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Guangzhou residents using their bright orange bikeshare bikes. (Photo courtesy: itdp-china.org)

Here at LADOT we are working closely with Metro and coordinating with Santa Monica and Long Beach to bring bikeshare to Los Angeles County. As we work diligently on launching a regional system, we like to stay up to date about programs in other cities to understand best practices and learn from one another. Time and again, one trend has proven true – Bikeshare is here, there and everywhere and growing exponentially every year.

Nationally, within the last five years, bikeshare systems have boosted multi-modal mobility in large cities like Washington D.C., Chicago, Boston, New York, Bay Area, and Seattle. Bikeshare has also emerged as a mid- and small city transportation solution in Des Moines, Aspen, Boulder, San Antonio, and many more.  Internationally, cities all over the world have launched bikeshare systems. As of September 2014, bikeshare programs help transport people in more than 700 cities in 57 countries, with a combined fleet close to 800,000 bicycles worldwide.

Bikeshare has seen upward trending growth in the past few years – in 2013 total program launches rose by 60%. A large part of this growth can be attributed to one country: China leads the world in terms of number of programs, stations, and bicycles by a long shot. The numbers increase daily, but as of September, 170 separate operations were on the ground in Chinese cities. Close seconds include Italy and Spain with 130 programs each. Tied for third were Germany, France, and the United States with roughly 40 cities each. To put that into perspective – while only one out of every six people live in China, three out of four bikeshare bikes, in the world, are located there.

Bicycling is not new to China. Three decades ago, China was referred to as the “Kingdom of Bicycles” due to the majority of the vast population who used bicycles for transportation. However, bicycle use has significantly declined over the past 20 years. Consistent with trends in “emerging markets“, China has shifted towards the automobile in recent years. One step China has taken to combat the declining numbers of people using bicycles for transportation and address transit connectivity was to launch public bikeshare programs countrywide. This shift has reignited the country’s passion for bicycling and helps to hinder the growing reliance on owning and utilizing automobiles. (more…)

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Me (Heather!) and my bicycle

My favorite means of commuting to and from work has always been by bicycle, and my commute to LADOT  is no different. For many bicycle commuters, the decision to bike to work is often because they find the convenience, affordability, enjoyability, and commute time appealing. Biking also takes away the stress of having to rush to catch the [insert any public transit mode] or the all-too-familiar road-rage-inducing traffic congestion.

I live in Los Feliz and it takes me an average of 35 minutes to bike to work Downtown. In total, the ride is about 5.5 very doable miles. If I were to commute by car it would take me roughly 40 minutes plus a few bucks for gas (and then… parking).  There are a few bike routes I can take to work because of the growing bike lane network leading to and through Downtown and the route I take most often is straightforward, based in two prominent north/south and east/west bike network connectors: the 2nd Street tunnel and Spring Street bike lanes.

From my home, I use neighborhood streets to reach Sunset Boulevard, then take Sunset (more than half the ride), and finally catch the bike lane on Spring Street to the reach the LADOT office. My ride starts out in the quiet Los Feliz flatlands, where I weave through neighborhood streets and a few mid-block alleyways. I enjoy the slow pace I can take in the alleyways that feature limited vehicle traffic- their separation from major roadways allows me to relax and take it easy. I also enjoy the sense of community here. There are several schools in Los Feliz, so I routinely see a lot of moms and dads walking their kids to school or older kids walking together in groups.

Turning into mid-block alleyway in the Los Feliz neighborhood.

Turning into a mid-block alleyway in the Los Feliz neighborhood

When I reach Sunset, I take the popular Sunset bike lane for an easy 4.5 miles through a couple different neighborhoods: Silverlake and Echo Park. Biking on Sunset is my favorite part of the ride because it is scenic, varied, and social. There are a few rolling hills, but all elevation climbs are manageable and are subsequently rewarded with fun, gentle downhills. To my surprise, Sunset Blvd. in the mornings doesn’t ever seem as busy as it usually is in the evenings and on weekends.

Silverlake and Echo Park have a lot of locally beloved coffee shops. They’re always in full swing with people enjoying their favorite morning pastries alongside a cup of joe. Mornings along Sunset are also bustling with the bigger business of everyday life- there are always a few freight trucks unloading, buses picking up and dropping off people on their way to work. It’s important to follow the same rules of the road with these larger vehicles. When they are stopped to unload, I pass them safely, on the left.  With busses, sometimes I slow down and wait behind them until they exit the bus zone. Patience and common sense are important when sharing the road!

Using the bike lane on Sunset and passing the Sunset-Silverlake Junction Plaza.

Using the bike lane on Sunset and passing the Sunset-Silverlake Junction Plaza

When the weather is rainy or just too cold or too hot, I’ll opt for a multi-modal commute. For these rides, I dress according to the weather and bike to the nearest Metro Red Line Station, taking my bike on the train. From the Red Line, I get off at Civic Center Station, and then bike the rest of my way to work. Like Jose mentioned in his previous My Bicycle Route post, taking your bike on the train is super easy.

