By Ian Lovett, 6/17/2010
After two years of planning and debating, the city’s “sharrows” — traffic lanes marked for bicycles and cars — have finally been
Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti, 13th District, helped install the first sharrows last Friday.
“By making it safer for cars and bicycles to share the road, sharrows encourage biking as a real alternative to driving, reducing traffic and air pollution,” Garcetti said.
The sharrows, which were installed on Fountain Avenue from Western Avenue to Vermont Avenue, are designed to increase awareness of where cyclists should be riding in the road, and to keep cyclists out of the “door zone” where they can be hit by the open doors of parked cars. During the next several months, sharrows will be added to five other streets across the city. The Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) will monitor the routes, as it considers whether to expand the program and install more sharrows around the city.
The Los Angeles County Bike Coalition (LACBC) partnered with the city to help develop the sharrow pilot program.
“We are happy to see sharrows on our streets,” said Aurisha Smolarski, LACBC campaign and community director. “I hope [this] will lead to many more sharrows on the streets of L.A.”
However, some other bicycle advocates were not as pleased with the new sharrows. Stephen Box, author of the bicycling advocacy blog SoapBoxLA, said many of the sharrows on Fountain were painted in the wrong place.
“Cyclists are taught to ride in a straight line, so cars know where to expect us,” Box said. “These sharrows are uniformly twelve feet from the curb, but the street itself varies in width. That means we’re not always the same distance from the middle of the road, and that has us wobbling in and out of traffic.”
As a result, Box said the new sharrows are effective at getting cyclists out of the “door zone,” but do not communicate to drivers and cyclists where in the lane the cyclists should be riding. He said another of the sharrows puts cyclists in the right turn lane, where they can get hit by cars turning right.
“This demonstrates to me that LADOT doesn’t understand the rule of urban bike riding,” Box said. “We’ve worked on this for two years. Manhattan Beach spent two thousand dollars and did it right. Long Beach spent four weeks of time and won federal awards for their ‘green lane’. This sets a standard of mediocrity.”
However, Jeff Jacobberger, who is a member of the City Bicycle Advisory Committee, said he hopes the sharrows will at least help show motorists that bicycles do belong on the street.
“People scream at me for riding on the street,” Jacobberger said. “They think bikes have no place on the street, so, to the extent that it helps disabuse people of those ideas, it’s a good thing.”
Still, even Box remains encouraged about the direction of cycling in Los Angeles. Following an incident several weeks ago in which a Los Angeles Police Department officer tripped a cyclist on Hollywood Boulevard and was caught on camera, the cycling community has had the ear of local law enforcement and elected officials.
“In spite of all the hullabaloo over the incident, people are really talking and great stuff is happening,” Box said. “I do think it could have a positive effect for biking in L.A. It was a horrendous incident, but I have a lot of respect for the way they’ve handled it. They’ve been earnest and open, and I think that goes a long way.”