Tag Archive for sharrows

Making the law up as they go along — another SoCal cop gets it wrong on sharrows and riding abreast

6-AK-Sharrows

You’re not required to ride to the right when sharrows are present

It’s said that ignorance of the law is no excuse.

But what if the ones who appear to be ignorant of the law are the same people charged with enforcing it?

It looks like cyclists in San Diego’s North County may be about to find out.

In a case reminiscent of the West Hollywood Sheriff’s deputy who was captured on video demonstrating his lack of knowledge about sharrows recently, a San Diego County Sheriff’s Captain spoke — or rather, misspoke — on the subject with community members last month.

According to the Coast News,

Sheriff Capt. Robert Haley said sharrows are a great concept but there has been some confusion on the proper way to use them.

Problem is, he’s the one who seems to be confused.

“Some people think it’s a giant bike lane,” he said, adding that, according to the law, cyclists are always supposed to ride as far to the right as possible anytime they are on a roadway, even in a sharrow or bike lane.

Uh, no.

Excuse me. Hell no.

Bike riders are not required to ride to the right within a bike lane, which in most cases would put you in the door zone. Or in the gutter.

Instead, bicyclists are legally allowed to ride anywhere between the two lines they feel safest or most comfortable. And a sheriff’s captain should know that.

He should also know that cyclists can leave a bike lane anytime, for any number of reasons. And that they aren’t required to ride in a bike lane unless they’re travelling below the speed of traffic.

Which means that if you’re riding as fast or faster than the cars around you, the requirement to ride to the right doesn’t even apply, and you can ride anywhere in the roadway you damn well please.

And it doesn’t apply at all within a bike lane.

Any officer foolish enough to ticket a cyclist for not riding on the far right of a bike lane can, and should, be laughed out of court.

The same goes for anyone who tries to ticket a bicyclist for riding on sharrows.

Sharrows, or shared lane markings, are intended, among other things, to indicate where a bike rider should position him or herself on a lane that’s too narrow to be safely shared by a bike and a car travelling side-by-side in the same lane.

And that’s the key point.

Sharrows are intended for use on substandard-width lanes, which is generally considered any right-side traffic lane narrower than 14 feet.

Think of it this way.

You take up about three feet on your bike, and need a three foot cushion for an eight-foot wide vehicle to pass you safely.

And that’s if there’s no parking on your right. If there is, add another four to five feet to keep you safely out of the door zone.

Which means that, according to CVC 21202, the requirement to ride as far right as practicable — not as possible, despite what Capt. Haley said  — does not apply on any lane less than 14 feet wide, or 18 if it contains parking.

So sharrows not only indicate that the lane is to be shared between bikes and cars, they should serve as an indication to everyone concerned that the requirement to ride to the right does not apply on that street.

Then again, it doesn’t apply on many, if not most, right hand lanes in Southern California, sharrowed or otherwise, where a 14 foot lane would be a luxury.

You’d think those charged with enforcing our laws would get that.

Of course, you’d also think that police, sheriffs and CHP officers would know that there is no requirement to ride single file under California law. In fact, it’s not even mentioned anywhere in the California Vehicle Code.

And one of the basic precepts of English Common Law, which forms the basis of the American legal system, is that anything that isn’t expressly prohibited is therefore legal.

But like Capt. Haley’s, many police agencies — including the CHP and at least some sections of the LA County Sheriff’s Department — frequently misapply CVC 21202 to ticket cyclists who are legally riding side-by-side.

“If a person is riding to the left of someone else, he isn’t as far to the right as possible,” he added.

Haley said he verified the law with Traffic Commissioner Larry Jones, who confirmed that cyclists must ride in a single line while on a street.

As one cyclist I know put it, “I couldn’t ride any further to the right, officer. There was another bike there.”

Except, as pointed out above, CVC 21202 doesn’t apply on substandard lanes.

Which means that bike riders can legally ride side-by-side — or side-by-side-by-side, or more — on any lane that’s less than 14 feet wide, or 18 to 19 feet wide if there’s parking on the right.

And again, that’s virtually every right lane in Los Angeles, and most in Southern California.

Or, as pointed out above, if you’re riding at the speed of traffic. Which means if your double paceline can ride at the speed limit for the roadway you’re riding on, you are perfectly within your rights.

Of course, it’s not just the police that get it wrong.

As David Salovesh pointed out, the DMV’s own training materials (top of page 17) get it wrong, too.

Bicyclists may ride side-by-side (two abreast) on roadways, but they must ride single file when being overtaken by other vehicles. Bicyclists may only travel more than two abreast on a shoulder, bike lane or bike path intended for bike use if there is sufficient space. However, they must be in single file when passing vehicles, pedestrians, or other bicyclists.

None of which appears in CVC 21202, despite their citation. Or anywhere else in the Vehicle Code, for that matter.

Not the part about being allowed to ride two abreast, or being required to ride single file when passing or being passed.

Which makes you wonder just how they came up with it. And how they justify spreading false information with no basis in the law in an official publication.

But back to our sheriff’s captain from San Diego County.

Haley said cyclists who don’t like the laws can work to get legislation enacted to change them.

