What L.A.'s New Bike Plan Means For Cyclists—and the City What L.A.'s New Bike Plan Means For Cyclists—and the City

What L.A.'s New Bike Plan Means For Cyclists—and the City

by Alissa Walker

March 8, 2011

Despite Los Angeles' near-perfect weather, mostly-flat terrain, and an enthusiastic biking community, cyclists in L.A. still remain second-class citizens behind those piloting automobiles through the city. After yesterday's City Council ruling, that all could change. The 2010 Bike Plan, to be signed this morning, is perhaps the most ambitious pro-cyclist action in L.A. history, designating a 1,680-mile bikeway system and sweeping new bike-friendly policies.

The plan promises several changes for L.A. bikers: the Citywide Bikeway System [PDF] will introduce three new interconnected bike path networks—Backbone (long crosstown routes on busy streets), Neighborhood (short connectors through small streets) and Green (along recreation areas)—throughout the city, a new pledge for Bicycle Friendly Streets will make streets more pleasant for riders and walkers, and a series of education programs and safety policies will help cars and cyclists co-exist (you can download the entire plan here). Of course, this is just a plan, and one that's long overdue—for more on that, read last week's cover story in the LA Weekly. The real challenges may prove to be finding the proper funding to drive the plan towards implementation. That will take some massive commitment on behalf of the city.

Painting sharrows on L.A. streets as part of a pilot program. Photo by LACBC 

A new bike corral installed in Highland Park is a first for the city. Photo by LACBC

What about mountain bikes? Are they included in the plan?

"I wish it would have included increased off-road trail access for mountain bikers," says Klausner. "It does not, and in fact, takes away potential future trail access that was included in the previous (1996) plan. This plan does not change the fact that mountain bikes are illegal on trails in all L.A. City Parks, and that is really a shame, and a missed opportunity for the City's Parks Department, in my opinion."

What did the bike plan not do that you wish it would have?

"There's a great part of the plan that lists some progressive transportation options (for example, separated bike lanes) but didn't say when or where they're going to put them in," says Newton. "I would love for every Council Member to embrace a different one for their district." He points to the city's first bike corral in Highland Park which opened last week, and transformed a street car parking space with 10-12 bike parking spaces.

"It's too bad that the Cyclists' Bill of Rights [a document authored by the Bike Riders Collective] wasn't included," says Alex Thompson of Bikeside LA. "We expect it will be the next time around but it really should have made it in this time. The Cyclists' Bill of Rights simply collects together cyclists rights that are already in the law, so there's really no reason why they shouldn't be in there."

The plan could create "bike boulevards" like this one proposed for 4th Street

Detail of the Citywide Bikeway System Map, which you can download here.

"Give Me 3"posters designed by Geoff McFetridge went up around the city last year. Photo by LACBC

What will help increase the number of bikers in L.A.?

People need to feel safe on the streets before they'll embrace bicycling in traffic, says Newton. "Look at CicLAvia [a 2010 event that closed 7.5 miles of streets to cars]. Heck, look at Critical Mass [a regularly-scheduled public ride] since the LAPD began escorting the ride. When people know it's a safe option, they embrace bicycling." Also likely to be passed soon is an anti-harassment ordinance that will protect bikers from violence against them, like a road rage episode in 2008 that put two cyclists in the hospital.

Bikes parked outside City Hall during yesterday's vote. Photo by Josef Bray-Ali

In addition, the other groups mentioned here, including the LACBC are always looking for volunteers as well. You can also attend the DOT's Bike Plan Implementation Meetings. Regularly-scheduled rides like Critical Mass are open to the public, and of course there's also CicLAvia, which will open L.A. streets to biking and walking on three dates this year.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention GOOD LA's fundraiser for CicLAvia, happening this Saturday from 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at Atwater Crossing. There's also a public bike ride being led by Flying Pigeon from the Brewery to the CicLAvia fundraiser. With many of these advocates in attendance, it will be a good time and place to learn more about the bike plan and celebrate a new age of cycling for the city.

Top photo, of the first CicLAvia event, by waltarrrrr

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What L.A.'s New Bike Plan Means For Cyclists—and the City