Tag Archives: westwood

new bike map: westwood to mar vista

So what feels like a good while back, I wrote a little bit about bike maps, noting:

Thinking about biking in Los Angeles, one of the biggest things holding the community back is the lack of well-publicized maps. True, the MTA has put together a map of bike lanes around the city (their Metro Bike Map), but one of the things I quickly learned about that map was just how far removed it is from the actual experience of riding the streets. It’s partly the MTA’s myopic bicycling policy, but partly to do with the fact that different roads ride very differently at diffferent times. I’ll ride Western after 9 pm, but I don’t think I’d be caught dead on the street during rush hour. Wilshire between Comstock and Beverly Hills is a crap shoot: Late at night, you don’t have to take the sidewalk, but I can’t bring myself to ride the street during daylight hours.

As happens with a lot of things, however, I haven’t really set out to do what I wanted to do, which was produce a set of maps to help people new to cycling in Los Angeles navigate the city by bike. The Westwood to Koreatown map was a start, but I thought I’d give a stab at putting together some other maps for the sizable number of people that don’t actually commute or ride consistently between Westwood and Koreatown.

Hence this new map for anyone looking to move between Westwood and Mar Vista. It’s very much in its first stages, so if anyone has any suggestions, comments, or concerns, please let me know.


brushing the law

I was kind of hoping that the California Vehicle Code would be kind of vague on this count:

21453.  (a) A driver facing a steady circular red signal alone shall stop at a marked limit line, but if none, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or, if none, then before entering the intersection, and shall remain stopped until an indication to proceed is shown, except as provided in subdivision (b).

(b) Except when a sign is in place prohibiting a turn, a driver, after stopping as required by subdivision (a), facing a steady circular red signal, may turn right, or turn left from a one-way street onto a one-way street. A driver making that turn shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians lawfully within an adjacent crosswalk and to any vehicle that has approached or is approaching so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard to the driver, and shall continue to yield the right-of-way to that vehicle until the driver can proceed with reasonable safety.

(c) A driver facing a steady red arrow signal shall not enter the intersection to make the movement indicated by the arrow and, unless entering the intersection to make a movement permitted by another signal, shall stop at a clearly marked limit line, but if none, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or if none, then before entering the intersection, and shall remain stopped until an indication permitting movement is shown.

(d) Unless otherwise directed by a pedestrian control signal as provided in Section 21456, a pedestrian facing a steady circular red or red arrow signal shall not enter the roadway.

Except it’s not. What I did broke the law, as it’s written. The fine public safety officer who pulled me over as I ran the light making a left from Charles Young Drive south onto Westwood had every right to write me a ticket. In no way was he outside the law. So I’m not saying that I talked him out of a ticket, because he may just have been a nice guy who wanted to make sure I wasn’t doing stupid things on the road that might get me hurt. But this, more or less, is what I told him:

  1. Yes Officer, I know why you signaled me to pull over. I ran that red arrow.
  2. Yes Officer, I know it’s illegal to roll a red arrow as a motor vehicle. But here’s why I ran that light. I’ve stopped at that intersection before, and I know how the light cycle runs. I also know that the sensors in the pavement don’t recognize the presence of bicycles. Were I unsure as to whether or not the signal would change for me, I would have happily waited. However, knowing that the sensor did not see me and that the protected green arrow would not provide me with a safe and legal means of turning south, I rolled into the intersection and made a left turn when I judged that there was no oncoming traffic.
  3. Yes Officer, you have a point: I could have taken another road out of UCLA’s campus, but it seems strange to me that UCLA would mark both Charles Young Drive (admittedly, only the south – eastbound – side of the road) and Westwood Blvd. with sharrows and yet not make any provisions for the possibility that a bicycle might want to turn left without waiting for a car to arrive or dismounting and walking the bike through a pedestrian intersection. If anything, that seems to be a failure of infrastructure and not a failure on my part.
  4. And thank you, Officer, for listening to my argument. [He still could have ticketed me, and in spite of my irritation at being pulled over, I appreciate the non-ticket the resulted; it seemed remarkably civil]

