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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Open Discussion: LAPD needs to pay more attention to Silver Lake bike safety


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By Victoria Yarnish
I’m sure you’ve seen the police traps at Silver Lake Boulevard and Duane Street to catch motorists who make illegal left hand turns.  Several mornings I have witnessed the police diligently ticketing scores of cars.  I have several problems with this practice and the risks it poses to neighborhood bike riders:
  • When the LAPD pull these motorists over, often times in groups of 3 or 4 cars, they are stopped directly in obstruction of the bike lane.  While the police are likely well within their rights to stop cars wherever they choose, this is a huge obstacle for Silver Lake cyclists and a hazard for them to safely ride in this area.
  • Police conduct their stops where Silver Lake Boulevard bends and declines steeply next to the dog park, forcing bikers into really unsafe conditions. When coming around that corner on a bicycle going down hill, cyclists are forced to make a split second adjustment into rush hour traffic as they all of a sudden see that the bike lane is blocked.
  • In addition to that, I would love to see some attention paid to motorcyclists who use bicycle lanes to maneuver in and out of traffic.  On many an evening commute, I am backed up in the typical traffic at Silver Lake Boulevard  and Berkley Avenue when large motorcycles zoom by cars in the bike lane.  Doesn’t this endanger the bicyclists that these lanes are intended for?  Where are the police for that?

Additionally, it seems that police would do the community and their quotas a favor if they monitored some of the local stop signs that motorists blow through.  This not only endangers other motorists but could prove deadly for cyclists and pedestrians. The intersections I am referring to are those at Griffith Park Boulevard and Edgecliffe Drive as well as Effie Street and virtually any of those hilltop intersections (Golden Gate and Micheltorena more specifically).

 I write to you as a member of this community who has had several near misses at these intersections. I hardly ride my bike because I am scared of getting hit by a car.  My boyfriend however, rides daily as he opted to get rid of his car a few years ago and use his bike instead.  He rides a Peugeot and lives and works in Silver Lake.
I am concerned  at how dangerous the supposed bike lanes are in the area and hope that more surveillance is taken to make things safer.  I have suffered a personal loss from a bike accident and would hate to see another loss in the neighborhood.  It’s just scary to think about how overlooked bicycle safety is by the LAPD.
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25 comments

  1. If you are interested in questions around bike safety–and how to resolve them–you may also want to read these two recent postings on Echo Park Patch:

    http://echopark.patch.com/articles/video-use-hand-signals-to-bike-safely#photo-4491128

    http://echopark.patch.com/blog_posts/our-future-with-bicycles-and-the-bicycle-master-plan

  2. How about writing bike riders tickets when they blow through stop signs too? Many of the unsafe conditions bicyclists encounter are partially brought on themselves. Stop portraying yourselves as victims. (Yes, I have depended on a bicycle as a primary mode of transportation before and would do it again.)

  3. Silver Lake Resident

    I completely agree with you Joanna – but there needs to be a police presence first? They don’t monitor any of this.

  4. I’m so glad to hear someone else address the motorcycles-using-bike-lanes issue. I bike Silver Lake as much as I can & at rush hour often have to deal with motorcyclists helping themselves to the bike lanes both on Silver Lake and Sunset (I’m also not a fan of CA’s law allowing motorcyclists to ride between lanes, which this seems to be a symptom of, because I’m terrified I’m going to hit a motorcycle on the freeway some day).
    There is a general attitude that the bike lanes are convenient spots to double park (there’s a cabinet shop on Sunset that is a particular repeat offender) or locate your trash can, which I’ve just had to accept for my own peace of mind, but if there was a way of policing the bike lanes, I would of course be appreciative.
    BUT, if we ask police to work towards bike safety, we should also accept an increase in tickets for bicyclists themselves. To say that 75% of the bikes I see in the neighborhood are flaunting the law is probably an underestimate–rare is the bicyclist that waits at a light, and it drives me a little nutty. If the bicycle community wants the roads to be a safer place, a little self-policing would be a great place to start.

  5. As a regular cyclist in the neighborhood I applaud your concern for cyclist safety. With regard to motorcycles using the bike lanes to maneuver around traffic, the bike lanes in Silver Lake are Class II bikeways, and as such provide a restricted right-of-way for the exclusive use of bicycles with through travel by motor vehicles or pedestrians prohibited. Cross travel is permitted by pedestrians, as well as vehicles accessing parking spaces, or approaching a right-hand turn. Thus, under most circumstances it is impermissible for motorcycles to travel in the bike lanes. This rule does not apply, however, to mopeds, which
    may use bike lanes in a manner which does not endanger the safety of cyclists.

