Through the looking glass — L.A.-area communities suddenly become bike friendlier

November 18, 2011

I was wrong.

It was only a couple years ago that Santa Monica was named a Bike Friendly City by the League of American Bicyclists.

And even though it was just a Bronze level designation, I felt, like a number of other local riders, that the award was premature at best.

From frequently blocked bike lanes to a heavy-handed response to Critical Mass, and a Class III bike route on Lincoln Blvd that could only be considered an attempt to thin the herd, it seemed clear to everyone other than LAB that the day was long off when the city could be considered even remotely friendly to cyclists.

Remarkably, that day is here.

Just over two years later, Santa Monica is leading the way to becoming one of the state’s most bike-friendly cities, setting an example for every other town in the county, with the single exception of Long Beach.

Bike lanes and sharrows are appearing at a rapidly increasing rate. The city’s first bike corral has recently opened at 5th and Arizona. A new Bike Action Plan, which has been widely praised by cyclists, nears final approval by the City Council next week.

Even life-threatening Lincoln Blvd may soon see changes, as Santa Monica prepares to assume authority for the street from Caltrans, which seems more than willing to accept a few fatalities in exchange for an emphasis on vehicular traffic flow — even though it barely moves much of the day.

The police department has a new commitment to working with — and protecting the rights of — cyclists, with SMPD Sgt. Thomas McLaughlin serving as an effective counterpoint to the LAPD’s Sgt. David Krumer.

And on Friday, the city gets its first Bike Center, one of two in the downtown area that will provide riders with secure parking and showers.

More importantly, there seems to be a shared commitment throughout the city administration to make cyclists feel welcome — and safe — on the streets of Santa Monica.

Funny thing is, it’s not just SaMo.

Cities throughout L.A. County are suddenly stepping up to the bike-friendly plate.

Earlier this week, Burbank opened a new Bike Stop at their Downtown Metrolink Station — which is where you can find those cool new Metrolink Bike Cars that have everyone so excited.  Nearby Glendale recently adopted a Safe and Healthy Streets Plan, including a draft bike plan.

West Hollywood is working on a plan of their own, including a proposal to put bike lanes on busy Fountain Avenue, while L.A. is soon to open it’s first green bike lane, as well as a new separated bike lane on Downtown’s Spring Street.

The seven cities of the South Bay are just one away from unanimous approval of the Bicycle Master Plan. Even tiny South Pasadena approved a new bike plan that will add 24 miles of bike lanes to the city’s streets.

And those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head.

Of course, there are still problem areas.

Like the Expo Bike Path, which is in danger of being derailed by a NIMBY lawsuit, while the planned bike facilities at the Culver City Expo Station face a misguided budget axe. And the supposedly final L.A. County Bicycle Master Plan, which still leaves a lot to be desired.

But even the biking black hole of Beverly Hills is making progress, limited though it may be.

And most shocking of all, the bayside ‘burb of Malibu, where cyclists have traditionally been regarded as some form of vermin, has inexplicably decided to explore achieving Bike Friendly status itself.

Like Beverly Hills, they have a long way to go.

Then again, so did Santa Monica just a few short years ago.

……..

Barricades at the pier force cyclists to detour

Speaking of Santa Monica, cyclists who ride the beachfront Marvin Braude bike path — now that most of the tourists have gone home and it is actually rideable again — have been stymied by construction barriers at the pier. Along with nearly universally ignored signs asking riders to walk around the detour zone.

The path was closed to allow a storm drain improvement project, supposedly from September 12th to October 21st.

But nearly a month later, it’s still closed.

So rather than go off half-cocked — as I have admittedly been known to do — I picked up the phone and called the number posted on the sign.

After my call was passed through a series of very friendly and helpful people, I eventually ended up with the engineer in charge of the project, who told me that the delay had been caused by the need to work around some unanticipated utility lines. And that they expect to reopen the bike path next Tuesday, just in time for the Thanksgiving weekend.

And that may just be the most important change as the city moves to greater bike friendliness.

When you can not only get the engineer in charge on the phone, but actually get a genuine response and answers to your questions, something very positive is going on.

Are you listening, LADOT?

……..

One last note.

I ran across this frightening item from the Orange County Register — at least, it should be frightening for anyone who rides behind the Orange Curtain.

Q. Sundays in Lake Forest are the worst: You have a pack of 50 to 75 cyclists riding up El Toro Road. My understanding of the bicycle law is that a bicycle must remain in the bike lane, and in the absence of a bike lane, the riders must stay as far to the right as safely possible. Instead, this pack rides four, five, six across.

– Mark Hermanson, Lake Forest

A. Perhaps Honk’s favorite county road that doesn’t include an ocean view is Live Oak Canyon Road, that windy, country ribbon of asphalt into Trabuco Canyon beneath a leafy canopy. And likely where those bikers go. And a road where cyclists have been known to at times dangerously, and selfishly, ride abreast of one another.

