Why is the City installing so many bike lanes?
The City of Los Angeles 2010 Bicycle Plan, (unanimously adopted by City Council in 2011) is a chapter of the General Plan’s Transportation Element, and calls for 1600 miles of bikeways to be installed throughout Los Angeles over 30 years. The goal of the plan is to provide a one mile grid of interconnected bikeways (bike lanes as well as other types of treatments) throughout the City to support bicycling as a viable mode of travel.
The City is embarking on a vision to make our streets safer and offer transportation choices, particularly active transportation modes such as walking and bicycling. This vision follows requirements at the State and National levels such as the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32) and Senate Bill 375 which require greenhouse gas reduction and the California Complete Streets Act (AB 1358) which requires cities, when updating their General Plans, to identify how they will provide for the routine accommodation of all users of the roadway including motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists,and individuals with disabilities, seniors, and users of public transportation.
Why, in some cases, are vehicular lanes being replaced with bike lanes?
Many of the streets identified in the Bicycle Plan to be retrofitted with bicycle lanes do not have the width necessary to install bike lanes while maintaining the existing vehicle lane configuration. Prior to redesigning the roadway, an analysis is typically performed to determine any impacts to vehicles by reducing vehicular lanes. While bicycle lanes are statutorily exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) per Assembly Bill 2245, the City still reviews the impacts of each project to determine if the removal of a travel lane will create significant delays per the City’s adopted thresholds for motor vehicle impacts.
Why is all this being done when there are so few cyclists on the street today and using any of the bike lanes already installed?
The goal of implementing bike lanes is not just to cater to the existing population of cyclists, but to provide a network of bikeways that will allow more people to use the bicycle as a viable, safe and comfortable mode of transportation. In Los Angeles County 40 percent of all trips are under 2 miles; by converting these trips from motor vehicle to bicycle trips, Los Angeles will see a benefit to air quality, congestion, and overall health of the system user. In addition, reducing vehicle lanes has been proven to reduce motor vehicle collisions and reduce vehicular speed making the roadways safer for all users. Slowing motor vehicle speed has also been proven to benefit businesses along these corridors, in large part by making these roadways more attractive to local users and reducing the viability of these streets for cut-through traffic, while encouraging local access and visibility.
If safety is the prime objective, what about driver frustration that appears to result from the additional traffic?
While safety — motorist, bicyclist, and pedestrian — is the overarching objective of the new bike lane roadway retrofits, it will take time for local users to adjust to changes in the roadway configuration and understand how the project will benefit them and their community. While driver frustration and road rage is an ongoing problem, a concerted effort is ongoing to educate and inform the public about the rules of the road and the impacts of speeding and other motor vehicle violations. Sharing the road amongst all users, and exercising safety and caution, especially among more vulnerable roadway users, such as school children, senior citizens, pedestrians and bicyclists will – over time – make our communities safer and more pleasant for all.
Why can’t there be a bike lane on just one side of the street?
Except in unusual circumstances – such as streets with wide medians or jurisdictional limitations – bike lanes in only one direction on a two-way street are discouraged by Caltrans through their bikeway design standards as they can encourage wrong-way riding.
Why would the City put a bike lane on a steep street like Capitol Drive?
Streets with steep vertical grades such as Capitol Drive are good candidates for lane reductions and bike lanes for several reasons. Downhill vehicle traffic is typically more prone to excessive speeds; lane reductions can help to mitigate speed in this topography. Bicyclists traveling uphill at five miles or less per hour are most safe with a dedicated space within the roadway, as the speed differential between the bicyclist and motor vehicles traveling in the same direction is typically much higher than the differential on flat or downhill grades.
Why don’t we go back to two lanes and add a green “sharrow” in one of the lanes on Westmont Drive like they have in Long Beach on Second Street?
Sharrows or Shared Lane Markings do not provide the same level of benefit that bike lanes do as they still require motorists to share the road with bicyclists and do not provide bicyclists with their own protected space on the roadway. Sharrows do not provide the same safety benefits to other users such as overall roadway speed reduction by reducing the overall capacity of the roadway thus requiring motorists to observe the posted speed limits, particularly in a school zone at high volume peak hours when children are most vulnerable.
What do those newly painted boxes mean?
On Westmont Drive, the bike lanes include painted buffers which separate the bike lanes from adjacent vehicular lanes. Buffered bike lanes provide an additional level of comfort and separation for motor vehicles particularly for novice bicyclists and school children.. The buffers look like boxes because per the California Vehicle Code, motorists are prohibited from crossing double white solid barrier lines; the boxes result in gaps which allow motorists entering or exiting driveways, or maneuvering into or out of a parking space to legally do so.
Was this plan ever discussed with the residents? When? Were they told that we would be losing a car lane?
As part of an extensive outreach process associated with the development of the 2010 Bicycle Plan, community meetings were held Citywide, including in San Pedro and the Harbor to gather public input. Capitol Drive and Westmont Drive (as were Grand and 25th) were added to the Plan network as a part of this process. Though specific lane configurations were not discussed at this early stage, it was known at the time that a significant number of the proposed bike lanes identified in the Plan would require the loss of travel lanes.
Exactly when were those meetings? Who went to them?
Outreach meetings held for the bike plan were conducted at multiple locations throughout the City over a period of three years. Three meetings specifically held in CD 15 for the Plan include meetings at Banning’s Landing Community Center on March 1st 2008; Peck Park on October 22, 2009; and the San Pedro Municipal Building on September 30, 2010. A webinar Public Hearing on the 2010 Bicycle Plan was also held virtually on September 29, 2010. City Planning and LADOT staff also attended and extensive number of Neighborhood Council and other community meetings over the three year period to provide information on the Plan and to allow additional input by the community. In addition, announcements and information was regularly provided to the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) for dissemination to the Neighborhood Councils and the draft Bicycle Plan and its map documents were available at all Council Offices Council Field Offices and all Regional Libraries including San Pedro for review and comment by the public.
Why can’t the money spent on installing bike lanes be spent on something else like fixing potholes or sidewalks?
Funding utilized for the installation of bike lanes were approved by special initiatives put forward to the electorate. These funds have a small percentage of the overall total available only for the support of and installation of bikeways. These funds are not eligible for other uses as approved by the voters and the City’s elected representatives.