  6. As a Silver Lake resident and someone who regularly and responsibly bicycles all over the place, I appreciate this article (and wasn’t surprised to find the comment from Joanna who’s so quick to lump us all together as scofflaws and denigrate us as whiny “victims” because a percentage of my fellow bike riders don’t obey the laws).

    I have traversed that downhill portion of Silver Lake Boulevard past the dog park innumerable times. Not only is it hazardous if vehicles are blocking the bike lane, but the drainage grates near the top of the hill pose an ever-present risk.

    My solution has been never to let it get to a point where I have to make a “split-second adjustment” to move into the traffic lane, as Victoria points out. Just as we’re taught to look down the road in driving school, so should cyclists do the same in the saddle so they know what’s going on out there beyond the end of their front wheel. So with that in mind, by the time I’ve reached the traffic signal at Duane I’ve already safely merged in with any vehicular flow where I stay avoiding any permanent or temporary obstructions until I’ve arrived at the bottom of the hill and can then reacquire the bike lane so as not to impede the flow of vehicular traffic.

    Having said that, I’m a firm believer of cycling within one’s comfort zone, and such a maneuver — while entirely safe and legal — might not be something less-experienced riders are willing to attempt.

  7. Perhaps the police don’t care about the occasional motorcycle in the bike lane there because it rarely, if ever, causes an accident? Or maybe its because it decreases congestion on that road during heavy traffic. Or maybe its because it decreases the chance of the motorcyclist being rear-ended and injured while in a stop and go lane of traffic.

  8. It’s good to hear the city enforcing the traffic laws. But I think a big part of the safety problem is design – the traffic flow is synced for highway speeds, but it’s much too narrow and densely populated to accommodate this safely or efficiently. Not only is it dangerous for cyclists (with trashcans and stopped/parked vehicles jutting into the bike lane), but it’s also very unsafe for cars trying to pull in/out of driveways and for pedestrians trying to cross the street (particularly the blind curve / non-signalized crosswalk by the basketball courts, and Armstrong’s unmarked crossing at the north end of the meadow). Just look at how many accidents happen each year on such as short stretch of road.

  9. I’m a full time cyclist that commutes through Silver Lake on Silver Lake Blvd. and Sunset daily. I personally have both seen and been effected by the conditions that have been mentioned in this post. When traveling south on Silver Lake Blvd and coming around the corner next to the dog park in the mornings, it can be a very stressful situation going into that turn, while gaining speed going downhill, and then suddenly seeing the bike lane completely blocked by the police and the drivers they have pulled over. The only option you have is to suddenly jump into traffic with seconds to do so safely. As a previous poster suggested using proper hand signaling, I agree it’s a good idea, but hand signals aren’t going to save your life in that situation should you find yourself having to narrowly avoid cars parked in the bike lane and dodging moving vehicles to your left. Hand signals don’t guarantee or prevent a motorist from hitting you in that situation. In fact, signaling would be very hard to accomplish in this situation considering that you are on a speeding bike going downhill, while trying to steer and use your brakes simultaneously, with seconds to assess and navigate safely, it’s hard to pull off without cutting off a motorist, hand signals or not.
    Motorcyclists using the bike lane is also another common sight I’ve seen on Silver Lake Blvd. I’ve been cycling down the street on multiple occasions and had motorcycles even pass me on the right side of the bike lane narrowly missing parked vehicles and then cutting me off before weaving back into traffic.
    Dodging trash cans in the bike lane also is another under addressed safety concern for cyclists. It’s extremely frustrating having to navigate around an obstacle that blocks the lane and forces you out of the bike lane and into the busy street traffic.
    To the point that other posters have made about cyclists at large, I have to agree. The majority of cyclists I see on the roads have an “above the law” approach to cycling. Blowing through red lights, riding on sidewalks, weaving through traffic, going the wrong direction, etc, is very dangerous and hardly regulated. Many cyclists perpetuate this double standard and it needs to stop. It blows my mind to see people on bikes cut off motorists or blow through a light, nearly get hit, and then react towards the driver in a hostile way as if the driver is at fault. It’s ridiculous! There really does need to be a crackdown on unsafe cycling, for the good of cyclists and motorists alike. Even as a full time cyclist, I sympathize with drivers having to endure the unsafe and dangerous conditions that many cyclists create.

