Photo by Brian Addison.
Let’s face it: 3rd St. cyclists are getting the short end of the stick.
Rather than being assaulted over and over again by the cracks, rivets, ruts and dirt-seeking roots upheaving the asphalt residing along 3rd’s northside bike lane from Junipero to Alamitos, I would like to address the situation as thoughtfully and reasonably as possible, catering to both motorists and bicyclists.
3rd St. is one of the many exceptions to the 2014 study on passing distance led by an academic research team with the University of Waterloo, which found that passing motorists gave more room to cyclists in bike lanes than on two-lane and four-lane roads without bike lanes. According to Angie Schmitt of Streetsblog, the study found evidence that “cyclists feel safer in dedicated infrastructure for a reason”—and that reason is because motorists give them more room when they have a dedicated bike lane rather than sharrows or riding alongside or in roads without bike lanes.
3rd St. is not “dedicated infrastructure.” One thing the study failed to address was how much room motorists give to cyclists whose morning commute involves riding in a neglected bike -lane-turned-obstacle-course. The entirety of 3rd is a cracked and bumpy mess and it’s not too far of a stretch to say that drivers are experiencing similar safety issues because of such wear and tear.
Riding on the white strip of paint that separates the bike lane from traffic is a somewhat smooth, pseudo-solution to avoiding the hundreds of calamity-causing rivets. However, since such a coveted piece of pro-cyclist infrastructure was graciously given to us two-wheeled terrorists and drivers see us not fully in the lane but riding this white strip so as to avoid popping a tire, anger ensues in the motorist. That anger takes form by drivers not following the 3-feet rule when passing. And why should they? We’re not biking in our lane but in their passageway.
The deteriorated 3rd puts both its cyclists and motorists at risk. Should a motorist risk a head-on collision with another car to safely pass a cyclist? No. Will the motorist slow their vehicle to wait behind the bicyclist for the oncoming motorist to pass, particularly given 3rd acts a straight-line to and from the 710 during morning ? Unlikely. Should a cyclist have to risk their life dodging potholes, cracks, and obstructing car doors to avoid the more dangerous option of maneuvering outside the lane toward moving traffic on the left? No.
Besides the ironic hilarity that motorists give more room to cyclists that already have room, motorists on 3rd could care less. Not one inch of extra space is given to a human on a bike braving that wretched bike lane. Does an existing bike lane cancel out the 3-feet when passing law? Absolutely not.
By all means, fellow bicyclists, take the sharrowed Vista Street, a cyclist-friendly throughway of round-a-bouts, craftsmen style houses and tree-lined streets of smoothly paved asphalt. The only problem is that it ends at Temple, feeding cyclists into a bike-lane-lacking (and equally as treacherous as 3rd) Broadway with a quick left or back onto 3rd with a quick right. Good luck getting to downtown without taking 3rd, your least of three evils.
Why not also take the sharrowed 4th Street, where cars sometimes pass you slowly and respectfully? Well, most of the time, they don’t give you more than a foot of safe space before going from 0 to 60 in 4 seconds just to show you how much of a nuisance you really are. Ignorant, angry menaces revving their ill-used engines because they can? I don’t think so.
And what about the seemingly sleepy wide-set blocks of 1st Street? Last time I rode 1st, some kid in his souped-up Civic cut me off and sped past, only to show off his impaired machismo to some girl sitting next to him. “Motorist gains cheap thrill and gets laid for endangering cyclist’s life.” What a headline.
Cyclists are vulnerable with or without a bike lane, but are simply less vulnerable if given a bike lane. With a decent facelift, 3rd could be that much-needed safe passage to and from downtown—yet so far only pretends to be one.
The solution: repave 3rd from Junipero to Alamitos so that cars that want to safely and courteously pass a cyclist don’t have to encroach a lane of opposing traffic. Repave 3rd so that cyclists can ride in a straight line, so they don’t have to worry about grinding their tires into a rut, or per chance, getting in the way of a vehicle coming up behind them in an effort to avoid said rut. Repave 3rd so that both cyclists and motorists heading to and from downtown Long Beach have a higher chance of making the journey safely.