Yes, under state law, on a public road, riders are to be in the bike lane when they exist; so you and your pal can ride side-by-side if enough room exists. In the absence of a bike lane, in most circumstances, cyclists must stay as far right as possible, which would mean going it single file, or they face citations, Deputy Paul Villeneuve of the Sheriff’s Department’s Traffic Division kindly explained.

I don’t even know where to start.

As most cyclists should be aware, CVC 21202 requires cyclists to ride as far to the right as practicable — not possible — while offering a long list a exceptions allowing them to move to the left whenever appropriate.

While cyclists are required to ride in a bike lane where present, we enjoy a similarly long list of exceptions that allow the rider to exit the lane when necessary.

And there’s nothing in the California Vehicle Code that prohibits cyclists from riding two or more abreast. In fact, it’s not even mentioned anywhere in the code.

Which means that cyclists can legally ride abreast as long as they don’t impede traffic — which is defined as five or more vehicles following behind a slow moving vehicle and unable to pass; if they can pass, they’re not being impeded.

In fact, it’s often safer to ride two or more abreast when the lane is too narrow to share, in order to increase visibility and control the lane to prevent unsafe passing.

You’d think someone in law enforcement would know that.

And it’s scary as hell when they don’t.


New Bike Center wayfinding signs in SaMo, tears at Adam Garrett hearing, and your weekend events

November 5, 2011

No mistaking where to turn with the new signs

I knew it was coming.

But I was surprised to see signs pointing to the new Santa Monica Bike Center on my last pass down Ocean Ave in our own little city by the bay.

I was less than 10 miles into my ride, though, so I saved a closer inspection for my return trip.

And while the northbound stretch of Ocean didn’t yet have the signs indicating the turn at Broadway that the marked the southbound route, once made my turn, I was easily able to follow the well-marked path to the Bike Center site at 2nd and Colorado.

You can just make out the Bike Center sign on the corner of the parking lot

Thanks to a recent typically insightful and well-deserved critique by Gary Kavanagh, I wasn’t surprised to see newly painted sharrows — and even new bike lanes — throughout the area. Though I found it much easier to ride past the typically backed-up Broadway traffic on the right than follow behind as the sharrows indicated.

Although I didn’t see — or at least didn’t notice — the dueling bike lane and sharrows that somehow ended up on 2nd Street right next to me.

Evidently that’s just a reflection of how hard SaMo is trying, though as Gary points out, not always succeeding, to become bike friendly.

The effort is appreciated, if not always the results.

A peak behind the curtain shows there's still a long way to go

I was disappointed, though not surprised, to discover the Bike Center — actually, Centers, with another satellite location slated to open at 4th and Broadway — are still far from opening.

In fact, a little research revealed an opening date scheduled for the 18th of this month. And yes, you’re invited.

Which means Santa Monica residents and visitors will soon be treated to:

Hopefully, these privately operated Bike Centers will prove successful, and offer a model for other cities throughout the area.

And yes, I’m talking to you, L.A.

……..

One of my favorite anonymous sources offers this update in the case of Adam Garrett, the schmuck teenage driver accused in the late night hit-and-run death of cyclist Hung Do. And then calling police the next day pretending to be a witness in an apparent attempt to find out what they knew — a call that resulted in Garrett becoming the lead suspect.

No one said he was a rocket scientist.

On Wednesday morning, Adam Carl Garrett was in court again.  I didn’t expect anything more than a quick, perfunctory appearance before the judge.

But the victim’s family & friends were there.  And they spoke before the judge.  It was horrible.

Hung Do’s mom is a widow, and she told the judge how it feels, every day, to have lost her only son. She doesn’t speak English, but a mama’s grief doesn’t need a court-appointed translator.  Other family members spoke, too, as well as a guy named Scott who identified himself as one of Hung’s best friends.  He wants justice.

Poor li’l Garrett was also teary-eyed.  He’s probably upset over the inequity of a system that allows a maximum six-year prison term for a criminal whose victim received a death sentence.

Garrett’s back in court on Monday, December 5th.  I’ll be bringing Kleenex, because on Wednesday there wasn’t enough to go around.

……..

Before we move on to this weeks events, a special thanks to Governor Jerry Brown.

Because it was our honored governor who not only vetoed a law that would have required drivers to give cyclists a minimum three-foot passing distance, but also vetoed a bill that would have increased the penalty for drivers who text or call on a hand-held cell phone, since the current law is almost universally ignored.

Because without his foresight, I might not have gotten Jerry Browned — that’s the new term for buzzing a cyclist, which as I recall originated with the aforementioned Gary Kavanagh — by a texting driver who forced me out of the lane I was occupying.

And nearly into the rear of a parked car.

It was easily the most memorable moment of my riding week, and not in a good way.

So thanks, Governor, for clearly demonstrating just how out of touch you really are. And putting my life, and that of every other cyclist, pedestrian and driver on our streets, at continued risk because you couldn’t be bothered to understand just how these vetoes effect us.

Although you’d think that simultaneously suffering the consequences of two misguided Jerry Brown vetoes should get me some sort of prize or something.

……..

Bike Talk airs every Saturday at 10 am; listen to it live or download the podcast from KPFK.

