A simple adjustment in biking infrastructure, part 2

Let’s consider another easy fix the city could make right now, at virtually no cost.

Take the bike lanes along the recently rebuilt Santa Monica Boulevard.

In just a few short years, they’ve become one of the most popular riding routes through the Westside — largely because they’re among the few dedicated bike lanes than run on a major street. And the only ones I know that don’t run next to a parking lane, eliminating the risk of dooring.

On the other hand, you do have to deal the poorly designed crossover lanes, which force cyclists to dodge cars entering and exiting the roadway, as well as buses that cut into the bike lanes little or no warning.

bus-bike1Then there’s the way they end abruptly, dumping unsuspecting cyclists into the middle of a heavy high-speed traffic lane.

Although a large part of that problem, on the east end at least, stems from the transition from Los Angeles to Beverly Hills, which seems dead set against allowing bikeways to besmirch their gilded streets. If any city ever needed a Critical Mass…

One major advantage these lanes offer is the limited number of cross streets — only Beverly Glen, Westwood, Veteran and Sepulveda cross from both directions. All other streets enter from one side only, such as Avenue of the Stars and Century Park East and West in Century City, which enter from the south, and Selby, Kelton and Camden in Westwood, which come in from the north.

SM-Bike-Lane-1However, that means cyclists riding on the opposite side of the road often have to make a decision whether to obey the law, or common sense, when faced with a red light, with a clear lane in front of them and no cross traffic from any direction.

Some stop and wait alongside the idling vehicular traffic until the light turns green, for no other reason than it’s what the law requires. Most, however, proceed through the light, recognizing that stopping serves no purpose, in terms or safety or rationality — putting them at risk of a ticket, and pissing off every driver waiting for the light to change.

But all it would take to address the situation is one little sign at each of those intersections, saying “bikes proceed on red.”

That’s it.

Overnight, bike flow is improved and scofflaw cyclists are made legal — with zero impact on traffic.

The only possible risk would come from careless drivers who might drift into the bike lane while completing their turns on the boulevard. And even that could easily be addressed by placing a simple barrier — anything from plastic cones to a brief raised curb — on the outer edge of the bike lane.

Or better yet, install a raised curb along the entire length of the bike lanes, broken only by intersections, and crossover exit and entrance lanes.

Then cyclists would enjoy L.A.’s first separated bike lanes, at minimal cost to the city.

And the cars, motorcycles and other assorted motor vehicles that currently use the bike lanes to bypass stopped traffic would be banished once and for all.

This same approach could also be used on southbound Ocean Blvd in Santa Monica, another roadway where cyclists have to choose between breaking the law and stopping for no apparent reason.

……..

Gary writes movingly about that heartbreaking photo of Kylie Bruehler at the funeral of her tandem-riding parents. Even the positive Joe Linton criticizes L.A.’s proposed bike plan, while Stephen Box says stamp it Return to Sender and the BAC demands an extension of the comment period. Box also says a lack of bike parking makes cyclists second class citizens. While L.A. makes plans, Long Beach makes bikeways. GT shares a great route when you want to work hills. Will Campbell risks his credibility to register his bike. Oakland police try to link an online threat against cyclists to a hit-and-run driver who stood over his victim before fleeing the scene. More great photos from the Path Less Pedaled. Bob Mionske’s Blog takes a critical look at a wreck blamed on a sidewalk cyclist, which leads to a call for better police training. Famed framebuilder Dave Moulton continues his discussion on the evolution of frame design. Chicago Now takes a critical look at Critical Mass. Finally, a truly frightening photo of the aftermath of an S.F. dooring incident.

3 comments

  1. Brent says:

    Great suggestions!

    I find it ironic, however, that cars get protected parking along Santa Monica Boulevard, while bicycles have to duke it out in the travel lanes. Why couldn’t they just have switched the two?!

  2. K says:

    i use the entire length of this bike lane for my everyday commute in each direction and yes, i definitely run those T intersections. the only thing is that they have pedestrian crosswalks and when i’m running the light, i have to watch out for pedestrians who have the right of way. the only light i can think of without a pedestrian crosswalk is Westbound at the entrance to the Century City Mall parking lot. it would be nice if we could legitimately roll through the red at that intersection at least.

  3. Mihai says:

    The most ridiculous light is at S. (Little) Santa Monica and Santa Monica Blvd intersection, headed West. I understand that three lanes of oncoming traffic could be dangerous, but that light seems to remain red for ages, with nobody crossing from either side. I’m not saying that this specific light should have one of those “bikes allowed to run light” signs, but it is a good example of the inefficiency of this whole car-centric road system we have to deal with in LA.

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