Filed Under: O Valley Bike Lane, Thou Art but a Vehicular Temptress
When the driver pulled in behind me in the new buffered bike lane along Vineland, I thought, OK, it’s a little weird, but he’s probably going to turn right or park.
A block and a half later I turned around again.
Nope, he’s still there and now he is waving at me like this is perfectly normal.
A block later, he finally turned right.
I would have chalked this up to the guy being lost or perhaps disoriented by the new stripes, except that this turned out to be a frequent occurrence on both of my visits to Vineland.
Drivers, impatient to get into the right lane, regularly drove several blocks to a quarter-mile in the bike lane all along the avenue. Where they were jumping the line of traffic to get to Riverside Dr. (below), they tended to do so at a very fast clip.
The eagerness of drivers to make use of the bike lanes may be somewhat puzzling to those that have followed the Valley striping saga.
As set out in the 2010 Bike Plan, the lane had originally been intended to connect Ventura Blvd. in Studio City to San Fernando Rd. in Sun Valley via Lankershim Blvd. That plan included a road diet for the 2.4-mile stretch of Lankershim between the Universal City Red Line station and the Orange/Red Line hub at Chandler Blvd in North Hollywood.
The road diet plan had been surprisingly popular with many of the local businesses and residents who saw the larger benefits of substituting bike lanes and a middle turn lane for two travel lanes.
Former Councilmember Tom LaBonge, however, was not having it.
Possibly misunderstanding that the entire objective of a road diet is to make the street safer for all users by slowing it down, LaBonge told the Daily News, “I’m not for a road diet if bicyclists die on the road. I want to make streets safe for people.”
The choice which would prevent the jostling for space between drivers and cyclists, he and the Toluca Lake Neighborhood Council felt, was the speedy six-lane Vineland Ave. — “a tremendous street” on which there was plenty of room for a lane.
And there is indeed plenty of room on Vineland. But all that room seems to be giving the many drivers I have observed cruising the bike lane the sense that the lane markings are nothing more than a suggestion.
And questionable striping in some areas isn’t helping.
A car wishing to turn right at an intersection like the one the above has to fully pull out into the street before turning right, if they are to avoid driving in the bike lane.
Not only is that an awkward way to try to merge into moving traffic, most people I saw were not inclined to do that.
And the wide-openness of the street and lack of any other kinds of protections (i.e. bollards) meant that they rarely seemed in a hurry to exit the bike lane.
Bollards are not currently planned for the southbound stretch below, but they might be helpful in keeping drivers from using the lane when traffic is heavy or from jumping the line to turn right. This stretch of Vineland also speeds up a bit, so it might help cyclists feel safer to have a physical barrier there.
And more curved guide lines, like the one seen below, could be helpful in preventing drifters from meandering their way through the bike lane until they feel like merging into traffic.
The new lanes — running from Ventura to Chandler — are still being striped, so other improvements such as the curved guide lines may be yet to come. And per an exchange I had with someone from the bikeways program, the city appears to be aware there have been some issues with driver behavior and will continue to work with the council office to ensure all road users are safe.
All of the aforementioned growing pains aside, I rather liked the spaciousness of the lanes and found them to be a pleasant ride. But I am not a frequent Valley visitor, nor someone whose mobility is affected by not being able to use Lankershim (as many cyclists I saw still do) safely and easily. What say you about the lane, dear readers? Or about the behaviors you’ve observed? Let us know below.