    • You are allowed to ride bikes on the sidewalks of Los Angeles so long as you are not reckless. It is not against the law. Here’s the info at LADOT-

      http://www.bicyclela.org/Law.htm
      Sidewalk Riding (LAMC 56.15) Prohibits the riding of bicycles (or other human power devices) on sidewalks (bikeways or boardwalks) with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property. Disallows the riding of bicycles on Ocean Front Walk in Venice.

  10. Thank you, Larry, for such an even-handed analysis. I wonder if something could be done about the drainage grate that someone mentioned and if the the installation of mirrors might somehow help give cyclists a better view ahead (though of course this depends on the exact configuration of the street). Also it sounds like the LAPD needs to really look at the local conditions with respect to where the best place is to ticket.

  11. Silver Lake Resident

    Thanks for so many responses to this. I’m glad I’m not the only one here…I agree with much of this, Larry and Wes specifically. Assessing the turn this morning, it would make sense for LAPD to issue tickets further down by the basketball courts where there are red zones. Also, the drainage grates and trash cans are another thing to consider.

  12. There was a move by the city to put bars over the drainage grates, specifically because the gaps are bike-wheel sized (I’ve been in a solo-bike accident on one of those grates, so yes: keep your distance!). The LA Bicycle Coalition was taking locations of troublesome grates, to submit to the city, and I’d reported that grate (and was told I wasn’t the only one). Surprised nothing has been done, but I’d check in with the Bike Coalition if you want to know more (la-bike.org).
    The moped thing is interesting–it’s actually been helmet wearing Vespa drivers (are they mopeds?) that I’ve yelled at most (and they don’t hear me…) when they scoot by me. “does not endanger the safety of bicyclists” seems kind of vague and hard to police.
    and Larry! we should form a ‘bicyclists should be more law-abiding’ support group! I think part of the problem is the recent popularity of fixed gear bikes (they are the new skateboards for the kids these days), and there’s definitely a rebellious streak in that crowd… I’m all for more bicyclists, but it doesn’t help when we tick off drivers…

  13. Elinor, Vespas are motorcycles and should not be occuypying the bike lane for anything but approaches to right turns at intersections. And indeed the language of the law allowing mopeds is terribly ambiguous. I’ve had mopeders zip by me at speed in the bike lanes along Sunset and Venice boulevards with little more than a foot between us. If they’re unlucky to get caught at the next redlight I tell them ALL about it and there’s no doubt they hear me.

    Lastly, As a cyclist who’s pledged to ride responsibly, I’m all for getting more onboard riding safely and considerately, but please don’t go generalizing subsets of cyclists as being more prone to riding recklessly. From where I’ve sat in the saddle I’ve seen ‘em ALL blow through redlights and stop signs: gals on grocery-getters, spandex-suited roadies on $3,000 rides, school kids on BMXs, yes: fixies, too.

  14. i am on venice blvd daily on bike and deal with the motorcycles and vespas in the bike lane all day long. it is quite annoying and would love to have a patrol car setup for that kind of offense.

  15. Agreed with all of this. I don’t bike, but live in Silver Lake and often find myself dodging bikes by the dog park because of pulled-over cars; it’s too bad, because despite the pedestrians and cyclists, you still see a lot of folks zipping around that corner at top speeds.

    But a special point needs to be made about the quotas and getting more cops to monitor the stop signs in the hills (the Griffith Park intersection and Micheltorena ones for sure; over by Moreno/Redcliff/Kenilworth there lots of 4-way stops being treated as 2-way stops, and at least once a day I see someone roll, or zoom, right through them). Of course I’m sounding like I’m ninety-thousand years old here, but I’m not — these streets are heavily trafficked by foot, 2-wheelers and 4-wheelers, and we all have a right to safety.

    Good for The Eastsider for bringing this up.

  16. if a dude on a bike dose not stop at a stop sign and just blows right threw it. then he or she shouldnt be surprised when their wrapped under my toyota camry .. period !! now im done !!

  17. Thanks for the great comments everyone (except Joanna who seems intent on lumping me and other responsible cyclists in with other bike riders who don’t obey the law and dismissing threats to our safety because of someone else’s actions and sunny who is apparently suffering from a rare form of homicidal, barely literate tourettes).

