A ride through the Westside, in eight parts

Cars blocking bike lanes. Doors blocking bike lanes. Trucks blocking bike lanes. Nannies blocking bike lanes. Elderly drivers ignoring right of way. New sharrows in front of Catholic churches. Missing sharrows. Useless sharrows. Decrepit Victorian VA churches. Last second left cross drivers.

Or as I like to call it, Thursday.

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared a video from my helmet cam.

It’s not that I haven’t captured anything worth sharing. It’s just that by the time I usually get around to editing the video, the limited storage left on my ancient Mac means I’ve usually had to delete the footage before I can do anything with it.

So I wanted to get this one out while it’s fresh.

This is footage I captured on yesterday’s ride through L.A.’s Westside and Santa Monica. The sad thing is, there’s absolutely nothing unusual about it. Other than discovering new sharrows on my usual route through Westwood, things like this happen virtually every time I get out on my bike.

Maybe just not so many on the same ride.

And this wasn’t even everything I saw, good or bad.

There were a couple of Jerry Browns that the camera didn’t pick up – it seems that the fisheye lens on the cam means that a driver has to virtually brush me before the video looks anywhere as close as it feels in person. And I also have to avoid flinching, since the helmet mount means I miss the whole thing if I turn my head away.

I also noticed the county has been busy with the sharrow stencils, as well, adding a single symbol on Washington between the beachfront bike path and where the bike lane picks up on the next block. They also put in a few behind the Marina library, where riders on the Marina bike path have to share a brief roadway with drivers using the parking lot or moving their boats.

And in a nod to the Cycle Chic crowd, I wanted to offer a look at a well-dressed woman I encountered who looked about as good as anyone could on her bike. But when I saw the video, it felt a lot more like Creepy Stalker Guy than an honest appreciation of a fellow cyclist.

Delete.

As for those newfound sharrows on Ohio, maybe someone can explain to me why they skip the two blocks between Selby and Glendon on the westbound side, but not on the east.

Did they just forget? Or is there some incomprehensible reason why those two blocks on that side of the street, where they’re most needed, don’t qualify for sharrows?

Because it’s right there, in that direction, where I feel most pressured by drivers when I take the lane, since it’s far to narrow to safely share.

A little pavement-based support from the city for the proper road position would have gone a long way towards telling impatient drivers that’s exactly where I belong. And encourage more timid riders to use the street and move out of the door zone, despite pressure from drivers coming up behind them.

There seems to be no reason to omit them from the street.

But omitted, they are.

And don’t get me started on the oddly placed sharrow further west that forces riders to duck beneath a low tree branch as they hug the curb.

Or the oddly undulating placement that may keep riders out of the way of vehicular in places without parking, but encourages them to weave in and out of the traffic flow in a dangerous manner, as some motorists may not be willing to cede the road space to let them back into the traffic lane.

Look, I’m not complaining. Much.

I’d glad to have sharrows on a street that needed them.

But these need some serious improvement before they meet the apparent goals of encouraging more ridership and keeping riders safer on the street.

18 comments

  1. The drivers who do you wrong always drive off so fast, like bugs scurrying away into the dark of night. Is it a guilty conscience or did he/she think, “Oh, expletive, he caught me on helmet cam!” ?

  2. Brian says:

    As for the sharrows on Ohio, they’ve been going in almost block by block for the past week or so. I generally ride Ohio from Westgate up to Glendon every day coming home from work. At first there were two sharrows coming right off of Westgate, then nothing else. Next day a couple more, until yesterday when there were some almost all the way to Veteran, though some of those are the ones that are nearly in the gutter (though at least in those spots, it’s a no-parking zone). I had no idea there were some east of Glendon, it almost seems like they’re putting in a few a day starting at each end of Ohio, then moving together towards Westwood. I expect in the next week or so it’ll be fully sharrowed.

    I haven’t really noticed any difference in the way drivers behave around there due to the sharrows, so I’m not actually sure it’s better than nothing, but I guess at least it won’t make things worse.

  3. It’s hard to ignore the bicycle transport oasis that is the West Los Angeles Veterans’ Administration (VA) grounds.

    I grew up adjacent to it. From 3rd grade I rode my bike through the VA to get to school at San Vicente and Gretna Green (actually cut down Bundy Dr to get to the bike racks). I would stop in the canteen to buy twenty-five cent candy bars for a nickel, standing in line with Korea and Vietnam era war veterans who were buying their discounted groceries.

    An old sepiatone photograph of one of the oldest VA buildings hung in a bathroom in my parents’ home. I think it was a photograph of the grand building on opening day – I think the inscription says 1914. The VA really felt like a park in the middle of a small town back then. The grounds included a Japanese pond where we tried to fish and once caught a duck that came to steal our bait.

