Conventional Bike Lane DTLA

All photos: Jessica Roberts

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?

Conventional Bike Lane on 7th

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.

New Bike Share Station on 7th

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.”

NYC Protected Bike Lane

A New York City protected bike lane. Biking in New York City exploded over the past ten years. More than 200,000 people bike on a daily basis, almost 10,000 people commute by bike from Brooklyn to Manhattan over the Williamsburg, Manhattan, and Brooklyn bridges. Photo: National Association of City Transportation Officials

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.



Post a comment
  1. Roz Serrano #
    July 13, 2016

    I disagree with the author regarding sharrows and bike lanes; I would much rather ride on a road with sharrows, than ride in the bike lane. Sharrows inform the motorist that the cyclist has the right to be in the road; although too often the sharrows are placed too far right, generally placing me in the “door zone”iThe bike lane gives the cyclist a false sense of security, while reinforcing the misconception that a cyclist is not allowed to take a lane. I would much rather have “bikes may use full lane” signs on the road, than a bike lane. Riding in the bike lane places you at greater risk for being hit by a driver opening their door, being hit by a driver making a right, or left turn, as well as increasing the risk of having a flat by riding through all he debris on the road. Drivers do not look to the side of the road where a cyclist is, they focus on the road ahead. If a cyclists is taking the lane, then the driver would see them. If not, they are driving way too fast for the conditions, and/or distracted. Nothing will save a cyclist from distracted drivers, but putting yourself in the safest part of the road will help alleviate the risk to the cyclist. When drivers come out of driveways, or intersections, they rarely stop prior to the road entrance, they normally pull out and then stop right where the cyclist would be, and they usually don’t enter the intersection at a crawl.

    I’m not too sure about separated bike lanes, and envision my commute to be full of drivers asking me why I don’t get my butt over to “xx street where I should be riding because I don’t belong on the road”. In my opinion, education of all road users, including cyclists and motorists is required and would go a long way to alleviate some of the problems, especially those cyclists who ride against traffic, ride on the sidewalk, etc. In terms of the number of cyclists not the road, I’ve seen it fluctuate over the years, counting as many as 50 on one trip (gas prices were high) to about 7 (gas prices are low).

    I do agree about cycling and living in LA; 99% of motorists are respectful and give you lots of space, especially when you obey the law and ride predictably, for example, you stay in the same line, you stop at red lights/stop signs, you ride on the correct side of the road, give pedestrians right of way, signal your intent, etc. I’ve been riding in Los Angeles for over 30 years, including riding from Santa Monica to downtown for the past 25 years, and I ride my bike as I would drive my car (obeying the law). Riding in traffic takes confidence and experience, nervous cyclists and cyclists who don’t obey the laws are the ones who make it difficult for the rest of us and give the perception that cycling really is dangerous, when in fact it is not.


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