bus-only lanes and bikes

Damien Newton posted a story this morning about proposals to create bus-only lanes along Wilshire Blvd in an effort to develop what Metro calls “Bus Rapid Transit”. It’s a great idea in many respects, though it seems to be a ways from actually being realized.

Damien quoted a couple of the other people who spoke at the recent meeting:

Both speakers testifying on behalf of the Bus Rider’s Union spoke about the joys of bus riding and want to see the bus-only lanes be added to the road quickly.  Joe Linton, speaking on behalf of Green LA, commented that bus-only lanes need to be supported by an attractive, walkable pedestrian environment and the lanes need to be well marked as open to bicycles to avoid the confusion that occurred when bus-only lanes opened in the Downtown.  Others testified that the bus system in the surrounding areas will need to be bulked up to support the BRT system just as it supports the subway and light rail systems.

It’s Joe Linton’s point that I want to take up briefly. Not having really ridden in Downtown, I can’t say much about the interaction between bikes and buses in those bus-only lanes. However, having seen Wilshire at rush hour, I’m not sure that opening the bus-only lanes to bikes is the greatest idea. As I understand it, a bus-only lane would greatly speed bus traffic, so long as there wasn’t anything – read: bikes – in that lane. And asking bikes to take the lane along cars in heavy traffic strikes me as a questionable project. My suggestion, then, is this: Educated cyclists that riding Wishire might not be in their best interest. Even if there were a bus-only lane open to cyclists on Wilshire, I still wouldn’t want to ride: too much traffic, poor road conditions, and perfectly viable parallel streets make riding on Wilshire a no-go for me.

I think the cycling community might be better served by establishing parallel infrastructures rather than establishing bike infrastructure on already existing arterials (although the stretch of Santa Monica Blvd. testifies to the success of those projects). At the same time, I alllow that cyclists’ best chance for pushing through infrastructure developments is linking those projects to bus and metro projects around the greater LA area. An interesting time ahead.

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