Why L.A.'s Bike Plan just won't work

3:26:00 PM


by Mike Satterfield

Ok so Los Angeles is a bit of a crazy place, the Mayor does yoga, they just spent $34 million dollars on shade balls, and every time it gets over 90 degrees they news is flooded with stories about how to find a local cooling center. 

So when the city council rolled out their plan to increase the number of bike and bus lanes in an attempt to kick us out of our cars I have to say I was a little confused. Firstly let me say that I am all for clean, efficient, effective public transportation, a great public transportation system is one of the greatest equalizers for economic opportunity a city can offer its citizens. 

Los Angeles has never had much of a public transportation system and much of that has to do with the historic corruption within the city government. From the streetcar conspiracy that cost the city its light rail lines (see map below) to rumored collusion with the taxi companies to prevent a train from reaching LAX it seems the same political hacks who want us out of our cars have been preventing reasonable options for years. How many Angelinos know that at one point during the 1940′s over 65,000 riders a day were shuffling down into the depths of Los Angeles to board the subways which traveled beneath the busy streets of downtown and connected to Orange, San Bernardino, and Riverside Counties? My guess most don't know that their city once had a real light rail and subway line. 

The original Pacific Electric line connected all of Southern California with an advanced subway connecting much of the Los Angeles area. 

So Los Angeles instead of fixing the aging roads that are rated as some of the worst in the country, instead of building a subway network to pre-WWII standard, instead of adding more freeway lanes all of which would create economic opportunity in the city... they want you to ride a bike. They want you to bike to work, school, to pick up the kids, to shop, that is their solution, revert to a invention from 1817. 

Remember the quip I made about the cooling centers... its really hot here in Southern, California in parts of Los Angeles it can be over 90 degrees much of the summer, sometimes dipping into the triple digits. I suppose you will need to ride your bike from government cooling center to government cooling center so you can survive the heat as up pedal past all of the cars stuck in government created traffic. 

Bikes are great, I ride one to work when I can, it is about 12 miles each way and thankfully I live outside of Los Angeles. But when I go into the city, like most people, it is for business. Working in the apparel industry it means I am meeting with apparel manufacturers, attending trade shows or conferences, picking up samples or production orders. These are all things I can't do on a bike. 

The other problem and the biggest tragedy of making the city more bikeable at the expense of car lanes is that it will end up trapping motorists in their cars for longer periods of time. Without real transportation options the impacts the working poor and middle class are far greater than those who can afford to live in the city, strap on their cool cycling uniform and smugly pedal from the home in Santa Monica to their office in Venice Beach. 

A large segment of the population cannot afford to live in the city and many have commutes of over 25-30 miles, meaning biking is not an option. Trapping them in their cars or forcing them into ineffective public transportation is stealing time from them that they could be using to go to school, work a second job, or just spend time with their families. The left is always talking about work/life balance, but it seems that they don't consider the impact of terrible traffic coupled bad public transportation has on the work/life balance of those who have to commute. 

In a city already rife with access issues to fresh food, education, and employment, increased traffic will only exacerbate an already bleak situation in many parts of the city. The people of Los Angeles and the surrounding communities have a right to spend as much time pursuing their dreams, not suffering in traffic created by the delusional fantasies of social engineers. 



Here are some google map estimates for travel time for a typical commute I might have in L.A. meeting with a vendor in the fashion district and then heading over to the West Side to visit one of our retailers. The car is half the time of cycling and a third the the time of public transportation. My time is valuable, as is everyone's and L.A. should be looking at a plan that shortens travel times for all of us.

By Car: 
21 minutes


By Public Transit: 
1 hour

By Bike: 
46 minutes





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