Take Two®

News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by A Martínez

Will bicycles ever get the infrastructure they need in LA?

by Susan Carpenter | Take Two®

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Next month, LA County residents will vote on a Traffic Improvement Plan, also known as Measure M.

The ballot initiative would help build out the region's transit system with new rail and bus lines, fix roads and create bike paths.

So to test out how you can get around L.A. without a car, our very own Sue Carpenter started an interesting experiment.

Sue is the host of The Ride, our series about cars and mobility ... but she decided to try navigating around L-A without a car...

For the entire month of October.

She found that without a car, the fastest way to get around L.A. is often on two wheels. It's a truism that's long been known by bicyclists and was underscored earlier this year in KPCC's "great race" between a bike, a car and Metro from downtown L.A. to Santa Monica during rush hour.

The bicycle won.

Still, infrastructure to support bicycling lags. To ride in L.A. County is to navigate a patchwork of dedicated bike lanes and streets with fast-moving traffic. Hardcore cyclists may be willing to use such a disconnected system, but what about regular folks who may be on the fence about using a bike instead of a car?

"The majority of the population is not going to really get on their bike and go out there and ride on the streets unless they feel like they have a place to do it without as much conflict with motor vehicles," said Colin Bogart, education director for the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition.

"If you look at a map of bike lanes right now, if you pretended that map was a map of streets for cars and saw they weren’t connected, you’d be like, no wonder nobody’s driving, right?"

So how does L.A. become more bicycle friendly?

Potentially through Measure M. Two percent of the funds raised through the ballot measure to increase L.A. County's sales tax in support of transit is slated for bicycle and pedestrian improvements — or, as Metro calls it, “active transportation.”

Should Measure M pass, Metro will allocate $2.4 billion over the next 40 years for active transportation projects, the largest of which are slated for pathways along the L.A. River. Plans call for closing a 12-mile gap in the existing L.A. River bike path from Canoga Park to Glendale, an eight-mile gap through downtown L.A. to the City of Maywood and another stretch from downtown toward Pasadena.

All of the L.A. River bike path improvements are scheduled to break ground in 2023 with a completion date of 2025, according to Metro chief communications officer, Pauletta Tonilas. While many of the other pieces of Measure M’s bike infrastructure improvements haven’t yet been determined, "Metro has embraced bicycles as a part of our multimodal system," Tonilas said.

In addition to allowing bikes on trains and buses, it launched a bike-sharing program in downtown L.A. earlier this year that will soon expand to Pasadena, Venice and the Port of Los Angeles.

Right now, about five percent of Metro users ride their bicycles to the train or bus, and once they’ve arrived, Metro gives cyclists the option of bringing their bikes along or parking them in lockers. There’s also a new system of bike hubs that will soon be available in Union Station, Culver City and North Hollywood for cyclists to safely park their bikes and also get them repaired.

Can L.A. be the next great U.S. city for bicycles? Maybe. But it’s still a long pedal uphill to get there.

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