There is no denying that Los Angeles remains a city with an on-going love affair with the automobile, but this month the Los Angeles City Council approved a new bicycle plan, which will make pedaling in the city much easier.
Los Angeles’ announcement follows last month’s news that neighboring Long Beach are adding bike lanes to its downtown district.
For the City of Angels bettering bike possibilities will be no easy task, says Jennifer Klausner, executive director of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, which has aided the city with its new bicycle plan. “There are 88 cities in Los Angeles County, as well as the unincorporated plan, and the result is a kind of Swiss cheese of jurisdiction.”
Among the problems that planners face is the fact that even residents in Southern California find it hard to know when they’re in a particular city and, even worse, traffic planners don’t know how to add roads or freeways to alleviate the near constant congestion.
In fact, according to a recently released report from the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M, Los Angeles has the third worst commute for drivers in the nation — lead only by Chicago and Washington, D.C.
“That is something the DOT struggles with every day,” says Klausner, who notes that one of the main problems is that the city has no central hub, and that there are really no good main roads to help move traffic effectively. This obviously makes it all the more challenging to make it remotely easy to bike on the existing roads.
Yet the city is trying. The Los Angeles city council just approved a plan calling for 1,680 miles of interconnected bikeways. The new undertaking will call for more than 200 miles of new bicycle routes added every five years, making it easier – and more importantly, safer – for cyclists in a city infamously known for its automobile grid lock.
“The plan calls for 40 miles of bike ways per year, which quadruples what they are adding now,” says Klausner. “Bike lanes are being built and considered on a case by case basis. It will be street by street, block by block.”
Part of the issue also remains that the city road plan is very non-standard, and among some of the initiatives being considered are looking at infrastructure that would allow separated bike lanes, as well as adding bike lanes to existing roads wide enough to handle them when the surface is repaved. These are small steps, but with each year cyclists will have new lanes and places to ride.
Klausner admits it won’t be easy, noting that the culture of the automobile remains a big obstacle to overcome.
“The streets have been engineered for the past half century for cars, and many motorists are very aggressive.” Still she is optimistic. “This new plan marks a turning point, and hopefully the conditions for cyclists will improve over the coming years.”