Tag Archive for bike maps

Open Source bike mapping; ranking the top US and UK bike-friendly cities

Following up on last week’s post on mapping whether the L.A. areas bikeways actually exist in ridable condition, Tony writes in with a suggestion on how we could accomplish that on a DIY basis.

Have you thought of using the OpenStreetMap based OpenCycleMap and getting everyone to contribute their local data to build a map collectively as a community project? It looks like someone has already put in a few cycle paths and lanes for LA. (Ed. note: enter Los Angeles CA in the search window at lower left to get a usable map)

Scoot the map over to the UK to see what a cycling community working together can produce.

You can even make route planners from it such as this one from the Cambridge Cycling Campaign

I have to admit, that London map looks pretty damned impressive. And while I haven’t tried it yet, the route planner couldn’t work any worse than Google’s new bike route feature does right now.

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Bicycling Magazine names its Top 50 Bike-Friendly Cities; the only SoCal city to make the list is Long Beach, at #23. Oddly, Portland is only #2, behind Minneapolis. The rest of the top 10 include Boulder CO at #3, followed by Seattle, Eugene OR, San Francisco, Madison WI, Janette Sadik-Khan’s New York, Tucson AZ, and Chicago.

Meanwhile, Bristol tops the UK’s list of top 20 bike-friendly cities, while Belfast lags behind at #12. London, which has recently seen a rash of biking deaths, lags even farther behind at #17, but at least they beat Glascow.

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GOOD says well done whoever you are, for L.A.’s latest DIY bike signs. L.A. can’t seem to keep a dangerous pothole on the proposed 4th Street Bike Boulevard paved despite several crashes. LADOT says where you park your bike and what you lock it to matters. A Palm Desert driver says local cyclists area a danger to themselves; oddly, most cyclists tend to think that cars and trucks are the real danger.

Green LA Girl visits the newly bike and pedestrian – friendly plazas on New York’s Great White Way. A Washington city suggests a $25 per car fee to pay for sidewalks and bike lanes. A fire hydrant in the middle of a bike path seems like a problem. On a twist on bike sharing, low-income Minneapolis residents will soon be able to borrow a bike on long-term loan. A 17-year old Albany cyclist suffers minor injuries in an apparently intentional vehicular assault. This Wednesday marks the beginning of Circle Zydeco, a four-day tour through the Cajun food, music and bayous of Louisiana’s Acadiana region. Is the new belt-drive Trek District Carbon the ultimate road-going singlespeed?

Fabian Cancellara leaves Boonen — and Lance — in his wake to win the Tour of Flanders. Riding through parts of Cape Town is like driving through a war zone. Cardiff, Wales explains why they spent the equivalent of $3,000 to paint an 8 foot bike lane. A London newspaper catches a fourth Conservative politician breaking bike laws. In a rare attack of common sense following the death of a cyclist, a British county considers banning the large trucks that can kill people, rather than their potential victims bikes, who don’t. An Irish cyclist is killed by his own stalled car in a bizarre collision as he rode back to restart it. An Aussie cyclist rescues the driver of a sinking car from drowning. An Australian woman is seriously injured in an intentional assault after two men push her off her bike from a passing car, while a Chamber of Commerce group pushes for cyclist licensing and registration; frankly, it doesn’t sound like the riders are the problem.

Finally, a cyclist riding home from work through Boyle Heights witnesses the Crucifixion. Yes, that one.

Do L.A’s bikeways exist where they’re supposed to — and are they actually ridable?

Some of the most interesting ideas pop up in my inbox.

Those broken lines mean dodging traffic once the bike lane ends.

For instance, a rider named Noah emailed me last month asking about the stop and start nature of the city’s bike lanes — something virtually every rider in the city has complained at one time or another.

I wanted to raise a quick issue about bike lanes.  The city has a document online that purports to inventory Bike Plan Designated Class II bike lanes — I am not sure if this is the 1996 plan, if it is an inventory of proposed bike lanes or what it is .  . . but I used it to plot a route home on Monday and did not find bike lanes where I had hoped (based on the list) to find them.  For example, the document lists a lane on Devonshire from Topanga Canyon to Woodman — there was some bike lane in that area, but it was not continuous, and I was forced to ride in traffic (on a heavily traveled street) for part of the ride.  Same thing on Woodman itself, and on Laurel Canyon — a lane is listed from Roscoe to Moorpark . . .  Perhaps I am reading this wrong, perhaps these are planned lanes, but if these are supposed to be existing lanes (and if the claim is that we don’t need more lanes because we already have all these wonderful lanes) then someone (LACBC? volunteers through your blog?) should go an do an independent audit of the actual existing lanes in LA . . .

Part of the problem stems from turning to the wrong source for information. Which is actually easy to do, since searching for online biking information in Los Angeles can be a confusing process, leading to as many wrong turns and dead ends as the routes themselves.

A better source for planning a route is Metro’s L.A. bike map, which — unlike LADOT’s map, which seems to assume you do all your riding within the city of Los Angeles — crosses city limit lines to show a complete picture of local Class I, Class II and the generally useless and often dangerous Class III routes.

