REFORM BREEDS GROWTH-Have you noticed just how many bicycles are out on the streets these days?
It’s not a subtle thing. Bicycles on LA’s streets are not just a haphazard occurrence, they are ubiquitous; not just a sporadic hazard to avoid but a non-remarkable expectation.
Which in itself is remarkable given the historic hostility toward vehicles which sport a numerically challenged wheel count. The reaction has been almost irrational, as if they were something offensive to be warded off, as if they were a threat to red-blooded American essence, our automobile, our autonomy.
But the world has changed and even as Detroit deteriorates, the hegemony of automobile-as-alter-ego has been spurned by today’s Ascendants. Cleaner, healthier, quieter, cheaper, quicker – there are a lot of tenable motivations favoring bicyclists in our city.
It is unfortunate that political power sieves ultimately from the middle aged and cautious. Because when change is large, its infrastructure needs a matching response. Our roads support so many bicyclists that today it is no longer adequate simply to let them have a little more space on the road side. It is not safe for either bicyclist or motorist. While obviously worse for the physical victim, a collision is devastating from the motorist’s point of view, too. Accidents have collateral damage just as safety has collateral responsibility.
Every day, typically, there are at least 2-3 bicycles per block at any given moment along Venice Blvd through Mar Vista. There are so many bicyclists that it becomes difficult to enter the thoroughfare safely. It is more frequent than not that entry to this busy boulevard is delayed by the (relatively) slow transit of a bicycle. The posted speed limit for motorized vehicles is five times that of a typical bicycle’s.
And after dark it is not unusual for the only sign of a bicycle’s presence to be its accidental eclipse of oncoming traffic’s headlamps. Every time a collision is avoided seemingly by serendipity, it is easy to feel, viscerally, how vulnerable bicycles are. With every intention in the universe to yield right-of-way to these travellers, an inadvertent “accident” scenario is easy to envision.
Bicycles need more segregated space on our roadways, dedicated to them. This is imperative for the safety of cyclist and motorist alike, but as well for the sake of the soul of our city. It is not appropriate to marginalize this mode of transportation which has grown so popular. And in attending to the safety we all need better addressed, this will open up a floodgate of participation among the wary.
If segregated, secure bicycle roadways were as common in Los Angeles as across Europe and elsewhere in North America, cycling commutes and bicycled errands in Los Angeles would become viable for the more cautious among us.
So a conservative demeanor among our political decision class hinders creating the infrastructure that supports the gentler transportation choices of our youngsters, which in turn hampers these very elders from enjoying this less motorized way of being.
If we build segregated, safer bicycle roadways, riders will fill them in ever increasing numbers. We will grow the ecology of our city and its inhabitant’s safety by responding better to the preference we are all stating with our feet: pedaling.
(Sara Roos is a politically active resident of Mar Vista, a biostatistician, the parent of two teenaged LAUSD students and a CityWatch contributor, who blogs at redqueeninla.com)
Vol 12 Issue 47
Pub: June 10, 2014