Tag Archive for sharrows

Do we dare to declare victory?

“I declare the war is over; it’s over…” — Phil Ochs, The War Is Over

In case you missed it, L.A. cyclists scored a couple of big victories in the last few weeks.

As you may recall, following the outrage over LADOT’s plans to remove the bike lanes on Reseda Blvd in order to install peak hour lanes, LADOT denied they would ever consider such a thing. As part of that denial, LADOT explained that they were planning to repave a 1-mile section of Reseda, and that maybe that’s where the “misunderstanding” started.

Cyclists, of course, smelled opportunity.

Or maybe we just smelled blood in the water. And insisted that LADOT prove their sincerity by completing the long-delayed bike lanes along the full length of Reseda that we were promised in the old bike plan, starting with that one mile section.

Then, as cyclists continued to press their case at a meeting of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, Alan Willis, LADOT Principal Transportation Engineer for Valley Traffic Operations, announced that the promised bike lanes would be installed on the section to be repaved. And that the remaining gaps in the bikeway could — maybe — eventually be closed.

Of course, they never admitted their deception. Let alone offered an apology.

Then last week came news that after 5 long years, the city is finally moving forward with a Sharrow test project. Nine streets are under consideration, including one along the current Class 3 bike route on Westholme Ave, just blocks from my home.

This comes less than a year after an LADOT representative gave an update to the city council’s Transportation Committee, claiming that the delay was because they didn’t know what kind of paint to use so that cyclists wouldn’t slip on wet paint when it rained.

Maybe that was a legitimate concern in today’s highly litigious society. Although when I mentioned that to a respected transportation planner at the Bike Summit earlier this year, he just rolled his eyes.

Of course, cities from Pittsburgh to Long Beach — not to mention Portland, Denver, Minneapolis and Seattle, just to name a few — have already put sharrows to use on the streets. And to the best of my knowledge, there have been no rash of injured cyclists in those cities.

But maybe they don’t have wet streets in Seattle, Portland or San Francisco. Or maybe cyclists there don’t come out until the streets are completely dry after a storm.

Or maybe LADOT just forgot to call their counterparts in those soggy cities to ask what kind of paint they use.

Still, the commitment to move forward with a Sharrow pilot project is a major victory. And the LACBC deserves credit for hanging in there and refusing to let them delay it to death. Combined with the bike lanes on Reseda, those are the biggest wins for local cyclists in recent memory.

Of course, the bad news is that LADOT actually considered removing existing bike lanes to squeeze a few more cars onto the already overcrowded city streets. Which means that no bike lane, sharrow or bike route — existing or not — will ever be safe if it stands in the way of what they consider progress.

Which means that we need to remain vigilant, ready to defend what little biking infrastructure we have. Let alone fight for what we deserve.

Of course, there is another alternative.

The city — and LADOT in particular — could start working with cyclists, rather than seeming to fight us every step of the way. They could, finally, start focusing on how they can move more people, rather than just more cars.

And begin building complete, livable streets that work for all their users, as well as the people who live, work and shop along them.

They might just find that we could be the best friends that they — and this city — ever had.

……….

The Anonymous Cyclist spots new ex-parking meter bike racks in Westwood. No Whip discovers a wallride in Mammoth, and Stephen Box discovers a full-service bike station Down Under. Travelin’ Local presents five ways to use your bike while traveling on Metro. LADOT wins an Emmy for a PSA encouraging drivers to pay attention around kids. The Times much-missed transportation beat reporter is now pucking around online. Joe Linton details the latest controversy, this time over a SoCal Gas plan to “fix” the popular fat tire and hiking trail in Sullivan Canyon, while lining portions of the creek bed with rip rap and concrete matting. A writer on Bob Mionske’s Bicycle Law blog challenges car-centric news coverage of a driver arrested for intentionally striking a cyclist, while Bob discusses what “as far to the right as practical” means in real life. A DC cyclist is physically assaulted after pushing a car door to avoid being doored. Town Mouse outrides a herd of migrating Scottish cows. Controversy flares in Korea over a proposed mandatory helmet law. Finally, sex columnist Dan Savage dares drivers to show their contempt for the recent study showing they’re at fault for 90% of car/bike collisions — and they gladly oblige. Of course.

This bike lane is mine, God gave this lane to me

Today’s vastly oversimplified and seemingly off-topic history lesson:

It wasn’t that long ago, a little less than a century, that there were very few Jews in Israel. In fact, there was no Israel.

