Why isn’t Los Angeles more Bike-Friendly than NYC?

Jun 08, 2010 by Lisa Newton

Since moving to Los Angeles, I’ve been both an observer and a participant of the local biking community here.

One topic that’s caught my attention is the city of Los Angeles’ “Bicycle Master Plan.” This “document describes the long-range planning for developing bicycle infrastructure throughout the city, with an emphasis on designating and expanding bike routes, fostering a safe environment for cycling, and promoting bicycling as a viable transportation option.”

Since its inception in 1996, the Los Angeles Bicycle Master Plan has gone through many changes but has, unfortunately, had little results. It includes plans for developing building sharrows, bike lanes, and bike parking, as well as other initiatives, to name but just a few ideas.

Nonetheless, they’ve been either put on the back burner or taken off all together. To prove my point, I headed over to LABikePlan.org, and found that there were many broken links.

Surprisingly, a city with the size and scope of Los Angeles—with its thousands of cyclists–can’t get their act together, unlike most other bike-friendly cities in most major cities on the East Coast. New York City, a place where the weather is only bike friendly about half of the year, has seen great strides in their efforts to make the city more attractive to bikers.

Therefore, I herein chosen two random locations in both LA and NYC, choosing each other’s City Hall, and another location about 5 miles away. Here’s the resulting biking maps brought to you by Google:

Los Angeles

New York City

Do you notice the dark green lines? Over the last three years, NYC has said “Yes” to bikes, and made a truly remarkable effort to create a city that welcomes bikers. In fact, in 2009, NYC’s bike commuting has seen an increase of 26%. On the other hand, LA can’t make up its mind as to what to do–so nothing gets done.

As someone who has lived so many years on the East Coast, with the rain, snow, ice, and downright bike-unfriendly weather, it’s amazing to me that a city that’s “warm” and not too wet, doesn’t have bike paths or sharrows on every street, to create more opportunities for additional bike friendly routes and pathways.

With billions currently being spent upgrading roads, and adding lanes (that don’t do anything to alleviate congestion), isn’t it time to put a real commitment in order to help make Los Angeles more bike-friendly?

NYC did it. Why can’t we?

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4 Responses to “Why isn’t Los Angeles more Bike-Friendly than NYC?”

  1. O. Bisogno Scotti says:

    I just got back from Tucson, AZ and nearly every street has a bike lane!

    [Reply]

    Name Reply:

    @O. Bisogno Scotti, I lived in Tucson and biking there is horrible. The streets are in such bad shape because Tucson lacks a drain system for the monsoon rainstorms. There are definitely nice roads for weekend warriors, but for everyday Commuters, Tucson is not the greatest.

    [Reply]

  2. Carter says:

    Did you use the same scale on each of the maps? My impression is that the LA one is much more zoomed in than the New York map, which makes a difference in one’s perception of the concentration of bike lanes.

    Either way, your over-arching point is right.

    LADOT has no excuse for their lack of vision or execution.

    [Reply]

    Lisa Newton Reply:

    @Carter, I didn’t do them exactly to scale, but they are close. Regardless of the scale, one map would have just gotten greener while the other would have gotten whiter.

    The “no excuse” is correct.

    [Reply]

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