Add a Green Buffered Bike Lane and Number of Cyclists Explode

Spring Street. Photo: ## Linton/Eco-Village##

Yesterday, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition released “2011 City of Los Angeles Bicycle & Pedestrian Count Report” and a separate study on bicycling on Spring Street in the Green Buffered Bike Lane.  The result?  Cycling in the city is on the upswing, as positive press, CicLAvia and new infrastructure are encouraging more people to embrace two-wheeled travel.

The stats from Spring Street, via ##

Nowhere is this more true than Spring Street.  Bike counts taken before and after the creation of the city’s first green lane and first buffered bike lane, show a 52% increase in cyclists on Spring Street.  This included a mammoth 250% increase in cyclists on weekends and a 161% increase in female riders.

“The 2011 City of LA count and our recent bike counts on Spring Street really speaks to the effectiveness and need for bicycle infrastructure,” adds Alexis Lantz, Policy and Program Director for the LACBCA.  “Additionally the huge increase in women cycling on Spring Street, 161% overall, demonstrates the power of buffered bicycle lanes for attracting a broader range of people to bicycle for transportation.”

LACBC conducted baseline counts on Tuesday, November 1st and Saturday, November 5th. The Tuesday counts were conducted from 7:00 A.M. to 9:00 A.M., 11:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M., and 4:00 to 6:00 P.M. The Saturday count was conducted from 11:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. The after counts were conducted on Tuesday, April 24th  and Saturday, May 28th at the same times as the before counts.

“So glad to see people who bike in Downtown L.A. embracing the new lane,” exclaims Valerie Watson, the Chair of the Downtown Neighborhood Council’s Parks, Recreation and Open Space Committee.  “(we’re) thankful to LACBC for offering this invaluable data that allows us to see these trends and apply this knowledge to future Downtown Bike Network planning.”

The survey brought mixed results on the impact of the lane on sidewalk riding. The number of bicyclists who used the sidewalk declined 10% after the bike lane was painted but rose 117% during the weekend.

“Issues with sidewalk and wrong-way riding remain, and are a constant complaint from residents and business owners DTLA,” explains Watson.  “But with the coming installation of the Main Street buffered bike lane from 9th to Cesar Chavez, completing the north/south couplet with Spring, we hope to see a decrease in this kind of behavior that typifies an incomplete network.”

In short, Watson argues that readers shouldn’t judge the impact of new bike infrastructure on sidewalk riding until after there are more connecting buffered lanes.  Cyclists uncomfortable mixing with traffic are unlikely to merge on and off the sidewalk, even when the green lane is present.

From their city-wide study, the LACBC sees a connection between bike infrastructure and bike ridership.  As the city paints new bike lanes and Sharrows in the first year of the implementation of the new Bike Plan, volunteers counted a 32% increase in cyclists over previous years in the count locations.  Despite the sharp increase of female riders on Spring Street, the LACBC study did not find an increase in women cyclists city-wide.  Roughly one in every five cyclists counted were women.  This evidence supports national research showing that separated bicycle infrastructure has greater success encouraging new female riders than traditional infrastructure.

“Collecting data on cycling through the biennial citywide count and the before and after counts on Spring Street will help the city begin to quantify their investments” continues Lantz.  “We hope LADOT will use this data to seek funds to implement more miles of bicycle lanes, boulevards, and paths as well as implement more innovative treatments like buffered bicycle lanes and cycle tracks.”

Of course, all of this evidence is just a snapshot of bicycling in Los Angeles.  LACBC encourages the city to be more proactive in doing its own bike counts year round instead of relying on data gathered whenever LACBC can muster the volunteers.  In addition to encouraging the city to increase the investment in bike lanes, bike paths and separated or buffered infrastructure, the Bike Coalition also wants the city to invest more time and funding in bicycle and pedestrian counts to track the impact of road changes and inform transportation planning decisions.

You can read LACBC’s blog for more on the report, or just read the report itself here.



  • Anonymous

    Old habits are hard to lose. Many people have felt forced to ride on the sidewalk for so many decades that they’re just used to it. Also, if the bike lane was more physically protected, it would help a lot.

  • Anonymous


  • Re: the dates of the after counts. May 28th hasn’t happened yet (today being only May 11th). Perhaps it was April 28th?

  • Dennis Hindman

    There is one mistake in the 2011 bicycle count that must be noted. On page 24, figure 8 shows that the intersection of the Orange Line path and Woodman Ave had a increase of 135% in cyclists from the 2009 survey count to the 2011 count. This was achieved after a one mile bike lane was installed towards the end of February of 2011 on Woodman Ave that connects to the Orange Line bike path on Oxnard St. to Vanowen St.

    So, of the 17 intersection bicycle counts on figure 8, only three of them had bike lanes installed between the 2009 and 2011 bike counts and those are the intersections with by far the largest jumps in the cycling rate. These are 7thAlvarado, WoodmanOrangeLine and YorkAve50.

    This means that table 43 should not include WoodmanOrangeLine counts and table 44 should include this intersection. Also, table 45 should not have the WoodmanOrangeLine counts included.

    I’ sent a e-mail to LACBC last night about these errors.

  • Alexis

    Hey Michele – thanks for catching up. Made the change on the LACBC site – my mind is on May since it’s bike month ;)

  • Alexis

    Dennis thanks for your comments and catching our mistakes. We’ll update the report!

  • It would be good to have more than one day of bicycle counts.  I would guess that if it looks likely to rain, the counts will be depressed.  Fortunately, this year November was relatively sunny and April was relatively rainy, so it may not have interfered, but I’d be more comfortable accepting the counts at face value if we had weather information for the specific days involved.  Or better yet, if the counts were done several times before and several times after, to average out across weather (though I understand that definitely takes far more work and expense).

  • Anonymous

    Regarding the findings from Spring Street, did LACBC also conduct before-and-after counts of bicyclists on parallel routes, to see if the increased counts on Spring Street represent an increase in bicycling (i.e., bicycle trips) rather than merely a concentration of trips from parallel routes without special treatments?

    Without the answer to this question, it’s difficult to take the claims seriously.

  • John Brooking

    How wide is that lane? It looks really close to parked cars. I’d rather have the buffer on the parking side than the travel side. In fact, if I were traveling there, I’d travel in the buffer, out of the door zone. At least if you’re doored, you may be just thrown into the buffer space rather than the travel lane. But it’s much better just to not ride in the door zone at all. Bike lanes should not be striped in door zones.

  • Did the bike-counting methodology control for season, weather, or a myriad of other factors on the two “before” (November 1 & 5) and “after” (April 24 and May 28) dates?  Even if temperature and precipitation were comparable on all four dates, there certainly were many more hours of daylight for the “after” counts.  By also conducting “before” and after” counts on a second, unaltered route, the counting methodology count have been readily validated, but that apparently was not done.  It seems these “bike counts” were only done to validate a predetermined conclusion.