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L.A.’s Bike Lanes, Not Just for Bikes!

10:06 AM PDT on October 19, 2011

Bike Lanes are one of the most misunderstood elements of bikeways engineering, responsible for much confusion as they lie nestled peacefully between the noisy travel lane to the left and the quiet but dangerous door zone to the right.

Some folks see that empty real estate and, in spite of the fact that they lack a bicycle, they figure “Why not? I’ll just use if for a few minutes, nobody will mind!”

Sunset Blvd. is home to a 5’ Bike Lane that is next to a 7’ parking stall, just enough room for these two LAPD officers who needed to go shopping at the Surplus Store in Silver Lake.

They might be forgiven the CVC 22502 violation (park within 18 inches of the right-hand curb) and the CVC 22514 violation (don’t block fire hydrants) and even the poorly written CVC 21211 which forbids Bikeway parking that impedes cyclists, but only if they can convince their supervisors that investigating a sale on Dickies qualifies as official business.

The American Automobile Association has been around since 1902 and they are highly regarded for their roadside service and their courteous drivers.

The AAA driver parked in the Bike Lane above is probably making a quick call to Sacramento, thanking Governor Brown for vetoing SB 910, the legislation which would mandate a minimum three foot distance for motorists passing cyclists when the speed is greater than 15 MPH.

L.A.'s Department of Water & Power has a bit of a reputation for operating according to their own “We are the Roman Army!” interpretation of the law but in this case, the law is on their side. The CVC 21211 prohibition on blocking bikeways facilities “does not apply to drivers or owners of utility or public utility vehicles, as provided in Section 22512.”

Well, almost. These DWP employees failed to put out the required warning devices so that late night cyclists heading west on Sunset wouldn't come around the curve to find this truck blocking the Bike Lane. They also weren’t parked at a work site, as required by CVC 22512, instead simply impeding traffic while contributing to the local economy by consuming donuts at the adjacent 7-Eleven store.

Big trucks have a hard time fitting into the traditional 8’ parking stalls that are common in Los Angeles and they have an even tougher time on Sunset Blvd where the parking stalls are only 7’ wide.

The operators of these trucks have parked their trucks in violation of CVC 21211 which prohibits impeding cyclists in a bikeway but they are also demonstrating a violation of the rarely invoked LAMC 88.03 which specifies that vehicles must fit “completely within the confines or limits” of the parking space.

Even if the operator of a commercial vehicle were to find a street with parking wide enough to accommodate it, LAMC 80.69.1 prohibits trailer or semitrailer from parking in public place otherwise ordinarily used for vehicular parking. That 8’6” wide trailer simply does not belong!

The proper way to park these large trucks while they are “working” is to engage in “lane closure” and to use warning devices and traffic control to ensure that cyclists, motorists and pedestrians are all accommodated safely.

In some cases, a truck driver’s business will only take a minute or two, but that’s all it takes on a busy street such as Sunset to cause a conflict that can result in a collision. Yet the work needs to get done.

One would think that a city that has been around for more than a couple of centuries would have figured out how to accommodate the delivery of packages and the collection of trash without putting cyclists at risk.

But that would be a mistake.

Even on a big wide street such as Venice Blvd., the City of Los Angeles can’t figure out how to accommodate trash cans and cyclists at the same time, so it resorts to the strategy that has worked for so many decades, it ignores the cyclists.

Over the years, the LADOT has rejected requests to address the situation, arguing that the LADOT can’t cite the owners of the trash cans, after all they have no Vehicle Identification Number! Street Services could respond but they take 24 hours to respond and if they confiscate the trash can, the resident simply requests a new one from Sanitation and they are rewarded with a new can to replace the old can.

The bureaucratic pontificating by the LADOT, Street Services, Sanitation, the LAPD and anyone else with a piece of the street has failed to improve the situation in the least. Their collective incompetence has failed to even result in reflective markings on the dark cans so that cyclists are less likely to hit them in the dark.

Through it all, the Mayor promises 40 miles of Bikeway improvements each year for the next 5 years, a promise that means nothing if it isn’t complemented by a Mayoral Directive to the LAPD, the DWP, the LADOT, Street Services, Sanitation, and anyone else from the City Family that operates vehicles on the streets, instructing them to stay out of the Bike Lanes unless they’re on a bike.

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