Tag Archive for Main Street

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day — Main Street Santa Monica goes neon green

New green bike lanes below Pico in Santa Monica.

New green bike lanes below Pico in Santa Monica.

When the revelers stumble out onto Main Street in Santa Monica tonight, they may think the street has been dressed just for those who pretend to be Irish by getting fighting drunk for a night.

But they’d be wrong.

Even if the pavement matches the green beer they’ll soon be regurgitating onto it.

Because actually, the street has been repainted for your benefit. And not just for one night.

As of Friday, the much maligned door zone bike lane on the Santa Monica stretch of Main Street has been widened, and repainted in a vivid shade of green guaranteed to cause conniptions in a Hollywood location scout.

Or at least, that’s the effect a similar shade had in Downtown LA.

Intermittent patches of green lead up to intersections.

Intermittent patches of green lead up to intersections; you can see where the lane marker has been moved left.

Maybe that’s why the lanes are only intermittent south of Pico, where they match up with LA’s normally hued lanes through Venice. And full green only north of Pico, where they pass through the city’s civic center, where presumably, fewer film permits are in demand.

Or maybe Santa Monica just recognized the risk posed by all those drivers trying to access City Hall and the LA County Courthouse.

In fact, that’s long been on of the mostly likely places to get right hooked among my usual riding routes, as confused drivers cut across the bike lane to access Civic Center parking.

Broken lane leading to the entrance to City Hall/Courthouse parking lot.

Broken lane leading to the entrance to City Hall/Courthouse parking lot.

Whether a bright shade of green will help with that, or convince drivers they don’t belong there — despite the break in the paint — and make them more likely to turn across the lane rather than merge into it as the law and safety requires, remains to be determined.

I’d rather see the full green on the south section as a vivid reminder to drivers to look for riders before opening their doors or turning across the lane. We’ll have to see if the city’s spot job will do the job.

On the other hand, that extra foot of bike lane should make a huge difference by allowing cyclists to ride further outside the door zone without having to leave the bike lane.

Here’s a fast-forward view of the civic center lanes on both sides between Pico and Santa Monica Place.

Let’s just hope they hose them down in front of the bars Tuesday morning.

………

Just down the road and around the corner on Abbott Kinney, LADOT installed the City of Angels’ third and fourth bike corrals last week, on a street that has long suffered from a lack of adequate bike parking.

When every other parking meter has a bike attached — which is technically illegal, though rarely enforced — it suggests an unmet demand, which the city has wisely heeded.

Even if, on the day I checked it out, one had as many hipsters enjoying lunch in and on it as it did locked-up bikes.

Just out of the frame, one more bike and two more guys sitting on the railing having lunch.

Just out of the frame, one more bike and two more guys sitting on the railing having lunch.

A brand new bike corral, full on a Friday afternoon.

A brand new bike corral, nearly full on a Friday afternoon.

One of the new bike corrals adorned with the new LADOT #bikeLA sticker.

One of the new bike corrals adorned with the new LADOT #bikeLA sticker.

 

 

Let’s not let oversized, inefficient SUVs get in the way of much needed bike lanes on Main Street

A proposed road diet could turn this...

Let’s talk road diets.

Or more precisely, let’s talk about the one LADOT proposes for Main Street in Venice.

Following the disastrous reception the Wilbur Avenue road diet generated in the Valley last year, with motorists outraged by the loss of their high-speed, cut-though commuter route — regardless of the benefits or safety for the people who actually live there — LADOT has gone out of their way to engage the public on Main.

And yes, in advance, this time.

Go figure.

Unlike Wilbur, where the arguments for and against the road diet took place after it was installed with no public notice, LADOT reached out in advance in an attempt to build support beforehand. But this time, instead of drivers complaining about the loss of a through lane slowing them down, or having to find an alternate route to one that was never intended as a cut-through commuter route, the complaints came from cyclists who didn’t like the plan’s specifications.

Valley, meet Venice.

And this...

That negative response from some people was surprising, because the road diet merely takes the street design that already exists in the Santa Monica section and extends it south to the Venice portion between Navy and Windward Circle.

So if you want to see what a difference a road diet can make, just take a ride between Windward Circle and Pico Blvd. Or vice versa.

Night, meet day.

I usually bike Main at least once a week; more in the summertime when the crush of tourists and locals out for a little sun make the beachfront bike path virtually impassible for anyone wanting to move above a slow walking pace.

And yes, like most of the bike lanes in Santa Monica, they’re far from perfect. More than once I’ve found myself dodging flung doors and swerving to avoid drivers casually pulling into and out of parking spaces, with no concept that the narrow band of paint on the street next to them might possibly suggest the presence of bikes.

Into this.

After all, why would anyone expect to find bikes in a bike lane?

