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Bikes and Mass Transit are changing Los Angeles

Apr 08, 2009 by Lisa Newton

Los Angeles, like many other cities worldwide, is trying to implement across-the-board alternative modes of eco- friendly transportation and mass transit, to improve our quality of life.

In Southern California, all new mass transit and strategies for transportation improvement, must also take into account their costs, economies of scale, and environmental impacts that any new program will have upon the health, safety, and welfare of its residents.

Because of our very temperate climate, Los Angeles has more transit alternatives than colder cities–namely bikes.

Yes, you heard it right, bicycling!

Sounds simple enough doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, too much money is going to road/parking projects and not enough to bike/mass transit projects. Here are some examples:

  • Never realized – 1996-2002 LA citywide bicycle master plan: $60 Million

  • Repaving 3 Miles of the 710 Freeway: $75 Million
  • Average annual costs of Los Angeles auto accidents: $10.5 billion
  • Construction of a single car parking space in a multilevel garage: $7,000+
  • Per bicycle parking space on a typical U-wave rack: $50+ Source: GaryRidesBikes
  • Because it’s no longer sustainable to have a city based on car travel only, what was once thought only a pipe-dream just a short while ago is quickly becoming at least a possibility.

    Most U.S. cities are implementing a combination of mass transit, increased bicycle usage, and walker friendly communities as its transportation base.

    In fact, based on The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, more than $46 billion for transportation projects has been approved for California, which includes more than $17 billion specifically earmarked for increasing public transportation.

    What types of Mass Transit do they want to implement?

    Projects highlighted in the report include:

  • High-speed rail linking northern and southern California
  • The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit Project
  • Subway service along Wilshire Blvd in Los Angeles
  • Downtown connector between Los Angeles subway lines
  • San Diego Trolley expansion to University City
  • New downtown transit centers in San Francisco and Anaheim
  • Perris Valley Line in Riverside County
  • Bus rapid transit service in cities from San Diego to Oakland
  • Caltrain upgrades between San Jose and San Francisco
  • Light rail expansion in Sacramento to the airport and south of the city Source:CIRPRIG

  • Currently, from a total of Los Angeles County’s 6,400 miles of surface streets, only 481 miles of that have bike lanes and many these aren’t safe. Like the bike lane on Santa Monica Blvd–cars have to cross over a bike lane when they turn right.

    Photo by BikePortland

    Photo by BikePortland

    Another great alternative to bike lanes would be bike sharrows–a painted bike icon with at least two chevrons painted on top. Sharrows let drivers and bikers know that the right lane is shared by both. They are a reasonable and cost effective way to add more miles dedicated for bicycle transportation, and could easily be placed on many of our city’s streets with very little expense.

    Riding the Metro and bike commuting go hand in hand. Of course, you don’t have to combine both, but if greater distances are required, combining a partnership of alternative transportation is optimal.

    All LA metro buses now have bike racks on their fronts, which are capable of holding two bikes. Folding bikes can be brought onto the bus or train. Currently, the only drawback is that no bikes are allowed on subway trains during rush hour.

    What is one of the cost benefits of providing more bike friendly facilities?

    It’s estimated that the savings per mile, in terms of reducing congestion, are $.13 in urban areas, $.08 cents a mile in suburban areas, and $.01 cent per mile in towns and rural areas. Now, if you take the number of residents in LA, 10,363,850, multiplied by the average number of miles driven, 23 miles, and then multiplied that number by $.13, you’ll see a savings of $30,987,912 annually.

    That money can be used for additional investments into bike infrastructure.

    Can it be done?

    Yes. It’s already being done in cities across the USA including:

    Davis, California
    Portland, Oregon
    Palo Alto, California
    Tucson/Pima Eastern Region, Arizona
    Boulder, Colorado
    Corvallis, Oregon

    These are just a few examples of what happens when communities, business, and government come together to accomplish a goal. It takes time, money, and energy to implement solutions to vexing problems, but Los Angeles has these in droves.

