Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Update About The Main St. Bike Lanes Approved In Venice

New Redondo Beach Esplanade Bike Lane With Door Zone Buffer
Bike lanes without door prizes are possible (Redondo Beach)
As I've mentioned before, my contributing to Santa Monica Patch has shifted some of the energy out of this blog, but I wanted to quickly follow up, rather late after the fact, on my last post concerning the Main St. bike lanes. The LADOT slightly modified the proposal based on feed back, to make the bike lanes a minimum 5' & 5" rather than 5'. The bike lane will also be expanded to 6' where space permits. This change was accomplished by narrowing the center turn lane. The Venice neighborhood council approved moving forward with the proposed road diet with bike lanes, and we should see the re-striping in the near future.

It's not quite what I was hoping for, or as good as what Santa Monica is proposing for the next iteration of it's own stretch of Main St. (with green lanes and a small space separating between parked cars proposed), but it is better than allowing the state minimum bike lane width to be good enough when adjacent to parked cars. Every inch matters as far as I am concerned, and I think people will feel the difference even half a foot can make. So my thoughts on this passing is that it is a step in the right direction, but not what I would consider good enough to make for comfortable cycling for all kinds of people.

To me the take away from this experience is that it is worth pushing for more, because this could have just as easily been the bare minimum standard sort of job. I don't know how influential my own letter and blog post on the topic were in the decision making process, but it seems doubtful that the penciling in a few more inches would have been added if it were not for pressure from Bikeside, people like myself, and others, who weren't satisfied with the original proposal as is.

We also really need to start looking at what our peers are doing in other big cities, and stop thinking that things in L.A. always need to lag behind. New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and others are all trying green lane markings, bike lanes buffered from door zones, bike lanes separated from traffic flow, and other measures that go beyond the typical bike lane treatment. I don't think traditional bike lanes will ever be comfortable enough for most people with the rampant speeding we allow on our streets, the double parking, the swinging doors, and other things which diminish safety and comfort.

A perfect example of a wasted opportunity, completed before I was really involved in this stuff, was the redevelopment of Santa Monica Blvd. through Century City. The right of way of existed to make an amazing cycle track, which could have been installed for little additional cost since the whole street was ripped up anyways. The medians separating local car travel, parking, and drive ways, meant the biggest hurdle to cycle tracks in America, our constant driveways, could have been entirely avoided. Instead a typical minimum standard bike lane was tacked on with no separation other than a painted line from 3 lanes in each direction of car traffic moving more like a freeway than a boulevard. Sure it's better than nothing, but it's also very under utilized considering the density in the area, and I don't blame people for wanting to avoid such an environment, bike lane or not.

Given that bike ridership in areas like Santa Monica and Venice are already much higher than many parts of L.A., I think if we are going to go to the next level of making cycling accessible to a broader demographic, we have to start thinking bigger and better than the state minimum requirements.

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