But despite the fears expressed by some, I’ve never had any problems — with drivers or police — moving out of the bike lane when necessary to avoid obstacles real or imagined.

When time allows, I give a little signal — not quite a full extension of my left arm to avoid confusion that I intend to make a turn, but more of a three-quarter point to the left to suggest that I’m just coming out a little. Then I give a quick wave when I pull back over to thank the drivers behind for giving me a little space.

And I find drivers on the narrowed Santa Monica section far more willing to concede a little road space than on the wider, higher speed stretch to the south.

In fact, the stretch of Main between Rose and Abbot Kinney (called Brooks on the map) is the only road I ride regularly where I legitimately fear for my safety. Between impatient bus drivers, motorists hell bent on remaining well north of the speed limit and clueless beachgoers cruising for free parking — yeah, good luck with that — I’ve probably had more close calls there than anywhere else.

I’ve learned to ride aggressively there. I take the lane and keep my speed above 20 mph, merging into the flow of traffic. Yet still cringe as drivers blow by at over twice my speed, and bus drivers ride my ass so they can lurch to a stop just a few feet up the road. Or sometimes crowd me out if I continue past Abbot Kinney where the road gets narrower.

Which makes me wonder why anyone would prefer the dangerous, bike-unfriendly situation we have now to the much calmer, though admittedly not perfect, situation just a few blocks north in Santa Monica.

As it turns out, that’s not really the case.

For the most part, even most of those who oppose the current plan don’t advocate doing nothing. But other proposed solutions, such as traffic calming or separated bike lanes, while they might be preferable, aren’t viable in the current budget crunch and would require years before they could be implemented, while the proposed plan requires nothing more than a little paint and can be implemented almost immediately

That leaves advocates doing complex math to divide up the street to come up with a better solution, debating the merits of a 10 foot motor vehicle lane and 6 foot bike lane, as opposed to the proposed 11 foot vehicle lane and 5 foot bike lane.

LADOT prefers the 11 foot lane to accommodate all those wide buses, fearing that a rider traveling near the outer edge of the bike lane could risk getting mirrored by a passing bus. And having had sufficient experience with bus drivers in that area, I would contend their fears are well-founded.

I won’t reargue the merits of the various widths and configurations; you can find virtually every possibility debated in the comments on Damien Newton’s always excellent coverage of the story. Although as noted above, I have a strong preference for anything that will keep those bus mirrors away from my head.

But here’s the thing.

The entire debate hinges on the width allowed for parking, and the risk posed by the swinging doors of oversized SUVs.

LADOT’s plans call for a 5’ bike lane next to a 7’ parking lane — which means that all those Hummers, Escalades and Navigators so popular in L.A. would offer only a few inches of clearance if perfectly parked, or actually extend into the bike lane if parked like most people do in the real world. And their massive doors would block virtually the entire bike lane when carelessly flung open.

To some, that’s reason enough to kill the road diet and live with the dangerous situation we already have, preferring the devil we know to the one we know just up the street.

But consider this.

According to a study from San Francisco, 85% of all vehicle doors extend less than 9.5 feet from the curb.

Which means we’re concerned about the problem posed by just 15% of drivers who have more money than sense, and are willing waste their resources on the biggest, most expensive, least efficient and most dangerous-to-everyone-else private vehicles on the road.

Then consider that such a vehicle would have to be parked next to the bike lane, and occupied, at the exact moment you pass by. And just happen to fling open a door at exactly the wrong time.

That’s not to say it can’t happen. It happened to me on Abbot Kinney just last year.

But I would contend that the risk is a hell of a lot smaller than the danger posed by the speeding and frequently distracted drivers just a few blocks down the street.

As Joe Linton points out, with or without bike lanes, many — if not most — cyclists will continue to ride in the door zone, preferring the perceived safety zone next to the parked cars to what they see as the scarier, if actually safer, space further out into the lane.

So here’s my suggestion.

Let’s take a foot from the center turn lane, narrowing it from 10’ to 9’, as Linton proposed in his comment above, and add 6” to the bike lane on either side.

But then take it a step further.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no requirement that any car be allowed to park anywhere and everywhere. So let’s ban those massive SUVs and other oversized vehicles from parking along the curb on Main Street.

Do as other cities around the country have done for decades, and paint a line on the street 6’6” from the curb — wide enough to accommodate all but the widest cars and trucks — then ticket any parked vehicle that crosses it.

That will not only effectively ban big vehicles from parking there, but also force all other drivers to park close to the curb without encroaching on the bike lane.

They can find parking somewhere else. Call it their penance for buying a massive motorized behemoth like that to begin with.

After all, if you can’t ban an inefficient SUV in environmentally conscious Venice, where can you?