    I don’t usually get into policy or political issues here on Travelin’ Local, but alternative transportation is something I firmly believe in.

    Hey, California, a car isn’t the only way to get around anymore.

    Creating infrastructure for bicycles isn’t about the money, our costs are cheap comparatively, it’s about political will.”

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    31 Responses to “Bikes and Mass Transit are changing Los Angeles”

    1. Kim says:

      Very informative article/post.. You rarely if ever see anyone in NY riding a bike..unless it is for exercise..

      Kim’s last blog post..Wordless Wednesday – Creepy Lawn People


    2. DSTroutFlies says:

      Alright, I live in LA – Santa Monica to be specific. I do see some bike commuters, but not many. Plenty of weekend warriors too – but again, it’s for pleasure/excercise. I myself am making the slow transition by riding a motorcycle on nice days (not hard to fine).

      DSTroutFlies’s last blog post..The Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear Fly


    3. D. Travis North says:

      This is a trend that seems to be crossing into our industry (Land Development) a lot recently. With LEED buildings and other sustainable design efforts, the bike is becoming popular again – it’s about time. But there is a case study in our Professional Journal that specifically analyzes the status-quo with respect to bike traffic. LA has probably one of the better systems with most of it’s bike paths completely separate from the road. But Portland, Oregon, is one of the worst offenders of bad design, believe it or not. Their path systems are typically a shoulder of the main road with the bikes in the outside lanes. This is bad when it comes to intersections – Bikes allegedly have the right of way, but the cars can’t see them. It’s just bad design.

      The ideal design would be either to have the bike paths in the center (preferably within a nice landscaped island) or in a separate path system outside the road so that the intersection conflict is moved to a point after the car has completed its turn.

      My hope is that the green movement helps us to re-think the way our circulation happens in this country. The Car has always been King in the USA, and maybe it shouldn’t be that way.

      D. Travis North’s last blog post..Review Your Photos Often


    4. LisaNewton says:

      @ Kim At the recent LA Bike Summit, there was a gentleman named Noah Budnick who talked about the changing conditions in NY for bikers. It’s getting much better. If you’re interested in more information, I found this helpful link:

      New York Bicycling Coalition

      @ DSTroutFlies Have you ever been to Broadway and watched the bike lane? I use this road myself and frequently see other bikers. I don’t know how many of them are using it for commuting like I am, but it’s so great to have a clearly marked lane just for bikes.

      @ Noah I understand what you’re saying about the bike lanes, and we do have that problem in LA. In fact, most of our bikeways are similar to Portland’s. I agree with your ideal design ideas, and I do know a few of those are planned here. However, until that happens, often times, the more bikes on the road, the more the drivers realize that sharing the road is what it’s all about. In fact, yesterday, when I biked to work, using the bike lane I mentioned in the comment to DS, and the bike lane had 4 bikes in it. It was great. The cars could definitely see us. It almost felt like there was “traffic” in the bike lanes.


    5. Tess The Bold Life says:

      Your writing is so good and well researched. I don’t know how you keep this up.

      Did I tell you I have a 10 year old VW Bug and when it gives out I’m not buying another car. Will ride my bike and borrow my husbands car when needed.

      Tess The Bold Life’s last blog post..My Kid Did Something Bold & Thrilling


    6. Lisa's Chaos says:

      I think I’ve told you our small town has about 30 miles of bike trails. And we have a state trail that goes through here and some trails in our business park. But the thing that ticked me off is that when they built the bridge to connect our town to the business park (plus wal-mart,etc) they did not include a bike lane because they said it was too costly! how can a city with all these trails not let us cross the Interstate without worry of being creamed?

      Lisa’s Chaos’s last blog post..Wanna Play?


    7. Diane C. says:

      Tucson is getting to be more bicycle friendly. Two of my sons commute by bike to work and school at the university. Tucson’s bus system could use improving though.

