How Long Does It Take LADOT to Install a Sharrow?

Sharrows on Fountain Avenue. What happens to a bike facility deferred? Do they dry up, fester, or explode? apologies to Langston Hughes

The city of Los Angeles’ Transportation Department (LADOT) seems to operate at two speeds. Both unhealthy. The difference in how long it takes LADOT to implement sharrows is instructive. Just how long does it take LADOT to install a sharrow?

Let’s say that a bunch of bicyclists push for implementation of sharrows. Well… then it takes LADOT about five years to paint their first sharrow.

Let’s say that a bunch of councilmembers, planning commissioners, city departments, a mayor, and a bunch of bicyclists agree to a bike plan for implementing bike lanes instead of sharrows – and LADOT figures it can hoodwink them all by doing sharrows instead of what’s actually in the approved bike plan. Well… then sharrows are done in just 34 days.

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X Marks the Shaft – LADOT and Mayor Ignoring Approved Bike Plan

Rumor has it that the city's dead bike plan, strangled in its infancy, is buried underneath one of the inappropriate preliminary sharrow Xs painted on L.A. streets.

Yesterday, I had the disappointment of spotting the Los Angeles City Transportation Department’s (LADOT’s) preliminary X markings for placement of sharrows on Fountain Avenue, Vine Street, and Yucca Street. It frankly made me feel frustrated and irritated.

To me, these markings are the first clear on-the-ground indications that neither the LADOT nor Mayor Villaraigosa are committed to implementing the city’s Bike Plan.

I am not going to re-state the entire saga (more detailed rant here), but here’s an outline: On March 1st 2011 (less than 7 months ago) L.A. City approved its Bike Plan which includes what bike facilities get implemented where and when. The approved Bike Plan Five Year Implementation Strategy specifies implementation of 40 miles per year of bike facilities.  Mayor Villaraigosa pledged implementation of 40 miles of bikeway per year; same as in the plan. Then, in late August, the LADOT stated, instead of the approved 40 miles of bike lanes and bike boulevards in the plan, we’re implementing something different: 20 miles of sharrows. Sharrows are the cheapest crappiest bike facility, and studies are clear that sharrows shouldn’t be used where there’s space for bike lanes. Many of the announced sharrow streets are wide enough for bike lanes, and many have bike lanes approved in the Bike Plan, but the city is instead plopping down ill-considered, inappropriate sharrows. (The overall quantity of 20 miles of sharrows in a year is way more than what was approved; the bike plan states only 7.7 miles of sharrows in the first six years of plan implementation.) Summarizing: focusing on sharrows, LADOT is downgrading and delaying the approved Bike Plan, skipping analysis of what facilities are appropriate and safe, and implementing the cheapest and least effective measures to meet the letter of the mayor’s pledged 40 miles.

Despite plenty of feedback from exasperated cyclists, including me, the city is bluntly moving forward with inappropriate sharrows. The city has painted preliminary “X” markings where their inappropriate new sharrows will go.  Continue reading

Sharrow Study: Sharrows No Substitute for Bike Lanes

When you're the LADOT and you don't really want to implement approved Bike Plan facilities, do sharrows on streets wide enough for bike lanes instead. Grrrr.

Thanks to reader-commenter Marcotico for referring me to bicycle expert Mia Birk’s blog post which lead me to this San Francisco study on sharrows. Thanks to Birk for pointing out that: (p17)

This study … does not recommend that shared lane markings [ie: sharrows] be used as a substitute for bicycle lanes where they are a feasible option.

Even the folks who like sharrows aren’t doing them where bike lanes are easily feasible. Unfortunately, this is exactly what LADOT says that they’ll do “by year’s end” on nearly a dozen street segments in its we’re-doing-sharrows-instead-of-the-bike-plan list.

In the comments at her blog, Mia Birk specifically mentions that 44-foot roadway as a place for bike lanes, not sharrows. LADOT includes quite a few 44-foot-wide roadways on its list: McConnell Avenue, Fountain Avenue, 51st Street and possibly more. LADOT calls these “too narrow for bicycle lanes” and “streets that cannot easily accommodate bike lanes” but it’s just not true.  Continue reading

More Analysis Details on LADOT’s Sharrows List

Where do sharrows work best for L.A.?

