Bike Lane Blocking, An Angry Rant and Something You Can Do

Gavin Newsom campaign bus parked in a bike lane. Via @LABikeLaneBlock.

Los Angeles could be America’s greatest bike city. The weather is mild, the city mostly flat and a network of rail connections make the combo of bike and transit an appealing option. See Peter Flax’s article “Los Angeles is the Worst Bike City in America” for the gruesome details about why it’s so bad.

Let me just add that our climate crisis, so dramatically and tragically manifested in the wildfires that have swept California, requires us to make changes now for the sake of future generations. A good first step would be making alternatives to driving more safe and appealing. Unfortunately, LA’s allegedly “progressive” mayor and city council might as well be the Tea Party when it comes to transportation policy. Frankly, I’d rather deal with outright climate change deniers than our local elected officials such as mayor Garcetti who, rather than the un-sexy and often politically unpalatable work of installing bus only lanes and making the city more pedestrian and bike friendly, seems to think that the future lies in a techno-optimist future of flying cars and private tubes as peddled by Elon Musk. Instead of improvements we could have right now (all a bus lane takes is a line of paint) we’re waiting for a future that will never come.

I’ve held off writing this post for years but I can’t stay silent anymore. Let me share a few personal anecdotes from my time as a bike activist that illustrates the type of behavior one can expected from our local elected officials. Back in 2011, the city painted the first green bike lane, something you see in a lot of cities such as New York and Portland. Film companies objected because they said the green paint interfered with their shots. Councilman Jose Huizar (whose home and offices were raided by the FBI last week), in closed door sessions with lobbyists from the film industry, agreed to remove most of the green from the lanes, going against the recommendations of the department of transportation’s engineers. The entire city council went along with this and prevented the public from speaking at the council meeting. When I, politely, questioned then councilman Tom LaBonge about this decision he became agitated and intimidating.

I could go on about the transportation commissioners, the LAPD, the Automobile Club and Highway Patrol who opposed speed limit decreases. LaBonge’s former deputy Anne-Marie Johnson lobbied for the de-greened bike lanes and in her capacity as leader of the regressive Silver Lake Neighborhood Council supports removing the Rowena road diet. Or my own councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who keeps himself busy with vitue signalling photo opportunities, and might as well be a Koch family member when it comes to his opposition to a road safety plan for Temple street.

Many of the opportunities to deal with climate change are simple and don’t require technologies that don’t yet exist. But we also must not fall into the trap of thinking that the changes we need to make are only about personal choices. Many changes will also require us to work together, especially when it comes to those of us in cities trying to make it safe for people to walk and bike.

Film crew blocking Spring St. Bike lane. Via @ColinBogart.

Speaking of which, I want to conclude this angry and gloomy post with an opportunity for my fellow Angelino cyclists. While we have a few (not enough) bike lanes, those bike lanes are often blocked by film crews, Uber drivers and Highway Patrol officers picking up a burger. The LA County Bicycle Coalition has set up a reporting page to collect data on blocked lanes. The information collected will be used to lobby city officials. Unblocking those lanes is a whole lot simpler than a trip to mars or hailing an Uber drone.

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  1. Many years ago, a friend who had restricted mobility and used a wheelchair, faced a similar problem: Inconsiderate, thoughtless, able-bodied people who parked in handicapped parking spots. His solution was to buy a number of small devices which, when inserted in the valve stems of vehicle tires, caused them to silently deflate. He became quite expert at stopping alongside offending vehicles and surreptitiously doing the deed.

    I am only mentioning this because I know that Root Simple readers are far too responsible to even consider such a wicked activity.

    • You bring up another huge problem: the abuse of handicap placards. I can’t tell you how many times, when I was driving my mom around in the last years of her life, that we would try to use a handicap parking space only to find that an able bodied person had taken that space.

  2. With you all the way! I sure wish we had a real democracy where special interests with money and power were not able to derail public interest.

  3. So you weren’t able to go around the traffic cone? Are you that soft?
    Can automobile drivers cry when the city bus is sitting there blocking traffic?

    • Yes, people are a LOT softer than cars. That is why it is dangerous. When the hard car hits the soft person the person can DIE.

  4. Going back to my college days I’ve been baffled by the volume of people who expect us to technologize our way our of our problems….the same problems that increased technology has created or exacerbated. I just don’t get it. I can’t believe they really think it is the solution either, but that it is just easier to consider using a flying car than getting on a bike for many (lazy, timepoor) people.

    I am about the enter the season of year in which the snow is plowed OFF the driving lane of the road and ONTO the bicycle lane….which means that if I want to cycle I have to ride out in traffic. Not cool, not cool.

    At least I don’t have to deal with film crews, I guess.

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