Can Los Angeles be a city for cyclists? That’s the question The Times asked in its editorial Sunday kicking off its weeks-long exploration of changing transportation priorities.
Readers, especially on Facebook, gave us an earful -- and it was, should we say, spirited. The first comment -- “NEVER!” -- set the tone for much of this particular thread, in which the conventional rules on capitalization were not infrequently violated. One piqued reader wrote the following comment -- in original punctuation and capitalization -- further down in the Facebook thread:
“Here we go!! Why are they feeding these hipsters! It’s annoying driving around portland, they think they have more rights than anyone. Too many accidents! Invest in public safety, not these nuts!”
I can’t take the time right now to pick apart, rebut or analyze every assumption-laden comment. But I do feel the need to make this point: This discussion shouldn’t be exclusively about how much cyclists and drivers annoy each other on our rage-inducing streets.
Yes, the competition for scarce road space -- and how transportation planners ought to respond -- has a prominent place in the discussion. But focusing too much on the adversarial relationships obscures a more important truth, in my view: that drivers, cyclists and pedestrians already share roads and sidewalks in L.A., and they do it pretty well.
As someone who commutes to work by car, bus or bike, I can say with some confidence that the tone of such discussions on cycling and driving doesn’t actually reflect what’s going on in the streets. If it did, the body count would be appallingly high.
That isn’t to say the situation in Los Angeles is perfect or even ideal. In fact, I could cite more close calls than my wife would be willing to know of and still allow me to bike to work. Everyone has a horror story.
But the vast majority of motorists I encounter while riding to and from work have no interest in endangering me -- and most cyclists I know aren’t scofflaw helmetless hipsters. Let’s hope this mutual respect drives the conversation.
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.