A meditation on moving, bike lanes and expectations

I’m back, after what can only be described as the move from hell.

A move in which nothing went horribly, irretrievably wrong. But in which nearly everything was more challenging, problematic, expensive or just plain aggravating than anticipated.

Even now, what is, in theory at least, my office remains more reminiscent of the aftermath of the ’94 earthquake than any functional working space I’ve ever encountered. Everything that didn’t fit anywhere else is piled there, along with everything that’s supposed to be there.

And trust me, that’s a lot of stuff. At this rate, I expect to finally excavate my desk sometime in mid-March.

The first night was the hardest, though.

Aside from all the problems we anticipated — like not knowing what box something we needed might be packed away in — it seemed lit nothing fit where it was supposed to.

Naively, perhaps, we assumed that everything we moved from the old place would find a corresponding space in the new one. But our new apartment, while about the same size, was arranged differently. And the things that had fit perfectly there didn’t necessarily fit here.

Or at least, didn’t fit the same way.

It wasn’t that there’s anything wrong with it. It was just very different.

And even though we went to bed that night thinking we’d made a big mistake, the only error we really made was failing to adjust our expectations.

Sort of like the way some people react when bike lanes unexpectedly appear on their streets.

Take the controversy that has developed in New York City over the rapid expansion of the city’s bikeway network, particularly over Brooklyn’s Prospect Park West and Father Capodanno Blvd in Staten Island.

Or attempts to make Washington DC more bike friendly, including new bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue, that elicited a backlash from groups and individuals as varied as ESPN’s Tony Korneiser and the East Coast branch of AAA.

Or even right here in Los Angeles, where a road diet on the Valley’s Wilbur Avenue had council members, drivers and the local media up in arms — even though people who actually live in the area seem to like it.

Because, you see, it just wasn’t what they expected.

Many people have gotten used to roadways dedicated solely to motor vehicles. And don’t necessarily welcome the intrusion of bikes on their streets.

In their minds, reducing the number of lanes, narrowing them or taking out parking spaces meant the streets were less safe than they were before — even though that usually calms speeding traffic and results in safer streets. And in some cases, actually forces drivers to get out of their cars and walk a bit.

The horror, huh?

To some, it represents a war on cars. As if traffic planning was a zero-sum game in which motorists must lose something for every step forward for anyone else.

Never mind that drivers gain as cyclists slowly replace other cars on the streets, reducing congestion and ultimately speeding their commutes. And that well-designed cycling infrastructure gets us out of the way of impatient drivers by moving bikes out of the shared right lane.

Meanwhile, the backlash goes on, with at least one member of the media doing his best imitation of the yellow journalism of the robber baron era, up in arms that bike lanes got plowed before some streets. Or maybe not. And describing the Prospect Park West bike lanes as “widely detested,” with no objective figures to back it up — and despite evidence that those lanes are “widely detested” by a just a small minority of very vocal people.

At least the DC press is smart enough not to fall for  that sort of crap.

Yet despite what some people insist, it’s not reckless cyclists who pose a risk to life and limb.

Then there are those who consider all things bike-related to be part of a liberal conspiracy to force people out of their cars, and in their deeply clouded minds, that’s reason enough to halt even the most basic of bike plans.

And no, they’re not all failed Colorado gubernatorial candidates.

If they gave them a chance, they might find that bike lanes and other bicycle infrastructure can actually increase traffic safety, enhance local neighborhoods and improve their own quality of life.

Quite an accomplishment for just a few inches of white paint.

And like my wife and I, they may realize that it may not be what they’re used to. But with a little time, and a little effort, they may actually get used to it.

Or even like it, just a little.

.………

Then again, not all bikeways are improvements.

Consider this recent email from Rex Reese, in response to a link about a proposed Bakersfield bike path that doesn’t seem to lead anywhere.

I sincerely believe the honor of Bike Path to Nowhere belongs to the metropolis of Trona, which is a small hell hole located on the shores of Searles Dry Lake, between Ridgecrest and Death Valley — literally The Middle of Nowhere. It’s very, very hot in the summer, very cold during winter, and smells like shit all year ’round because of the chemicals and powdered mineral dust that blows off the dry lake.

The path sorta starts maybe a quarter mile outside of town, parallels Trona Road, and sorta ends at East Outer Trona Road and Center Street a mile or so later. It’s separated by a narrow strip of dirt which qualifies it as a Class I Bike Path, right? And it’s got markings and everything. I can’t imagine who uses it or how it got funded — maybe done as a favor to the town warlord.

It’s barely not worth the drive to check out, but you can see it if you look it up on Google Maps.

With a description like that, I may just have to drive up there sometime just to give it a ride. If I can just figure out where the hell Trona is.

.………

A reader from Boston writes to ask for a recommendation on where to rent a bike in Anaheim when he comes out to visit next week. He’s used to a fixie conversion or older steel road bike, but open to anything practical for riding the mean streets of OC. If you have any suggestions, leave them in the comments or email me; you can find my address on the About BikingInLA page.

