Los Angeles embraces bicycle transportation

New downtown bike lane gets much needed support from the city

The City of Angeles has plenty of bike friendly weather with warm days, low humidity, plenty of sun, and weeks or even months without the threat of rain. Yet thanks to its devotion to the automobile Los Angeles hasn’t exactly been among the best places to ride—especially when it comes to commuting and using the bicycle as an alternative form of transportation—until now.

In an event held on 8 September, Los Angeles Councilmember Ed P. Reyes officially opened a 2.2-mile bike lane in downtown Los Angeles. This bikeway, which runs on 7th Street, is the first commuter bike corridor of its kind in the area, running through downtown, Koreatown and Westlake, three of the city’s most densely-populated neighborhoods.

And to create the bike lane, they took a lane, which was previously devoted to the automobile.

Already this path is being heralded for the good it should bring to the area. “There hasn’t been a bicycle infrastructure for a two to three mile radius, despite how dense the population is,” Allison Mannos, Urban Strategy Director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition told BikeRadar. “This area has a lot of bicycle users and now they have a safer way to get around.”

This is the first bike lane in downtown, and while at the moment it doesn’t connect with other lanes, this is a big move as it is just one part of the bigger bicycle master plan, which was approved this past March.

It is also very unique in that the city provided a lane to bikes at the expense of cars. “We are removing a car lane, in favor of a bike lane,” said Councilmember Ed P. Reyes, who spearheaded the Bicycle Master Plan, in a prepared statement. "By doing so, we, as a city, are changing the way we see bicycles, as not only a recreational vehicle, but as a legitimate form of public transportation. In addition to all who joined me today, I'd like to also thank Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for his enthusiasm and leadership to help create a more bike-friendly L.A.”

The city notes that the next phase involves extending the 7th Street bike lanes an additional 2.9 miles through Downtown to Soto Street in Boyle Heights.

“One of the primary goals of the bike plan in terms of infrastructure is the build-out of a multi-layered network of bike facilities,” Tim Fremaux, a transportation engineering associate with the City of Los Angeles Department of Transportation, told BikeRadar. “As far as timeline, the bike plan is a 30-year plan, and within it, a 5-year implementation plan calls for 200 miles in the next 5 years. However, significant engineering and political challenges remain which must be overcome before achieving this goal.”

The downtown corridor was impressive as it the LACBC worked with locals for more than two sees to see its completion. This included a coalition with community based organizations in the area, as well as with those in the community.

Mannos tells that there was some pushback from businesses that were concerned about the impact the lanes might have on their business. “We had volunteers who could speak in Spanish to the Latino business owners,” says Mannos. “While there were two or three that were against it, there concerns were about the parking. As no parking lanes were removed, in the end the businesses supported it.”

Information was presented to the communities in three languages – English, Spanish and Korean – and Mannos says this is really a step forward for cyclists and commuters. “This is really part of an innovative campaign,” Mannos says. “This was the first type of campaign that was done primarily in a low income immigrant neighborhood, where many of the people are commuter cyclists. We see it as a real win for everyone.”

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