PERSPECTIVE-The city’s fixation to expand the bike line network in Los Angeles is asking for trouble.
This is not a subject normally on my radar, but I thought about it after the latest tale of woe involving “retired” celebrity Alec Baldwin. Baldwin received a ticket for riding his bike the wrong way on 5th Avenue. He reportedly went ballistic. I hope his daughter did not have to bail him out.
The avid cyclists I know are more aware of the traffic rules than the average motorist. It’s a matter of survival – a right hand turn by a vehicle where a bike lane exists could be a death sentence for a cyclist.
Opening a car door quickly after parking can send a cyclist to the hospital.
One biker I know who tours frequently stated he is more wary of riding in a bike lane than the open road.
Then you have the everyday bikers who cruise around the neighborhoods clueless as to the environment around them. I see them almost every day. Many wear no helmets, have no illumination at night and ride in the wrong direction on streets, even in bike lanes.
Of course, there are pedestrians who act as if bike lanes are an extension of sidewalks. I have seen people pushing strollers down the lanes, most often in the wrong direction.
Skateboarders love bike lanes, too, many riding erratically across intersections.
I saw a man in a motorized wheelchair cruising down a bike lane on Colfax Avenue near Riverside Drive in Valley Village. Again, in the wrong direction. I can’t say I blamed him. There are no sidewalks along that stretch and the house fences come almost to the curb – legally, I might add. The Neighborhood Council checked it out.
What all of this adds up to is a prescription for death and dismemberment, yet Los Angeles is prepared to push forward with an expansion of bike lanes. Heck, the LAPD rarely enforces the helmet law, much less other laws controlling the safe interaction of motorists, pedestrians and cyclists. So, just what are we creating here? Death Race?
Before the city charges ahead, a number of steps are in order. Cyclists and motorists need to be treated equally when it comes to traffic enforcement. Who can use the bike lanes must be defined. The police must be prepared to enforce the laws. Most importantly, the public as a whole must be educated before we add so much as one additional lane.
Bicycling is among the healthiest of activities, but as a commuting mode, it is not practical for most of the population. Few people are in shape to handle long commutes through the canyons and over busy streets. Unless you are among the lucky few who live close to your place of work, the car will rule. Auto commuters will be unwilling to sacrifice street surface in favor of bike lanes. One proposal calls for eliminating a vehicle lane along busy Lankershim Boulevard to add bike lanes, even though one already exists on adjacent Vineland.
Now, it appears the city wants to eliminate vehicle parking spaces in new buildings downtown in favor of bike spaces. This flies in the face of logic. While a downtown resident can get by on most days without a car, there are times when a vehicle will be necessary to run long errands or participate in far-flung events.
The United States and North America in general will never embrace replacing cars with bikes on any meaningful scale.
Instead, let’s teach motorists, pedestrians and cyclists to respect each other’s space and enforce laws regarding safety and safe operation of all conveyances.
Maybe we can use some of the funds for more important roadwork.
(Paul Hatfield is a CPA and former NC Valley Village board member and treasurer. He blogs at Village to Village and contributes to CityWatch. He can be reached at: [email protected])
Vol 12 Issue 40
Pub: May 16, 2014