In addition to using other modes of transportation to supplement biking, I’ve also learned a few wardrobe tips to make my trips more successful. These include: 1) layering 2) wearing comfortable or slightly stretchy clothes to allow for lots of leg movement 3) cuffing pants to avoid greasy chain smears and, 4) adorning a reflective strap or vest for safety. Storing work clothes and extra gear like a multi-tool, bike lights, and flat tire patch kit in a pannier will also help ease your ride and facilitate a safe trip.

When I get the opportunity, I like to join an LA Bike Train to commute to work! LA Bike Trains is a free, community-oriented organization that helps people bike to work together. LA Bike Trains currently offer 10+ weekly or bi-weekly routes throughout the city that are led by Conductors, experienced urban cyclists. Some examples of the routes include Silverlake to Santa Monica and K-Town to UCLA. LA Bike Trains is a fantastic resource for people who want to ride their bikes to work, and the organization continues to grow, adding 5 additional routes since 2013. Luckily for me, there’s a Bike Train that leaves from Cafe Vitta in Los Feliz every other Thursday morning at 8 am and rides all the way to Downtown. It’s exactly the same route I usually take, but way more fun because I get to meet fellow bike commuters and have some company on my ride. Apart from social incentives, another great benefit of bike trains or biking with others is creating the “safety-in-numbers” effect, which makes you a little more visible to people driving. My ride to work with the Bike Train always feels fast- I guess time flies when you’re having fun ;)

Here’s my route in detail, from Los Feliz to Downtown:

Los Feliz Downtown

If you’re looking to find your perfect bike commute route, there are tons of resources out there to help you get started. Here are a few leads:

  1. Visit our most up-to-date Bikeways Map on bicyclela.org
  2. Ask fellow bike commuters or employees at your local bike shop
  3. Use the bicycle route option on Google Maps
  4. Use Google’s street view tool to help envision your route
  5. Read about others’ bike commute routes in our My Bicycle Route series
  6. Request a bike map for your region in LA
  7. Get in touch with an LA Bike Train conductor in your area

In addition to the route itself, you might want to think about environmental factors like:

  1. Elevation inclines and declines: Dress and prepare accordingly.
  2. Bicycle infrastructure: Paths, lanes, sharrows and their varying degrees of safety, connectivity, and ease.
  3. Vehicular traffic and speeds: Neighborhood streets often yield slower vehicle speeds while main thoroughfares often yield higher vehicular speeds.
  4. Time of the day: Make sure to use the proper lights and reflectors to make yourself visible.

Keep in mind that one of the best ways to pick your favorite route is to simply go out there and take a few test rides. You can even drive the route in a car ahead of time. Have fun, and let us know what your favorite rush-hour-beating bike commute route is!

Heather Do is an intern in Active Transportation Division’s Bicycle Program.

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My bicycle route is mainly on neighborhood streets, providing a lower-stress and more pleasant experience.

Jose Tchopourian, LADOT Bike Program.

The Los Angeles region is vast and challenging to navigate by any transportation mode. Some residents, like myself, find it more enjoyable and oftentimes faster to commute using a bicycle alone or in combination with public transit.

Before guiding you through my “hybrid commute”, which combines bicycling and transit, I would like to point you to some helpful resources for making trips by bicycle: bike maps and infrastructure, transit maps and timetables, bike rules of the road, and fun bike rides and education.

Since September, I have been commuting from my home in the NoHo Arts District to class at UCLA’s Urban Planning Department. My trip combines a bike and Metro’s underground Red Line subway. The total commute is 14 miles long and takes about 1 hour door to door.

I start my trip on the Metro Red Line at the North Hollywood station in the direction of Union Station. I ride the train two stops, departing at the Hollywood/Highland station. The train ride takes about 9 minutes. If you are riding Metro Rail with your bike, keep the following in mind: 1) use elevators or stairs to enter and exit stations 2) if the train is full, wait for the next one 3) give priority to passengers in wheelchairs, and 4) stand with your bike in the designated area for bikes, which are clearly identified with a yellow decal adjacent to the car doors.

Holding my bike while riding the Red Line Subway into Hollywood.

Holding my bike while riding the Red Line Subway into Hollywood.

The second part of my commute, an 8-mile bicycle ride, takes about 45 minutes and allows me to experience the sights and sounds of multiple neighborhoods.It is important to follow the rules of the road while operating a bicycle. Obey all traffic signals and stop signs, yield to pedestrians, and use lights to be visible at night. I find that riding predictably and communicating with other road users makes my ride safer.

The route I have selected avoids steep mountainous terrain. Instead, I experience slight inclines during my trip. In addition to elevation, I also consider the type of streets I will be using to get to my destination. Eight years of using a bicycle for moving through Los Angeles have taught me that safety comes first. Even if riding on arterial streets might bring me to my destination a few minutes earlier, I prefer to trade time saving for the lower-stress experience of riding on residential and neighborhood streets. When I do ride on arterial streets, I pick those that have bike facilities on them.

Here is my route. If you see me on the road, say hello!

If you would like to share your favorite route, send it to bike.program@lacity.org.

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Santa Monica’s bikeshare pilot features SoBi “smart bike” technology.

