Thursday, February 26, 2015

Bike Lanes, the new improved car lanes!

A couple weeks ago I was biking around on a sunny, clear morning, at around 10am in my neighborhood, doing some errands. About a year ago the northbound lanes of Vineland in Studio City/North Hollywood between Ventura and Moorpark were resurfaced and one of the traffic lanes was converted to a buffered bike lane, leaving 2 car lanes, 1 buffered bike lane, a turn lane at some intersections and 1 parking lane (although parts of the street don't permit parking... the space is still there though). I was biking along in the bike lane, traveling in the correct direction with a helmet on and more than the minimum required reflectors on my bike. Suddenly a person in a black Prius moved from the right traffic lane to the next space over to the right, which was the bike lane, and more specifically directly in front of me. I grabbed my breaks and swerved to the right and was ok, but I was stirred up to say the least. On this particular stretch of the street that I was on, there was no parking allowed and no place for cars to turn right, so there really was no reason for the car to be in the bike lane. And not only did the car cut me off, they continued to drive in the bike lane through a couple of traffic lights and finally turned onto the same street I was turning onto. I watched as the car sped down the residential street and then sat at the next traffic signal, a red light, while I caught up on my bike. The light turned green and the car turned while I continued straight, although much to my surprise, we ended up at the same parking lot shortly afterward. I locked up my bike and then waited for the car driver to exit her car.

"Excuse me. You almost hit my with your car in the bike lane."
 "What? What car were you in?" She told the person she was on the phone with to hold on.

I told the woman that I was on a bike, not a car. She had cut me off while I was biking and she then proceeded to drive in the bike lane while I was biking in it. She claimed she didn't see me. I was frustrated that not only did she drive in the bike lane, she didn't even bother to look in the bike lane before driving there. She had no idea I was there. She told me she had a bike. She was driving and didn't know where to turn, so she was just driving in the bike lane in the meantime. She seemed surprised, but at the same time she knew there was a bike lane on the street and that it had been there for a while (despite telling me that it was "new" & people needed time to get used to it.) I mentioned that a car is a deadly weapon and you really should not be driving in the bike lane, especially if you're not going to look to see if there are any bicyclists, She apologized and I reemphacized she needs to pay much better attention and we went on our way.


As always, these types of interactions trigger significant adrenaline rushes. I'm obviously frustrated by the carelessness of people driving cars when it comes to others on the street. I'm frustrated that someone who seems to claim some basic understanding of being a bicyclist still proceeds to drive in a bike lane. I'm frustrated that despite all these ridiculous and unsafe moves made by the car driver, I managed to move just as fast as the car through the 1/2 mile ordeal, only while on my bike. I'm frustrated because I have a strong feeling the car driver may have been on the phone while driving as well, and whatever method she was using to converse, she was distracted. I'm frustrated and confused about how many indicators drivers really need to know a bike lane exists and how long they need to be in place before they are noticed. I'm frustrated because this isn't the first time cars have driven in this same exact bike lane while I am biking in it. I'm frustrated because this particular stretch of the bike lane is some of the "best" bike infrastructure available in my neighborhood and this kind of thing is happening.


I'm thinking about starting a series looking at some of the bicyclist and pedestrian infrastructure, resources and experiences at a hyper local level that utilizes my day job skills to seriously discuss some of the issues and the positive aspects of my neighborhood. Theoretically the walk score for my neighborhood is decent, with a large number of basic services (grocery store, many other shops and restaurants) and extensive public transportation options, including the Red Line and is relatively flat unless you venture up into the hills south of Ventura. At the same time, there's still an extremely high car dominance in my neighborhood making the non-car driving experience ridiculous, frustrating and plain unsafe at times. While I am extremely thrilled about Ciclavia coming to my neighborhood next month, I can't help but to hope the momentum put in place by this sort of event can help improve the south east part of the San Fernando Valley so we have even better things to show off next time (and not just a sad list of potential projects) and a better quality of life every other day.

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