Is Los Angeles bike friendly?

By Alex Thompson

Is Los Angeles bike friendly?  It’s a simple question and Bikeside aims to answer it, so we created a survey (TAKE THE SURVEY!) to ask you if you think Los Angeles is bike friendly.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a quietly held consensus, but the reality is the question hasn’t been answered systematically.  I suppose we could gather together a bunch of data – if we had the resources – like miles of roadway that are bike friendly, bike-involved collision stats, and % of trips made by bicycle, feed them all into some big huge whizbang Google mainframe computer, and it would churn out an answer.

Or we could just ask the people of Los Angeles.  We could ask the cyclists because they know what it’s like to ride in Los Angeles.  And we could ask non-cyclists because they know why they don’t ride in Los Angeles.  Between the two of them, we could get a good picture of who thinks LA is not bike friendly, and who thinks it is, and get a start on why.

This is a short survey.  It asks one question – “Is Los Angeles bike friendly?” – in three different ways.  Later this year we’ll conduct a big huge survey of bike friendliness in Los Angeles, but for now we wanted to keep it simple.  So here’s our question, asked three ways:

“Do you think Los Angeles is bike friendly? In other words, does Los Angeles, from the weather, to the police, to drivers and pedestrians, encourage and support cycling?”

“Put another way, on a scale from 0 to 10, how bike friendly is Los Angeles? (0 being not at all bike friendly, and 10 being very bike friendly.)”

“If LA is not bike friendly today, how many years will it take LA to become bike friendly at its current rate of improvement? (assuming there is any.)”

Please take 3 minutes, take the survey, and share it with your friends, cycling and non-cycling!  Here’s the link again:

Is Los Angeles bike friendly?

Is Los Angeles bike friendly? Above: Ron Peterson after Chris Thompson's road rage attack. Below: DJ Chicken Leather at CicLAvia 10/10/10.

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10 Responses to “Is Los Angeles bike friendly?”

  1. >I suppose we could gather together a bunch of data – if we had the resources – like miles of roadway that are bike friendly, bike-involved collision stats, and % of trips

    It’s surprising how much traction those algorithm-driven surveys of cities get. Walk score and the like. It’s the ranking that people relate to, and we can do it too. In fact, it seems to be underway:

    I’d suggest a simple report card. Let’s develop criteria then slap a grade on it. Schools do it every day and it influences countless lives. We can take the same relatively haphazard approach and get some traction too.

  2. You’ll get skewed results if you’re only posting this on bike-centric sites. Are you also polling in more car-centric venues?

  3. @Birdredbird

    Or best promotional resources are geared toward cyclists, so we are having a harder time reaching motorists. If you have the means, please share w/ the motoring public. LAist did pick up the survey.

    However, we can break out results according to whether the respondent is a cyclist or not.

    Also, I’m not sure which way it would skew the results. Do you think non-cyclists think LA is less bike friendly or more bike friendly than cyclists? Cyclists have more experience w/ the bad stuff, but on the other hand, non-cyclists are not cyclists for a reason – perhaps many of them think it’s unsafe.

    @Mark Elliot

    That could be fun. I will say though, I like the simplicity of simply asking people what they think. You can take a man, document everything about his appearance, take this measurement or that measurement, and pop it all into a scoring algorithm, but you only need to ask a few women if he’s attractive to get an accurate answer. In the same way, I don’t need too many facts and figures to tell me if LA is bike friendly . . . I can simply ask a few cyclists – they know the facts more intimately than any handful of figures can represent.

  4. @Alex, I agree that subjective impressions are important, maybe as important or more in the political context of planning. Maybe I’d be interested to know ‘Is Los Angeles bike friendly” in relation to expectations, say, or some reference (other cities maybe).
    Expectations are important because we have a social context for the actual improvements – are we making sufficient progress? The relative comparison is useful because we can have a soft benchmark for those expectations. Are we gaining, keeping up with, or falling behind other reference cities?
    Long Beach comes to mind regionally, and NYC in terms of scale, but then there are the pace-setters.
    Lots of ways to slice this one!

  5. @ME

    It could be fun to do some city by city comparisons and longitudinal stuff. I’m kinda stoked about turning this into a tracking survey.

  6. While I applaud your goal of polling for public sentiment on this matter. I feel that your survey questions are leading or even confusing. While they may give you a good headline they will not provide any quality data. If it were me I would roll out your more detailed survey that you mention above and skip these three questions.

    You say: “In other words, does Los Angeles, from the weather, to the police, to drivers and pedestrians, encourage and support cycling?”

    My response for each of these would vary drastically.

    WEATHER: YES, compared to Seattle or Portland where it rains all the time.

    POLICE: WORKING ON IT. They have come a long way and have shown a desire to work with the community even though there have been moments of extreme tension.

    DRIVERS AND PEDESTRIANS: Drivers have a long way to go. Pedestrians probably have more to complain about bicyclists than the other way around.

    As for rating Los Angeles, County? City? I will assume you mean the City. Here I’m also torn, do you mean politically or infrastructure wise? Politically I’d give us a 6 right now (Ciclavia, 3 feet rule, new Bike Plan) but infrastructure wise we’re not doing so hot (we need more lanes on the street).

    So, while you’ll get a headline out of the above questions, I’m not sure they help us really understand how people really feel. Please proceed with your more expansive survey as soon as possible.


    P.S. Following your positing with a picture of someone bleeding on a stretcher will definitely skew the results.

  7. When can we see the results of that?

  8. @Greg – we’re going to put out preliminary results soon – we’ll officially close the survey after about 2 weeks of it being open.


    The picture shows CicLAvia as well as an injured cyclist (Ron Peterson after being nearly killed by Christopher Thompson in Mandeville Canyon.) The intent is to show the two extremes of bike friendliness that LA experiences, from a great event – CicLAvia – which happens too infrequently, to a horrible event that happens too frequently.

    When people say “Los Angeles” they mean the city. Only in government or outside of LA is their any confusion. As far as which aspect we’re polling on – we’re not polling on any one aspect. We’re polling exactly what we asked – is LA bike friendly. You determine the weight, you determine what’s important to you.


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