It’s bike count season.
Counting bike riders may not seem like a big deal, but it will provide a baseline number of how many people ride bikes in a normal week – when students are back in school and people are back at work, so it accurately reflects typical riding patterns.
Then next year, we can count again.
That will provide an idea if ridership is going up or down. Which could indicate what effect street conditions are having, whether infrastructure changes are needed and how local laws and policies should be adjusted. In other words, the documentation we need to make things better for cyclists around here.
Unfortunately, I won’t be one of the counters, though I do hope to be among the counted. And I will somehow resist the temptation to ride through the same intersections repeatedly in order to boost the count. After all, a high count might look good now, but it could hurt us down the road.
I do have a suggestion for the LACBC, though.
One of the most common complaints that drivers have about cyclists is that we all run red lights and stop signs.
It’s not true, of course. I stop. And I’m clearly not the only one, since I frequently find other riders waiting right there next to me.
A recent London study found the same thing. Despite similar complaints from UK drivers, researchers for the Road Network & Research Team found that the overwhelming majority of cyclists — 84% — observe stop lights.
Another recent study was cited by a New York organization that calls itself the Coalition Against Rogue Riding — notice the acronym, if you want a little perspective on their perspective.
Their goal is to reign in the “epidemic of scofflaw cycling” and “sense of anarchy” plaguing the city’s streets and sidewalks. Yet the study doesn’t exactly support that:
In May the results a rigorous study conducted in April by the departments of sociology and urban affairs of Hunter College was issued. “Biking Behavior in Midtown” observed 5,275 cyclists at 45 intersections between 14th St. and 59th Sts. and First and Tenth Aves. It was found that nearly 38 percent of observed cyclists did not stop at red lights. Nearly a third did not use a designated bike lane. More than 17 percent were either riding the wrong way, or at various times both with and against traffic.
Sound damning, doesn’t it?
But look at it from another perspective. Nearly 62% did stop for red lights. Over 2/3 used a designated bike lane — and considering the frequent problems riders cite with cars and trucks blocking the bike lanes, it’s amazing that so many were able to ride within the lines. And 83% of riders did ride the right way; impressive in a city with so many one-way streets.
Unfortunately, L.A. cyclists don’t have any similar figures to rebut biased arguments from anti-bike fanatics. But LACBC can do something about that.
Long term, we need to work with a local university to design an effective, in-depth study of riding patterns in the city. But in the meantime, they could easily incorporate a simple study of whether cyclists stop for traffic signals into next week’s bike count.
At any location with a traffic signal or stop sign, in addition to counting bikes, just count how many stop when they should.
All it takes is adding two simple columns to the form. Or pencil in a couple headers in the margin indicating “stopped” and “didn’t stop.” And for each rider you count, just mark down whether they did. Or didn’t.
It might not be a scientific survey. But like the bike count itself, it would be a starting point. And it would tell us that L.A. riders are safer than many people think, or that we have a lot of work to do.
Either way, we’d know more than we do now.
Dr. Alex asks if you’ve considered the consequences before giving that bike thief a beat down. GT shares the story and photos of his recent Eastern Sierra Century. Mavic introduces new magnetic pedals, which may eliminate the need for cleats for some riders. Evidently, Sen. McCain hates transit, while Sen. Coburn merely hates bikes. Instead of getting hit by cars, bike couriers are getting hit by the internet. Illinois considers penalizing drivers who recklessly endanger the health and safety of vulnerable road users, like bicyclists. Bob Mionske questions Ottawa’s recent crackdown on cyclists in response to violent hit-and-run driver. Finally, the State Assembly honors my good friend at Altadenablog for his efforts during the recent fire; couldn’t be more deserved.