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DTLA Bike Lanes: The Good the Bad and the Clueless

CYCLE TRACKS--As Joe Linton reports in Streetsblog LA, downtown’s Los Angeles Street will soon see a protected cycle track replace the plain-paint bike lanes that connect Union Station and First Street. 

This is an undeniable Good Thing. I gladly celebrate any upgrade in bicycle facilities in any parts of the city that see, or that could see if they weren’t so daunting, lots of folks going about their business on bikes. It’s not just “One Less Car” anymore; it’s well-proven that urban bicycling improves productivity at work, boosts public health, and raises small business income. It also re-stitches the civic fabric, as people come to view their city as something more than traffic jams, and their fellow denizens as people, not just shadows behind a windshield in the next lane over. Making safe places to ride in through urban areas means that more people will ride -- and the various, albeit incomplete, bike lane networks in the central city are showing it to be so. Bikes are everywhere, and their riders are just about anyone. 

But LADOT is quoted in Linton’s article as stating that that particular stretch of Los Angeles Street was chosen because it was an easy sell: it’s mostly government offices along the route. In other words, it represents a sort of failure of nerve, and one that degrades DOT’s mission of providing access to all. How? Well, while it’s nice that all the bureaucrats can ride more safely to work and back now, and that LA can test yet another cycle track (there are several in town already), Los Angeles Street has absolutely zero accommodation for bikes where it counts, in the Fashion District. 

I ran a tiny clothing company for several years, and I still dabble in the rag trade. I have made probably hundreds of trips up and down Los Angeles Street, on foot and by bike, and I can tell you, after a decade of observation, that that street and its neighboring roadways absolutely swarm with bikes. Beaters, cruisers, fixies, road bikes, folders, homemade cargo bikes, just about every damn sort of pedal-powered two-wheeler, all duking it out in mixed traffic all day long. Yet the Los Angeles street bike lanes, now as before, stop at First Street. The Fashion District, where bikes are a significant part of the traffic mix, begins around Third and stretches south to at least Twelfth Street. 

Bad … and clueless. Really, we don’t need to “test” cycle tracks: they’ve already been tested, all over the world and in several parts of LA itself. Plenty of data has been published showing that they smooth traffic, boost safety, entice hordes of new riders onto the streets and are good for business. 

We don’t need more “tests.” We need to rationalize our roads, because the present arrangement is killing us, directly and indirectly. Another “pilot project” is little more than a delaying tactic by an agency that’s afraid to do its job.

 

(Richard Risemberg is a writer. His current professional activities are focused on sustainable development and lifestyle. This column was posted first at Flying Pigeon.)  Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.