Bike Lanes – To Share Or Not To Share?

In my younger days, I enjoyed riding my bike around the Palos Verdes peninsula. My bicycle was a used green ten-speed and not anywhere near the technical complexity of today’s road bikes.

I would venture off from my parents’ house near Crestwood Avenue and make my way to 22nd St. and then head around the backside of the hill to Palos Verdes Dr. North then back home on Western Ave. On other occasions, I would tackle the switchbacks near Marymount College or ride through Miraleste Drive and then up Crest Rd. to the top of the hill to enjoy the view.

My most memorable bike ride was with my friend Todd Karli when we followed the Olympic torch back in 1984 for the Los Angeles summer games. We met at PCH and Western and followed the running of the torch up Crenshaw to Palos Verdes and down Hawthorne all the way to 190th and PCH before returning home. We experienced a little part of history that day.

Back then there were no bike lanes, although looking back it would have been nice to have had them, especially through the blind turns around the backside of Palos Verdes. Today, many cities across the country have made bike lanes an important part of the landscape and Los Angeles is no different. In fact, you can read the five-year bike lane plan for Los Angeles at the Department of City Planning website. The strategy is to lay down at least 200 miles of bike lanes every five years across Los Angeles to create a contiguous bike lane network. As part of the 2010 Bicycle Plan, 253 miles of bike lanes will be implemented at a cost projection of $27 Million, and San Pedro is right in the middle of it.

Recently, bike lanes have been implemented on Capitol and Westmont and have resulted in one of the biggest local protest in a long time. The story has lit up Facebook, been covered on the local TV news and in newspapers and local protests have been conducted on Westmont. Why? Is it because people in general do not like bike lanes? No, it’s because locals are frustrated because car lanes and left turn lanes have been eliminated and center dividers narrowed to put in these bike lanes.

The result has been longer commuting times bringing kids to and from Taper Ave., Dodson and Mary Star High School, as well as making it difficult to maneuver in and out of Ralphs and Albertsons parking lots during peak hours. Drivers are not only confused by the markings on Westmont that separate the bike and car lanes and where they can cross them when merging to make a right turn, but become so frustrated with waiting in traffic that they enter the bike lanes to bypass the traffic altogether. This has resulted in moving violations being issued. What remains to be seen are the wait times that may occur on Westmont and Gaffey St. during soccer season for families to arrive at the Field of Dreams, the impact when Ponte Vista is developed, or the delays on Gaffey now that the southbound lanes at the Channel St. intersection has been reduced to a single lane. Based on the protests, it remains to be seen if the current plan to change Pacific Ave into single car lanes to make room for bike lanes gets implemented.

One idea that may be considered to resolve the current and future bike lane dilemmas is to establish shared bike lanes similar to what has been done along 2nd St. in Belmont Shore. This type of lane requires an automobile to yield for bicyclists present in the lane otherwise autos are free to travel in the lane.

Although the bike plan was approved prior to Councilman Joe Buscaino being elected, he has been proactive in assessing the situation and getting feedback from residents and listening to business owners’ concerns in order to determine how to resolve this issue. What is also encouraging is the vocal and written outpouring by locals who are truly frustrated with the way this segment of bike lanes have been implemented and are determined to fix it. spt