Or he, and other police officers, could just try enforcing the laws as they are actually written, rather than misinterpreting and misapplying them to prohibit behaviors they were never meant to address.

Fortunately, Haley says his department doesn’t intend to target riders for violating their misinterpretation of the law.

But anyone who does get a ticket for riding abreast or not riding far enough right — with or without sharrows, in San Diego or anywhere else — should measure the lane they were riding in.

Then get a good lawyer.

Embarrassing video shows Sheriff’s deputy doesn’t know what a sharrow is or what it means

They should be embarrassed.

Or maybe we should, since the LA County Sheriff’s Department is supposed to work for all of us.

Yet as this new YouTube video from WesHigh shows, at least one Sheriff’s Deputy has no idea what a sharrow is. Let alone that bicyclists aren’t required to ride to the ride on a non-sharable lane.

As the video points out, sharrows are not just wayfinding symbols that indicate a Class III bike route, but indicate the preferred position for bike riders within the lane. While you’re not required to ride on the sharrows, if you position yourself on the point of the arrow, you’ll be in the exact spot traffic engineers think you should be within the lane.

Those charged with enforcing the law should know that.

Yet from what I heard from other bike riders, the Deputy’s misconception, while an extreme example, isn’t that unusual for the department.

Many riders have complained about Sheriff’s Deputies demanding that they ride as far as possible to the right, in violation of CVC 21202, which only requires bicyclists to ride as far to the right as practicable. And then, only when traveling below the speed of traffic.

If you’re riding as fast or faster than the vehicles around you, you can legally ride anywhere you damn please, as long as you travel in the direction of traffic.

Yet even if you’re just crawling along, there are countless exceptions to the requirement to ride to the ride — including riding in a non-sharable lane, which is defined as any lane too narrow to share with a motor vehicle. And that includes allowing for sufficient space to avoid the door zone, which is one of those hazards the law refers to.

Which means that virtually every right lane in the Los Angeles area should be considered non-sharable. Especially if it allows parking on the right.

The officer is also mistaken in his insistence that the rider was obstructing traffic. Under California law, that only applies on two lane roadways, and by definition, requires five or more vehicles stuck behind the slower vehicle and unable to pass. If drivers can pass, or if there is another lane to the left they could use to pass if they chose to do so, the rider is not legally obstructing traffic.

As the video shows, this was a four lane street. And drivers were able to pass with ease — including the officer who dangerously chose to speak with a moving cyclist without pulling over to the curb first.

Unfortunately, this brings up a much bigger problem.

While the LAPD has worked with local bike riders to clarify the laws applying to cyclists, and developed a training session to train their officers in just how to — and how not to — enforce traffic laws relating to cyclists, the LASD, to the best of my knowledge, has not.

Just what training their officers receive in bike law isn’t known outside of the department and the officers who actually receive it. Or not.

And while the department may feel their officer training is adequate, this video — and complaints from bike riders around the county suggesting a lack of knowledge and inconsistent enforcement in various areas of the county — would suggest it isn’t.

It’s long past time for the Sheriff’s Department to step up and work with cyclists to ensure their officers understand bike law and enforce it correctly, and fairly.

In the meantime, this video prepared by the LAPD in conjunction cyclists participating in the department’s bike task force remains the state-ot-the-art for bicycle traffic law training among SoCal police agencies.

Even then, it’s only as good as department’s commitment to ensure every officer views it.

And learns it.

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.

West Hollywood needs your help — planned La Brea bike lanes could be replaced by sharrows

I’m not a big fan of sharrows.

Yes, they have their place, providing on-street wayfinding for riders and positioning them out of the door zone, while sending a clear signal to drivers that we have a right to ride in the traffic lane.

But they don’t give us any rights to road we don’t already have, or one inch of real estate we aren’t already entitled to. And they don’t move riders out of the way of heavy traffic and impatient drivers.

The strictly vehicular crowd will tell you that sharrows are better than badly designed bike lanes that put riders in the door zone. But they are never preferable to a well-designed bike lane that safely positions riders out of traffic and away from danger.

And unlike bike lanes, sharrows do little or nothing to encourage more timid riders to take to the road.

Yet West Hollywood has decided that sharrows make more sense on heavily travelled La Brea Avenue than the long-planned bike lanes that were supposed to be installed in the next few years. And which were supposed to connect with bike lanes that will be installed on the Los Angeles portions of the street under the current bike plan.

Apparently, they’ve concluded that a wide, landscaped median that would beautify the street is more important than bike lanes that would encourage bike riding, reduce congestion and improve safety for all road users.

LACBC regional chapter West Hollywood Bicycle Coalition is leading the fight to keep bike lanes on the redesigned street. So I’ll let them take up the story from here.

Did you know that the city of West Hollywood is planning a huge redesign of La Brea Avenue? It’s is an amazing opportunity to fix a street that currently suffers from some of the worst congestion and hazardous intersections in West Hollywood. Fortunately, La Brea also enjoys a high concentration of great destinations, diverse growth, and proximity to pleasant neighborhoods. A bike lane would be an easy, inexpensive way to capitalize on West Hollywood’s easternmost assets, and effectively reduce the inconveniences of a city that’s growing by leaps and bounds.

