It goes without saying that altering transportation infrastructure in Los Angeles is a momentous task. Moreover, it will take a combination of successful implementation of public transit and cultural change to relieve the overwhelmed roads in California, especially Los Angeles. What is Los Angeles doing now to help improve the transportation problem, in addition to rail and subway projects? Improving infrastructure for a sustainable commuting option, which is tried and true: bicycling.
According to CalTrans, 329.8 billion miles are traveled per year in California alone: 73% of these miles are traveled by car; only 4.8% of them are traveled via bicycle or by foot. This trend can be explained by urban sprawl, low transportation fuel, and cheap land, and the culture of personal car ownership in California. The small percentage of those who traveled by bicycle could also be explained by the lack of safe bike infrastructure in Los Angeles. This all might be changing due to local bicycle interest groups and coalitions, as well as new investments coming from our local government and government agencies.
Despite being the capital of cars, Los Angeles is making headway in the area of bicycle infrastructure. In February 2011, Assembly Bill 819 was introduced by Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski. The bill was slated to amend current law to improve the safety and efficiency of bicycle lane traffic across the state, and to promote the use of bicycles as a preferred alternative to other modes of transportation. The bill was approved, but without the imperative language that would allow planners to use guidelines outside of those established by Caltrans – like the popular NACTO Bikeway Design Guide. While the bill’s approval may not be the catalyst needed for radical improvement in bike infrastructure in Los Angeles, it still requires Caltrans to create an experimentation process through which engineers will be able to establish their own standards.
The newly painted bike lane on Spring St. in Downtown LA
Other than AB 819, making Los Angeles more bike-friendly is on the agendas of LADOT and the LACBC, who recently partnered up with a Dutch bicycle expert (Amsterdam residents make more bike trips than car trips) to determine what kind of improvements could be made to existing bike infrastructure. This partnership was facilitated by ThinkBike LA, a local bicycle promotion and design workshop.
Bicycle Parking in The Netherlands: A surreal scene for Angelenos
An example of a local city that is implementing bicycle infrastructure, such as the ideas discussed at ThinkBike LA, is Santa Monica, where local government is aiming to promote livability and walkability. Santa Monica now boasts the largest bike parking structure in the US. The City of Santa Monica has also started work on a facelift for Ocean Park Boulevard, first envisioned in 2008 and slated for completion in 2013. The “green street” will include light poles, wide sidewalks, painted bike lanes, bike racks, street furniture, and trash and recycling cans. This new approach will lessen the dangers to both bicyclers and motorists, by building protected bike lanes, and avoiding “vehicular cycling,” in which cyclists share the road as if they were automobiles. Perhaps Los Angeles will see more bike infrastructure like we’re seeing in Santa Monica, and we’ll update you on any developments in that area.
Santa Monica Bike Center
Beyond local government, and with the main goal of sustainability in mind, how could or how does bicycling fit into your life? Have you considered it, but worry about the dangers? If you are a seasoned bicycler in Los Angeles, do you have any tips – pros or cons – that you feel are relevant? Take a look at our continued reading list for more information on bicycling.
Knowing where to find the right information that can make you a more confident bicycler is half the battle. The following websites are great resources:
The cost of car versus bike ownership: www.bikesatwork.com/carfree/cost-of-car-ownership.html.
Tips for safe cycling: www.calbike.org/bicycling-in-california
Free city biking lessons and gear: www.sustainablestreets.org/education/ccc/
Bike tourism opportunities: www.lonelyplanet.com/usa/los-angeles/travel-tips-and-articles/76963
Community bicycling events: www.ciclavia.org/about/
Safe walking and cycling routes to school: www.saferoutesinfo.org/