At the end of the first World War, less than 90,000 Jews lived in what was then known as Palestine. Then the Zionist Movement encouraged the migration of Jews to Palestine, reclaiming the land the Romans expelled them from nearly two millennia before.

The turmoil preceding World War II led to further migration, as did the resettlement of refugees following the Holocaust — resulting in the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

The only problem is, there were already people living there.

Over 700,000 Arab Palestinians became refugees virtually overnight. And a conflict began that defies resolution 60 years later, as two distinct groups claim their right to the same limited space.

Remind you of anything?

There was a time — a very brief time — when the bicycle was the king of the road; the cleaner, more efficient, new-fangled contraption that was to replace the horse and buggy. At least until the car came along and claimed the roads for themselves.

Bikes were relegated to the side of the road — or banned from the roadways entirely. Some cyclists and traffic planners believed the solution was to build segregated bike lanes and off-road paths; others felt the answer lay in reclaiming our space on road, just as any other form of vehicular traffic.

The problem was, drivers felt the streets belonged to them, and would not willingly give up any part of the road, or make way for what they considered an inferior mode of transportation invading their turf.

And so began the conflict we deal with every day. A cold — or sometimes, very hot — war between cyclists and drivers, as we fight for our right to ride, and the motorized world too often refuses to give an inch.

Does it compare to the tragedy currently unfolding in Gaza?

Of course not. But the roots of the conflict are similar, and a resolution just as unlikely.

Even the cycling community is divided as to what approach to take. Some riders refuse to be confined to a separate but unequal lifestyle; others are willing to utilize bike paths and lanes, but believe the solution lies in a better educated motoring public. Some believe in sharrows, while others are willing to fight for their bike lanes; yet even those who support those painted lines on the street accept that they may not always be the best solution.

Then there are those of us who want to take their bike lanes with them, and others who are just happy to stay off the sidewalk.

As for me, I suppose I have a wheel in both camps. I agree with Will, in that I believe the ideal solution lies in educating drivers, so they’re more willing to share the road. And make room for us as equal users of the streets.

I just don’t believe that will ever happen.

So unless, and until, it does, I will take my place on the road, while staking my claim to the bike lane — even if it doesn’t go anywhere. And fight to defend it from any form of abuse, encroachment or foreign invaders. Because separate and unequal may not be ideal, or even right, but it’s ours.

And right now, it’s the best we’ve got.

Gary reports on Bike Kill, complete with killer photos. Matt fills us in on L.A.’s upcoming tour de hills (and yes, we do have a few), while Will once again demonstrates his mastery of the cyclist’s revenge — with no blood, or anything else, spilled. C.I.C.L.E. announces their new office in Northeast L.A., courtesy of the brewers of my favorite beer. Denver follows up on its bike sharing program during the Democratic Convention with an affordable city-wide rent-a-ride plan. And Lauren, AKA hardrockgirl, fills us in on her first four months of L.A. riding, part 1 (and thanks for the kind word).

Today’s post, in which I call long distance

Switchboard.

Hi, uh…is the Big Guy in?

Hold please.

“…Heaven…must be missing an angel…”

God here.

Uh, the God?

Yo.

All knowing, king of kings, creator of heaven and earth…?

Look, was there something you needed? I’m kinda busy here.

Sorry. Just didn’t think you’d be, you know, so easy to reach.

Good timing. Just got off a call on the Pope’s direct line.

The Pope has a direct line?

Yeah. Just wish he’d use it a little more often, you know?

Yeah.

So?

Oh. Sorry. See, I’ve been working in-house for a company out in the Marina this week…

Mmmm hmmmm. All knowing, remember?

Oh, right. Sorry.

Stop saying that.

Okay, sor…uh, yeah, so I noticed when I was driving back from work…

You could ride, you know.

Well, there’s no place to shower, see, and I have to run errands at lunch.

Yeah, keep telling yourself that.

Anyway, I’ve been worried about some of the cyclists I see when I’m driving. I mean, some of these guys are out there at rush hour, riding in the dark, with no light, no helmet and no common sense, cutting in and out of traffic like it was daylight. Like this one guy, dressed all in black on a dark street with no streetlights, if he hadn’t been backlit by another car’s headlights, I never would have known he was there.

And…?

I was hoping you could do something for them, you know, like divine protection or something. ‘Cause they’re gonna need it if they keep riding like that.

Look, I’d like to help. Really, I would. But there’s only so much I can do.

But you’re…

All powerful. Yeah, I know. But it’s that free will thing. I can’t protect people from their own foolish choices.

