Saturday, August 25, 2007

Fourh Street Bike Ride

The 4th Street Bike Ride (A potential Bike Boulevard)

The Fourth Street Bicycle Ride with Councilman Tom Labonge was very inspirational. Right when you think it is impossible to create a sustainable transportation system in car-crazy LA, this bike ride gives you hope for the future.

I started the evening after work at Union Station by hopping on the Purple Line, bicycle in tow. I rode the train to the Wilshire/Vermont Station. From this station I rode my bike a few short blocks to Shatto Park on Fourth Street near Vermont.

After a few remarks from Councilman Labonge on the importance of bike riding to solve LA’s congestion problem, 25 to 30 cyclists set off on a six-mile bike ride along Fourth Street. The nice ocean breeze cooled down the asphalt and made it a very pleasant ride. We rode over the gentle rolling hills of Mid-City LA.

Our bicycle police escorts made us feel very safe on the otherwise dangerous streets of LA. I would have never done this bike ride otherwise! They helped us ride through the many Mid-City streets without stopping and made it easy cross busy streets like Vermont, Western and Highland.

The pace of the group allowed us to talk to each and make new friends. Someone even brought music for the ride. For a few seconds it was great to reclaim Fourth Street as a pleasant temporary open space.

By a stroke of luck of pure, much-welcomed luck the Los Angeles Department of Transportation has not molested Fourth Street by removing parkways to widen it. Fourth Street is narrow and comfortable by LA standards and is a treasure trove of urban history, architecture, and diversity. The street changes from straight to nice gentle curves resembling the street of a nice Mid-Western historic suburb. The landscape along Fourth Street improves drastically from a landscape-poor street to a nice tree-lined street. Biking through the narrow streets of Hancock Park reminded me of riding on the bike boulevards of Palo Alto.

Lining Fourth Street in Mid-City are Gothic, Spanish and other eclectic multi-family buildings built in the 1920’s , with a new few stucco boxes thrown in for good measure. The dense neighborhoods house many Latinos and Asians. Many of these residents were gathered in green spots in the front or side yards, parkways or on their balconies, out enjoying the cool breezes. These dense neighborhoods of Mid-City then gave way to single-family homes in Hancock Park.

We rode along until we reached Park LaBrea and made a quick pitstop at the Fire Station on Third Street. From here we rode back and stopped at 31 Flavors ice cream shop, in Larchmont Village, for some free ice cream cones. By than it was dark and we proceed back to Shatto Park. As a cyclist I realize how important it is to have lighted bike paths, because in the dark it hard to spot the pot holes!

Fourth Street has the potential to become the City’s first bike boulevard. This bike route is a great east-west linkage in Mid-City, that can connect downtown with places like the Grove trendy Westside places.

The bike ride made me realize what a great biking city LA could become with the proper infrastructure investment. The bike movement in this city has been dominated by athletic males who can out smart cars, and feel we do not need bike lanes, paths or boulevards. For a vast majority of Angelenos, however riding a bike in this city is seen as a death wish. People act so surprise when I tell them I bike to work through downtown streets. I always reassure them that I bike very slowly on sidewalks making eye contact with every car driver on my way to work. It’s not worth getting hit by a car. Downtown needs bike boulevards!

As a transportation planner it is important to understand the geography of LA, how people move through it and what the mobility trends are.

Because this bike ride was a success, Councilman Tom Labonge will be hosting a bike ride on the last Thursday of the month. I will keep the team updated on this rides.

For more information, contact Carolyn Ramsay at (213)473-2340 or Carolyn.ramsay@lacity.org.

5 comments:

Cowboy Galactico said...

Every last thursday of the month? SO is this upcoming thursday another bike ride night?

Julio said...

This ride sounds like it was a blast. And just FYI, I've read many times that riding on the sidewalk can be much more perilous than riding in the street with the flow of traffic. This being because cars do not see you on the sidewalk and basically do not expect something faster than a pedestrian crossing the street. I've seen so many fellow bicyclists almost get sideswiped by cars while I sail-by safely in the street.

I've also read some articles on how bicycle paths can be dangerous too. I think whole bike boulevards would be best (where bikes have no contact with cars). But I also think this detracts from the idea that bicycles are another form of traffic on the highway and have the right to be on the road.

But yes, any move to make bicycle commuting more viable for most people would be grand. I already bike all over East LA, El Sereno, Lincoln Heights, Highland Park, Downtown, South Pasadena, Pasadena and I find it hard to want to drive anymore.

ingipet said...

great write up from the ride!

indeed, the bike boulevard model is a welcome blessing for our fair city of angels....
the best of them are the ones that are physically separated! ---
i just added a new link over on the frontpage of 4sbb.com to an excellent video about this very topic...

live the dream!!!
ingrid
http://www.4sbb.com

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