Some Thoughts on Outdated Bikeway Designs [Walk Eagle Rock] Read up Columbus!

(This is a non-Eagle Rock specific post mostly consisting of thoughts on bicycle infrastructure design standards that dictate bikeway design in Los Angeles)
When bicycling on the streets of Los Angeles I am expected to ‘share the road’ with motorists. On quiet residential streets this is rarely an issue, cars seldom go above 20 miles per hour. But even on residential streets there is the occasional pressure to speed up or move aside when a motor vehicle approaches from behind. However, residential streets are pretty manageable and subjectively safe for myself, and the many people I see who simply enjoy to go for a ride around the block. Intersections are not an issue either as residential streets are usually narrow with little traffic.
However, the comfort utilitarian and recreational bicyclists feel on residential streets quickly disappears when traveling on major, commercial streets. One of the biggest hindrances to people choosing the bicycle for travel is how dangerous larger streets with greater amounts of traffic feel.
Now I am an everyday bicyclist and while I have no problem negotiating with motor vehicle traffic, making left turns like a motor vehicle. I expect motorists to needlessly discriminate me by shouting, honking, and telling me to get out of the way. But this is not the reality I want to experience. When traveling by bicycle I’d prefer to be separated from motor vehicles traveling over 20 miles per hour;I do not want to breathe in exhaust, feel cars zoom by, or put up with the noise pollution and increasingly distracted drivers. And I’m not the only one who feels this way, there are many more who cite their number one reason for not bicycling more often being how unsafe and unpleasant conditions are, being forced to mix with motorized traffic to go to the grocery store, a friend’s house, or local restaurant.
So what is being done to address the concerns of the many people who want to get on their bicycles but don’t? Well, here locally in Los Angeles the city has a Bicycle Master Plan which seeks to create a 1,600 mile network of bicycle facilities over the course of the next 30 years. And in 30 years the city hopes to have bicycling make up 5% of the city’s traffic.
Almost half, 700 miles, of the 1,600 miles of bicycle facilities will be on the a backbone network which will consist of the heavy traffic streets many are currently afraid of. And what will the facilities on these major streets look like? Currently bike facility designs are largely dictated by: The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO); California Highway Design Manual (CHDM); and the California Manual of Unified Traffic Control Devices (CAMUTCD). What do these manuals have to offer?
Facilities offered in AASHTO and CAHDM are:
  • Class I Bike Path: Completely separated right-of-way for exclusive use by bicycles and pedestrians
  • Class II Bike Lane: Provides a striped line for one-way bicycle travel on a street or highway
  • Class III Bike Route: Provides shared use with pedestrians or motor vehicle travel
It well known that the majority of people will refuse to start bicycling unless safe, separate facilities are provided. My own anecdotal evidence of this consists of asking my non-bicycling friends, my grandfather, my sister and mother. I also observe where people do cycle most– bike paths. Admittedly the majority of users on LA’s bike paths are recreational riders but a few points can perhaps explain why: Current bike paths are largely isolated and are difficult to integrate into any kind of travel other than recreational; current bike paths are often linear, uninterrupted paths, optimizing them for recreational travel; the facilities feel safe enough to use for recreational purposes (unlike the streets closer to where the bike path users live).


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