    In high school, I volunteered at the Hospital, although all I was asked to do was read to blind people and play pool with them. I don’t know what exactly I thought I was going to do, maybe “talk about the war” or something.

    When I raced bikes way back when, virtually every ride included the VA.

    All along, I was primarily traveling through the VA by bicycle. It never occurred to me that Wilshire or Sunset Boulevards were the only other way around the area. I completely took it’s wide streets, completely free of parked cars, for granted.

    Even later, when living in Venice and attending UCLA, I rode up to the VA to take Constitution across Sepulveda, usually going through the cemetery to get to Veteran Ave and through Westwood to campus.

    Can you imagine what cycling in West Los Angeles would be like if it weren’t for the relatively car-free streets of the VA?

  4. Wes says:

    Don’t want to be a monday morning quarter back.. but I’m going to be on the last left cross… To me it looked like he was going to turn left(yes should have been indicating), but saw you coming and wasn’t sure if you were going to stop at the sign, so didn’t make the turn. Then once he realized you were going to stop continued his turn. I could be wrong and of course he should have been indicating. As my videos show, i’ve definitely yelled worse at people for doing less, so I understand it.

    • bikinginla says:

      Yeah, it’s not as clear in the video as it was in person. He was clearly intending to drive straight, going almost all the way across the intersection before making a last second decision to go left, despite my presence; you can see his front wheels are almost even with the curb line when he turns.

      He even gave me the “oops” wave, which as we all know, makes everything okay.

      • Wes says:

        Thanks, its often hard to pick up all the detail via video that you see when you are there.

        • bikinginla says:

          Yeah, I expected just the opposite when I got the cam, and have been disappointed at how often the video image doesn’t capture the reality.

          • Margaret says:

            I also wondered how good the camera was at capturing reality. Thanks for answering my question.

            I do hope you continue posting your videos.

  5. Evan says:

    The chapel at the VA is the oldest-standing building along Wilshire Blvd.

    There have been sharrows popping up everywhere in the Westwood area. A lot have been put down in the Village within the last week.

  6. As the public weighs in on whether there should be space taken away from motorists on streets to put in bike lanes, and even where those bike lanes should be put, I tried to come up with something that reflects fair and equal treatment.

    The annual Census Bureau American Community Survey (ACS) data from 2007 through 2011 shows that there was a 0.4% commuting modal share shift away from taxi, motorcycle, car, truck or van to bicycling. Transit and walking both increased their commuting modal share 0.1%.

    This begs the question, since almost all bike lanes will be put on arterial streets–do to having the necessary width)–shouldn’t there be a 0.4% shift of the total arterial street space to bike lanes to coincide with this mode shift?

    There are 1,400 miles of arterial streets in Los Angeles and the minimum width is 70 feet, and a maximum of 102 feet. Bike lanes require a minimum width of 10 feet. 10 divides into 70 seven times. That’s equivalent to a minimum total of 9,800 miles of ten-foot wide lanes that can fit on those 1,400 of arterial streets.

    Four-tenths of 9,800 is 39.2 miles. Only about 10 miles, or less, of arterial road space has been taken away from motorized transportation to put in bike lanes. That leaves 29.2 miles. Dividing that by the 15 council districts leaves 1.946 miles per council district.

    1.946 miles is how many additional miles of ten foot wide space that should be taken away from motorized transportation on arterial streets to create bike lanes in each council district.

    Pubic meetings should not be deciding whether there are going to be safety improvements for bicycling on a street, nor should they decide where these bike lanes should be installed, since its already been determined by the bike plan which was approved by the councilmembers.

    The public is not usually allowed to determine where or when there is going to be safety improvements from putting in sidewalks, walk signals and crosswalks on arterial streets for pedestrians.

    The public also is not allowed to determine whether there is safety improvements on streets for motorists, nor is the public deciding whether there are airbags, seatbelts, safety glass, crush zones and safety cells put in cars, or which cars get these.

    There will likely be more commuting modal share shift towards bicycling in the next two ACS yearly results. When that occurs in the data, even more space should be reallocated to bicycling from motorized vehicles on arterial streets.

    The LADOT is running out left over space that has room enough to fit in bike lanes. Its time that bicycling in the city of Los Angeles goes beyond just getting left overs or scraps in the corner dog bowel. Bicycling deserves the space that its modal share has earned; to sit at the table and get the full coarse meal just like the other modes of transportation.

  7. [...] That’s How We Live in the Westside of L.A. (Biking In L.A.) [...]

  8. Ralph says:

    My wife and I have been toying with the idea of getting a camera for the bike rides. I would like a less wide view from the lens. The reason given as shown in he video is that things look father away with the wide angle view. It makes things look two times as far as they are. So you loose the immediacy. The advantage is you hardly have to aim the camera.

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