Sound the Alarm

WeHo’s Notice of Intent to Adopt a Negative Declaration incorrectly claims that LA plans to paint sharrow stencils on La Brea. But the city of LA has proposed bike lanes — not sharrows — for La Brea Ave in its 2010 bike plan.

If West Hollywood’s portion of La Brea isn’t built with connectivity to LA’s future bike lanes, it could cost a lot of money to fix — and it could even cost lives.

Follow the Existing Guidelines

As luck would have it, the city of West Hollywood has already conducted a study that calls for bike lanes on La Brea. The recommendations of the Bicycle Task Force include the installation of Class II (that is, non-buffered) bike lanes on La Brea Ave. The report was unanimously approved by City Council in December of 2011.

La Brea bike lanes are also indicated by West Hollywood’s Climate Action Plan, the General Plan, and even the request for proposals for this very project.

Wouldn’t Bike Lanes Just Slow Traffic Down?

No. It might seem counter-intuitive at first, but when done correctly, bike lanes can help move traffic along faster.

How’s that? Well, bike lanes keep cyclists separated from faster-moving traffic, eliminating the need for cars to change lanes or suddenly slow down to pass bikes. They also reduce conflicts between bikes and cars at intersections. And dedicated lanes allow bikes to move safely forward through traffic, rather than swerving hazardously between stopped cars.

And of course, the biggest benefit of all: with more bike lanes, more people bike instead of drive, so there’s an overall reduction in traffic on the road.

Safety Over Aesthetics

What’s more important for La Brea: a giant landscaped median that simply looks nice, or bike lanes that can actually save residents’ lives?

There’s no argument that bike lanes will make La Brea safer for everyone — not just cyclists, but pedestrians and motorists, too.

When Long Beach installed bike lanes, bike accidents decreased by 80%, vehicle accidents decreased 44%, and sidewalk-riding decreased from 70% to 28%. LADOT’s own study showed that bike lanes can reduce accidents by 35%. That reduction isn’t just for cyclists — it also includes collisions between cars.

With numerous new pedestrian-oriented projects under construction on this already-busy street, bike lanes are an easy, cost-effective way to reduce accidents and injuries. If the street’s wide enough for a median, it’s wide enough for bike lanes.

So what can you do?

Contact the City of West Hollywood and let them know that we need bike lanes. The comment period for the Notice of Intent to Adopt a Negative Declaration closes very soon: 5pm on February 28.

Send your comments here:

Donn Uyeno, P.E.
Senior Civil Engineer
City of West Hollywood Department of Public Works
8300 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069
Tel: 323-848-6457 | Fax: 323-848-6564 | Email: duyeno@weho.org

And of course, follow us on FacebookTwitter, and email newsletter to get updates on our progress with this and other projects.

West Hollywood has just one more week to get the redesigned La Brea Avenue right the first time. So take a moment to take a stand for a safer, complete bike network that would benefit everyone on what is currently one of the area’s busiest and most dangerous streets.

I’ll be emailing them before the week is over. And I hope you’ll join me.

One other brief note.

The West Hollywood Bicycle Coalition is one of the area’s most dedicated and effective groups fighting for better bicycling in the Los Angeles area. If you live or ride in West Hollywood, you owe it to yourself to get involved with them; if you’re an LACBC member, you automatically qualify for membership.

If not, what are you waiting for?

The incredible disappearing sharrows, part two

Now you see them, now you don’t.

Just days after sharrows magically reappeared in Westwood — after being covered up in a massive failure of communication between two city agencies — it’s happened again.

Only this time, it’s a good thing.

According to an email I received on Wednesday, Torrance joined the recent rush to put sharrows on the streets this month — to the delight and disappointment of local cyclists.

Delight, because shared lane markings have proven exceptionally popular with many bike riders, indicating to drivers that we have a right to the road.

And to the lane.

Nice try, but this is just so wrong in so many ways.

Disappointment, because the markings were placed in entirely the wrong location — in the bike lane and well out of the traffic lane. And worse, they indicated that cyclists should ride directly in the door zone, rather than positioning riders outside it, as the marking are intended to do.

Maybe someone in the city’s Public Works Department saw the pretty bike and chevron design in another nearby town, and thought they’d look lovely on the streets of their own town. Or maybe they just wanted to be trendy, like everyone else here in SoCal, and didn’t want to get left off the sharrow express.

Problem is, they clearly didn’t research the hows and whys and — most importantly — wheres before they put paint on the street.

I’ll let my correspondent take it from here, quoting from the email he sent to the Public Works Department just last Saturday, with a copy sent to the city’s mayor.

Shared Lane Markings (aka “sharrows”) have been incorrectly installed on streets in the City of Torrance.

According to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, Shared Lane Markings are not to be used in designated bicycle lanes and, on streets with parallel parking, should be placed at least 11 feet from the curb.

The recently installed “sharrows” on Torrance Blvd (in designated bicycle lanes) and those on Anza Avenue (less than 11 feet from the curb and in the “door zone”) are nonconforming, exposing the city to possible liability should a bicycle rider be injured.