This article features even more analysis of the L.A. City Transportation Department (LADOT) listing of streets where they’re going to put sharrows. I’ve spent time looking into the specifics of the list, because it seems urgent, so I am not going to dwell too much on the big picture frustration: LADOT shouldn’t be prioritizing sharrows, which are cheap and inferior to the bike lanes and bike boulevards specified in the city Bike Plan.

Instead, here I am focusing on the details of the sharrows list, hoping to head off LADOT inappropriately slapping down sharrows in the wrong places by year’s end.

The story thus far: A week ago, LADOT published a list of 20 miles of streets where they will put sharrows “by year’s end” on “streets that cannot easily accommodate bike lanes.” I responded to LADOT’s list by posting a long preliminary critique here. My sense is that LADOT is attempting to fulfill a mayor Villaraigosa’s 40-miles per year bike plan implementation pledge by implementing the cheapest easiest facilities, instead of those specified in the city Bike Plan. This was pretty much confirmed by LADOT at L.A. Streetsblog, where LADOT is quoted stating:

Some streets that receive the sharrow treatment are too narrow for bicycle lanes such as Fountain [Avenue] and Arden Bl.

So… I figured it made sense to pack my measuring wheel, round up a friend (thanks, Julia!), and bike out to some of these streets and check to see if they are actually “too narrow for bicycle lanes”.  Continue reading

L.A. City Sharrows List: A Few Things That Bother Me

LADOT says sharrows are coming into the ground on a street near you

Earlier this week, the city of Los Angeles’ Department of Transportation (LADOT) did a really awesome thing! They finished striping the first 2.2 miles of the 7th Street bike lanes. I figured it would be a good week, a week to celebrate bike facility progress in L.A. … but then LADOT published an article called Sharrows are good. So lets [sic] do them. It includes a list of 20 miles of L.A. streets where sharrows “will be going into [sic] the ground before the year’s end.”

I haven’t had the time to do a thorough analysis of the list. In the LADOT list, in addition to the grammatical errors (and LADOT publish and defend attitude – paraphrased as “we’re doing this by the end of the year, let us know what you think”), there are lots of things that bother me about the content of the list. Though I think that a few of these may be worthwhile projects, the majority of them are troubling for a few different reasons.  Continue reading

Embodying Bike Love

I’m an ecovillager who is studying to get a PhD in cultural anthropology, and my dissertation project revolves around biking in LA. I’m going to spend a lot of time in the next year talking to people and writing about the way our bodies become engaged with our city differently through bicycling than they do through driving or walking.

Since I think of bicyclists as “body-city-machines,” I started wondering about the boundaries between our bodies, our bikes, and our streets. How do they get stirred up as we ride? As an experiment, I decided to do some active boundary blurring and get a sharrow tattoo.

As many cyclists know, “sharrows” are share-the-road-arrows or, as they are listed officially in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), shared lane markings. They get painted onto roadways to remind cyclists and drivers that the safest place to bike is in the middle of the lane, not hugging parked cars. I really like the design of the sharrow, with its simply bicycle outline and two chevrons indicating forward motion. So a few weeks ago I visited New Rose Tattoo in Portland and consulted with Mikal Gilmore, who had just finished tattooing a friend.

My friend Kristen Cross documented the process for me.

Mikal developed this stencil by just going outside of her house and looking at the street, since Portland had just painted a whole bunch of bright, shiny new sharrows on many bike routes. The tattoo design differs a bit from the MUTCD regulation sharrow:

Let’s hope I don’t get fined for installing nonstandard signage. Not only does the symbol differ slightly, my tattoo is not retroreflectorized.

I felt like getting a sharrow tattoo would not only be a fun way to display my interest in transforming how we move in the United States, but also be a play on infrastructure.

It hurt.

It’s exciting to run around with this guy on my leg, especially since the City of LA just started painting their own sharrows due to the hard work of the LA County Bike Coalition. It also makes me feel like my commitment to bikes is something inalienable, something embodied.

Coming soon: a picture of the sharrow tattoo riding over one of LA’s new official sharrows.