In the final accounting of things, he let me go with a warning, and I rode back to Koreatown, stopping at every red light and rolling every stop sign I could. There was a mess of things running through my head on the ride, and one other possible defense came to mind. In most situations, when a traffic light is not functioning – usually flashing in the meantime – the intersection is usually treated as a four-way stop-sign until a police officer arrives to control traffic. As the Wikipedia article on “traffic lights” explains:

Traffic light failure in most jurisdictions must be handled by drivers as a priority-to-the-right intersection in both drive-on-the-left Australia and some states of the mainly drive-on-the-right Europe, or an all-way stop elsewhere, pending the arrival of a police officer to direct traffic.

Some jurisdictions, however, have additional right-of-way signs mounted above, below or next to the traffic lights; these take effect when the lights are no longer active. (In Germany and Italy as well as some jurisdictions in the US, traffic lights inactive at nighttime emit an amber-colored flashing signal in directions owing priority while the intersecting street emit a flashing red light, requiring drivers to stop before proceeding.) In the UK and parts of North America, drivers simply treat the junction as being uncontrolled when traffic lights fail, giving way as appropriate, unless a police officer is present. In much of the United States failed traffic signals must be treated as all-way stop interesections. In 1999, concerned that some traffic lights would fail as a result of the Y2K bug, some jurisdictions installed emergency unfoldable stop signs at intersections.

My point is, in a situation where the signals in the pavement refuse to recognize a bicycle – often the case – then I think it’s reasonable (if not entirely legal) to treat the light as a non-functioning unit. After all, the sensors controlling the timing of the light seem to be key to guaranteeing the proper functioning of the light; however, when those sensors do not recognize – because of their structural (infrastructural?) limitations – a motor vehicle (like Gary, I did get the stern reminder that a ticket on a bicycle still counted as a moving violation) like myself, it stands to reason that the light is not functioning properly. Ergo, I am within my rights as a moving vehicle to treat the signal as a non-functioning one and proceed through the intersection with caution. As I did.

There’s a lot more to write about intersections of power and knowledge and the way in which the law functions in Los Angeles, but that’s enough for now. Is there anyone with more of a law background to tell me if I’m actually standing on any sort of firm legal footing? Not so much for tonight as for the future. I’m sure that many cyclists have been pulled over for running a red light that refused to acknowledge their presence (the light at Wilton and 4th comes to mind), and I wonder if it might be possible to craft some sort of legal challenge to that ticketing.

UPDATE: In the comments, BikinginLA brought up another good post that Gary wrote last year.  I don’t have the time to go back through it too carefully right now, so I’ll cop out and quote the introduction:

I’ll admit there are times when I don’t necessarily follow the law to it’s letter. If there is a stop sign, and thanks to a wider range of visibility and hearing on a bike, I can tell no one is around, I’ll roll through without coming to a full stop to conserve momentum. This is common amongst otherwise law abiding cyclists, just like ignoring posted speed limits in low traffic is common among otherwise law abiding motorists. Also if there is a traffic light at 3:00 am, and no one is around, I’ll go through because 9 times out of 10, that traffic light isn’t going to detect a bicycle. LAist did an article recently debating the legality of this in light of California Vehicle Code 21800 (d) (1) for inoperative traffic signals, in response to a post by fellow blogger Alex Thompson.

All that being said, when it comes to cycling with flowing car traffic, I follow the law, ride predictably and use hand signals to communicate intentions to drivers. Unfortunately there are quite a few cyclists out there that don’t do any of this, either because they are unaware of obligations for cycling or don’t care. Usually these same cyclists are slow enough I pass them and never see them again.

Thanks to BikinginLA for pointing that out. And while we’re on the topic of the law, Brayj Against the Machine has an idea about how bicyclists might be able to sue the MTA for a systematic bias in favor of automobiles.