While the City of Torrance is to be applauded for its bicycle friendly efforts, the use of Shared Lane Markings should be in accordance with the MUTCD.

Under that black paint lies an unlamented misplaced and swiftly removed sharrow.

The response was surprisingly swift.

When he went out for his ride on Wednesday, he passed one of the locations where sharrows had been placed on Torrance Blvd.

And he was surprised to see that the offending pavement markings had already been painted over,  just five days —and only three business days — following his email. Evidently, it doesn’t hurt to copy the mayor’s office when you complain.

As he put it:

Better no sharrows than ones in the door zone.

………

As if people didn’t already think most cyclists are law-breaking scum.

The LAPD hosted a news conference Wednesday evening to announce that, despite improved relations with the cycling community, there are certain biking behaviors that just won’t be tolerated.

Like corking intersections. Riding on the wrong side of the road. Or swarming a grocery store parking lot, drinking beer and smoking pot, and riding bikes through the aisles of the store, scattering shoppers in your wake.

As Brent wrote in an email Wednesday,

…it’s like the new “skateboarding” — hanging out with your friends, skateboard in one hand, joint in the other. But it sure does tar the rest of us just trying to get to our destination by bicycle.

Leaders of the local bike community are working to ensure it doesn’t happen again at Critical Mass this Friday. And the police will be on hand to make damn sure it doesn’t.

Tolerance only goes so far.

And patience has clearly run out.

………

Damien Newton breaks the news that Rita Robinson may be leaving her position as LADOT General Manager to take a high-level position with the county. Interesting timing, as it comes at the same time that New York DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, a graduate of Occidental College, is rumored to be having trouble with her new, less-bike-friendly boss.

Maybe this is Mayor Villaraigosa’s opportunity to demonstrate that he really is the bike community’s new BFF, and bring her back home to L.A.

………

LADOT Bike Blog sums up its excellent series on where you can and can’t ride on the sidewalk in L.A. County. And concludes by saying it just shows there’s still work to be done.

If bicycles are supposed to be considered vehicles with responsibilities and rights equal to automobiles, like CVC 21200 states, then bicyclists deserve to have rules for their operation that are at least as uniform as the rules for operating an automobile.

The LA County Sidewalk Riding series proves, if nothing else, that we’ve still got a ways to go in that regard.

………

Villaraigosa offers Angelenos a personal invitation to attend CicLAvia on 10/10/10. Gary says when someone steals your bike, you can always rollerblade. Here’s what you can look forward to at next month’s Tour da Fat. A Fresno mother pleads for justice in the hit-and-run death of her son. Bike lawyer Bob Mionske discusses liability for road hazards, saying you may not be at fault for that fall; something you might want to remember, considering we have the 2nd worst roads in the U.S. The search continues for the schmuck driver who fled the scene after hitting two cyclists in rapid succession in Portland. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood looks back on Tuesday’s Distracted Driving Summit, saying distraction-related crashes are 100% preventable. A reputed Lance Armstrong accuser testifies before the Grand Jury investigating him here in L.A.; is it truth or sour grapes? Top young pro Taylor Phinney blows off Lance and signs with BMC. How to ride in a paceline. If you want to get away with murder, use a car instead of a gun. Canadian TV asks if enough cyclists use Vancouver’s new bike lanes to justify their existence, while a writer says the city’s cyclists are their own worst enemies. An English cyclist was five times over the legal drunk driving limit when he was killed in a collision. A British rider asks for advice on how to make her longer bike commute more fun. A rare, 130-year old tricycle is stolen from a Brit bike charity. Researchers say traffic jams are caused by a combination of aggressive and/or timid drivers; link courtesy of @Metro Library. A different approach to Budapest’s Critical Mass works better than expected.

Finally, the inevitable far-right backlash begins against Wednesday’s Car-Free Day; evidently, it’s another left-wing plot, just like bike sharing.

Advice from a pimp on making PCH safer and more livable for everyone

I’ve met some interesting people over the years.

I once had a long philosophical discussion with a drug dealer when my car happened to break down on his corner, and talked with a Super Bowl-bound football star about his premonition of scoring the winning touchdown — one that fell just inches short of coming true.

Then again, a lot of championships have been lost on almost.

I’ve shared drinks with future rock stars before they made it big, and chatted with others who should have made it but didn’t. I’ve known powerbrokers and paupers, pimps and politicians. Not that there’s a lot of difference between the last two.

In fact, it was a pimp who offered some of the best advice I’ve ever been given.

I was working in a jewelry store at the time; he walked through the door, just an ordinary looking guy in a business suit — if you ignored the fur hat, flashy jewelry and even flashier women on either arm.

After briefly cruising through the store, he asked me to show him a very expensive ring — for himself, of course. But stopped me when I started to tell him the price.

“Don’t matter,” he said.

When I seemed surprised, he explained. “If I want it, the price don’t matter ‘cause I’ll pay whatever it costs. If I don’t want it, don’t matter ’cause I won’t buy it.”

“Only matters is if I don’t know what I want. And then I’d be a damn fool to let the price talk me into it.”

The current situation in Malibu is kind of like that.

