Safety advocates have fought for years to improve Los Angeles infrastructure to protect cyclists. Bicycles may be vehicles like cars, but they have far less protection in traffic and receive less consideration from urban planners and lawmakers.
It can take months of advocacy to gain traction for projects that could protect cyclists from deadly collisions. Often, those pushing for safety reform have to make significant concessions. Those seeking the addition of new bicycle lanes on busy streets, for example, often have to make major changes to their plans as they fight a lengthy battle to change local infrastructure.
Unfortunately, as advocates uncovered in November 2023, there is an unfortunate double standard that puts those pushing for safer cycling conditions at a disadvantage.
Bike lanes require approval but parking does not
The process of convincing local authorities to install additional bike lanes can take an inordinate amount of time. While lawmakers and advocates argue about expenses and locations, crashes continue to occur.
Oftentimes, those pushing for cyclists’ safety often need to make concessions to secure any sort of significant change. Unfortunately, the same is not true of scenarios where the city decides to eliminate bike lanes. As recently as November, multiple busy roads in Los Angeles saw the removal of existing bike lanes for the installation of more on-street parking spaces.
These changes occurred without lengthy debate and input from cyclist safety advocates. Safety improvements that take months or years to achieve can disappear in a matter of hours when those working in public planning positions decide that those bike lanes are less valuable to the municipality than additional on-street parking.
While cyclists technically get to share the road with California drivers, the unfortunate reality of the situation is that many aspects of the current system put cyclists at a disadvantage. Areas without bike lanes tend to see higher crash rates and therefore more injured cyclists. The drivers who cause those crashes may have financial responsibility for them, although that can be a cold comfort to those living in pain and unable to work because of their injuries.
Learning more about infrastructure issues and the laws that affect cyclists may benefit those who regularly bike on public roads or those recently hurt in a cycling collision.