.………

Santa Monica’s Parks and Rec Commissioner is pushing to make the beachfront Marvin Bruade Bike Path a little safer; I’ll have something on that same subject later this week. The LACBC’s Valley Pride Ride is rescheduled for next weekend, after getting washed out on Sunday. KPCC looks at the upcoming Streetsblog event in Pasadena. Bikeside offers advice on gearing up for a cold wet winter, while Flying Pigeon offers much simpler advice for riding in rain and snow. The Times looks at efforts to lift the ban on mountain bikes on L.A. trails.  Will offers a video look at off-roading on the Beaudry Trails loop. A look at the upcoming South Bay Bike Plan. Long Beach cyclists fight back against regressive policies in America’s self-proclaimed “most bike friendly city.” Carlsbad police are looking for information on how a cyclist found lying injured in the street got that way, while a Ventura man is injured after losing control of his bike on a 30 mph descent; thanks to DC for the second link.

Elly Blue looks forward to the year in bikes, including predictions for an even bigger backlash. Forget peak oil, we may have already hit peak travel. Cleaning bike water bottles the easy way. Washington considers a three foot passing law when traveling under 35 mph, and five foot over 35; the local paper insists on framing it as a battle of car vs bike. A suggestion to combine bike lanes with right turn-only lanes. It only took three days for the country’s most dangerous state for cyclists and pedestrians to register its first bike death of the new year.

The secrets of riding in a group. The UK’s acclaimed Bikeability program may be saved from government cutbacks after all. Town Mouse touts the new Cycling Embassy of Great Britain. Road.cc offers their 2011 predictions, including copper-plated bikes and Andy Schleck winning the Tour twice in a single year. A Ugandan candidate rides his bike to win votes. Movistar racer Andrey Amador is beaten and robbed by thieves out for his Pinarella Dogma with the new electronic Campy shifters.

Finally, cycling prodigy Taylor Phinney visits the beach, offering his view of a Santa Monica sunset and a 360° view from the bike path; you can follow his stay in SoCal on Twitter @taylorphinney.

8 comments

  1. Will Campbell says:

    Glad to see you can finally put your move in the rear view mirror… or at least the actual “move” part of it.

    Re: Trona. I have been through that town numerous times coming to or from Death Valley visits. It is literally the rare exception to drive through it during the day and see a living soul — much less a cyclist on its entirely incongruous bikeway — that has led me to believe the town is populated entirely by vampires, none of whom ride bikes.

    PS. The Northridge quake was in 1994.

    • bikinginla says:

      Thanks for the catch. I thought I corrected that last night — that’s what I get for trying to post when I should be sleeping.

  2. New York City suspended its parking rules for about a week following the Christmas snowstorm. As I understand the rules, they essentially require cars to be moved every day to accommodate street sweepers and the like. During the snowstorm, however, they just sat there, day after day, unused, albeit under a thick blanket of snow. If they had been necessary to their owners, I’m sure someone would have dug them out. The situation begged the question of why the cars were in the city at all, a city noted for its lack of space. Complaining — kvetching — is in the New York soul (but not limited to that city), so if one is going to complain about bike lanes being plowed early, one might also turn some attention to the useless cars strewn about the city.

  3. roarofthefour says:

    The dead end of a cul-de-sac is a traffic barrier erected against cars, to make a livable street, safe for kids. War on cars?

    • Will Campbell says:

      Dead end, indeed. Cul-de-sacs were designed to make streets more liveable, but since living in such a contained and relatively removed situation relegates those residents to then over-utilize their vehicles to get out to their neighborhoods (especially for short local trips), cul de sacs have evolved to be less anti-car and more anti-community.

  4. SeattleCyclist says:

    That Washington law is a rotten apple…looks good at first…”Hey, a three foot passing law!” But read closer, as the PI Notes, “The measure would also require bicyclists to ride as near to the right or left side of the streets or on a paved shoulder when there is traffic and the bicyclists are going slower than the posted rate of speed.”

    Try that in city traffic. This puts the onus on the OVERTAKEN vehilcle (cyclist) to yield to the vehicle overtaking them from behind. You think that this is a good law? How do I move over safely when there is no safe shoulder or sidewalk (almost never)? Who gets to judge what is safe? Apparently the drivers do if this law is passed.

    For a more in-depth look go here: http://www.cascade.org/Community/forum/messageview.cfm?catid=13&threadid=17405

  5. cycler says:

    it’s funny how decades of car- centric development have become “normal” and a few crumbs of space taken back for non- motorized traffic becomes “a war on cars” I think that the most important thing is to get people on bikes, even for a one time event like a summer streets, so they can get a feeling for both the joys and perils of biking in the city. Then it becomes much less about us vs them.

    I’m biased, but I also think there’s been a shift to more middle class (middle aged and female) transportational cyclists. The soccer mom with a bakfiets is less easily marginalized and dismissed than “lance wannabees” or “the busboy brigade” and have more social and political clout that can be used to push for reform.

    And thanks for posting that inquiry for my co-worker. It’s nice having another year rounder in the office, and I’ll miss having someone else to chuff about the cold with when he’s in sunny CA next week.

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