Wednesday, June 16, 2010

LA's pilot Sharrows project demonstrates need for Standards and Accountability

(photo by Joe Linton)

What a production!

LA's first official Sharrow on Fountain Ave., heading east from Western, directs cyclists toward the first pothole. The rocky road continues because the Sharrows line up with the right tire track of the motor vehicle traffic, typically the most worn area of the street.

In the other direction, the first Sharrow on Fountain Ave., heading west from Vermont, places cyclists in the right turn lane, a lane that doesn't continue through the intersection. This sets up the cyclist for a "right-hook" collision and directs them into the back of the upcoming parked cars.

Along the way, cyclists enjoy Sharrows that are consistently 12' from the curb but vary in distance from the center line of the street by a distance that ranges from 18' to less than 7' which results in a meandering journey down Sharrow Lane.

Making the journey more interesting is the fact that the placement of the Sharrows is not context sensitive, failing to take into account anything other the presence of on-street parking and the distance from the curb. Road conditions? Potholes? Varying intersection treatments? Water Mains? Driveways, parking lots, destinations, human behavior, anything? Nothing!

The LADOT's Bikeways Department has committed four significant missteps in the opening moves of LA's nascent Sharrows program. How about some standards!

If the purpose of the Sharrows is to move cyclists out of the Door Zone, define the Door Zone and set a standard for the position of the Sharrows based on the stated intent to clear the Door Zone. Here comes a Standard!

If the purpose of the Sharrows is to move cyclists to the correct lateral position on a non-sharable (side-by-side) lane, define the correct position and set a standard for the position of the Sharrows based on the stated intent to correctly position the cyclist in the travel lane. Here comes a Standard!

If the purpose of the Sharrows is to alert road users within a narrow traveled way of the lateral location where bicyclists ride, one would think that there would be some signage supporting the Sharrows. R4-11 "Bicycles May Use Full Lane signs fit the bill. Here comes a Standard!

If the purpose of the Sharrows it to reduce conflict and improve safety on the streets for all road users, define the behavior that is desired and then set a standard. Passing distances? Predictable riding? Here come the Standards!

Standards are good for the success of LA's pilot Sharrows project, they are good for the success of the larger commitment to implementing Sharrows throughout LA, they are good for developing project oversight tools, they are good for engaging the community by clearly communicating expectations, and they are good for cyclists and other road users because they offer real tools for evaluating the successful implementation of LA's pilot Sharrows project.

Local cyclists look to the City of Long Beach and ask why Los Angeles can't have a Green Shared Lane that serves as "an invitation to ride" but at every turn the answer is "No!" Yet the person responsible for saying "No!" is anonymous, hidden from the public. Now is the time for the LADOT's Bikeways Department to 'fess up and reveal the truthfulness in their rejection of the Green Shared Lane. Who is in charge of the Department of "No!" and why can't Los Angeles have creative and innovative transportation solutions that truly support cycling on the streets of Los Angeles? Why must the LADOT's Bikeways Department consistently resist any effort to move forward with transportation innovations? Why must it be always be a fight to move forward?

Local cyclists look to the City of Hermosa Beach and ask why Los Angeles can't have Sharrows in the center of the travel lane supported by signage that reinforces the rights of cyclists to control the lane. The R4-11 sign has been requested by cyclists before but the LADOT's Bikeways Department responds with an unattributed "No!" that serves as a deterrent but comes with no transparency or accountability.

If nothing else, this Fountain Ave. Sharrows journey has demonstrated the need for the LADOT's Bikeways Department to:

1) develop, implement, and communicate Sharrows standards, with clearly stated goals and expectations. This must be coupled with some form of oversight and accountability. Take a look at Oakland's Sharrow Standards for an example.

2) develop and reveal a clear hierarchy of authority so that the people of Los Angeles know who is in charge, who they must appeal to, who is responsible and who is accountable. The LADOT's Bikeways Department is in charge when convenient, they play victim when it gets heated, they feign helplessness when convenient, and they go missing in action when there is controversy.

Who would have thought! Sharrows have the potential to reinforce good behavior for cyclists, good behavior for motorists, and good behavior for bureaucrats. Not bad for simple paint on the streets!

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