If they truly want to make PCH safer, they’ll find a way to do it, whatever it takes. And come up with policies and infrastructure solutions that will benefit everyone — cyclists and drivers, residents and visitors.

If they don’t, then nothing will really change. They’ll ticket a few riders for running red lights, pull over some speeders and bust a handful of drunk drivers. And people will continue to die on a highway that doesn’t work for anyone — least of all the people who live and work there.

The real problem is if they don’t know what they want. Like if they want to improve things, but consider the problems they face insurmountable, the costs too high. Or if the obvious solutions, such as traffic calming and reduced speed limits, increased enforcement and on-road bike lanes — or an off-road bike path that bypasses PCH entirely — are rejected out of hand, whether because of the cost or a lack of will.

Or just rampant NIMBY-ism, because they don’t want to encourage cyclists to ride on PCH. And intend to continue letting conditions deteriorate until we stop riding past those high-end homes that line the beach on the eastern part of the city.

Note to Malibu: Ain’t gonna happen.

So our job, as cyclists, is not to fight with the city until we convince them to do nothing because it’s not worth the aggravation of dealing with us.

But to convince them to work with us to improve safety and take a Complete Streets approach to PCH, because it’s in everyone’s best interest. And the law.

And will make Malibu a safer and more livable city.

For all of us.

………

And then there were five. Or maybe five-and-a-half.

As Damien noted on Streetsblog Tuesday, the long awaited sharrows on Westholme Ave. have disappeared without warning, victim of a slurry-sealing project that has been underway in the Westwood area for the past few weeks.

I discovered it on Tuesday when I set off to ride some hills, starting with the long step climb up Westholme. About a block or so after crossing Wilshire Blvd, the tell-tale jet-black pavement appeared and the sharrows disappeared, lost beneath the thin veneer of slurry until just before Hilgard.

According to Damien, LADOT seemed to be as surprised as the rest of us; evidently, the Bureau of Street Services evidently failed to notify them of the plans. Or noted the strange hieroglyphics on the pavement, and never thought to ask if maybe they happened to be something important before covering them over.

LADOT Bike Blog indicates that getting those sharrows back will be a top priority for the department.

But maybe next time, biking’s new BFF, Mayor Villaraigosa, might want to make sure the people who work for him talk to each other before they do something stupid.

Again.

………

Vuelta stage 4 winner Igor Anton suggests Joaquim Rodriguez has the best chance of winning among the home-turf Spanish riders. Alberto Contador, who’s sitting out the Vuelta, injures his knee in training. And more tributes pour in for cycling great Laurent Fignon, dead at age 50.

………

Metro says fire officials consider groups of cyclists on trains a fire hazard. Important meeting Wednesday night on the Santa Monica Agensys bike path-blocking project. Speaking of Santa Monica, LA Creek Freak looks at the planned conversion of lower Ocean Park Blvd into a green Complete Street; if you happen to be a Malibu city official, click on the link. Please. LADOT Bike Blog examines sidewalk riding laws in the San Gabriel Valley. Ride with the Ovarian Psychos/Cycle Bicycle Brigade. San Diego considers making the central plaza in Balboa Park car free. A cyclist hits a trolley in East San Diego County. Several California bike clubs risk losing their non-profit status, including some in the L.A. area. San Francisco finishes its first new bike lane since the injunction was lifted. Bicycling suggests 15 proven ways to get faster, and offers tips on how to teach your child to ride to school. New York continues to lead the way to safer streets, with a planned experiment to reduce speeds to 20 mph. A small Texas town now requires a permit for groups of 10 or more cyclists; no word on whether groups of cars will now require permits, as well. A driver picks up his dropped cell phone, and find himself in the bike lane when he looks up — just before hitting a cyclist. A Kansas cyclist leaves a message in chalk to thank the woman who saved his life. Connecticut starts a 3-foot law bike safety campaign. Brit model Kelly Brock rides her bike at the Tower of London, and looks a lot more comfortable on two wheels than London’s biking Mayor BoJo.

Finally, the definition of irony, as bike-banning Black Hawk, Colorado invites the League of American Bicyclists to come gamble at their casinos.

But, uh, leave your bikes at home.

Sharrows hit the street on Abbot Kinney

Headed west on Abbot Kinney, the first sharrow appears just after crossing Venice Blvd.

Thanks to a tip from Eric B, I made a point of including Abbot Kinney Blvd on my most recent ride so I could to check out the new sharrows — the final link in the city’s new six-street sharrows pilot project.

Over all, they seem to do the job.

When there wasn’t a bike present, the cars rolled over the sharrows as if they weren’t there — unlike the response on Westholme Ave, where drivers didn’t seem to know what to make of them.

When there were bikes around, the drivers passed whenever the opportunity presented. But at least they all seemed to pass at a safe distance.

Riding beside the bumpy thermoplastic places riders dangerously close to the door zone.

Which, I suppose, is all we can really ask for.

There’s one oddly placed sharrow on the westbound lane about a block from Venice, where the street curves, which seems to direct riders off the roadway — although I didn’t get a photo of it, since I was a little preoccupied with trying not to get run over at the time.