    I cycle this stretch of Silver Lake Blvd. daily, and I’ve had some problems with the police cars pulling over Dwayne left-turners and the motorcycles in the bike lane issues, but these haven’t been huge issues for me. At the Dwayne intersection, I pretty much anticipate the bike lane to be blocked and merge with traffic to avoid it (and those nasty storm drains). I have noticed that there is a good stretch of red curb and a pull-in area for a maintenance shed just slightly further down the hill where the police could pull over drivers without blocking the bike lane, though… As for the motorcycles, I don’t particularly mind them as long as they aren’t trying to crowd me out of the bike lane just because they’re faster. I make a point of pulling to the side to give them room to pass when it’s safe to do so, but otherwise I ride in a way that makes it obvious that I’m not going to be intimidated out of the bike lane for them and they have to merge with the motor vehicle lane if they want to pass me. That’s worked out fine so far with no near-misses and mostly courteous motorcyclists.

    For me, there are two much bigger dangers:

    First, the trash cans in the bike lanes drive me totally crazy. It’s clearly against the law (CVC 21211), and it’s really dangerous to make riders swerve back and forth between the bike lane and the motor vehicle lane with little warning. Most of the residents are fine, but there are pretty much one or two houses/apartments every block that will completely block the bike lane with their garbage (often for 2 or 3 days per week if they’re too lazy to collect their empty cans right away). This is an accident waiting to happen.

    The second problem is Silver Lake Blvd. south of Sunset. After Sunset, the bike lane disappears, and it becomes a “bicycle route” with two lanes in each direction and one measly little sign saying “bicycle route.” The lanes aren’t wide enough for a car and bike to ride side by side, and there are cars parked along the right lane (creating a constant “dooring” hazard), so the only safe place to ride for this stretch is the middle of the right lane, taking up the whole lane so that cars need to fully change lanes in order to pass (as is a cyclist’s legal right under CVC 21202). I take the full lane, and it works mostly without problem (aside from the small handful of reckless and aggressive drivers who honk, ride my tail, or try to squeeze past at high speeds with only a few inches of clearance). But I see a lot of less experienced cyclists hugging the far right of the right-hand lane just asking to be “doored” and constantly getting “buzzed” by cars passing them very close at high speeds. Some more cycling infrastructure on this stretch would be great, as would an attitude adjustment from the small handful of aggressive jerks that can’t be bothered to make a safe lane change to pass.

  18. Will is correct that Vespas (and the like) are not motorized bicycles, and therefore are prohibited from using the bicycle lane as a thoroughfare. To confuse the matter, there are electric powered mopeds that look pretty much the same as Vespas that do fit the definition of motorized bicycles, and are therefore permitted to use the bike lanes. The practical distinction between the two, from a bicycle rider’s perspective, is that if you can hear it coming, it’s gas-powered, and shouldn’t be in the bike lane; if you can’t hear it coming, it’s electricity-powered, and is allowed in the lane, but only to the extent it doesn’t endanger the safety of bicyclists.

    Good luck finding a cop to untangle this and enforce it.

  19. It’s probably an oversight, but it appears Sunny is prepared to offer amnesty from intentionally causing serious injury to any female cyclists who run stop signs. Thank goodness for small favors and smaller minds.

  20. That section of the boulevard is a harrowing curve for any bicyclist. The cops need to move it somewhere else. But you know, LAPD always does what’s best..after all other options have been exhausted.

  21. Before I was hospitalized riding to work, I used to pull the trash cans out of the bike lane and into the way of the cars.

    Before I was hospitalized riding to work, I used to slap cars that cut me off while I was in the bike lane. The fear in their eyes that car might be hurt was so much greater than their fear of hurting a human.

    Before I was hospitalized riding work, I never saw a human hurt by a cyclist riding who violated traffic laws, but I saw many people hurt by cars that violated traffic laws.

    Before I was hospitalized riding to work, I was the only cyclist I knew who had not been hurt by a car. Now I am just another un-tracked statistic. Now I can not ride any more.

  22. The LAPD has a responsibility to keep the roads safe for cyclists as well as a responsibility to penalize motorists (and cyclists) for breaking the law.
    You cannot expect them to enforce a law they break regularly.

    Start a petition.
    http://www.change.org
    I bet they can find somewhere else to pull over people if they looked hard enough

  23. well how bout the drivers who have to deal with the hoodlum bicyclist, that cut lanes/across traffic/disobey crosswalk signals/disobey traffic lights/gangs of bicycles taking up one lane of a 4 lane road/ no lites.. the list goes on & on, i personally am a huge bicyclist but u couldnt pay me to ride in the city. beach is the only way to roll

  24. Good point, diamond! Some cyclists break the laws so f*ck them all, who cares about their safety!? Let’s all not worry about simple, easy-to-fix things that endanger the lives of even the safest, most law-abiding cyclists. I sure do appreciate the input from a “huge bicyclist” as yourself who only rides on the beach and has no idea what it’s like to ride in the city.

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