By Doug McIntyre, September 13, 2014
On Tuesday, September 16th, as in this coming Tuesday, a new law joins the endless catalogue of laws in California; Motorists will be required to allow 3 feet between their vehicles and bicyclists when passing on California’s roads.
Leave it to the geniuses in Sacramento to figure out a way to make traffic even worse.
The State Legislature claims the 3-foot law is a matter of public safety and there’s no question riding a bicycle around here is a dangerous proposition. Nearly every bike rider has had a harrowing brush with a psycho-driver who’s driven them off the road or even deliberately plowed into them. There’s a word for drivers who use their cars as weapons — criminals. We already have laws against reckless driving.
And every motorist has had a near fatal encounter with a bike rider who believes they have a right to run stops signs and red lights with impunity.
The new 3-foot law won’t make our roads safer, just narrower.
Take Topanga Canyon Boulevard as an example.
For most of its north/south path, Topanga features a series of “S” turns, steep inclines and blind curves. On one side drivers face sheer rock walls, on the other a 100-foot plunge into a snake-filled ravine.
It’s also a favorite of bicyclists riding to the ocean and back.
On Tuesday Topanga Canyon will become 6 feet narrower with north- and southbound cars obligated to move in 3 feet while passing bicyclists.
And assuming everyone survives the trip to the Valley floor where Topanga widens; Motorists will still be required to provide 3 feet of space for bicycles even though bike riders are already encroaching into traffic lanes because of broken glass and other debris along the curb and parked cars from Mulholland to the 118.
The same goes for Benedict, Coldwater and Laurel canyons.
Like it or not, the car is king in California. In Los Angeles, politicians unable to solve our perpetual gridlock problem continue to peddle the chimerical notion if we build more bike lanes more folks will bike to work and gridlock will lessen.
That’s like telling a fat man he’ll lose weight if he’d just buy tighter pants.
In L.A. we’re on our third pro-bike mayor in a row. Former Mayor Dick Riordan remains a prolific pedaler at 80. Antonio Villarigosa never missed a chance to be photographed on a bike or on anything else. Our current mayor regularly posts pictures of himself in Spandex purportedly riding his bike to City Hall. Personally, I suspect Eric Garcetti just likes the way he looks in tight clothes. But as crazy as that might be, it’s even nuttier to believe L.A.’s traffic will improve with tighter roads.
But the dream of Los Angeles becoming an American Beijing with millions of us biking to work is fantasy. Less than 1 percent of L.A.’s workforce bikes to work and half of those people own bike shops.
All right, I made up the part about bike shops. But who are these people politicians claim are biking to work?
It’s a thousand degrees in the Valley. Can you imagine having to spend eight hours working next to some guy who pedaled to work in 100-degree heat? Unless your boss has a shower and towel service this idea stinks. Literally, stinks.
But that didn’t stop the L.A. City Council (all of whom have city owned vehicles and staffers to drive them) from approving a master bike plan in 2011 that calls for 719 miles of bike lanes in L.A., including lanes on major thoroughfares like Lankershim Boulvard, Westwood Boulevard, North Figueroa in Highland Park and the 2nd Street Tunnel in downtown where two of four traffic lanes have been taken away from motorists.
Bike advocates continue to insist dedicated bike lanes will help the environment and encourage more people to take up cycling. So why not let skateboarders use the streets? How about scooters?
Soapbox Derby racers? Pogosticks could make a comeback.
The truth is riding a bike is wonderful exercise and a fun hobby but it’s not a practical solution to L.A.’s hideous traffic problems. Only a comprehensive light rail system will take enough cars off the road to make a significant difference.
Adding more bike lanes onto busy L.A. streets and mandating 3 feet of additional space onto already narrow and crowded roads is using the force of law to support someone’s hobby.
Anybody who tells you differently is peddling a pipedream.