Last Update: Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Bicycles Gain Ground as Alternative Transportation PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Terry   
Thursday, 15 May 2014 01:34

The above is an artist’s rendition of what the proposed pathway for the Pacoima Wash. The insert photo is what the area currently looks like.

Bicycles will probably never overtake the automobile as the main mode of transportation most people in Los Angeles County use to go to work or run errands.

But as public transportation continues to expand and improve, and more pathways are created to accommodate cyclists, bikes could achieve greater status as a legitimate alternative to endless gridlock on congested freeways and city streets.

That is certainly the vision of people like Eric Bruins, planning and policy director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, whose organization is pushing for more projects like the pathway proposed along the Pacoima Wash by the San Fernando City Council.

In March, the council voted unanimously to seek state grant funding from Active Transportation Program (ATP) to build a new bike path that would stretch a full 1.6-mile length of the Pacoima Wash within the City of San Fernando, from roughly San Fernando Road to Foothill Boulevard.

The new path would connect with the city’s existing railwith- trail bike path between San Fernando Road and the Metrolink railroad tracks. That bike path is presently being extended eastward, with construction underway within the city of Los Angeles.

The cost of the project is estimated at $2 million. City officials have until May 21 to submit the grant proposal to ATP. A city spokeperson said the proposal is still being prepared.

“It is an exciting project,” Bruins said. “It would connect so many destinations along the wash and also connect to the new path along San Fernando Road. People do ride [bikes] in the Valley, but they like to ride where the streets and pathways are specifically designed for riding.”

Bruins also spoke to a report the coalition released on Monday, May 12.

In its report, entitled “2013 L.A. Bicycle And Pedestrian Count,” the coalition said overall bicycle ridership had risen 7.5 percent since 2011. And where new bikeways were added ridership had increased more than 100 percent.

The report, which was compiled with more than 400 volunteer shifts at 120 distinct locations throughout the city on multiple days in September 2013, with volunteers counted nearly 18,000 bicyclists over six hours, also found that:

• The busiest time for bicycling is the evening commute period, suggesting that most people are riding for transportation.

• People strongly prefer riding on dedicated facilities like bike paths and bike lanes over streets with no bicycle facilities.

• Fewer than 1 in 5 bicyclists is female, and female ridership is highest on bike paths and bike lanes, suggesting that the lack of safe and comfortable facilities is causing a gender disparity among bicyclists.

• Bike lanes improve bicyclist behavior, cutting sidewalk riding in half compared to streets without and reducing wrongway riding as well.

• This report shows that as ridership continues to grow in Los Angeles, not everyone feels safe riding without better bicycle facilities.

Bruins said streets in the San Fernando Valley were part of the survey, including Van Nuys Boulevard in Pacoima, and Laurel Canyon Boulevard in Van Nuys.

“One of the great things is you have so many bike paths already built or being built,” Bruins said. “The highest areas that we did the survey are along the [Los Angeles Metro] Orange Line at Woodman Avenue, and the line at Reseda Boulevard. The other places [of high volume traffic] are in North Hollywood, next to the Red Line station on Chandler and Lankershim boulevards. It’s where the investments of the infrastructure for bike paths have been made.

“The Valley has done a good job of putting bike lanes where they fit. What we haven’t seen is a commitment to making sure the bike lanes connect to each other to destinations where people can actually use them.”

The U.S. Census Bureau also released its report about Los Angeles area commuters who bike to work on May 12. It said that since 2000, the percent of people who biked to work in Los Angeles increased from 0.6 percent to 1.0 percent, according to 2008-2012 statistics from the American Community Survey. In addition, 3.7 percent of workers in Los Angeles walked to work.

The Census report, whose study was made from data collected from questions in the Census Bureau’s 2008-2012 American Community Survey, noted that among the 1.7 million Los Angeles workers surveyed, 11.1 percent took public transportation, 1.0 percent biked. 3.7 percent walked, and 5.5 percent worked at home. It said that traveling alone by car, truck or van was among the most common commute modes.

“I think we have focused too much on the trip to work,” Bruins said. “When you look at where people travel, half of all trips are less that three miles (store, health club) from the home. There’s a huge potential to shift people to using bikes for those trips.

“Even 1-2 bags of groceries can fit on a bike.”