But don’t be surprised if your browser crashes; you’re better off downloading it to your desktop and using your pdf software to view it.

A quick look confirms that the route Noah used stops and starts without offering any alternative other than dumping the rider into often heavy traffic on busy Valley boulevards.

Someone who’s comfortable taking the lane in traffic might not think twice about it — though there’s no guarantee that the drivers you’re sharing the road with would understand the concept. And someone who knows the local area might use an alternative route to bypass the areas that lack the magical few inches of paint that are somehow supposed to create a virtually impermeable barrier to vehicular traffic.

Not that some drivers understand that, either.

But even if you map out your complete route using the best maps available — or try plotting your way with Google’s promising but buggy biking directions — it won’t tell you anything about traffic conditions, signalization or what hills you might face along your way. And if you knew those things, you wouldn’t need a map to begin with.

So you plot out the best route you can plan, only to end up dodging buses or riding jackhammer streets that jostle your internal organs to the point that you fear a kidney or bowel could pop loose any moment.

And those are the good streets.

Then there are others where the bike lanes and paths are so cracked and broken as to be virtually unridable on a skinny-tired bike. Or barely even exist anymore.

Of course, the obvious solution would be to require that LADOT and similar transportation departments in other cities ride these routes on a regular basis to monitor the conditions riders face. And report back for anything that needs repair or improvement.

But with the current budget issues, and the 40% cut in staffing that LADOT’s Bikeways department has reportedly suffered, that’s just not going to happen. Even if it did somehow manage to make their radar.

So as Noah suggested, it’s up to us.

We ride these streets everyday. No one has a better idea whether a line on a map actually translates to a ridable bikeway. Or if it actually exists in what passes for the real world around these parts.

I’ve suggested some sort of bikeway survey as a project the LACBC might want to take on, and I’ll bring it up again as time goes on — maybe in conjunction with the deep pockets at the newly bike-friendly Metro. Maybe it’s a project L.A.’s Bicycle Advisory Committee might want to consider. Or it could be something Bikeside might do as a natural outgrowth of their current efforts to map collisions, near misses and harassment — after all, those are places you might want to avoid, as well.

Or just email me — biking in la at hotmail dot com — and I’ll track things on my own until we have a better system for it.

And I’ll mention the worst areas on here, so you can plan a route to avoid them.

Because if we don’t do it, it’s pretty clear no one else will.

You can find links to most of the area’s bike maps on at the LADOT and LACBC (scroll down) websites. And thanks for the reminder from Timur that you find some fully vetted bike routes on his excellent, though recently neglected site; other local cyclist-designed routes are available at MapMyRide.

And after wishing everyone a happy Passover the other day, how could I have forgotten to wish the rest of you a happy Easter? Whatever you believe, best wishes this weekend. And for those of you with children, do not — repeat, do not — eat the ears off their chocolate bunnies.

That’s just so wrong.

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Oddly, when I take a day off to attend to other matters — like earning a living, for instance — the stories still keep coming. So settle in for a long list o’links.

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A San Francisco cop in an unmarked police car threatens a cyclist, saying “Shut your fucking mouth or I’ll knock you off your bike.” Meanwhile, a New York cyclist gets doored — which is against the law in New York, just like it is here — and police respond by ticketing the cyclist for not having a bell and wheel reflectors.

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One of L.A.’s best biking routes reopens after repairs due to rain damage. Dr. Alex rips LADOT’s new bike blog, and suggest that Bikeways Coordinator Michelle Mowery fall on her sword. Will offers an exceptionally artistic photo of his bike, ad look who rolls through a stop into the path of his unblinking bike cam.  A Santa Monica writer and actor says the city could do a lot more to promote cycling. A Downtown street gets a mini-road diet, but oddly, no bike lanes. Gary argues that cyclists spend a lot of money in Santa Monica, so where is our bike parking? L.A.’s Anonymous Cyclist offers the story of a biking detention at LAX, and yes, one should bear yesterday’s date in mind. The 2.5 mile, LED-lit Elysian Valley Bike Path along the L.A. River Bike is coming soon, really. The Mt. Wilson Bicycling Association will hold its 21st annual Save the Trails pancake breakfast on Sunday, April 25th. Don’t forget Bike Night at the Hammer — featuring Pee Wee’s Big Adventure — April 8th. GOOD offers a video look at the Wolfpack Hustle’s roll through the L.A. Marathon course.

The California Bike Coalition pushes a vulnerable user law to protect all at risk road users. Mark Cavendish decides to break in his new dental work on the Tour of California, rather than the tougher Giro. NPR finds a grave problem with Google Bike Maps, literally. Is a bike a toy or a vehicle — or a device, as it’s defined here. Streetfilms looks at DC’s first Contraflow Cycle Track, while Portland releases a video explaining cycle tracks and buffered bike lanes. Consider the Better World Club sort of an auto club for bikes. Five cyclists win a $97,751 settlement in a 2007 New York Critical Mass excessive force and wrongful arrest case in which the arresting officer was caught lying under oath. Portland cyclists are asked to help get a road rage victim back on a bike. The New York Times asks what is bike culture? A Brooklyn cyclist cited for riding outside the bike lane in a police sting fought the law, and for once, the law didn’t win. A Holland, Michigan driver encounters a cyclist riding in the center of the lane on a multi-lane road “going about 5 mph” in a 45 mile zone, and despite honking several times, the bastard just wouldn’t get out of his way. Florida cyclists threaten legal action if bike lanes aren’t included in a major resurfacing project.