Okay, I get it. But can we at least give them sharrows or something?

Take it up with city council. It’s a jurisdictional thing. I get the planets and stars, they get the city streets.

Bummer.

Yeah, you’d think they could at least get the damn streets paved.

Well, thanks anyway. Wish your son a Merry Christmas for me.

He’s Jewish.

Oh. Well, happy Hanuk…

(CLICK)

 

Alex dodges a hot pursuit in Culver City. And for once, they weren’t running cyclists out of town. Timur ruminates on his second Critical Mass. Town Mouse reminds us that there are more challenging surfaces for cycling than our crumbling city streets. Our local Bike Snob is shocked – shocked – to find a Rock Racing cyclist on dope. A couple local cycling clubs are holding Toy Rides for Tots. And finally, it turns out Gold Line stations may not be the best places to leave a bike.

Today’s post, in which I call long distance

Switchboard.

Hi, uh…is the Big Guy in?

Hold please.

“…Heaven…must be missing an angel…”

God here.

Uh, the God?

Yo.

All knowing, king of kings, creator of heaven and earth…?

Look, was there something you needed? I’m kinda busy here.

Sorry. Just didn’t think you’d be, you know, so easy to reach.

Good timing. Just got off a call on the Pope’s direct line.

The Pope has a direct line?

Yeah. Just wish he’d use it a little more often, you know?

Yeah.

So?

Oh. Sorry. See, I’ve been working in-house for a company out in the Marina this week…

Mmmm hmmmm. All knowing, remember?

Oh, right. Sorry.

Stop saying that.

Okay, sor…uh, yeah, so I noticed when I was driving back from work…

You could ride, you know.

Well, there’s no place to shower, see, and I have to run errands at lunch.

Yeah, keep telling yourself that.

Anyway, I’ve been worried about some of the cyclists I see when I’m driving. I mean, some of these guys are out there at rush hour, riding in the dark, with no light, no helmet and no common sense, cutting in and out of traffic like it was daylight. Like this one guy, dressed all in black on a dark street with no streetlights, if he hadn’t been backlit by another car’s headlights, I never would have known he was there.

And…?

I was hoping you could do something for them, you know, like divine protection or something. ‘Cause they’re gonna need it if they keep riding like that.

Look, I’d like to help. Really, I would. But there’s only so much I can do.

But you’re…

All powerful. Yeah, I know. But it’s that free will thing. I can’t protect people from their own foolish choices.

Okay, I get it. But can we at least give them sharrows or something?

Take it up with city council. It’s a jurisdictional thing. I get the planets and stars, they get the city streets.

Bummer.

Yeah, you’d think they could at least get the damn streets paved.

Well, thanks anyway. Wish your son a Merry Christmas for me.

He’s Jewish.

Oh. Well, happy Hanuk…

(CLICK)

 

Alex dodges a hot pursuit in Culver City. And for once, they weren’t running cyclists out of town. Timur ruminates on his second Critical Mass. Town Mouse reminds us that there are more challenging surfaces for cycling than our crumbling city streets. Our local Bike Snob is shocked – shocked – to find a Rock Racing cyclist on dope. A couple local cycling clubs are holding Toy Rides for Tots. And finally, it turns out Gold Line stations may not be the best places to leave a bike.

Today’s post, in which I call long distance

Switchboard.

Hi, uh…is the Big Guy in?

Hold please.

“…Heaven…must be missing an angel…”

God here.

Uh, the God?

Yo.

All knowing, king of kings, creator of heaven and earth…?

Look, was there something you needed? I’m kinda busy here.

Sorry. Just didn’t think you’d be, you know, so easy to reach.

Good timing. Just got off a call on the Pope’s direct line.

The Pope has a direct line?

Yeah. Just wish he’d use it a little more often, you know?

Yeah.

So?

Oh. Sorry. See, I’ve been working in-house for a company out in the Marina this week…

Mmmm hmmmm. All knowing, remember?

Oh, right. Sorry.

Stop saying that.

Okay, sor…uh, yeah, so I noticed when I was driving back from work…

You could ride, you know.

Well, there’s no place to shower, see, and I have to run errands at lunch.

Yeah, keep telling yourself that.

Anyway, I’ve been worried about some of the cyclists I see when I’m driving. I mean, some of these guys are out there at rush hour, riding in the dark, with no light, no helmet and no common sense, cutting in and out of traffic like it was daylight. Like this one guy, dressed all in black on a dark street with no streetlights, if he hadn’t been backlit by another car’s headlights, I never would have known he was there.