Maybe it was directing riders to stop at the food trucks that frequent the parking lot at the Brig, since that seems to be where it’s pointing.

Choosing the bumpier ride puts cyclists in a better lane position.

And like the other locations, the raised thermoplastic makes for a bumpy ride, which may encourage cyclists to ride beside the sharrows rather than over them — giving riders less control over the lane and placing them at the edge of the door zone.

So now the final piece of the pilot project is in place.

While we may think sharrows are a no brainer, the question remains whether the city’s implementation of them will encourage cyclists to use them. Or if decisions made regarding their placement on the streets will make riders feel less safe.

Sharrows stretch out on both sides from Main Street to Venice Blvd.

How drivers will respond is also an open question. Especially without adequate signage or educational efforts directed at motorists.

As is whether historically risk-averse LADOT will use the results to improve future installations throughout the city. Or call it a failed experiment and throw in the towel if issues arise.

It’s going to be an interesting experiment.

The question remains how drivers will respond on a busier street like Abbot Kinney — especially without signage or driver education.

………

On the last day of the Tour de France, Mark Cavendish won the final sprint in Paris, while Alberto Contador won his third Tour by one of the smallest margins in TdF history — the same amount of time Andy Schleck lost when he dropped his chain.

In the penultimate stage of this year’s Tour, Schleck gave it his best in Saturday’s time trial, but it just isn’t enough as Fabian Cancellara won the stage and Contador clinched victory — but Schleck will be back in 2011. After Christian Vande Velde crashes out of the Tour, aptly named Canadian Ryder Hesjedal became an overnight sensation for Garmin-Transitions. Tyler Farrar should be back on his bike in time for next month’s Tour of Spain. For Lance Armstrong, his 13th Tour really was bad luck as he finished 23rd, and his team’s attempt to honor cancer survivors was disallowed, but at least the French are on his side for once.

And on Nightline, Floyd Landis said “I saw Lance Armstrong using drugs.”

………

A look at Saturday’s Walk and Ride for a Safer 4th Street. Make your plans for the first public meeting of the bike committee of the Santa Monica Recreation & Parks Committee on Monday night. Tuesday evening there’s a demonstration and press conference in Beverly Hills to protest the slap on the wrist given Celine Mahdavi for nearly killing Louis “Birdman” Deliz. Courtesy of my friends at Altadenablog, a USC neuropathologist rides 140 miles for Alzheimer’s research. Get your limited edition, hand-printed CicLAvia t-shirt. The former chairman of the Yucca Valley Planning Commission is ordered to stand trial for killing a cyclist while driving with a blood alcohol level over twice the legal limit. Three NorCal cyclists are hurt in separate incidents on the same road just hours apart — two on the same spot. The cyclist killed in North Dakota last week was on her way to Casper WY to build homes with Habitat for Humanity. A DC area cyclist dies, apparently from the high heat and humidity blanketing the East Coast. A Brit Olympian is in stable condition after suffering a skull fracture when he was hit by a truck in Winslow AZ last Tuesday. A reminder that bicyclists have to follow the rules of the road, too; thanks, we didn’t know that. Everything you need to know to talk bikes in 27 European languages. Every bike means less traffic and one more parking space. Twelve reasons why vehicular cycling may not be the answer for everyone.

Finally, a conversation with London mayor and avid bike supporter Boris Johnson, who undoubtedly won a lot of fans with his stand on bike theft.

“Plainly, we will treat bike thieves with the utmost severity. I’m looking at a very draconian policy. Bring back the stocks!”

Bright shiny new sharrows in Westwood

This morning, I set out on a ride down to Manhattan Beach, rolling right past the future home of sharrows on Westholme Ave.

As has been the case for the past few weeks, a quick glance up and down the street for traffic showed no signs of any new paint. At least none I hadn’t already spotted.

These markings have been on the street for the past week or so.

So imagine my surprise when I rolled back about 3 hours and 45 miles later, and noticed a car slow down to a near stop, evidently confused by the new markings that had suddenly appeared on Westholme.

Seriously, I swear these weren't there this morning.

I stopped to take a look, and sure enough, there were a pair of bright, shiny new sharrows on the street leading up to Wilshire Blvd. And a quick look the other way showed more heading south towards Santa Monica Blvd.

Sharrows to the left, sharrows to the right.

So even though my legs were on their last legs, I couldn’t resist the temptation to ride up as far as Wilshire to check them out.

Even though they were placed in the center of the lane, it seemed appropriate, since the lanes on this section are narrow — and definitely not sharable.

Even placed in the center of the lane, they're just outside the door zone.

Riding up towards Wilshire, I was perfectly comfortable riding on the sharrows, moving to the right to let cars pass when it was safe and appropriate. Coming back, there were no cars parked on the right due to street sweeping restrictions, so I stuck to the parking lane and let the drivers have the traffic lane to themselves.

On the other hand, many of the drivers who went by didn’t seem to know what to make of the strange symbols on the road in front of them. Some slowed down and examined them closely, while others drove onto the other side of the road to go around them — even though there weren’t any bikes, or anything else, in their way.

This driver wasn't the only one who seemed afraid to cross over the strange markings that had appeared without warning.