Bike Long Beach hosts Bike Saturdays every weekend; ride your bike to participating local shops and business throughout the city to get special offers and discounts.

Velo Cult and the Golden Saddle Cyclery team up for a bike swap on Saturday, November 5th at 11 am, 1618 Lucille Ave.

Streetsblog hosts an upscale fundraiser at the home of Joel Epstein and Karen Sarachick on Saturday the 5th. The casual dinner reception begins at 6:30 pm with a suggested donation of $100, email damien at streetsblog dot org to RSVP and get directions.

Also on the 5th, Free the Streets unfolds its eco-visionary experiential art/music fest celebrating the burgeoning bicycle cultural scene of South Los Angeles. (And yes, I lifted that directly from the Facebook page.) It takes place from 2 pm to 10 pm at Mercado La Paloma, 3655 S. Grand Ave. Admission is restricted to 21 and over, with a $10 entry free and on-site bike valet; all proceeds go to support the expansion of CicLAvia into South L.A.

This month’s edition of Flying Pigeon LA’s Brewery Ride takes place on Saturday the 5th, with a slow paced ride to the new Angel City Brewery in Downtown L.A. The ride meets at 3 pm, and rolls at 3:30 pm, with bikes available to rent for $20. That will be followed by the Spoke(n)Art Ride on the 12th, and the popular Get Sum Dim Sum Ride on November 20th. All rides depart from the Flying Pigeon LA bike shop at 3714 N. Figueroa ST in Highland Park.

Saturday, November 5th through Monday, November 7th, the California Bicycle Coalition will host the 2011 California Bike Summit to help set the statewide bicycle advocacy agenda for 2012 and beyond. The sessions with take place at Downtown’s Kyoto Grand Hotel, with the Monday session held at the California Endowment for Health; Flying Pigeon is offering a $30 weekend bike rental.

The next ride in the LACBC’s popular series of Sunday Funday rides takes place on Sunday, November 6th with the East Valley Hansen Dam Ride, lead by board member Carrie Ungerman. The ride meets at the North Hollywood Metro Station at Lankershim and Chandler at 9 am and rolls at 9:30. The easy 23 mile ride is free for LACBC members and one guest; memberships will be available at a reduced price.

November 7th and 10th, LADOT will hold a series of Westside Mobility meetings to discuss the future of Westside Commuting; topics include Project Overview, Bicycle and Pedestrian, Transit – Light Rail, Bus and BRT, Roadways, Smart Choices for Commuting, Parking, and Project Ideas via Electronic Surveying. See website for times, locations and registration.

The South Bay Bike Plan continues it’s long march to approval with hearings before the four remaining city councils: Lawndale on November 7th, Gardena on November 8th, Manhattan Beach on the 15th and Torrance on November 22nd.

The LACBC Planning Committee meets the second Tuesday of each month; the next meeting is scheduled for 7 pm on November 8th, note the new location at Johnny’s New York Pizzeria in Museum Square, 5757 Wilshire Blvd. This month’s meeting will focus on developing a list of policies for the LACBC.

Update: The LA Tamale Throwdown scheduled for November 11th through 13th has been cancelled for this year.

On Saturday, November 12th, C.I.C.L.E. hosts a ride through the streets canvas of our city, with a leisurely paced 7.5 mile tour of L.A. street murals in Lincoln Heights, Boyle Heights and the Downtown Arts District, with a party to follow. Riders meet at Lincoln Park by the Valley Blvd parking lot, Valley Blvd and San Pablo Street, with the ride starting at 1:30 pm.

Also on Saturday the 12th, Palm Desert hosts the first Palm Desert Century Bike Ride, with rides of 20, 32, 50, 60, 70 and 100 miles; online registration ends November 11th.

Update: The LACBC’s Tour de Taste originally scheduled for Sunday, November 13th, has been postponed, with the date to be determined.

The County of Los Angeles unveils the final draft of their proposed new bike plan, offering a more than 500% increase in bikeways. Your last chance to comment of the plan could come before the County of Los Angeles Regional Planning Commission, Wednesday, November 16th at 9 am in the Hall of Records, Room 150, 320 West Temple Street in Downtown L.A.

December 7th through 11th, Antenna Magazine’s Re:mix Lab will hit L.A. after a semi-national tour, featuring two urban Bad Boy bikes designed by Cannondale in cooperation with Junk Food Clothing. The art, music, fashion and cultural festival will unfold at a site to be selected.

Friday, December 9th, the Midnight Ridazz host what may be the most important ride of the year, when they ensure that thousands of L.A. children will have a happy holiday with the 6th Annual All-City Toy Ride. Routes will begin from points throughout the city, converging on Downtown L.A. to collect the toys and celebrate the season.

Tuesday, December 27th, the LACBC returns to Santa Monica’s Library Alehouse for the 3rd Annual Mid-Winter Merriment, 2911 Main Street. Good beer, good friends, bike valet and a portion of all sales goes to support cycling in the great L.A. area. What’s not to like?


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 365 other followers