And…?

I was hoping you could do something for them, you know, like divine protection or something. ‘Cause they’re gonna need it if they keep riding like that.

Look, I’d like to help. Really, I would. But there’s only so much I can do.

But you’re…

All powerful. Yeah, I know. But it’s that free will thing. I can’t protect people from their own foolish choices.

Okay, I get it. But can we at least give them sharrows or something?

Take it up with city council. It’s a jurisdictional thing. I get the planets and stars, they get the city streets.

Bummer.

Yeah, you’d think they could at least get the damn streets paved.

Well, thanks anyway. Wish your son a Merry Christmas for me.

He’s Jewish.

Oh. Well, happy Hanuk…

(CLICK)

 

Alex dodges a hot pursuit in Culver City. And for once, they weren’t running cyclists out of town. Timur ruminates on his second Critical Mass. Town Mouse reminds us that there are more challenging surfaces for cycling than our crumbling city streets. Our local Bike Snob is shocked – shocked – to find a Rock Racing cyclist on dope. A couple local cycling clubs are holding Toy Rides for Tots. And finally, it turns out Gold Line stations may not be the best places to leave a bike.

For once, I shut up and let someone else talk

Ever since last Friday’s Transportation Committee meeting, I’ve been filtering my own thoughts in preparation of discussing the subject today.

But then Damien Newton of Streetsblog Los Angeles added a comment to my initial post on the subject. And since not everyone clicks the link to read the comments, I thought for once, I’d just shut up and let someone else do the talking.

So take it away, Damien:

It was pretty awesome to see us pack a board room like that…a hundred cyclists, ready to take part in the process…Unfortunately, we’ll still see a lot of setbacks before we get the kind of changes we want to see, and I hope the enthusiasm stays high.

In the meantime, I wrote up a draft letter on bike licensing that people should feel free to use if they want to get City Council to take up this issue. Rosendahl, LaBonge and Parks all seemed ready to go…

councilmember.greuel@lacity.org, councilmember.alarcon@lacity.org, councilmember.parks@lacity.org, councilmember.rosendahl@lacity.org, Councilmember.labonge@lacity.org,


Dear Member of the City Council XXX,

As a committed cyclist, I wanted to take a moment to thank you for respect and concern you showed at last Friday’s committee hearing on bicycling, bicycling infrastructure, and bicyclists rights. During the sometimes heated hearing, you continued to listen to our concerns and questions.

While it is not going to be easy to recreate Los Angeles as a cycling haven, there is one thing that can be done quickly and that is placing a moratorium on the bicycle licensing program. Whether a mandatory program is necessary is a conversation that can’t occur until cyclists are not being harassed for not having a sticker license that is difficult to obtain and not being distributed by the LAPD as they are required to.

Unfortunately, as you saw on Friday, the LAPD doesn’t seem interested in suspending their uneven enforcement of bike licensing even after being confronted on the program several times by Council Members LaBonge, Parks and Rosendahl at last week’s hearing. To that end, we are asking that you not let go of this issue and that you quickly introduce a motion to suspend the program. We understand that Councilman Rosendahl will not be at tomorrow’s hearing, but that doesn’t mean you cannot take action.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to working with you in the future on other bike-related issues.

Sincerely,

X

Just copy, paste and send. Or if you prefer, use Damien’s email as a template, and put it in your own words. But as one who has been an active rabble-rouser over the years, I can tell you that letters and emails like this really do make a difference.

I’ll be back with my own thoughts soon. In the meantime, you can read a recap of the meeting from Stephen Box of the Bike Writer’s Collective — creators of the Cyclist’s Bill of Rights (and a big thanks to all of you for your efforts). Or you can listen to Enci’s recording of the meeting here. 

Note: I’m waiving copyright for this post, in case anyone wants to repost Damien’s letter — and I’m sure it would be okay with him, as well. Right, Damien?

Sometimes, not riding is the right thing to do

Just as the weatherman predicted, this turned out to be a beautiful day. A perfect day for riding, in fact — warm, mostly sunny and almost no wind.

In fact, when I stepped outside this morning, every fiber of my being urged me to get on the bike, and not look back until I had at least 30 miles under my belt. Every fiber, that is, except the ones that insisted I belonged here, instead.

Maybe it had something to do with putting my money where my mouth is. Maybe it was a genuine desire to make a difference, or hold our elected officials accountable.