Then there were others who didn’t seem to notice there was anything different.

Those are the ones I worry about.

That just leaves Abbot Kinney Blvd as the last of the six streets scheduled to get sharrows during the current pilot project. And I just rode there on my way back this afternoon.

So I can safely say there aren’t any there.

Yet.

A meditation on sharrows and door zones

In search of the Great White Sharrow.

Last week, I found out exactly where the door zone is.

Not that I didn’t know before.

Though now I doubt I’ll ever question it again.

Last month I mentioned that I’d ended up riding the now nearly four week-old sharrows on 4th Street the day they first appeared. And found them not quite to my liking, placing me a little further out into the lane than I felt comfortable with.

After reading that, Gary Kavanagh reminded me about the sharrows that had been placed on Hermosa Avenue in Hermosa Beach since I’d last been down that way.

So I set off to check them out, plotting a route that would take me to the Redondo Pier, then back up to check out Santa Monica’s newly extended bike lanes on Arizona Ave and the new sharrows on 14th Street. And figured I might as well visit the site of the soon-to-come sharrows on Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice while I was at it.

Call it my own personal Tour de Sharrows.

As I rode up Abbot Kinney, I took my usual position just inside the lane and just outside the door zone.

A short line of cars passed safely around me, moving across the yellow line to leave a comfortable margin of three to five feet. All except the last car in the line, which failed to follow the example the others had set — and instead buzzed me less than a foot from my left elbow.

At that exact moment, as a car zoomed by just inches to my left, a driver unlocked his parked car and — without ever gazing behind him — threw open his door, missing me by just inches.

That’s when the real meaning of door zone sank in.

If I’d positioned myself even a few inches to the right, I would have been knocked into the car on my left. And where I would have pinballed from there I have no idea.

And no desire to find out.

But it reconfirmed my own instincts, and provided exactly the experience I needed evaluate the sharrows for myself.

When I made it to Hermosa, I paused to take a couple of quick photos. And watched as the drivers zoomed down the street jockeying for position on a busy beach day — despite what it looks like in the photo below — and convincing me that I would have to struggle to hold my lane position. Sharrows or not.

Yet my experience was exactly the opposite.

The start of the Hermosa sharrows, which extend down Hermosa Ave from the bike path.

The sharrows were positioned dead center in the right lane, just as they’d been on 4th Street. But here they were on a four lane street, rather than two. And as I rode down the center of the lane, drivers either followed patiently behind me, or simply moved into the other lane to go around me.

No one honked. No one pressured me or passed too close. And the only driver who followed closer than I liked went around me once he realized I wasn’t going to get out of his way.

In other words, it was probably the most enjoyable experience I’d ever had taking the lane.

I can’t say I felt that way in Santa Monica.

When is a bike lane not a bike lane? When it's a work zone in Santa Monica.

First up was the bike lane on Arizona, in which I rode safely for exactly one block before being forced into the traffic lane by a city work crew. So I took my place in the lane, riding squarely down the middle and holding my place in a line cars until I could move safely back into the bike lane and leave them in my lurch.

As I was for the light to change, I noticed not everyone in Santa Monica like bikes.

When I got to 14th Street, I turned left and resumed my usual place just outside the door zone. For the first few blocks, the lane was wide enough that cars could pass easily on my left. Once it narrowed, I moved a little further into the lane, yet still far enough to the right that drivers could pass with just a little patience by briefly moving onto the other side of the road.

Sharrows on 14th Street are placed exactly in the center of the traffic lane/

That ended once the sharrows started.

Just as on Hermosa Avenue, the sharrows were placed directly in the middle of the traffic lane. But here it was on a two lane street, where drivers would be forced to go all the way onto the other side of the road to go around me.

The drivers behind me clearly had no intention of doing that. And I can’t say I blamed them.

So after awhile, I ignored the markings on the asphalt, and moved back to where I felt more comfortable on the right third of the lane — allowing the drivers behind to go around by briefly crossing over the center of the road, much to their relief. And mine.

It was then that I discovered my own personal sharrow comfort level.

UCLA's sharrows are placed in the right third of the traffic lane.

On roads with two lanes in each direction, I’m perfectly comfortable in the center of the lane, where anyone who wants to pass can simply take the other lane. I don’t have to worry about impatient drivers behind me, or feel like I’m not sharing the road myself.

Even though I’m quite comfortable riding in the center of the lane for short distances or when I’m moving at or near the speed of traffic, I prefer sharrows placed on the right third of the lane when there’s just one lane in each direction. Like the ones that I’ve used when riding through the UCLA campus the past few years.

This marking either means that a sharrow goes here, or your money went that way.

And judging by the placement markings that recently appeared on the street, exactly where it looks like LADOT is planning to place them on Westholme Ave.

It may not be the placement preferred by everyone.

But it keeps me out of the door zone while putting me in control of the lane — without blocking it completely.

And it’s the one I’m most comfortable with.

Yesterday’s ride, on which I discover sharrows on Westholme Ave — or maybe not

Easy come, easy go.

