I love bicycling in Los Angeles.
That being said, having been a committed bicyclist in both Chicago and New York, I continue to be shocked by the low percentage of bike riders in Los Angeles. I commute from Silver Lake to Downtown through a combination of low-density residential streets, conventional bike lanes, and sharrows (shared-lane marking). I wake up every morning with overwhelmingly reliable bicycling weather. I do not participate in gridlock traffic. My commute is a predictable half hour journey. So why in my half hour commute do I only see two or three other bikers? What other major city in the U.S. has a climate so perfect for commuting via bike?
This city has a lot of advantages for bicyclists, but its infrastructure is fragmented, and the city’s drivers are simply not accustomed to our presence. In a survey conducted by the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, overall ridership increased by 8 percent between 2011 and 2013, but more than doubled on streets with bike lanes or sharrows. Cultural shifts take time, but it is happening here in L.A. Since my three and a half months living in this city I’ve already seen the implementation of the bike-share program. I pass two stations on my commute to work every day.
Los Angeles County has 2,016 miles of bikeways, but only 7.57 of those miles are separated from car traffic by a physical barrier. The good news is that there is a lot of room, both literally and figuratively, for improvement.
Janette Sadik-Khan, who oversaw the NYC bike share program and the installation of over 35 miles of protected bike lanes, says that “Redesigning streets with bike infrastructure is not a novelty, feel-good thing. When you change a street you fundamentally change an entire city.”
I have to admit, as I commuted over the Manhattan Bridge everyday there was a certain strength in numbers, something I miss while bicycling here in L.A. The idea of turning Los Angeles from the car capital of the world into the bike capitol of the world seems endlessly exciting…and it’s possible. Why not?
I have found that L.A. is in fact already a bikeable city, but I am feeling a bit lonely out there. We need to develop and support strategies for making biking in L.A. a safer and more pleasurable experience.