Responding to Anti-Bicycling Sentiment in LA

Bike plan about to be approved by LA City Council as reported by the LA Times.

Reading comments by everyone, picking out the "knowlegeable-seeming" ones not hellbent on picking random internet fights.

LA Times User PauvrePavillion posted 6 straight times on the article. I've posted his comment after my commentary.

While he seems to be fine with building dedicated bike paths, he concludes this: people riding bicycles don't belong on the same road as people driving cars.

It's as if people driving cars dangerously and hitting bicyclists was an established law of nature, difficult, machines that worked reasonably well, with random acts of misfire.

S/He neglects the fact that people driving cars are just that. People driving cars. "People" meaning "individuals!" Individuals with plenty of "control", perhaps an excess of it. "Control" in the sense that if you have a vehicle, you can move at your own pace, travel more spontaneously and further, and most importantly an established "ownership" of the road.

It becomes "your" right to maneuver as fast as you can, as long as these other damn car-drivers weren't on the road.

I drive a car too, on occasion. I understand that the priority on a given day with this extreme control at disposal, is that the main goal is to "manuever" or weave through traffic, and it becomes a game, where a driver tries to find "ways" to get to places much faster. This "game" is predicated on the cultural expectation, the expectation that the streets of Los Angeles belong to those who drive cars. And when bicyclists appear either on the periphery, or even GASP! in the middle of a lane, they disrupt the "game" in progress.

I understand the point that accidents do happen with bicycles on the road, but then again, accidents happen even without bicyclists on the road. They kill pedestrians too! Maybe we should get cars off the road then?

Gas is rising astronomically ($3.65 a gallon at a local Arco Station last I checked), and more importantly, biking on the road is the freekin' LAW. California Law. There's enough people who ride on the streets, and they don't have much if any backing. The bike plan's a way to build momentum to get more infrastructures that might eventually ensure a lot more safety.

LA Times User PauvrePavillion said:

More cyclists on the roads means only one thing... more dead cyclists.

Based on results, public roads are neither an appropriate nor intelligent place to ride a bicycle. If sharks were taking out ocean swimmers off the coast of Newport at the rate that cars take out cyclists in Orange County, you would conclude that it is fool hearty to swim in this location… and you would be right.

Catastrophic accidents happen with regularity not because the drivers are out there trying to hit the cyclists but because bikes and cars are an inherently dangerous combination. One is slow and fragile. The other is quick and carrying from 3,500 to 6,000 pounds or more. Accidents are going to happen and riders are going to get killed.

Another more "reasonable" rant is a call for people who ride bicycles to get on the sidewalk on "busy" streets.

Comment by LA Times User Lost-Angelr

Bicyclists - If its a busy street, get on the side walk. Do not ride like its Venice when its Olympic or 6th Street, Sunset, Santa Monica... Melrose... or any other major street. Don't slow down traffic, do not claim your lane when its a CAR road... get on the side walk and ride carefully, pedestrians are also important for you to consider. Take small streets, you're more able to maneuver and use small streets to your advantage. BUT stop at stop signs. OBEY road and street and sidwalk LAWS.
I've flipped through the DMV manual and safety tips for bicyclists, but I didn't come across anything that said ride on the sidewalk on "CAR roads."

Obviously, I'm just being a smart-butt.

I know there are some streets with a high amount of traffic and that for my own safety it would be best if I didn't take those roads.

However, what gets me is that legally, we have the right to be on there. Again, California. Law.

But it appears that the "culture" established on those streets, that of people driving cars, is completely impinging on my legal right to ride my bicycle. What has been established by people who drive on those streets is an informal law, reinforced and practiced everyday. What gets built in driving on those streets with only cars, is an expectation. An expectation that they as people who drive cars have the ultimate domain over the roads.

People who drive aren't out to get bicyclists and bicyclists are not on a mission to disobey every traffic law.

Whatever mode of transport we choose, we are all just people (less I missed a few cyborgs born with pedals on their feet) trying to "get in, out, around" Los Angeles.

How we "get in, out, around" Los Angeles, is dictated largely by the environment we choose to create ourselves, both through law and everyday practice.

A bunch of people created the large 4 lane quasi-highways in the Valley. A bunch of people created a "CAR-road" like Wilshire Blvd. A bunch of people created the industrial zones of Vernon. If we are to meet the US demand of not depending so much on oil, if we are to build a "world city" with a more "community" feel to it, it would really help if the people with the capital would do some things on those streets to make the environment conducive to both cars and bicyclists.

Fixing the environment is one thing. It is the long-term solution.

But the long-term can't be the only solution, because I still gotta ride my bike to school later today, starting from my corner in San Fernando Valley down to the "bike-friendly" Long Beach.

Considering that 630 people who rode bikes were killed in 2009 in the US, while those who ride bicycles cannot kill people who drive, it would be nice if people who drove in LA could learn one simple thing if antyhing before they head out to drive today: EXPECT bicyclists to be on ANY road, it's the law!

1 comment:

Alstone said...

The idea of a civil right to use the cars as an equal on the roads doesn't square well with another law, that being of mass an inertia. In other words, 2 tons of steel rolling by at 40+ mph keeps me off the road and on the sidewalk.

While I think that's an acceptable solution (or using alleys and more sparsely used roads), the law that keeps us off the sidewalk should be changed to allow bikes on busy streets with no bike lane or space for a safe share-the-road.

Of course, pedestrians can get hit by a bike on a sidewalk, the same as a bike can be hit by a car on the street. So, we're kind of stuck in an ethical conundrum here.

When I'm riding on a busy street, I use the sidewalk, but don't go any faster than I can safely stop if someone comes out of a shop, not expecting me. That's what I do, but it would be nice to see that codified legally.