All joking aside, my 2009 mileage just passed 100 miles somewhere Mid-Wilshire this evening. And, to be fair, Will’s mileage already stands at a healthy 246.771 miles. And finally, my layman’s understanding of a century is that one is supposed to ride it all in one go (I, on the other hand, took 8 rides and just over a week).

But still. It’s cool to see mileage tick upwards.

In other news this evening, Steelhorse LA decided to flyer my bike again (does this mean that you don’t care if I’m not riding a fixie and just look like it sometimes?). And I had to laugh a moment at a battered Toyota Camry that pulled poorly into traffic on Burton Way on my ride home tonight: In the back windshield, a faded sticker read, Proud to be an American. You tell them, my friend.

back in the saddle

If I had three hands, I still couldn’t quite count to how many days it’s been since I was on a bike. A combination of things, really, chief among them 1,200 miles of driving to Colorado, but suffice to say this morning’s ride to the 720 and this evening’s ride home felt a little strange.

What did I learn in tonight’s ride?

  • I’ve been leaning on my front brakes a bit too much. At least, that’s what I thought. As it turns out, I was a dummy and didn’t check to make sure the little lever that engages the brakes was flipped down. Stupid me.
  • Traffic felt light. I don’t know if the time of day – 5 pm – or people still working their way back into the real world after a holiday season, but the roads felt sort of empty.
  • Of course, every time I started to feel comfortable and looked up at the gathering darkness through the trees on Fourth, I hit a divot or a pothole or a crack or found myself staring into oncoming headlights.
  • And what shape I was in? Gone, melted away like snow on a sunny day. It’s going to a steep learning curve for my legs, I’m afraid.

In the spirit of New Year’s Resolutions, I thought I’d try to keep track of my mileage. I’m certainly not out to break 6,000 miles (and congratulations Will!), but it might be a fun project (and one totally adopted from Will’s). Tonight’s ride? 11.42 miles. It’s a start.

update to the update

Coming back from Westwood last night after two pints, I couldn’t really muster up the energy to deal with traffic on S. Santa Monica Blvd. as it cuts through Beverly Hills. Instead, I decided I’d turn off and try the alternate route I suggested the other day.

What a surprise. I had no idea that Charleville Blvd. was going to be as peaceful or as placid as it was, and I’d definitely recommend it to people who want to move between West LA and places east of Fairfax without dealing with either of the Santa Monicas. I took Charleville at about 7:15 pm last night, and it was nearly empty of traffic. There are lights at two places between Moreno and La Cienega, and every other intersection is a four-way stop sign. If you’re really looking to pick a pace and keep it, it might not be the perfect road (unless you run stop signs on principle), but if you’re looking for a really comfortable alternative to the traffic and narrow road conditions on S. Santa Monica, it’s definitely worth a look.

Crossing north to get to 6th still takes a little bit of work, but it’s certainly possible. You can find the newly updated map here.

updated bike route map: westwood to koreatown

Some people ride for sport; others ride to socialize; I spend most of my time riding commuting back from UCLA. As a result, figuring out the best route from UCLA’s campus to Koreatown has been one of my minor obsessions (with previous explanations available here or here). My route has gone through a couple of different iterations, but I think I’ve finally hit upon a route that I like (thanks to BikinginLA for the tip on Westholme).

Physically, it’s not all that demanding of a ride from west to east. It requires a certain comfort level for riding in traffic coming through Beverly Hills, but I’ve suggested a couple of other ways in which it might be possible to work through that lovely little city. Road conditions-wise, it’s pretty smooth except for a couple of patches along 4th. The same might be said for lighting conditions: It’s all pretty comfortable to ride in the dark except for some sections of 4th between La Brea and Wilton.

UPDATE (09 dec 08): Having ridden the alternate route, I have a couple more thoughts here.

