"It's less attractive every year to own an automobile here," says Echo Park resident Ryan Johnson, looking up from his bike. Johnson notes the rising cost of parking, the traffic, the hassle.
"It's just easier to live without a car. And I don't miss it at all."
Johnson is still in the minority in Los Angeles, but it's a growing minority. He is one of several cyclists featured in "City Cyclists — Competing for Space," one of two Los Angeles Times videos following the evolving relationship between cyclists and drivers on city streets.
It caps the final week of the RoadshareLA project that The Times' editorial page began at the time of the Oct. 6, 2013, CicLAvia, the third such street celebration last year and the eighth since the first one in 2010. Our goal is to delve into the re-imagining and transformation of city streets that has been occurring even in this traditionally car-oriented city and pull out the questions and issues that cyclists, drivers, residents and leaders must confront:
Who owns the streets? What are they for? Is urban cycling a passing fashion, and is rewriting our laws and reconfiguring our streets to accommodate it a foolish waste of resources? Or is it instead the signal of an enduring change in living and commuting patterns? Is Los Angeles moving too fast in response to cycling and "complete streets" advocates, or too slow? How did cyclists get so much change so quickly from policymakers when neighborhood councils and other activists struggle to get respect and response from government?
For non-cyclists, the video offers a flavor of what it's like to commute on a bike among cars, and may make viewers reach for a helmet. It's easy to see why Highland Park resident Melanie Freeland calls it "a bit thrilling" to ride among all the buildings, the traffic and the people of downtown. Downtown resident C.C. Boyce shares tips like wearing bright colors and making eye contact to be sure drivers know she's there. Michael MacDonald notes that riding in Los Angeles comes with "regular harassment," but he also shares the pride he sometimes feels doing his commuting without polluting. Jeff Jacobberger is comfortable riding on urban streets but acknowledges that they can be a scary place for the less experienced.
And Carson Giles of Echo Park takes us through the Second Street tunnel, the downtown fixture featured in so many car ads and movie chase scenes.
"It's beautiful, but it's a place where cars see how fast they can drive," Giles says. "Even though it's the bicycle route, it doesn't feel like I'm supposed to be in the tunnel."
[Correction, 2:15 p.m., Feb. 24: A previous version of this post identified Ryan Johnson and Carson Giles as Eagle Rock residents. They live in Echo Park.]