happy with any bike lane LADOT bestows upon us. I never thought I’d disagree with Joe on anything bike-related. Where did I go wrong?

  • @ Eric – buffered bike lanes or green Sharrows are great pieces of bike infrastructure. If we want them, however, we’ll first have to wait until the new Bike Plan is adopted. Both are listed as “non-standard treatments” in the new plan’s Technical Design Handbook. Having a plan with the infrastructure in it’s handbook is the first step towards getting a pilot project approved. Second, we’d need to apply to both the CTCDC (state) and the FCUTCD (federal) for approval of a pilot project. I’m not sure how long that application process would take.

    Then, there’s location. We can’t plop down pilot projects willy-nilly. We need to carefully choose the best possible location for the pilot to make sure it is as successful as possible – it would really suck to put a pilot in the wrong place and have it fail. Pilot projects are typically single pieces of infrastructure. Take Long Beach: they have 1 Green Sharrow project (on 2nd Street), 1 Bike boulevard project (on Vista Street), 1 separated bike lane project (as a couplet on Broadway & 3rd Street). We need to think about where our pilot projects can have the greatest impact and the greatest chance at influencing the CTCDC to add that treatment to the CA MUTCD the next time they meet.

    In the mean-time, we’ve got a bike lane project on Main Street. I’m hopeful that LADOT, working with the Venice NC, Council member Rosendahl’s office, and the bicycle community, can come to an agreement that’s mutually acceptable and beneficial.

  • Eric B

    Let me clarify: All I want is a bike lane that’s actually wide enough to ride in. That requires more space between me and the parked cars and a wider bike lane in general.

    I misspoke by using any crazy language such as “buffer”.

  • Don W

    bike lanes that are too wide present problems with car drivers who choose to drive in them to pass slower vehicles. This is a problem with the very roomy wilbur bike lanes… Needs LAPD enforcement or perhaps rumble strips in the parking lane…

  • Eric B

    Yes, which is what the “buffering” is for.

    The streetview has the before, while the aerial has the after:,+ca&aq=0&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=37.052328,73.916016&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Dana+Point,+Orange,+California&ll=33.482222,-117.721859&spn=0.00027,0.001128&t=k&z=20&layer=c&cbll=33.482222,-117.721859&panoid=j7xoPdMETQnapBF026Jl5w&cbp=11,292.83,,0,18.59

    LADOT is offering 5′ I’m asking for 6′ or 7′. All of these are narrower than a car.

    This can also be solved by painting the right stripe of the bike lane farther from the curb to guide cyclists away from the door zone and make the bike lane obviously narrower than a car lane.

    None of these things violate the CAMUTCD. It just takes a little bit of inspiration.

  • Eric B

    Hashing can also be used to the right of a bike lane:,+Agoura+Hills,+CA&aq=0&sll=33.482222,-117.721859&sspn=0.000601,0.001128&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Agoura+Rd,+Agoura+Hills,+California&ll=34.14089,-118.742386&spn=0.000268,0.001128&t=k&z=20&layer=c&cbll=34.140891,-118.742386&panoid=QXi39D0QMD5CGeJY5Cp9JA&cbp=11,111.76,,0,5

    You’d at least eliminate the accidental bike lane driving. And aggro, idiot drivers will do stupid things–it doesn’t mean we should design all our roads around them.

  • Don W

    I like the idea of taking the bike lane narrower and away from the door zone and keeping the bike lane at about 4-5’…. with 6 or 7 feet a car can actually fit in those widths from the driver’s POV a 6 or 7 ft bike lane looks wide enough even if the foot print of the car is a foot or so too wide. I know the budget wouldnt provide for it but big chunky rumble strips on the right edge of the bike lane would seem like a decent solve…

  • Don W

    hashing is a good visual that works for most drivers but it’s not helping on Wilbur with the extremists. Bike lanes there are about 5-6 feet with sparse parked cars…. some people just zoom on through.

    great examples from google BTW Eric.

  • Eric B

    The issue with rumble strips is that it creates a hazard for the regular groups of 20-60 cyclists that go through there on the weekend (and some weekdays). I’m not expecting them (us) to stay in any bike lane, but a rumble strip would be unsafe. The pavement is bad enough already.

    I just wanted to point out that there is more out there, even staying within the straightjacket of the CAMUTCD. Skilled transportation engineers can generally find the wiggle room to get away with a good idea.

  • Eric B

    Also, the only part of Long Beach’s sharrows that is a pilot is the green paint. LA so far hasn’t deployed any of the “Bikes may use full lane” signs that are used throughout SF and locally on Hermosa Ave. That sign is seemingly more powerful than any sharrow and follows the CAMUTCD.

  • Don W

    Maybe I’m not totally following you but I was suggesting rumble strips for the parking lane… if you have a group of 20-60 cyclists going through they should be taking the full travel lane plus the bike lane but not veer into the parking lane…

  • I agree with Don – once the bike lane gets wide, drivers will use it – pull into it mid-block when they’re turning right, when the cars back up in the through lane.

    This happened to me once when traffic was backed up on Silver Lake, a frustrated driver abruptly got out of the gridlock lane and shot into the bike – in a hurry – about 20′ in front of me. The car accellerated quickly then took a fast right turn onto a residential street…. scared me… thinking that had there been a bicyclist in that lane (me if I had different timing) the car would’ve rear-ended the cyclist.