So without further ado:

route adjustment

One of the worst sections of my ride home is the area between Holmby Park and the east side of Beverly Hills. Traffic sucks, the roads suck, and I always feel as though I’m heading really out of my way to get wherever I’m going. My usual route takes me down Comstock, onto the sidewalk along Wilshire. Depending on my mood, I’ll sometimes cut up Whittier to Elevado and take that as far east as Canon before cutting south to Burton Way. It’s not great, but it feels safe and keeps me out of the mash-up that is the intersection of Santa Monica and Wilshire.

Today, though, I picked a new way home (see map for updated route): Cut south on Beverly Glen, cross Wilshire, and swing down to Santa Monica Blvd. You’re still left to contend with the incredible disappearing bike lane, but as long as you’re intending to merge onto Santa Monica South – which I was and usually am – the road is wide, well-paved, and generally rideable. From there, I split lanes through heavy traffic until things opened back up east of Rexford.

It’s not perfect, but it feels like a quick way to push past the worst of Beverly Hills traffic, especially at rush hour.

Anyone have any advice on negotiating that stretch? Please check out the map and some of the thinking behind it.

bike town beta thoughts part 2

First of all, thank you again to the organizers of last Saturday’s Bike Town Beta. That evening was my first time out in a group with other riders, and the whole experience was really empowering.

I met up with a couple of people next to the Bike Kitchen late Saturday afternoon. Taking off was sort of a haphazard affair, what with figuring out who was riding, if we should wait for stragglers, and what route we were going to take out. As it was, we struck out on Santa Monica Blvd. – traffic, but nothing too horrendous, a bike lane in West Hollywood. We cut up to Carmelita once we made it into Beverly Hills and decided to chance Wilshire coming out.

My thought on Wilshire: Friends don’t let friends ride Wilshire. As a hill, it’s not that bad, and traffic isn’t so bad that you’re going to get hit. But as a road, as a physical fact, it’s miserable. It’s absolutely shot, riddled with cracks, potholes and the assorted wreckage of a thousand rush hours. If you have any choice in the matter, don’t ride Wilshire. And if you must (because I feel like I must), take the sidewalk through the country club. Please.

But we made it to Westwood well before most cyclists rolled in – hung out on the edge of UCLA’s campus and talked politics and planning (thanks Mark and Stuart for the conversation) until 6 rolled around. We met the first mass of cyclists coming up from Venice just after 6 and the next fifteen minutes or so we a kind of glorious freedom for me. Like I said, I’ve never really ridden in a big group before, and there was something really exhilirating about being in a mass of people that cars had to recognize as a group and not as individuals (arguments for collective bargaining?).

We rode a couple of laps through Westwood until someone called a halt to find ice cream. From there, people seemed to gather themselves and wander off into the evening. I hung out on the corner at Westwood and Kinross for a little, watching people jump rope, catch up with friends, and make plans for the rest of the evening. I didn’t know much of anyone so stayed on the margins of the whole affair; and it didn’t help that I was planning on leaving before the evening was done anyways.

I hung out there until someone summoned people over the Bertha – which, after a slightly anarchic ride, I learned was a RV – where people gathered again to laugh and plan again for the evening. That was about the time that I skipped out – before Alec’s Red Light Tit Tag, before much of anything really.

In all honesty, I’m not in any position to render any sort of final opinion about the evening. But a conversation I overheard might be a good way to end. I was poking about at the first corner, listening in where I could. What are we doing?, someone asked, Is there a plan? No, someone answered, this is just the beta! But it’s still an open question: Green LA Girl talked about Bike Town as a way of envisioning Los Angeles as a bicycle-centric city, and I’m not sure the event lived up to that. And I think a lot can still be said about what it means to have a bike town. All of that said, thank you again to Alec and everyone else who helped organize the evening.

I’m curious to see what direction Bike Town goes, be it direct action, purchase power, general fun, or some combination of any and all of the fun.

You can find a couple of my first reactions here; but more important to me at the moment is this idea I’m still working with of developing a common map for the cycling community, a way of creating a common well of knowing the roads.