The Santa Monica City Council unanimously approved a city staff report on Tuesday, November 11, 2014 for the purchase, installation, and operation of a 500-bicycle bikeshare system. The City of Santa Monica will contract with CycleHop to bring a bikeshare network of up to 75 stations to Santa Monica by Summer 2015, in plenty of time for the debut of Expo Line Phase II. The bikeshare network will provide a crucial “first/last mile” solution between Santa Monica residents and Metro’s light rail system.

Santa Monica residents got a sneak peek of a pilot bikshare station outside Santa Monica City Hall. Passersby were able to test ride the green “smart bikes”, manufactured by Social Bicycles (SoBi). The bikes feature 8-speeds for climbing inclines, real-time GPS, and a payment system located directly on the rear fender of the bicycle.

The fourth generation “smart bikes” come with a u-lock.

Santa Monica hopes to create unique identification for the bikeshare system, keeping the bicycles and stations free of any corporate branding. Design preferences also include the incorporation of the color green to denote sustainability as well as the Metro logo. With countywide bikeshare efforts already in motion, Santa Monica staff wants to keep options open for local expression within a regional system.

The Los Angeles County regional system is being coordinated by Metro and is expected to launch in the Cities of Los Angeles and Pasadena in 2016 with plans for future expansion. Residents, employees, and those who travel through Downtown Los Angeles will have the ability to use the bikes to make short trips. The regional bikeshare system will also provide a crucial first/last mile solution for those traveling along the Metro Rail system from Downtown Los Angeles to Long Beach, Pasadena, and Santa Monica.  Staff will present the findings and recommendations of the Regional Bikeshare Implementation Plan to the Metro Board in January.

The Santa Monica Council will also meet in January to further review recommended designs and suggested station locations. Until then, staff will move forward with contract negotiations with CycleHop, while also securing sponsorships, finalizing options for the proposed rate and membership structure, and sorting out the associated parking ordinances.

Locals were excited to test out the bikes!

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Councilmember Felipe Fuentes leads the way

A new stretch of bike path on San Fernando Road is here! Last Thursday morning, Councilmember Felipe Fuentes of the Seventh District, City agencies, and community partners announced the installation of a new bike path on San Fernando Road from Branford Street to Wolfskill Street, opening the bike path for its inaugural ride.

LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds joined representatives from Metrolink, Metro and LAPD, along with local families and friends to check out the new installation.  Reynolds says, “This section of the San Fernando Road bike path increases opportunities for people to unplug and spend time with friends and family.  LADOT looks forward to working with our partners, city leaders, and the community to connect this system to the City of Burbank in the near future. ”

Councilmember Fuentes cuts ribbon with LADOT GM Seleta Reynolds.

This 2.75-mile segment of the path connects Angelenos to the existing San Fernando Bike Path. This addition is the second phase of the planned bike path that sits adjacent to San Fernando Road. Phase 1, completed in 2011, included 1.75 miles of bike lanes on San Fernando Road from Hubbard Street to Roxford Street.

LADOT Engineer Tina Backstrom says that the bike path is a challenging design, as it involves a lot of coordination and partnership with agencies like Metrolink and Metro.  The long-awaited Phase 2 improvements include lighting, striping, traffic signs, and landscaping. Metrolink also enhanced the safety of the Bike Path project by making railroad and traffic signal improvements. Specifically, the bike path design has taken the opportunity to upgrade all the pedestrian crossings that intersect with the railroad.  Backstrom says, “We’re looking at safety for everyone,” with the new path making things safer for people on bikes, walking, driving, or riding the train. (more…)

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Back in September, we had our first public meeting with residents of Cheviot Hills and other members of the public about the Northvale segment of the Expo Bicycle Path. The purpose of the meeting was to gather public input from the community before LADOT begins to design the bicycle path. Receiving public input before designing the path allows us to better address the comunity’s concerns about the bicycle path. LADOT’s preliminary design will be communicated at a future public meeting.

About the Northvale portion:

The Northvale segment of the Exposition Bicycle Path will be on the north side of the Expo Light Rail line between Overland Avenue and Motor Avenue, as shown in the image below. This path is being funded and constructed separately from the Expo Line and is projected to open in 2017. Many factors including steep hills, convenience, and cost were considered when locating the bicycle path at this site. This path will not go under the freeway with the Expo Train because the existing tunnel is not wide enough for both. Widening the tunnel would be prohibitively expensive for the project.

siteplan

A site plan of the Northvale segment of the Expo Bicycle Path.

(more…)

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Metro's Bike Map

Learn how to safely ride on streets with and without bicycle infrastructure

This summer Metro has been hosting a series of free bicycle traffic safety workshops funded through the Office of Traffic Safety. Metro is working with the LA County Bicycle Coalition, Bike San Gabriel Valley and Multi-Cultural Communities for Mobility in leading the two levels of workshops: a 3-hour beginner’s road rules class (in English and Spanish), and an 8-hour workshop for intermediate cyclists focusing on building traffic skills.

While the series began in June, there are still a few more classes available: (more…)

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