A team of Brit rowers teams up to compete in this year’s RAAM. A Royal Mail carrier says please don’t take my bike away. Constables charge a Leicestershire cyclist with murder following the death of a cyclist this week; British press restrictions mean no explanation for why he was charged. Get your bespoke Tweed Ride togs here. Finally, a bike lane even shorter than the one in Westwood.

Finally, take your pick:

1) A Team Sky cyclist lost the lead in the Tour of Oman due to a bizarre pre-planned pee experiment. 2) London’s biking mayor chases down a driver who threw something at his head; oddly, the press reports it as litter rather than an assault, while the driver responded, “Please Mr. Boris sir, this wasn’t meant to happen. We know you is the Mayor, man.” 3) Pearl Izumi tests their new chamois on Uranus.

A meditation on bicycling and driving in the City of Angels, pt. 2

It’s been said before that Los Angeles is a city of neighborhoods.

Sometimes the changes from one to another are subtle. West L.A. flows seamlessly into Santa Monica, Rancho Park into Culver City, Studio City into Sherman Oaks.

Other times, the changes are abrupt. There’s no question when you enter Koreatown, whether you’re traveling by bike, bus or car.

And most of us know our own neighborhoods.

For instance, I know the Westside. From La Brea west to the coast; from Mulholland to the Marina. I know the back roads that let you slip past the traffic tie-ups; I know when to take Wilshire or cut over to Arizona to make a meeting in Santa Monica. And I know where the bike lanes are, where it’s safe to ride on the right and where it’s safer to take the lane.

I also know a few other areas pretty well, such as the lower Valley area, from Studio City west to Woodland Hills. And I can find my way through Hollywood and Downtown, Burbank and Pasadena.

But like most Angelenos, get me out my comfort zone, out of the areas I know, and I’m lost. In a car, it’s a minor inconvenience. Just pull out your Thomas Guide, use your GPS, or stop someone and ask for directions. Or do what most locals do, and just take the freeway to bypass all those strange, unknown neighborhoods and the people who live there.

On a bike, it’s a different problem entirely.

L.A. streets were designed for cars, not bikes. And there are some streets that just aren’t safe for cycling — like Vermont between Beverly and Wilshire, as I noticed the other day. It’s so crowded, I’m not sure cars even belong there. But I guess that’s to be expected in the nation’s most congested city.

If you live or work in that area, you’d know not to ride on weekdays, during the day, anyway. On the other hand, if you just looked at a map, it might seem like a reasonable route to get from, say, Culver City to Silver Lake or Griffith Park.

Or you might try to take a busy street like 3rd, not knowing that there’s a perfectly reasonable, and safe, alternative just one block away.

The problem is, there is no Thomas Guide for bicyclists. There’s no practical system of interconnected bike lanes, paths and routes that lead coherently from one neighborhood to another. And even the best map currently available has so many gaps that it’s virtually useless for planning a trip — and makes no distinction between routes that are safe for casual riders, and routes that are best left to experts.

Or routes that aren’t safe for cycling at all, like the inexplicable bike route on Pico between Sepulveda and Century Park East, sections of which should never be ridden without a death wish.

Since cyclists, like nature, abhor a vacuum, some riders have tried to fill in the blanks by posting their own routes. For instance, Rearview Rider offers a great route from my ‘hood to the Bicycle District. Los Angeles Rides offers a map of routes from Mar Vista to Koreatown, as well as a wiki map-in-progress where cyclists can enter their own routes and tips. And C.I.C.L.E. offers a number of routes throughout the region.

But it shouldn’t be up to us to map out these routes.

It should be the job of our government to provide a safe system of interconnected lanes, trails and routes that can take a rider anywhere in the city. Or at the very least, to provide a workable map that clearly addresses how to safely and efficiently ride to any point in the greater metro area — including such prime destinations as Downtown, Hollywood, Griffith Park, Dodger Stadium, the Rose Bowl and the beaches — from any other point in the city.

Until that day, though, we’re on our own.

And the roads that lead through our neighborhoods will continue to be the lines that divide us, instead of bringing us together.

 

Google says it was just kidding about that real-time traffic map. Caltrans gives our local region legion an F. Is anyone really surprised? LA Streetsblog says it’s going to be a busy weekend for local cyclists. Bikes and parts are disappearing in Silver Lake. Gary turns his usual breath-taking camera skills towards the Tour of California. Consumer Reports says half of all cyclists aren’t using their heads. And finally, authorities respond quickly when cyclists on PCH get shot in the ass.

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