Monday, August 22, 2011

A Friendlier City For All, Including Cyclists

Here in Los Angeles, many elected officials and heads of departments are active on social networks, including the the city council president, the department of transportation and of course the mayor. They frequently use their twitter accounts to post press releases and generally tell constituents all about the amazing things they are doing for them.

Last month, Mayor Villaraigosa tweeted that he was looking for ideas to make Los Angeles more bike-friendly. While the new bike plan that was passed and is now beginning to be implemented is an amazing accomplishment, I couldn't help but think that the discussion could be expanded a bit more. Let me explain.

When it comes to urban planning and transportation infrastructure, cyclists are the canary in the coal mine. What's good for bicyclists is good for families, children and communities. Case in point: San Francisco's darling of a park: Patricia's Green.


Named after Patricia Walkup, the community activist who spearheaded the park's creation, it is located on what used to be a busy freeway offramp. Today, the park is a locus of community activity, where families gather for picnics under public art installations.

Hayes Green aka Patricia's Green

The park is bordered on 2 sides by a bike lane, a car lane and a parking lane. This creates a calming effect that slows down traffic and provides safer ingress and egress to the park, while still allowing for through traffic. The park sits at the corner of Hayes and Octavia, amidst a vibrant shopping district in the heart Hayes Valley.


Calm streets make for safe pedestrians and happy cyclists.


Beyond the park, the roadway is divided with a planting median between car lane and a parking lane with Sharrows for cyclists. It doesn't get any calmer than this!



Signage indicates that cyclists use the crosswalk button to activate the traffic signal as well as their ability to proceed straight ahead.


Throughout San Francisco, this sign reminds drivers that cyclists aren't relegated to the far right of the road, a common misconception here in Los Angeles. CVC 21202 gives cyclists the right to use the full lane in many situations including:

when reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes)

The case can be made that the majority of city streets in Los Angeles are both hazardous and narrow enough that a cyclist can take the lane nearly everywhere!

So Mayor Villaraigosa, to answer your question, above you'll find a few small lessons in urban planning that could easily be adopted in neighborhoods and communities across Los Angeles. By rethinking the way we build our streets, and what priorities we place on those designs (vehicle throughput versus safe and vibrant communities) amazing things can happen! The benefits to cyclists is just one small component of this revolution through holistic urban planning. I hope you'll consider implementing some (or all!) of these ideas as a lasting legacy to your commitment to improve the lives of Angelenos.

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