      Diane C.’s last blog post..Sunset Run


    8. Jannie Funster says:

      Light rail is finally catching on here in Austin too, long awaited. And I do see more bike lanes springing up. I think great things are in store for us all in general, people caring more and taking action.

      And it’s the action that makes the grade!

      Jannie Funster’s last blog post..Potential Regalements


    9. LisaNewton says:

      @ Tess The Bold Life Thank you so much. After I take photos of a place, half the fun is researching to discover more information. I love finding the history, facts, and figures that go along with the photos. I’m in a similar situation. I don’t own a car, so I take the bus, ride my bike, and when needed, I borrow a friend’s car.

      @ Lisa’s Chaos That is just ridiculous. How much more could the highway cost to just put in a bike lane.

      @ Diane C. Kudos to your sons. I think buses are improving in all the cities.


    10. Patricia says:

      Great feature and good photos….I just discovered you from Barbara’s referral and I like what I see. We have truly great bike lanes and access, even though we have tough weather we have persistent cyclists. Our bus service is great…but we are truly having problems with light rail – we are too small but it would be nice to have a way to get to Seattle and it not be by car or bike!

      Thank you I am going to wander around a bit now on your site.

      Patricia’s last blog post..Book Review: Everything Bad is Good For You ~ Steven Johnson


    11. LisaNewton says:

      @ Jannie Funster Kudos to Austin. The more light rail and bike lanes a city has, the better it is for its residents.

      @ Patricia Thank you for your kind words. I think light rail will be coming to a lot of cities in the near future, especially with routes that are popular. The less car traffic, the better it is for us. I hope you enjoyed your wanderings…….


    12. Alik Levin | says:

      Hey, Lisa!
      New here. I was attracted by your title. I like blogs that help me “traveling” while I am at home in front of my laptop.
      Never been to Los Angeles, so thanks for opening a little window to this place ;)

      Alik Levin |’s last blog post..Want To Win? – Argue, Do Not Fight!


    13. Lance says:

      Hi Lisa,
      This is a topic I love to read about. I’m all for biking, and in the nicer months – average about 2-3/week where I bike to work. We have a nice paved trail through the woods that gets me about halfway to work. And then I take some backroads that aren’t too heavily traveled. And what else is nice is that where I work, we just built a new building about 2 years ago. And they put in a bike rack and a shower. I think this is great! Sadly, I’m the only one who uses the bike rack…. Maybe it’ll catch on – in the meantime, I’ll keep on biking.

      Thanks for sharing all this info – it’s great to hear what other places are doing to make alternative transportation work.

      Lance’s last blog post..And Practice Will Go On


    14. LisaNewton says:

      @ Alik You’re welcome to open the window and let LA in anytime. The weather is usually pretty warm here……………..:)

      @ Lance Now that is a forward thinking company. One of the biggest complaints in regards to getting more women to ride bikes to work is that when they get off, they don’t look like they’re ready to work anymore, “helmet head” you know. I love the idea that they put in a shower, which would solve this problem.

      I hope it does catch on. When I ride my bike to work, I feel better about the start of my day…………..:)


    15. dc says:

      This is a subject very near and dear to my heart. Living in a fairly rural area, bikes don’t get a lot of love. I bike around almost everywhere when it’s not winter (ok, so that’s only 6 months, tops).

      The biggest problem is just awareness of bikes and their rights. Many people here are really surprised to see a bike going through town — and they don’t think that we have a right to be on the road either! I’d be very glad to see some more bike awareness develop, even just so far as people knowing that they really must move ALL the way over into the next lane when passing a bike. I’ve been nearly blown off the road by logging trucks.

      So, good post… it’s always good to see how bikes are treated in other parts of the country. They do seem to be gaining more visibility (so to speak) nowadays.

      dc’s last blog post..Manganese in the Melt


    16. Streetsblog » Today’s Headlines says:

      [...] Biking and Transit Changing L.A. (Travelin’ Local) [...]