Or maybe I just wanted to meet some of those people I read every day. Like the ones you’ll find over there on the right.

So I rearranged my schedule, put off a couple of work calls, and made it out of here about 15 minutes after the meeting was supposed to start. Then there was the hour drive it took to travel 12 miles from West L.A. to downtown. (Note to L.A. traffic planners: if you really need another reason why we need to put more bikes — and fewer cars — on the roads, I’d say that just about sums it up.)

Combine that with the 15 minutes it took to hike from the parking lot and pass through security, and I got to the 3-hour City Council Transportation Committee meeting about the time it was halfway over. So I’ll let someone who was actually there for the whole thing tell you what happened.

What I saw, though, was surprising enough.

From a room full of cyclists of every possible description, to council members  — like Bill Rosendahl and Wendy Greuel — who actually seemed to give a damn about making this city a better place for bicyclists, not to mention the other people we share the roads with (or with whom we share the roads, if you prefer).

And to be fair, some of the other people who were there had good things to say about Tom LaBonge, who was called away before I arrived, and Bernard Parks, who was largely silent while I was there.

By the time the meeting was over, I was ready to kiss Rosendahl. Though I don’t think either one of us would have particularly enjoyed that.

The speakers from the L.A. Department of Transportation were a different matter. Sharrows have been used successfully in a number of cities for years now — even right here in Los Angeles, on the campus of UCLA. And yet, to hear them talk, you would assume it was some sort of new technology that must be tested in double blind safety studies to prove they won’t explode or turn us into brain-sucking mutant zombies.

And not only could they not figure what streets to put them on, they weren’t even sure if the paint would be too slick to ride on safely. (Note to LADOT: just call UCLA and ask them what the hell they used, since it hasn’t seemed to have killed anyone yet.)

They also weren’t sure sharrows could, or should, be painted on busy streets. (Note to LADOT: we already ride on those streets. We’d just like it to be a little safer, please.)

In the end, though, it turned out to a pretty positive experience — even if it did cost me a good ride.

And all those cyclists I met?

They turned out to be pretty nice people, too.

Bike law change #9: Require a bike lane or sharrows for any roadway with heavy bike traffic

Way back in the dark ages when I was just a fledgling rabble-rouser, my handbook of choice was the classic Reveille for Radicals by Saul Alinsky. (Highly recommended for anyone who want to learn how to leverage the system. Or just generally piss off the powers-that-be.)

As I recall, through the deep, dusty haze of memory, that was where I first encountered the story of a town struggling with a stubborn speeding problem. After trying everything they could think of to stop drivers from speeding, they finally stumbled on the one solution that actually worked.

They raised the speed limit.

Which, in a way, brings us to our next suggestion. Instead of putting bike lanes and routes where traffic planners — most of whom haven’t been on a bike past the age of 12 — think they should go, put ‘em where the cyclists already are.

Like PCH, for instance. Every day, hundreds, if not thousands, of riders brave heavy, high-speed traffic, turning cars and narrow, sometimes non-existent, road shoulders along the coast through Malibu, making this one of the most popular rides in Southern California. And yet, despite the near-constant flow of bike traffic, no one has made the slightest effort to accommodate cyclists or improve safety for riders, or the drivers they share the road with.

So lets insist that, for once, form follows function, and require that every city and county in the state study the bike traffic within its jurisdiction. And that they be required to accommodate bicycles on any street, road or highway that receives heavy bike traffic, through the establishment of bike lanes or off-road bike trails that follow the roadway wherever possible, or if not, by installing sharrows, along with Share the Road signs — or better yet, Cyclists Have Full Use of Lane signs.

 

Not unlike O.J.’s Simpson’s book If I Did It, Alex insists last week’s C.R.A.N.K. MOB did not happen, but shows photographic evidence of what might have happened if it did. A Portland State University study shows more people would ride if they had a safer place to do it. Down San Diego way, it finally occurred to someone that bike routes in different cities should actually connect to one another, resulting in a planned 500-mile network. An new Geowiki program at the University of Minnesota allows users to rate routes based on bikeability to create new user-defined bike maps. The Rails-To-Trails Conservancy has started a new campaign to double the Federal investment in active transportation — walking and biking, in other words.

Finally, it has absolutely nothing to do with cycling, but L.A.P.D. has a backlog of nearly 7,000 rape kits waiting to be tested — including at least 217 for which the statute of limitations has expired, meaning no one can be charged even if they offer conclusive proof of who committed the attack. And if that doesn’t piss you off, maybe it should.

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