No more “door lanes”!
There’s a road diet proposed in Venice which will add bike lanes to Main St. The road diet is controversial (check the comments on LA Streetsblog), as the bike lane is tight against parked cars, putting cyclist riding the center of the bike lane. The proposal comes before Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) tomorrow (Tuesday) and below you can find my open letter to the board of directors. For context: VNC and Mar Vista Community Council are adjacent to one another.
Edit: Mihai Peteu modified the Santa Monica Bike Map to show just the collisions taking place on the Main St bike lane in Santa Monica. It paints a striking picture. Not only are there a lot of collisions, but the usual ratio of 5 to 10 pedestrian collisions to every cycling collision is inverted: there are far more cycling collisions than pedestrian. I can remember complaints about the Main St bike lane in Santa Monica since I started riding . . . and there’s been quite a number of awful collisions there, among them the Cathy Jones hit and run. LADOT has stated that one benefit of the Main St project in Venice would be to continue the Main St. bike lane in Santa Monica. This map calls into question the wisdom of continuing a door lane with a bad reputation, when the travel lanes are overly wide (11 feet).
Here’s the map, click through for the dynamic version:
Venice Neighborhood Council members,
I’m writing you to ask that you reject the motion for item 6-C (Main St Road Diet) and ask DOT to provide you with better, safer and more innovative options for Main St. I will try to be at VNC for the item, but I have a prior obligation in Santa Monica which runs till 8. If I cannot make it, these are my thoughts:
I have appeared before you on this item, as well as on the Cyclists’ Bill of Rights and other items. I’m writing as a Del Rey resident who still bikes on Main St, and who often rode it in 2008 and 2009 when I lived on Horizon Ave in Venice. My background in cycling activism includes co-founding Bikerowave, authoring elements of LA’s 2010 Bike Plan as President of Bikeside, and my work as board member of the Mar Vista Community Council.
There are two good reasons to reject this motion, a motion which voices support for an LADOT plan for modifying Main St. First, while LADOT has participated in the NC process by appearing before your committees, they have not offered you options, a key feature of democratic process. Second, the nature of the proposed bike lanes endangers cyclists perhaps as much as it protects them.
Neighborhood Councils should be offered options by city departments. Too often proposals shopped by the City are “my way or the highway.” In this case, LADOT’s proposal is “keep Main St the way it is, or change it to what we want.” To my knowledge, DOT has not offered other striping plans besides the plan under consideration. This lack of options gives VNC little leeway to express its vision of Venice.
The proposed road diet is controversial in the cycling community. Some cyclists, this advocate included, argue that, as a minimum standard bike lane, it puts cyclists at risk. This has been written about on LA Streetsblog, Gary Rides Bikes, and Bikeside.
The proposed bike lanes will be in what cyclists call the “door zone.” The door zone is the section of the road next to parked cars where, if someone opened their door while you were riding by, you would crash into the door. If you bike in the door zone you’re risking free open heart surgery at the hands of a car door.
These bike lanes are the minimum 5 foot width next to a minimum 7 foot wide parking lanes. LADOT may characterize the bike lanes as “up to standard”, but realize this is the minimum standard that LADOT must build to *by law*. A study of parking behavior conducted in San Francisco showed that in 1 in 7 cars, when the driver opened their door to get out, that door extended beyond 9.5 feet from the curb. In this case, 9.5 feet from the curb marks the dead center of the proposed bike lane. So the study suggests that 1 in 7 car doors will cover most of the bike lane – that’s a risky bike lane.
And even more risky because many riders in Venice are novices. A veteran of LADOT’s minimally supportive streets knows that when a bike lane is in the door zone, you ride the outside edge, escaping most doors. Casual cyclists usually don’t know this. And what makes Venice such a bike paradise is the thousands of casual cyclists riding the streets on any given day. A design like the one offered by LADOT puts those casual cyclists in the door zone – offering them a false sense of security.
DOT has been creating some innovative bike lanes recently in other parts of the city. In Central LA they’ve built a bike lane with a buffer, and in Highland Park they’re doing a painted bike lane. Why innovative options like this are not on the table in Venice is beyond me!
So I encourage you to ask questions and get at the core of the issue. I believe that LADOT can offer other designs, they simply have not. In my work as part of the Bike Plan Implementation Team, I have seen LADOT turn around new designs within a month, so asking for alternatives is not unrealistic, and it doesn’t risk much delay. I defer to whatever VNC concludes – y’all know your neighborhood and if I could somehow move back to Venice (make the rent lower!) I would!
Here’s some questions you could ask of LADOT:
- We’ve heard that you are implementing bike innovations like buffered bike lanes and painted bike lanes in other parts of the city. Will you report back with new options that incorporate these kinds of elements?
- Why can’t the travel lane widths be reduced from 11’ to 10’ to encourage lower travel speeds and provide additional width for bike lane design?
- How often do you estimate a cyclist will be doored in the current proposed design?
- Realistically, will large, 11′ travel lanes reduce traffic speeds? Isn’t reduction of travel speeds supposed to be a benefit of road diets?
Dr. Alex C Thompson
Community Director, Mar Vista Community Council
(PS – Joe Linton pointed out that there is no MUTCD specified minimum width for a parking lane, so I got that wrong. However, functionally it doesn’t make much difference, as cars don’t shrink if you make the parking lane narrower, and most cars are nearly 7′ wide.)