    17. Streetsblog » Today’s Headlines says:

      [...] Bicycling and Public Transit Starting to Change L.A. (Travelin’ Local) [...]

    18. Mark says:

      Love it! I think the more we bike can only be a good thing for a number of reason. Fantastic title btw!


    19. LisaNewton says:

      @ dc This problem of ignorance of motorists is fairly universal. Even here in LA, most motorists don’t understand that a bike has a right to be on the road, just like a car. Period!!

      As more bikes hit the road, we not only gain visibility, but knowledge of rights increase. The more we speak out about the problems, the better the circumstances will become for us.

      Recently here, a fellow biker was almost hit by a bus who cut him off, even though he was in the marked bike lane. Ultimately, through the efforts of several people, the bus driver will be brought before the authorities to answer the complaint.

      It’s all about education, visibility, and knowledge.


    20. David Galvan says:

      Great info about Calpirg’s report!

      Just a quick clarification: Folding bikes are ALWAYS permitted to bring onto a bus or any of the metro rail lines, even at the times of day when regular bicycles are prohibited.


      (I thought this part of the post left that unclear:)
      “All LA metro buses now have bike racks on their fronts, which are capable of holding two bikes. Folding bikes can be brought onto the bus or train. Currently, the only drawback is that no bikes are allowed on subway trains during rush hour.”


    21. LisaNewton says:

      @ David Galvan Thank you for the clarification. You’re right, the way the post reads, that isn’t clear. I happen to own a folding bike, so it’s great to be able to take it on the Metro anytime…………:)


    22. Mike Foster says:

      Another awesome post, Lisa! I live in one of the best bike-friendly towns around. Have a college right downtown helps, but seldom does a day pass when I am do not see dozens biking around town, the park, everywhere.


      Mike Foster’s last blog post..Mo’ Better (Social Networking) Blues


    23. LisaNewton says:

      @ Mike Foster Thank you, and congratulations about living in a bike friendly community. It’s great to see bikes everywhere instead of just occasionally……………:)


    24. Three-foot passing zones — even a near miss can be deadly « BikingInLA says:

      [...] a helmet and be careful on your way there. Finally, L.A.’s own hometown cycling travel writer gets political. You go, [...]

    25. Gary Kavanagh says:

      Great post, glad my little priorities post was useful reference.


    26. LisaNewton says:

      @ Gary You have no idea. As soon as I saw this post in my Reader, I knew I’d use it as part of a post. I was just holding on to it until I found the right accompanying material. Thank you for the great research………….:)


    27. David says:

      Lisa, this is one of the best articles I’ve ever read about local transportation issues and how we can evolve past fossil fuels in lieu of solely automobiles.

      Great research as well–and the amount of resources allocated here, is indicative of the need for political will, not really money.

      My opinion is that in order to make our city more bike friendly, is to start building bike lanes, and sharrows, block by block, area by area, and then neighborhood by neighborhood.

      Lastly, some people think “mass transit” is a four letter word when that 4 letter word is, in all actuality, the “automobile.”


    28. LisaNewton says:

      @ David Thank you. Each time I go out, I think of more places it would be so easy to paint sharrows on the road, and with very little expense. The roads are already there, they just need a few pictures.


    29. This week in BIKES (6) « The Bicycle Librarian says:

      [...] Bikes and Mass Transit are changing Los Angeles –Travelin’ Local. [...]

    30. uberVU - social comments says:

      Social comments and analytics for this post…

      This post was mentioned on Twitter by BicyclingNate: – “Bikes and mass transit are changing L.A.”

    31. indoor bike rack says:

      Riding your bike to and from work, if possible can be a great way to lose weight, in addition to helping the environment. Cycling is one of the fastest ways to burn calories for the time spent. I ride my bike 6 miles to work as often as I can and it helps me keep the weight off. More people should consider riding bikes regularly. Very good article.


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