I suppose I should just zip it and rah rah about another Bike To Work Week, but I have my issues with the annual five-day faux fest kicked off yesterday. Sure it increases awareness and all that jazz, and without a doubt it is commendable as a catalyst that gets however many people out of their cars and onto their bikes.
But as someone who biked to work last week and will be biking to work next week, to me it’s weaksauce. Good intentions aside it’s primarily a masquerade covering an uneasy peace between various governmental agencies and advocacy organizations that come together with forced smiles in something of a pretend partnership promoting pedal power. The other 51 weeks of the year pretty much they’re back at odds with each other — with the city and politicians and the MTA largely ignoring the alternate commute option and ways to integrate it into the transit grid, and groups like the LA County Bike Coalition pounding their heads against the bureaucratic walls in epic futility trying to grow it.
See to me, biking to work has become first nature. Of the 257 work days last year, I biked 197. Of the 97 this year so far, I’ve biked 80 of them. Silver Lake to Westchester in the morning. Westchester to Silver Lake in the evening.Â Thirty miles a day.
It’s what I do.
But what the civic/county/state/feds and their various transit agencies do is fly a Bike To Work flag for a week, then fold it up and put it back in storage because there’s more important stuff to do like the multi-year gazillion dollar expansion of the 405 Freeway that isn’t going to do jack shit beyond make a little more room for a lot more gridlock down the road.
Instead — and you’ll call me flippin’ nutso — what we could be doing is what’s been done in the German community of Vauban that I read about here in today’s New York Times:
Street parking, driveways and home garages are generally forbidden in this experimental new district on the outskirts of Freiburg, near the French and Swiss borders. Vaubanâ€™s streets are completely â€œcar-freeâ€ â€” except the main thoroughfare, where the tram to downtown Freiburg runs, and a few streets on one edge of the community. Car ownership is allowed, but there are only two places to park â€” large garages at the edge of the development, where a car-owner buys a space, for $40,000, along with a home.
As a result, 70 percent of Vaubanâ€™s families do not own cars, and 57 percent sold a car to move here. â€œWhen I had a car I was always tense. Iâ€™m much happier this way,â€ said Heidrun Walter, a media trainer and mother of two, as she walked verdant streets where the swish of bicycles and the chatter of wandering children drown out the occasional distant motor.
Vauban, completed in 2006, is an example of a growing trend in Europe, the United States and elsewhere to separate suburban life from auto use, as a component of a movement called â€œsmart planning.â€
But instead in Los Angeles we can’t even get the city and the department of transportation to coordinate in delivering on a promise of sharrows — shared-use arrows, an economic and far more efficient alternative to Class II bike lanes. And speaking of bike lanes? Getting more of those painted either requires a 12-year feasibility study or an act of god. Or both. And don’t get me started on the still as-yet uncompleted L.A. River Bikeway between Fletcher and the south end of Elysian Valley.
The MTA, one of the biggest sponsors of Bike To Work Week continues to be one of the most hypocritical, still prohibiting bikes from its railways during peak traffic hours, when what they should be doing is accelerating a viable solution to include more bikes on the trains.
How awesome would it be if instead of parading a stoopid Bart Simpson caricature out for a photo op with some politicians on bikes yesterday at Olvera Street, the MTA had instead announced the elimination of the ban of bikes during rush hours along with the simultaneous unveiling of finalized plans for modifications to the cars to allow safe storage of a minimum of four bikes per car — to be implemented immediately.
Say it loud: I’m flippin’ nutso. But then we already know that because I ride a bike in LA. Practically every freakin’ day.