Yes, there’s a lot of room for improvement in the plan.

But even if we build the road diet exactly the way LADOT proposes, it will make the southern section of Main Street significantly safer than it is now. And provide a more livable, complete street that will benefit everyone who lives, works or goes to school nearby, while encouraging more people to venture out onto their bikes.

So lets try to improve the plan.

But not kill a good project simply because it’s not a perfect one.

.………

Before I forget — again — a friend of a friend is planning a new line of handmade bike accessories, and would like your opinion on exactly what cyclists might want. So please help me make it up to her by taking a couple minutes to complete this quick survey.

After all, it’s not like I’ve been distracted lately or anything.

My latest ride, in which I verify a verse from Proverbs

I admit it. I was already pissed off.

I was riding on as perfect a SoCal day as I have yet seen in nearly two decades as an Angeleno. Sunny, windless, mid-80s, cruising up the Santa Monica section on Main Street on the back end of a 32-mile ride, just a stone’s throw from the beach.

Unlike the blow-out induced hike earlier in the week, this ride had gone of without a hitch, reaffirming at the deepest levels of my being why we live in L.A., and why I ride.

Then just as I was about to pass an SUV parked on the side of the road, I started to get a funny feeling that things were about to go to hell fast. Nothing I could put my finger on, but it caused me to take a good look at the vehicle on my right.

No turn signal. No brake lights. I couldn’t even see if there was a driver behind the wheel.

But sure enough, just as I was about the pass the car, it lurched out from the curb, entering the lane as if I wasn’t there.

I swerved hard to the left, nearly crossing the center line, and yelled out a warning. Then yelled again. And again a third time, before the driver finally responded and let me pass.

As I rode by, I took a good look at the driver, and saw an expression that chilled me to my sweat-soaked chamois. Not the look of remorse that most drivers would bear under such circumstances. Nor the angry expression we’ve all seen too many times. Or even the blank, uncomprehending bovine gaze of a driver who has no idea what’s going on.

No, this time I saw the face of a man who knew exactly what he’d done. And didn’t care.

The moment I passed his vehicle and pulled back to the right, he gunned his engine and lurched around me. Then less than half a block away, he swerved back into the bike lane to pass another car on the right, before running the next red light and disappearing around a corner.

Needless to say, I was shaken. And shaking.

And I was pissed.

So I was in no mood to turn the other cheek a mile or so down the road, when I saw a pickup truck put on its turn signal and pull into the right lane to make a turn — without ever checking his mirrors to see that I was already there.

Fortunately, I was prepared this time. I grabbed my brakes, let him pull in front of me, then swung around to his left and pulled up next to him at the light.

His window was open, and he was looking the other way, preparing for his turn. So doing my best to keep my voice level and my anger under control, I leaned in and said, “Next time, check your mirrors first.”

And then the most amazing thing happened.

He turned around, revealing a young African-American man, and gave me one of the biggest, friendliest smiles I’ve ever had directed my way. And apologized profusely — and sincerely.

Taken aback, I mumbled something about how it was okay since I’d seen his turn signal, and just try to be more careful next time. He gave me that same smile again, nodded, and made his turn.

And I rode home, my mood restored, and thinking what a nice guy I’d just met. And I realized it’s true.

A soft answer really does turneth away wrath.

Something I might want to remember next time that I piss someone else off.

 

Hardrockgirl experiences a perfect Sunday riding through the Westside, while Gary celebrates his victory over a clueless cop an unfair ticket. LABikeRides and Streetsblog LA alert us to the upcoming Tour de Ballona II. A councilperson in Mad City, where it’s against the law to get doored, tries to put the responsibility back where it belongs. An Alaskan cyclist writes about the joys of riding at –15F (remember that next time we bitch about our 60 degree cold spells). Finally, the esteemed, and newly minted, Dr. Alex returns to blogdom with a meditation on cycling, activism and eternal summers. Welcome back, Alex — and when you’re ready to run for office, I’ll gladly manage your campaign.

Just poor planning? Or are they trying to kill us?

When I ride my bike, I tend to stick to routes I know, and take side streets whenever possible.

That gives me an intimate knowledge of the danger spots; because I know the streets, I know where I’m likely to run into trouble, so I can be ready for it.

For instance, when I take the bike lane on Main Street in Santa Monica, I know I’ll have a long, straight route where I can get up a good head of speed, often approaching — or sometimes exceeding — the speed of traffic. But I keep a close watch for taillights and drivers behind the steering wheels of parked cars, so I can avoid getting doored. And I have to be prepared for cars that suddenly cut in front of me and stop in the bike lane to back into a parking space.

If I keep a close watch on the oncoming cars behind me, though, I can easily cut out into traffic and take the lane for as long as it takes to avoid any obstacles.

