Garcetti proposal aims to keep bikers safe

Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti has introduced a motion calling for the city to explore using “sharrows” on roadways to improve relations between cyclists and vehicles.

What are those? They’re markings on the pavement that show the best place for cyclists to ride on roads. And they’re increasingly popping up in other cities -- Denver; Portland, Ore., Paris; New York and San Francisco, to name some. Here’s an excerpt from Garcetti’s motion:

“Traffic curb lanes on signed / shared bikeways are often too narrow to be safely shared side-by-side by cyclists and passing motorists. On these routes, cyclists wishing to stay out of the way of drivers often ride too close to parked cars and risk being struck by [a] suddenly opened car door. To avoid this, experienced cyclists ride farther to the left and position themselves closer to the center of narrow lanes.”


To address this, many cities have experimented with “shared lane markings,” also known as sharrows. “These pavement markings do not connote a separated bicycle lane, but instead direct the bicyclists to travel outside the car door zone and encourage safe coexistence.”

Garcetti wants the city to try two pilot programs with sharrows. One would be on Vermont Avenue, between the 101 Freeway and Hoover Street. The other would be on Fountain Avenue, between the 101 and Hoover Street. Note to readers: Vermont is a very heavily trafficked road, so you must have some nerve to be out there on a bike in the first place.

The city is in the midst of writing a master bike plan. It will be interesting to see how quickly the bureaucracy reacts to this and gets something in place.

Readers react to bikes on rush-hour trains

Meanwhile, Garcetti’s call last week for bikes to be allowed on Metro trains during rush hour drew a variety of comments from readers of The Times’ Bottleneck Blog.

The gist of their responses: The rush-hour ban on bikes is rarely enforced and people are bringing them on trains all the time anyway.

I’ve seen some of that -- but the problem is still that there’s little room for bikes on trains, regardless of whether they’re supposed to be there or not. I was on a Gold Line train to Pasadena at 9 p.m. on Thursday and the early part of the ride was standing room only.


Metro spokesman Dave Sotero, however, said he has a solution: Get a folding bike. He uses his Brompton model as part of his commute from the north San Fernando Valley, which involves riding to a Rapid bus that he takes to the Metrolink.

Sotero also points out that folding bikes are permitted all the time on trains, take 15 seconds to fold and are lightweight. “I can lift mine with four fingers,” he says.

A little Internet research shows that many fold-up models are in the 25-pound range -- light, but not lighter than many road bikes. The rap on such bikes has always had to do with performance. Fold-ups typically don’t have as many gears as regular bikes and the wheels are smaller. On the other hand, one big advantage is that fold-ups can also be carried into the workplace -- so you don’t have to lock them up outside -- and they are also easy to toss into the back seat or trunk of a car.

I’m inclined to be skeptical that a bike folds up as easily as, say, a napkin. So I walked over to the local bike shop Sunday and checked out a Dahon model called the Speed D7. Going from ride mode to fold-up was a three-step operation involving lowering the seat, collapsing the handlebars and then folding the frame. I can see how someone could learn to do it fast; on the other hand, I’m not convinced I would want this to be my everyday bike.

There’s a ton of information on such bikes on the Internet and the fold-ups start at $200, although many cost much more. Some popular manufacturers are Dahon, Strida, Montague, GoBike and Brompton.

Finally, I’ll throw out an idea that I wrote about in the paper a few weeks ago: What about adding an extra car to a few local trains? Rip out the seats and designate it the bike car and mark it as such on the schedule. I’m not aware of any other transit agency that does it, and I think that if properly promoted, it would be a big hit. Since Mr. Sotero happens to be an MTA flack, I will be tasking him with researching this possibility -- as well as perhaps a discount program for fold-up bikes for MTA clients.


Metrolink to lease rail cars from N.J., Utah

Trains have been very crowded as ridership has surged. But some extra seats may be coming. Metrolink spokesperson Denise Tyrrell e-mailed on Monday:

“The Metrolink Board of Directors authorized Metrolink CEO David Solow to lease additional equipment from both New Jersey Transit and Utah transit. Staff members will travel to New Jersey on July 11 to pick out lease cars and finalize lease agreements with New Jersey. I do not have a timeline on Utah.

“New Jersey cars that are for lease were manufactured in the 70s. (New Jersey is replacing its fleet -- hence surplus cars.) These cars will have to be brought across country by freight train. We will be using them to relieve crowding until our new rail cars are available. It’s a stop-gap measure that we hope will make our passengers more comfortable.”

The Metrolink board took the action at Friday’s meeting.

At the end of 2008, the agency is set to lose some other rail cars it had leased from the commuter rail service in the Seattle area, which could cost the agency 1,752 seats, according to the board report.

The leased cars from New Jersey and Utah would prevent those losses and may add some seats.


Steve Hymon writes The Times’ blog about Southern California traffic and transportation in real time. Check it out at