Life beyond the automobile in Southern California

Archive for the tag “Arcadia CA”

Calling for Bike Lanes in Pasadena

Westbound traffic on Del Mar and Craig.  Note room for bike lanes on the shoulder.

Westbound traffic on Del Mar and Craig. Note room for bike lanes on the shoulder.

The recent tragic death of cyclist Phillip O’Neill in Pasadena reinforced for me the idea that Pasadena needs bike lanes on more of its streets, especially on at least one of the key east-west routes near Pasadena City College and Caltech.  This area already has a significant amount of bicycle traffic due to its proximity to these colleges, but the proximity to transit, shops, and jobs in the area means that bike-friendly infrastructure is an essential part of the city’s obligation to provide safe and sustainable mobility options to all its citizens.

As I’ve mentioned before, the wonderful people at Caltech’s Bike Lab have been circulating a petition calling for Pasadena to install bike lanes on one of its east-west streets, and it is high time for the city to act on it (if you haven’t already signed it, please click on the link).  Monday, July 1, I’ll be attending a Complete Streets Forum in Pasadena where these issues will be discussed, and preparations will be made to call on Pasadena officials to commit to improving Pasadena’s bike infrastructure.

As you can see from the photo of Del Mar Blvd in Pasadena, above, taken near the intersection of Craig and Del Mar one recent morning rush hour, there is room for bike lanes on Del Mar, either by converting curbside parking lanes to bike lanes or by reducing traffic lanes from four to three (a “road diet”), or a combination of both, depending on location.

I was reminded how important bike lanes and bike-friendly facilities are to a city when I visited a friend in Claremont earlier this week.  I took the Foothill Transit 187 bus from Arcadia to Claremont and then rode my bike the rest of the way to my friend’s house, a distance of a little over a mile from the bus stop.  My friend recently moved to his new abode, so it was my first time riding this particular route, but I was pleasantly surprised to find bike lanes or sharrows along almost the entire route, and it makes a huge difference to a cyclist, especially on unfamiliar streets.  Moreover, there was no apocalyptic traffic jam caused by the bike lanes (as bike lane opponents claim), and I saw lots of people of all ages riding bikes.  Lesson to cities about bike lanes: if you build them, they will ride.

Bike lanes not only increase safety, they provide a sense of comfort for the less-confident bicycle rider, and they send a message to all that bicycles belong on our streets.  If they are well-designed and if they actually help people get from point A to point B safely, they encourage more people to ride because they increase the feeling of safety and reduce the stress of riding in automobile traffic.  Drivers of automobiles never have to think twice about this (or they haven’t at least since the early 1920s when streets were redesigned to accommodate automobiles), but an auto-centric road design says to the pedestrian and bicyclist, “you don’t matter.”  It is so refreshing when a city says to you, “you do matter.”


What is it about being wrapped in 2,000 lbs of steel that makes some drivers feel entitled to harass cyclists on the road?  It happened again to me on my commute home last evening.  Some anonymous stranger presumed to reprimand me for riding a bicycle.

I was stopped at a red light, and had positioned myself so that I left enough room for drivers to make a right turn on the red, so I was not blocking anyone.  A chubby, middle aged guy in a cream-colored Lexus sedan pulls alongside me on the right, and says, in an obnoxious, disgusted, hectoring tone, “YOU’RE A BIKE … GET OUT OF THE MIDDLE OF THE LANE!”  Then sped off before I had a chance to give him a piece of my mind (the drivers who yell at me never seem to stick around for my choice response … I wonder why?).  Shortly thereafter, the light turned green and I rode home, fuming the rest of the way.

Mind you, I was riding legally, and had moved to the center of the lane precisely so as to allow drivers like my ignorant interlocutor to make a right turn on red.  I was obeying the law, riding with courtesy, wearing a helmet, had lights, etc.  You know, doing everything you’re supposed to do to ride safe and legal.  And yet, I was once again the victim of driver harassment.

Usually I laugh these clowns off, but there was something in this guy’s tone of voice that was so contemptuous, so full of bile, it really raised my hackles.  My initial impulse was to punch the guy in the mouth, and, since this is not the first instance of harassment I’ve experienced, I completely understand why a cyclist might hurl a U-lock at a car in frustration and anger.  Funny thing is, all three times I’ve been verbally harassed by drivers in the last 6 months have been cases of drivers basically telling me I shouldn’t be on the road (they’ve all occurred in various parts of Arcadia, which, as I’ve said before, has no bike infrastructure to speak of).  These are just the cases of verbal harassment, not including the times drivers have honked at me for no good reason.  In all three cases, I was riding legally or, as in the case of being stopped at the red light, occupying a safe, legal position in the roadway.  None of which spared me from the impromptu “lectures” I was subjected to by drivers who thought they would—what—teach me a lesson?  This doesn’t mean cyclists don’t sometimes violate traffic laws, but the thing is, I really do try to be conscientious on the road, and look where it gets me.  You know, I get tired of hearing law enforcement officials prate on about “scofflaw” cyclists.  What about motorists?

