VIDEO: New bike lanes create more problems than they solve

For the past five years that I’ve worked at the Long Beach Post, I’ve ridden my bike to work as often as I can. It’s a short commute, at times less than 2 miles depending on where I’ve lived. Riding provides a wonderful surge of endorphins for the start of my work day and is environmentally friendly, but has become increasingly stressful.

For the past week and a half, I’ve made the ride with the intention of testing out the new protected bike lanes on Broadway and Third Street, and it’s been without a doubt, a horrible experience. From negligent drivers, to people on scooters, unsupervised children and even *gasp* other bike riders (note :15 in the below video), it seems there are very few people who respect the purpose of the space or know how to use it properly.

It’s worth noting, this isn’t a surprise at all.

Most experienced cyclists that I’ve spoken to will take up a full car lane—as is their right if they keep up with the normal flow of traffic—because they feel safer there than being trapped in one of these designated pathways. You can see hazards ahead of you with enough time to avoid them, whereas a “protected” bike lane feels like you’re being funneled into danger with no time or room to react.

But even then, it’s a lesser of two evils. The “close calls” in the video—when I hooked up a knock-off GoPro to my handlebars to show my ride to and from work—are tame when compared to what bicycle couriers or those with a longer commute deal with on a daily basis, or this poor woman who was riding in Belmont Shore.

I guess I’m only pointing out the obvious, that in this car-centric culture, no amount of bicycle-friendly city planning will keep you safe. As one Twitter user put it, “Keep your head on a swivel kids.”

These new lanes will not be respected unless their proper usage is publicized and enforced, and even then that’s debatable. Over the last couple of months, the lanes have gradually appeared with little warning aside from haphazardly placed cones and some signage telling drivers their cars will be towed. So far, it doesn’t seem like that message has been received, and the only people paying that price are the people the lane is designated for, cyclists.

Without education, the whole thing feels like a sick, dangerous joke.

Can we do better? What’s the point of spending money on these lanes if people aren’t shown how to use them? How can we better educate the public that the reason we separate cyclists from drivers in the first place is a matter of life and death, not for drivers, but for cyclists?

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Asia Morris has been with the Long Beach Post for five years, specializing in coverage of the arts. Her parents gave her the name because they wanted her to be a world traveler and they got their wish. She has obliged by pursuing art, journalism and a second career as a competitive cyclist.
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