Ever since they went down on Fountain and 4th, I’ve been on sharrow watch along the routes I ride on a semi-regular basis. Which means Westholme Ave in Westwood and Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice, since they’re the only two Westside streets scheduled to get sharrows as part the current pilot project.

Notice the misaligned chevrons on top of this painted-over sharrow.

So imagine my surprise when I found one on the upper portion of Westholme, just below Hilgard Ave and the UCLA campus. Even more surprising, it had been painted over completely, just leaving a shadow of its former self.

Then just a little further uphill, I found another one.

And this one seems a little squished.

For a moment, I thought that maybe LADOT had put the first few Westholme sharrows down, then changed their mind for some reason.

Oddly, though, the paint appeared to be flat, rather than the raised thermoplastic favored by LADOT. Then there was the unusual shape of the blacked out shadows, with one showing misaligned chevrons and the other seeming a little… squished.

Which raised the question of whether these were official street markings that had somehow been misapplied. Or if the Department of DIY was back in action, unwilling to wait a moment longer for their Westwood shared lanes. Or maybe they just wanted to ensure proper placement on the street.

Which then raised the question of who painted them over. Was it LADOT trying to cover up a mistake or remove an illegal DIY application? Or had NIMBY-ism once again reared its ugly head and a local homeowner decided that bikes don’t belong on his street?

Inquiring minds want to know. So I reached out to a contact at LADOT to see if they knew the real story. As it turns out, they did.

Those sharrows had been applied over two months ago as part of the initial study to survey cyclists and examine driver behavior before the real sharrows are installed, so the city would be able to determine what effect they have on both. Then they were immediately painted over to avoid confusing anyone — other than me, that is — until the more permanent markings are installed.

So the question isn’t what they were doing there, or even who painted over them. But why the hell I hadn’t noticed them before — despite riding directly over them at least a dozen times in the weeks that followed.

On the other hand, it does bring up a good point.

As much as I’ve criticized LADOT for requiring a study to prove the effectiveness of shared lane markings that have already been shown effective in real-world conditions around the globe, that’s exactly what it is.

A study.

The six initial installations are part of a test to determine how L.A. drivers and cyclists respond to sharrows, and if they actually make the city’s streets any safer for riders. Or if they just end up further aggravating L.A.’s already impatient drivers.

And exactly how, where — and if  — they’re used in the future will depend on the results.

………

Alex David Trujillo has been convicted of 2nd degree murder for the October, 2008 death of 46-year old Catherine Busse, who was killed as she rode next to her 14-year old son. Trujillo, who had previously been convicted of drunk driving and attended 9 months of court-ordered alcohol awareness classes, had a blood alcohol level of .09 at the time of the collision — hours after he’d stopped drinking — as well as Oxycodone, Vicodin, Xanax and Soma in his system.

He now faces 15 years to life in state prison; sentencing is scheduled for August 20th.

………

More on Friday’s successful LAPD accompanied Critical Mass — LADOT Bike Blog says it was clear from the start it was going to be successful, Sirinya had the time of her life, Stephen Box says it turned into a Ride of Respect and Damien says we all rode as one, even though LAist says a cyclist was hit by a car in West Hollywood.

………

Flying Pigeon asks if the lessons learned by the Dutch translate to L.A. cycling. CicLAvia is halfway to their goal of raising $7,000. Bicycle Fixation finds a bike corral at the Farmer’s Market. L.A. cyclists tour Pershing Square and the Downtown area. Oakland is the latest city to host a ciclovia. A Santa Cruz bank is held up by a bicyclist, but at least he wore a helmet. A cyclist from Lodi is seriously injured in Idaho after being brushed by a passing SUV, then hit by the following pickup after falling in the roadway, evidently because the sun got in their eyes; fortunately, the police didn’t buy the first driver’s excuse. Biking just five minutes a day helps women keep weight gains to a minimum; of course you wouldn’t get very far. Instructions on how to fix a flat tire; something I’ve done way too much lately. Now there are at least two bands that tour by bicycle. LCD Soundsystem’s new video features Portlanders jousting on tall bikes. A new website launches offering advice for cyclists — as well as drivers. A Florida driver pleads not guilty of stabbing two cyclists following an argument. Bike share comes to the City of Big Shoulders. Cyclists pitch in for Habitat for Humanity. Cincinnati passes a new Bike Master Plan and bike safety ordinance. New York requires every bike to have a bell, even if it doesn’t do any good. The old myth of cyclists not paying for the road rears its ugly head in Southwestern Colorado. Bicycling says don’t bet on Lance in this year’s Tour unless maybe you are Lance. Does Toronto need blue bike lanes? A former driver wasn’t prepared for the absolute concentration required by bike commuting. Sheffield, England calculates that their bike training program pays off seven pounds sterling for every pound invested. A London cyclist is seriously injured by a truck belonging to the same company that killed another cyclist earlier this year. Riding with London’s bike bobbies. Scotland boosts bike spending by £4 million — about $6 million U.S. Israel tells soldiers to leave their bikes at home. Brisbane cyclists are ticketed for speeding and not having a bell.

Finally, Dave Moulton says mandatory helmet laws are like allowing people to walk around shooting guns, then making everyone wear a bullet proof vest.

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