Bicycles already have a legal right to the road (see CVC 21202), but I’m more convinced than ever that bicyclists will never be respected until we get our own space on the roads (bike lanes, buffered bike lanes, cycle tracks, bike boxes, etc.) and laws that protect vulnerable road users.  I’m also convinced that more vulnerable and traffic averse segments of our population (which is a very large proportion of the population) will not use bicycles for transportation due to the risk of injury and harassment on the public roadways that belong to all of us.  I can’t say I blame them, I mean, who deserves to be verbally abused just for being on a bike?  And, I’m  a pretty good-sized adult white male, 6 feet tall and over 200 lbs.  I can only imagine the threat of abuse is worse for women and people of color.  Am I supposed to encourage my children (or anybody’s children) to ride a bike, because it’s economical, healthy, and good for the planet?  And we as a society are missing out on the benefits that alternative transportation can bring.  So we must also have PSAs on billboards, radio, and TV reminding people how to share the road with cyclists

We in the bicycle advocacy community are going to have to continue to organize and agitate for the rights of all cyclists, in the face of resistance from people who mistakenly assume the world owes them an open road for their luxury sedans, ’cause, y’ know, in the Lexus commercial there wasn’t all this traffic, and certainly no bicycles.

I’m also convinced that the automobile simply turns some people into complete jerks.  Wrapped in a steel cocoon and capable of speeding away in a second, the car gives people the luxury to be uncivil.  Reason number 2,678 that I’m really starting to hate cars (gasp! did I just attack one of the bastions of American freedom?).  Maybe I should turn the tables on them.  You know, just start shouting verbal abuse at law-abiding motorists:  “Hey JERK, get that car off the road, you’re creating more congestion!”  “You’re gonna KILL SOMEBODY with that thing, you DAMN FOOL!” “What kind of LAZY MORON goes to work in a CAR?!?”  “Buy a BIKE, for God’s sake, that car’s making you FAT!”  Or how about one that would apply to just about any driver: “Get that piece of shit off the road, A**HOLE, it’s destroying the planet!”

So, drivers, next time you feel that little urge to offer your “friendly advice” to a cyclist … don’t.  Just take a deep breath and keep your mouth shut.  I’ll try to do the same while I tolerate the presence of your polluting metal box on my roads.

The Left Hook and the Right Cross

OK, pardon me, but I need to rant.  Last night, on my commute home from work through the mean streets of Arcadia, I was nearly left-hooked and right-crossed … all within the space of about 3 minutes.  To those unfamiliar with the terms, bicyclists refer to drivers making a left turn directly in your path as a “left hook.”  A “right cross” happens when a driver speeds up and then cuts in front of you to make a right turn in your path.  Ride a bike on the roads in Southern California for any length of time, and you’ll eventually experience both.

Last night, both incidents happened on a stretch of 1st Avenue in Arcadia, reinforcing my belief that Arcadia is arguably the most bike-unfriendly city in the west San Gabriel Valley.  I’ve repeatedly complained to Arcadia city officials about the lack of bike-friendly infrastructure in that city, to no avail.  Last year the Arcadia City Council voted down a proposal to fund a bike plan for the city, citing lack of funds.

Yesterday was my first evening (i.e., after sundown) commute home since school started, and I was prepared to be super-visible.  I have a front and rear Supernova E3 headlight-taillight combo on my Surly Troll commuter bike, both run by a Shimano dyno-hub, both of which are extremely bright.  I also have an additional Planet Bike taillight for good measure.  I wear a hi-vis reflective vest, like the kind worn by Caltrans workers, and to top it off, I have a helmet-mounted Light & Motion Vis 360 headlight-taillight combo that is bright enough to be seizure-inducing and designed to be seen from all angles.  In short, I’m lit up like a friggin’ Christmas tree.  I also make a special effort to ride by the rules of the road, and watch for eye contact with drivers, especially at intersections.

The first incident happened around 8:30 pm at the intersection of Santa Clara and 1st Ave (where the new Arcadia Gold Line station is being built).  I was headed northbound on 1st, waiting at a red light.  An older (mid-1990s) Dodge or Chrysler sedan was southbound on 1st, waiting at the red light.   He had no turn signal on, but something about the way he edged into the intersection made me watch him warily.  It’s a good thing I did, because the driver, a late-middle-aged white male, suddenly made a left turn right in front of me.  I raised my arm in a “WTF?” gesture, and aimed my headlamp right at his face, but he never even looked at me.  As brightly-lit as I was, how could you not see me, you jerk?  How could you not look for opposing traffic when making a left turn?  Were you drunk?

Not three minutes later, still northbound on 1st, I approached the light at Foothill Blvd.  This time, an assho–, uh, motorist—in a macho black pickup truck, roars around me, cuts me off , and makes a right turn in front of me.  Fortunately, he was gone by the time I got to the line, or I’d have blown my top, and it wouldn’t have been constructive.

An otherwise pleasant and healthy ride home was almost ruined by two inconsiderate, dangerous motorists.  I was following the rules of the road in both instances.  If I’m struck by either one of these jerks, (thank God I wasn’t) it is potentially life-threatening.  The next time some motorist complains about scofflaw bicyclists, it is important to remember that scofflaw drivers are just as common, and pose a much greater risk of bodily harm to other road users.

My bike and I have a right to the road, and refuse to be bullied off of it by idiots wrapped in 2,500-lbs of steel and glass.  My bike-commuting is healthy, good for my community (reduces traffic, noise, and the need for expensive infrastructure), and good for the planet.  None of that can be said for the 2,500-lb metal piles of crap rolling around the public roads.  I’m going to be extra careful in Arcadia, though, because apparently the lives of cyclists and pedestrians are cheap to city officials.

OK, if you’re still with me, thanks for letting me vent.  I feel a little better now.

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