I knew last Monday’s “My Write” (”Council arrogance clips tree project”) would generate a lot of response from hard-core bicycling enthusiasts.
I criticized City Councilmen Ken Genser and Kevin McKeown for insisting on dedicated bicycle lanes, planted center medians, curb bump outs and other physical alterations that would necessitate the removal of parking or one or two traffic lanes on heavily-traveled 20th Street between Pico Boulevard and the I-10 Freeway.
Pico neighbors requested trees on 20th. City Hall arbitrarily changed the landscaping request into a street re-engineering project against the neighbors’ wishes. I wrote that because of heavy use (20th carries nearly 20,000 vehicles daily on average), removing traffic lanes would increase congestion, gridlock and encourage short-cutting through adjacent residential neighborhoods.
A few bicycle extremists flipped out as if I had suggested killing their puppies.
One letter to the Daily Press said I was “narrow minded and (had a) vicious attitude” and was “concerned only about (my) benefit.” Ranting about walking being healthy, we “must not use cars for every little thing” and about “foreign oil,” its author displayed the same narrow-minded intolerance he accused me of in addition to imposing his own lifestyle on everyone else in the community.
Another aggrieved zealot chimed in from his lofty, academic perch and claimed I was out of touch because “non-motorized circulation is in!” He invited me to join him “in the liberating process of life outside the car. The time has come to look beyond the bonnet, Mr. Bauer,” he wrote. (Note: Writer is European, bonnet is called a “hood” in the States.)
Despite biking almost exclusively on secondary streets, I rode my 1943-era, Schwinn two-speed until a couple of “near death” experiences a few years ago courtesy of inattentive Santa Monica motorists. So I’m not interested. Thanks, anyway.
All this is condescending claptrap. It’s not about “being in,” it’s about getting the most people safely and efficiently from point A to point B. These days, that’s via personal vehicle for 99 percent of us, like it or not. Interfering with a person’s ability to get to work, do business, shop, socialize and attend school using motorized conveyances because “you” believe that cars are evil and shouldn’t be used for “every little thing” is selfish and wrong.
Councilman Bobby Shriver even e-mailed me asking, “What’s wrong with bike lanes?”
I responded, “Bike lanes aren’t necessarily a bad idea — except when one has to remove traffic lanes on very busy streets to accommodate them. Anything that negatively affects an already overburdened infrastructure such as reducing the ability of streets to carry traffic should not be undertaken at this time.”
The present, almost exclusive use of cars, SUVs or trucks by the general public is not going to change soon. Senior citizens, families with children, shoppers, those who commute long distances for work and the disabled can’t just hop on a bike — or, when it rains. What’s more, streets will never be configured to satisfy everyone’s needs simultaneously because space and resources are finite. That’s why “Complete Streets” are an unobtainable fantasy.
Yet, McKeown, Genser and a small cadre of vocal bicycle lobbyists obviously feel it’s OK or even noble to appropriate scarce street resources for the occasional pedestrian or cyclist while squeezing an ever-increasing number of motorists into even less space on some unsubstantiated, idealistic theory that more bike lanes and traffic islands will result in less drivers and more bicyclists and pedestrians.
On the other hand, Manhattan Beach (where there is some common sense) announced that sections of Sepulveda Boulevard are being widened to relieve congestion and meet the demands of increasing traffic. I didn’t see mention of bike lanes. Holy heresy!
Here, there may be alternatives to removing traffic lanes on major streets to meet the needs of a slowly growing number of people wanting to bicycle or hoof it. Beginning at San Vicente Boulevard, 17th Street transverses the entire city and is less heavily traveled (and less dangerous) than 20th. There are already bike lanes on sections of 17th, north of Olympic and all major intersections are signalized.
I’m sure Santa Monica College, currently perceived as a roadblock, would welcome bicycle access to and through its campus. From there, bike lanes could either go down 17th or 16th Street past John Adams Middle School and across Ocean Park Boulevard. Both streets go down to Marine Street and Marine Park where a new north/south bike lane could connect to Rose Avenue and the existing marked bike lanes that run between Walgrove Avenue/23rd Street to Lincoln Boulevard.
If gonzo cyclists would stop being snarky and politicians could curb unreasonable demands that jammed primary streets must accommodate underutilized bike lanes, it would be easier to find solutions to everyone’s advantage. But, until we can stop being defensive and confrontational, we’ll either wind up sitting in gridlock or splayed across somebody’s bonnet.
Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org when not waxing his bonnet and his boot. Yes, he drives an English car.