    Seems like if we do 7′ lanes it’s an invitation for cars to pull into them. I think a 5′ lane is good, a 6′ lane works too.

  • Eric B

    @Don, I missed that you were talking about the parking lane. That would be an innovative solution. I like it.

    @Joe, you’re right about 7′ given that that is the width of the parking lane. 5′ is great, as long as it’s not next to a 7′ parking lane. If it’s next to an 8′ parking lane, then there’s likely no problem. 6′ is probably the widest we could go without some kind of hashing of the extra space.

    One way to think about it is that I would not share a lane that is less than 14′ wide. That leaves enough room for me to ride 3′ away from most cars. Therefore, no bike lane + parking combination should be less than 14′ in total. 6’+8′, 6.5’+7.5′, it doesn’t matter. Just not 5’+7′.

    All boils down to real estate.

  • Eric B

    Also, @Chris/Bike Blog:

    What is the timing on the Main Street lanes? Won’t the Bike Plan be through Council before anything can happen?

    I don’t think we should wait, but I thought the timing would work out anyway.

  • @ Eric – The timing is still up in the air for Main Street, as is the scheduling of TCommittee/PLUM hearings and full council hearings for the bike plan. I’d say it’s a toss-up for which goes through first.

    That’d only be the first step for pilot projects, then we’d have to go into application mode.

  • Don Ward

    @Eric I can’t take credit for that idea. A man by the name of Paul Kirk originally proposed it to solve the Wilbur scofflaw driver issue.

  • I think Eric B has the best suggestion. Make the travel lanes 10′ and the bike lane 6′.

  • I think Eric B has the best solution. Make the travel lanes 10′ and the bike lanes 6′.

  • I think we have an open-and-shut case for doing this road diet, and I will summarize some of the comments that have been made here in order to lay out that case.

    (Thanks Joe, Ryan and Ted Rogers for reminding me there are some major facts I left out of my original “consider the facts” comment. That comment started with the point that):

    1. So-called “door zone” bike lanes are in fact out of the reach of many car doors. 85% of open door extents are within than 9’6” from the curb. The frequency with which car doors open into bicyclists depends on lots of factors we can mitigate, like bicyclist and driver education. Cue Ted and Roadblock: bicyclists can ride outside the bike lane whenever they choose to, including when they see a driver leaning for the door handle.

    Now I want to add two more important facts that have already been raised by Joe and Ryan:

    2. Road diets reduce crashes and make the road safer for ALL users. They receive one of the highest scores on the California Highway Safety Improvement Program (Cal-HSIP) project ranking tool. The HSIP funds go to all kinds of old-school highway safety projects, and even they recognize how awesome road diets are for safety.

    3. There is no measurable safety difference between a 10′ travel lane and an 11′ travel lane. None. The research that failed to find any difference included all kinds of urban and suburban roads, including roads with buses and trucks on them.*

    So the City of LA’s minimum lane width of 11′ on a road with a bus on it really makes no sense. In response to these facts, let’s

    1. Keep building bike lanes next to on-street parking, as long as there’s room to ride 10′ from the curb
    2. Do road diets all over the city, starting with this one, and
    3. Reject the 11′ minimum in favor of a 6′ bike lane.

    Case closed.

    *Ingred B. Potts, Harwood, D. Richard, K. “Relationship of Lane Width to Safety for Urban and Suburban Arterials”, Transportation Research Board, 2007, Annual Meeting. I also recommend googling “the influence of lane widths on safety and capacity” to find some helpful summarizing work by Sprinkle Consulting.

  • Clutch J

    >Eric B has the best suggestion. Make the travel lanes 10′ and the bike lane 6′.

    You can say that again, Oh, you did!

    I REALLY appreciate everyone’s display of decorum during this thread.

    Sacramento has some 6-foot bike lanes on fairly busy streets, and nobody drives in them.

  • Yuri

    I also prefer bike lanes over sharrows for the reasons cited previously. I think they are especially useful as a visual signal to motor vehicles that bicycles belong there too. Sharrows don’t have the same visual impact.

    I’ve ridden the sharrows in Hermosa Beach and I like how they place you in the correct location on the street. I’m a relatively experienced rider and I’ll admit it feels strange to be so far from the parking zone. The signage saying that bikes can take the full lane helps but I think this configuration works best if there is a passing lane available and the speed limit is low, less than 25 mph. Most inexperienced riders will not feel comfortable taking the full lane if there are motor vehicles behind them and the speed limit is high.

    By the way, I ride the bike lanes on Venice Bl alot and the intersection @EricB mentions at Overland where the bike lane disappears into the turning lane is a problematic one. I think this would be a great location for a colored bike box in the travel lane so you have a space available to wait for the light.

  • Dan Gutierrez

    Minimum bike lane standards for roads with on-street parking are woefully inadequate.  This is best shown with scale diagrams and images of actual street confgurations rather than words, so consider these images from the material we use to train Caltrans and City transportation professionals in the “Understadning Bicycle Transportation course we developed for Caltrans and have been delivering at all the districts throughout California:
     (starting with slide 42)

  • Dan Gutierrez

    Here’s what we consider to be a bare minimum for a bike lane on a road with on-street parking:


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