There’s been a big push in the past year or so, to make L.A. a bike-friendly place. This is an excellent goal for the health of the planet, the health of a car-dependent, overweight, inactive population, and for the emotional and physical well-being of an over-stressed, frenetically-paced city of people. However, there needs to be more thought put into how Bikes, cars and pedestrians can, as the bumper-sticker says, “Coexist!” The city of Los Angeles recently put in bike lanes on many major and some smaller streets, which is a laudible idea, but like so many things these days, it’s kind of a piece-meal effort. Some of the streets with bike lanes, only have bike lanes for a small stretch of the road. So, for instance, on Motor Avenue in Palms, bikes have about 5 blocks of bike lanes, but as Motor gets up into Rancho Park/Cheviot Hills, there is no bike lane. So it becomes kind of a free-for-all.
The increase of bikes exacerbates pre-existing problems, like the lack of left-turn signals. You have cars waiting in the intersection to make a left turn, remarkably, despite knowing this, you still have L.A. drivers running yellow and red lights when they are going straight, which leaves those waiting to make a left-turn, stuck in the intersection well into the red light. And then you have bicyclists who, thinking like a motorist also run the yellow or red light, and you have a recipe for disaster.
While L.A. has added bike lanes, the city has done nothing about establishing new laws for how bikes and motorists are supposed to deal with each other. Combine this with militant bikers who are “taking over the streets” and making their own rules, and again, you have a recipe for disaster. For instance, the other day, driving on a road with no bike lane, there was a man on a bike (at least he was wearing a helmet–many don’t), who was riding to the right by the cars, as my understanding of the laws of the road say he should. But then suddenly, he shot out into the driving lane and started riding in the center of the lane as if he were a car. Cars are lined up behind this guy on a bike, who obviously cannot ride at the 35 mph speed limit, or start up at stop signs as fast as cars. So cars are moving out into oncoming traffic to go around him, and he starts yelling at the cars for going around him.
I’m not aware of any changes in the traffic laws saying that bicyclists are supposed to ride in the traffic lane, as if they were a car or a motorcycle. And if the laws have changed, then people need to be made aware of that. But I suspect they haven’t changed, as this whole bike-friendlying-L.A. process has been done so haphazardly, it would make sense that no one thought to change the laws. And if they did change the rules of the road, no one thought to inform motorists.
On PCH, bicyclists have gotten injured or killed by speeding motorists. I think part of this is a lack of patience that motorists have for bicyclists, and a lack of respect for their lives. But it’s also a lack of space on PCH that creates again, a recipe for disaster.
Even off the roads, on Dockweiller Beach and down in Manhattan Beach, there has become a “war of the bikes.” Some city planner labeled the only paved path on the beach, as “bikes only.” Apparently no thought was given to where walkers, runners and rollerbladers would engage in their sports. So naturally, being the only paved path, people use the path for all of these activities. Bikers have become militant about insisting that the path is theirs, without any consideration for the other people on the path. Bikers have been known to intentionally run down walkers and runners on the path, belligerently yelling at them to get off their path. Come on, people! Yes, there are the occasional walkers who are new to the area and don’t pay attention or know to watch out for the bikes. But really, the bikes have to be careful of the walkers, bladers and runners as well. Regardless of what’s painted on the sidewalk, the reality is that there is only ONE paved path on the beach in those locations. So unless someone knows how people can rollerblade on sand, or make walking and running on the sand more doable than actual torture, we need to learn to share the path. All of us! And that includes the bicyclists.
I hope there’s at least one big-thinking politician in L.A. City government who can spearhead a Coexist campaign for the city. We need a comprehensive plan for how cars, bikes, and pedestrians can share the roads, beach paths, etc. in this city. Watching out for each other only works when people are not taking that to mean, AIM WELL!