Los Angeles actor Michael Shen notes that he and his wife have talked about getting bikes. But as he looks out his car window at L.A. traffic, he makes it clear:
“I would never cycle with the drivers out here, to be perfectly honest.”
Shen is one of millions of drivers in Southern California who for years had the streets to themselves, at least psychically. Of course there have always been bike riders on the road. But their burgeoning numbers over the last few years have made some drivers more careful, some defensive and some downright angry.
In The Times’ video “Sharing the Road — Driving with Cyclists,” Shen comes across as one of the careful ones. He notes that too often, “drivers tend not to pay attention to anything less than 500 pounds.”
The video is one of two produced and presented by the Los Angeles Times that follow the evolving relationship between cyclists and drivers on city streets. Both are part of a project that The Times’ editorial page began to examine the questions and issues that cyclists, drivers, residents and leaders must confront as more cyclists claim their share of asphalt.
It’s interesting to note that the biggest advocates for pedestrians in this car-happy state have been, in recent years at least, cyclists. They played a major role in pressing the 2008 legislation known as the Complete Streets Act, from which flows much of the mandate on cities to more evenly divvy up space between motorists and pedalers.
It’s not always an easy accommodation, although drivers generally do their best.
“As a driver, I’m doing my best too,” Santa Monica contractor and commuter Joe Nicoletti says. “But I’ve got to realize, I’ve got a 5,000-pound car. This car will prevail.”
It’s an acknowledgment of responsibility, not a threat. But does that weight differential mean that cyclists who share the road with drivers should be free to run stop signs at their own risk? Should they be licensed?
Los Angeles isn’t alone in asking these questions. In cities such as London, fatal car-bike collisions — fatal to the cyclists, that is — have prompted a proposal to ban riders from wearing headphones.
Headphones are a bad idea, Los Angeles bike messenger Jeff Kossik notes in the video. And “use your turn signals, please.”
He could be talking equally to drivers and cyclists.
This post is part of an ongoing conversation to explore how the city’s cyclists, drivers and pedestrians share and compete for road space, and to consider policy choices that keep people safe and traffic flowing. For more: latimes.com/roadshare and #roadshareLA.