Some Reasons I Support Separated Bike Lanes

Eagle Rock Boulevard and Colorado Boulevard… increasingly I feel these ‘boulevards’ are too wide for Eagle Rock’s own good. I have previously written about the danger and inefficiency they both present to the community on Walk Eagle Rock (read about Colorado Boulevard here and for Eagle Rock Boulevard here). But what are we to do with all that space if not use it to accommodate cars?

One solution is to provide the community with separated bike lanes, also known more formally as cycle tracks. They look something like this

(from left to right) sidewalk, cycle track, barrier, moving cars

Barriers between the cycle track and moving cars vary in size and the barrier itself is not always the same (sometimes a row of parking will serve as barrier, sometimes greenery will be the separation, or sometimes it is plain barrier as pictured above).

Cycle tracks provide several advantages to people on bicycles over standard bike lanes we see in Los Angeles, many of which extend to pedestrians, transit users, and motorists. Benefits of cycle tracks are well documented and I would like to share some excerpts from articles I have read recently that present these benefits:

“The findings of this study show a cycle track roadway design may be more protective for cyclists than a traditional bicycle lane in terms of lowering exposure concentrations of ultrafine particles… ” – http://bikeportland.org/2010/10/28/study-cycle-tracks-mean-better-air-quality-for-bikers-walkers-41754

While bicycling is dominated by males in many U.S. cities, more women feel sufficiently safe to cycle when bicyclists are separated from motorized traffic. Cycle tracks attract more than just testosterone filled males –http://www.streetsblog.org/2011/07/13/to-close-the-gender-gap-separate-cyclists-from-cars/

“Her study compares crash rates at six cycle tracks in Montreal to nearby streets that had no bicycle facilities, and bolsters the argument that cycle tracks are safer. Lusk found that relative risk of injury was 28 percent lower on cycle tracks compared to the on-street [non separated] routes….In addition, she found that about 2.5 times as many cyclists used the cycle tracks than the on-street routes. ” – http://dc.streetsblog.org/2011/04/27/research-bolsters-case-for-cycle-tracks-while-aashto-updates-guide/

“The opening of the cycle track generated significant media coverage in Washington D.C. and has been successful in boosting bicycle ridership and reducing vehicle speeds along the corridor.” – http://www.bicyclinginfo.org/library/details.cfm?id=4663

“Of the twenty five intersections the LACBC counted, the top seven intersections [in popularity among bicyclists] all had either bike lanes or connected to a bike path.  In other words, the numbers tell the story, if you want people to take to the road on their bikes, the best way to make them feel safe is to provide either the protection of a bike path or the paint of a bike lane. ” – http://la.streetsblog.org/2010/03/16/lacbc-bike-counts-strong-relationship-between-infrastructure-and-riders-on-the-road/

“According to the city, the protected lane has already proven popular with bicyclists as recent counts of bicycle traffic during the morning rush hour at the corner of Kinzie and Clinton have already seen a 60 percent increase over last year’s numbers. By last week, bicycles accounted for just less than half the morning rush hour traffic on southbound Milwaukee Avenue at Kinzie.” – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/25/chicago-completes-install_n_909119.html

Cycle tracks make bicycling more attractive than standard bike lanes in LA and understandably so– why wouldn’t you want to be physically separated from cars that are traveling at 35mph when you are on a bicycle?

The various studies need hardly to convince me, recently I have experienced my own share of drawbacks of standard, non-separated bike lanes

Trash truck blocking bike lane

Nothing prevents several ton vehicles from swerving into the path of a bicyclist

A perhaps overlooked benefit of providing cycle tracks in Eagle Rock is reduced noise pollution. Today Eagle Rock and Colorado Boulevard are plagued by the loud noise given off by cars. This results in outdoor dining being less attractive, especially when such seating is placed along the sidewalk, one can hardly hold a conversation with a friend – and while there may be nice weather outdoor – the noise of the cars makes the experience a lot less pleasant.

In making the case for a calmer, more bike friendly Eagle Rock sometimes those who oppose the idea contend car traffic will slow down too much. However, as local resident Jack Burnett-Stuart points out:

” It is 1.6 miles from the post office to Swork. If the average speed was reduced through a variety of traffic slowing measures (including changing the speed limit, but does anyone pay any attention to that?) from say 40 mph to 20mph, that would add 2 minutes 24 seconds to the time the trip takes”

The time difference is negligible and would become a more inviting street for all people!

And who knows, maybe slower speeds will actually make traffic move faster, as Tom Vanderbilt discusses in his book Traffic.

I feel Eagle Rock could greatly benefit from accommodating cyclists, we could see safer, calmer streets that provide a safe, viable mobility option with the potential to run more efficiently than our main boulevards currently do. We can see increased vibrant street life and beautify our boulevards with increased greenery. Providing bicycle facilities that are proven to increase ridership benefits  motorists by reducing unnecessary congestion and fewer people will compete for limited car parking at Eagle Rock destinations. Eagle Rock and Colorado Boulevard aren’t ideal streets in their current configurations, with so little to lose lets install cycle tracks!

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5 Responses to Some Reasons I Support Separated Bike Lanes

  1. Pingback: Encino Velodrome robbed again; Urban Rangers ramble along the L.A. River Thursday « BikingInLA

  2. Jane Tsong says:

    Oh, this would be so civilized, to have separated bike lanes. Although I appreciate the current standard bike lanes on the few blocks where they exist on Eagle Rock Blvd and York, I still always choose to take side streets when possible precisely because of the issues shown so well in your pictures of the trash truck above. Protected bike lanes would get around this problem….

    I fantasize about my kids to be able to bike to the store without needing to worry about them!

  3. Pingback: Streetsblog Los Angeles » Today’s Headlines

  4. Andrea Orr says:

    I’m a big supporter of separated lanes. I think that most of the cyclists ended up in a life threatening situation once or twice in their biking carrier. I was nearly hit by a truck ON A BIKING LANE last week, when a driver lost focus for a moment. That’s why I appreciate every single initiative for separated lanes.

    I live in Vancouver, and I was really happy to hear that results of the 2010 poll on whether citizens are interested in separated lanes forced city council to take some actions. Now, I can feel really safe at least in some parts of the city. I can finally take my children biking here in Vancouver and not fear about their lives.

  5. Pingback: Can Separated Bike Lanes Save Colorado Boulevard? | Walk Eagle Rock

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