Closer to home, I often take Ohio through Westwood, which gives me a nice, relatively quiet street to ride. East of Westwood Blvd, I look out for cars that dart out from the side streets without looking for bikes coming downhill at 25 or 30 mph; west of the boulevard, I know that cars tend to pass too closely. Sometimes intentionally.

But when I drive my car, I don’t have to be concerned about things like that. So I frequently find myself driving down streets I seldom, if ever ride.

Like Pico Blvd, for instance.

According to the most recent Metro Bike Map, it’s designated as a bike route between the 405 freeway to Century Park East.

Evidently, they assume a lot of cyclists are going to ride along the 405, then sling their bikes over their shoulders and climb down from the overpass, since there’s no exit ramp there. Or else we’re going to ride Pico to Cotner — just before the freeway — and then take the onramp for a nice, exhilarating ride over the Sepulveda pass.

And who knows, that could happen. Because anyone crazy enough to ride through all the traffic and potholes along there is probably crazy enough to ride the freeway.

The next section, just east of Sepulveda, offers two narrow lanes in each direction, bounded by parked cars on either side. And there’s no room to ride in the parking lane, even if you did manage to avoid any swinging doors.

Which means that any rider there would be forced to take a lane on one of the Westside’s most crowded streets. Then try to dodge all the cars pulling in and out of all the various driveways, parking lots and valet stands, as well as one of the city’s busier shopping centers.

I suppose that explains why I’ve never seen a cyclist on that particular bike route. And I can only assume it was designated as a bike route in a blatant attempt to thin the herd, since I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone without a death wish.

Then I find myself driving down other streets, such as Centinella, which was recently repaved and widened, leaving plenty of room for a bike lane now, in an area that desperately needs one. Instead, they put in nice, wide lanes and a center divider lane. The newly rebuilt Santa Monica Blvd, where they could easily extend the bike lane through Beverly Hills — or at least far enough to accommodate the route Will recently attempted.

Or Jefferson, which has three full lanes of traffic leading to and from the new Playa Vista development, yet no bike lanes to help move those people in and out of the area, or get riders to and from all the work places that have opened up in the former warehouse district south of Ballona Creek.

Maybe they assume riders will take the Ballona Creek bike path to get there. Except that it runs on the north side of the creek, with little access to the south side. And it presents it’s own set of problems.

I could go on (and on… and on…), but you get the idea.

Pick virtually any street in West L.A. If it’s a designated bike route, chances are, it shouldn’t be. Or if it could safely accommodate a bike lane, it doesn’t. And if by some miracle it actually has a bike lane, it usually doesn’t go anywhere, and dumps riders off in the most dangerous spot possible.

I think Timur hit it on the head. (If you haven’t read his blog, drop what you’re doing — once you finish reading this, of course — and check out one of the most intelligent, insightful and beautifully written sites in local cyberspace.)

The problem is that our entire bike system shows every sign of being designed by people who have never ridden a bike in their entire lives. Or at least, haven’t been on one that didn’t training wheels, streamers on the handlebars or playing cards attached to the spokes.

It’s a system that was designed to move cars with maximum efficiency, though little evident efficacy, with no thought paid to any other form of traffic or the effect it will has the surrounding community — like the mayor’s plan to turn Olympic and Pico into one-way streets, for instance. And whatever minimal effort was made to accommodate cyclists or pedestrians was obviously nothing more than an afterthought.

That why we need to add our comments to the new bicycle master plan, which the city is updating right now. (Yes, there actually is one now, believe it or not.) Then contact your council member to insist on adoption of the Cyclist’s Bill of Rights — and do something concrete about it by insisting that Metro include a 1% each set-aside for cycling and pedestrian projects in the proposed 1/2 cent sales tax increase.

You don’t have to look very had to see the failure of bicycle planning around here.

And no one’s likely to do anything about it unless we stand up and make them.

 

The Times’ Bottleneck Blog’s questions SoCal bike routes, including one on a Ventura highway in the sunshine; you’re gonna go, I know. Once again, the city breaks the law by banning cyclists from the holiday light display in Griffith Park. Maybe we should get a group together and go anyway. LACBC celebrates it’s tenth anniversary with a potluck party. Thankfully, only Will Campbell’s shadow bites the dust, courtesy of a non-stop driver, then encounters the owner of these road we ride on. Back from vacation, Gary catches us up on the Brentwood Grand Prix, and urges us to support the subway to the sea. But who won the Manolos? Alex says goodbye to Spook. And finally, New York has over 3600 reports of vehicles blocking bike lanes; L.A. zero. Somehow, I don’t think that means it never happens here; maybe we just don’t have enough functional lanes that anyone out here thinks it matters.  

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