“Not enough space for bicycles on existing streets,” this is a common argument against providing bicycle infrastructure on Los Angeles streets, as it is in most cities with low cycling rates. This argument is subjective and ‘enough space’ simply depends on where the city’s priorities are. Here in LA, a typical street may look like this:
Image via Google Maps
Or from the street level, like this
- Street view of Fletcher Drive bridge. Image via Google Maps
These pictures of Fletcher Drive, a typical Los Angeles street in appearance and width, show that cars easily dominate the majority of the available space and pedestrians are left narrow sidewalks.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be like this, to have a street dominated by cars while there are minimal provisions for pedestrians and zero provisions for bicyclists. If anything, walking and cycling should be prioritized because these modes of travel are more accessible to people of all ages, of all incomes, of all abilities.
So where am I going with this?
I recently watched a video demonstrating how Copenhagen has achieved its high cycling rate of over 30% of trips by bicycle. One thing in particular caught my attention during the video, this bridge:
Dronning Louises Bridge
The Dronning Louises bridge in Copenhagen looks very similar to the Fletcher Drive bridge in Los Angeles and appears to be similar width. According to estimates off Google Maps it is revealed that the streets (not including sidewalks) in fact are quite close in width, Fletcher is about 51ft wide with conservative estimate and Dronning Louises is about 54ft. However, the big difference is that cars, bikes, and pedestrians have all been fairly distributed space in Copenhagen and cars dominate on Fletcher Drive, as they do all over Los Angeles. (If you look closely at the picture above you may also notice that on Dronning Louises bridge the car space was reduced from two to one travel lane in each direction by extending the width of the bike lanes.)
And what happens when space is more evenly distributed? More people choose to cycle or walk.
Some may remember bicyclists did temporarily reclaim space on the Fletcher Drive bridge without compromising the number of vehicle lanes, but this was short lived and the guerrilla bike lanes were removed. We could easily make conditions for bicyclists and pedestrians more pleasant in Los Angeles, it’s just a matter of allocating space more equitably.
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