Tuesday, July 8, 2008

California Alternative Commuting in the News

I woke up this morning to many articles about commuting and bicycles in the news:

• High gas prices are pushing more and more people to commute by bike. You will notice that the article emphasizes how terrifying it is to ride a bike in Los Angeles due to distracted drivers. Despite this danger, bicycle sales for the month of June spiked by 20%. Ironically, for many commuters the biking option is much quicker than driving. Awesome!

I've got to say that there are some major downsides to this spike in bike riders in LA. First, the city has yet to implement its bicycle master plan and thus bike lanes and routes are often not very well advertised or supported. Also, an influx of inexperienced riders on the road can actually be dangerous if no one follows traffic laws. I could tell you stories of the police completely ignoring dangerous cyclists out there. Finally, the article notes that many bike repair shops are completely over-booked with this new influx. New bikes mean that they all have to be tuned-up within the first few months on the road. I guess that I can't just show up at my local shop for a quick diagnosis anymore...

• Apparently with the aforementioned terror of riding with clueless drivers, many cyclists really want to use sidewalks. It is so pressing that the City of West Hollywood wants to abandon its ban of cycling on the sidewalks. This is coming from a city that actually has marked bike lanes! I've got to say that I personally prefer riding with cars than pedestrians. Cars are generally predictable, while pedestrians often aren't looking for anything moving faster than walking speed, let alone a vehicle going 10-20 miles per hour in the path. I think it's great that so many people want to ride their bikes that this is even a consideration, but it sounds to me like a major step backwards.

• Aside from bikes and scooters, the high gas prices are also encouraging southland commuters to use mass transit. No surprise there. I can't wait until SoCal's rail system actually has the capacity and lines to make the transition easier; right now, the system makes very little sense. Just think: it is actually far less of a hassle for my to ride my bike 55 miles south to Laguna Beach than to take a train. None of it makes sense...

• And just when you thought it was safe to live in your car, it seems that the California state government wants to curb the bad habits of its motorists. I'm not talking about talking or texting on cell phones, I'm talking about such offenses as reading a newspaper, painting fingernails, or having one's dog on one's lap. My personal favorite offense is changing an entire outfit while stuck in traffic (which, as a cyclist, I've seen numerous times). If this actually works, perhaps the roads will be more encouraging to the newbie bike commuter and we won't need to have cyclists on sidewalks. I can dream, right?

1 comment:

CelloShots said...

As a WeHo pedestrian, I approve of keeping the bikes in the streets, but as a supporter of non-car transport, I approve of anything that makes biking easier. Hm...

I would like to see:

-a moratorium on jaywalking tickets

-an increase in the frequency of buses on existing routes, especially the 305 that goes aaaaaall the way along San Vicente but bizarrely runs only once an hour

-an actually thoughtful look at expanding the subway westward

That's all I've got for now, but I'm sure there are far more considerations to...consider.