(Less than a day after Walk Eagle Rock published an article titled “Galco’s and Bike Lanes“, John Nese of Galco’s published – what appears to be a response – on his business’ website, an article titled “Safety on York Boulevard“. We at here at Walk Eagle Rock feel safety is paramount and we would like to address Nese’s article, which actually extends beyond safety and discusses Nese’s opinion on bicycling in Highland Park more broadly. The following is part 1 of 2 a response addressing claims made in Nese’s article)
Nese opens his article stating:
“The new bike lanes on York Boulevard scare me. Not just as a business owner, but a resident of the area and a grandfather.
I see cars, as many as 1,200 an hour I’m told, rushing down the street and, with the introduction of these bike lanes, I am fearful that when they meet up with a two-wheeled biker, things won’t be pretty and with the bicyclist getting the short end of the stick.”
- The source of the number of cars John Nese sees per hour is unverified. Tom Topping of the Boulevard Sentinel conducted an informal traffic count over the span of 30 minutes and counted 660 cars for his article “New York Blvd. Lane Striping Annoys Business“– we assume Nese is using Topping’s one-time counted figure and doubling it. This is an unreliable figure to use because many factors determine how many cars pass in an hour. Certainly more drivers are on the road during rush-hour than at 1:00pm, even day of the week can determine how many people are driving. To get a better idea of traffic volumes on York Boulevard, Nese would be better off consulting the Los Angeles Department of Transportation’s (LADOT) traffic counts.
- In Nese’s second paragraph, he states he is concerned the new bike lanes may be making the street less safe. Why he feels this way is not clear though his paragraph suggests it has some relation to 1) the volume of motorized traffic, 2) the fact that he observes cars “rushing down the street”, and now 3) throwing bike lanes into the mix seems to just create more potential for conflict. This is in fact, on its face, a reasonable reaction. However it is necessary to look at the new street design more analytically before making assumptions based on anecdotal observations. What the LADOT has done on York Boulevard is convert one mixed traffic lane into two dedicated bike lanes. The new configuration is a partial implementation of a street design called a “road diet“. The LADOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) both recognize that road diets have a positive record of increasing safety for all users (cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers). The reasons why road diets improve safety are many, but include: improving speed limit compliance, reducing number of lanes with motorized traffic for pedestrians to cross, and creating a designated space for people bicycling.
Nese continues his article:
“Don’t get me wrong! I am not anti-bike! In this day and age of $5 a gallon gas, I think people are better off jumping on a bike than starting up their car. We have always welcomed bikers in the store, letting them bring bikes into the store while they shop. One bike group from San Gabriel makes a regular monthly trek to the store and we open the back for them to put their bikes in safety since many of them don’t own a bike lock.”
- Nese has now made an aside to explicitly states he is not anti-bike, however this is not reflected in what he writes. He makes many generalizations throughout his article, starting with the assumption in this paragraph that the majority of cyclists part of a bike group that regularly visits his business do not own bike locks. It is not clear exactly what kind of “bike group” it is that visits him, however based on Nese’s description, it sounds like it is a road cycling club riding for athletic recreation. If it is a road cycling club, it is likely that the cyclists merely do not cycle with locks. However, if any large group of cyclists arrive at Galco’s with bike locks, there are not even enough bike racks to lock so many bikes, in part because Nese rejected free city-provided bike parking on the public sidewalk in front of his business.
Nese then explains his position on bike racks:
“That said, bike racks in the area often sit unused. Right now, I look out across the street at a bike rack that is empty, but just steps away, an unlocked bike is casually leaning against the building. It just seems that many riders don’t own locks and chains – I see this every day on the boulevard. Every day.
I didn’t want officials to put bike racks in front of the store – where they were proposing the racks would have been right in front of the driveway into the store. It would have been too congested and I would have worried about cars hitting cyclists again. Most of the time, local bike racks sit unused as I said before.”
- Nese reiterates his assertion that many cyclists don’t own locks based on what he sees from his business at time of writing his article. What Nese describes is likely a person is leaning their bike against the building because they are only briefly going to be inside the adjacent destination. This is common practice among the average cyclist that does not fear their bicycle will be stolen when they’ll be away “for just a minute”.
- Nese explains why he rejected city provided bike parking on the public sidewalk in front of his business, claiming that the bike racks would be right in front of the driveway that accesses the parking lot adjacent to his business. This is false. Why? The LADOT has bike rack installation standards that explicitly prohibit the installation of bike racks at locations where the bike rack would interfere with driveway access. The location of the proposed bike racks at Galco’s are still visible on the sidewalk and the bike racks would have been placed well over 10 feet from the nearest driveway, meaning there would absolutely be no chance of a driver hitting a bicyclist or a bike rack unless the are driving recklessly.
- Nese then makes the surprising claim that bike racks would somehow cause congestion or a sudden increase in motorist/cyclist collisions. In the past year alone the LADOT has installed over 600 bike racks just like the ones proposed at Galco’s throughout the city– at no location have increased collisions and/or congestion been reported or recorded.
- Nese then throws in a quip to justify his rejection of free city-proved bike rack parking– “Most of the time, local bike racks sit unused”. This may be partially true, however, when a cyclist needs a bike rack, they are thankful to have one at their destination. Not to mention with the new bike lane being extended on York Boulevard, bicycle traffic is likely to increase and therefore the demand for bike parking is likely to increase. Bicycle traffic counts conducted by the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition at the intersection of York Boulevard and Avenue 50 saw a 150% increase in the number of cyclists when comparing pre and post bike lane installation counts.