Do bike lanes make drivers friendlier?

You can’t help notice the change when you start getting closer to Santa Monica. The overt hostility that is a fact of life here in the South Bay seems to weaken, then disappear altogether.

Take this morning.

We were pedaling harmlessly down Catalina in Redondo Beach, when a scruffy, overweight guy in a tiny, beat-up Subaru who was double parked shouted through his open window, “Quit running stop signs!”

There were no moving cars in sight at 6:30 AM, and his engine wasn’t even on. Rather than chomp down on the bait, I flung it back in his stinking face with a smile and a wave. “Have a nice day!”

This infuriated him. He fired up the ‘Roo and raced up alongside us. “Quit running stop signs!” he shrieked.

“Thanks,” I said. “Have a great day!”

“Fuck off!” he roared.

“Jesus loves you!” I added with a beatific smile.

Into the peace zone

By the time we got to Santa Monica there were cars everywhere. It was morning rush hour and everyone was in a panic to get extra coffee extra quick while texting and driving and emailing “Traffic!” to their bosses as they frantically looked for a parking slot near their fave kaffeehaus.

We were crammed into the narrow little green stripe with traffic passing inches from us. No one wanted to know why we ran stop signs. No one honked except for a dude who gave us a friendly beep and shouted “Have a good ride!” as he passed.

As we drank our cup of coffee on the sidewalk we marveled at the constant stream of bikers, pedestrians, and people riding those little electric Bird thingies. People were everywhere, and didn’t appear to be following any noticeable rules of the road except for the rule of “The shortest distance between me and there is a straight line and I’m taking it.”

Has it changed or am I older or both or neither?

I remember when there was plenty of conflict riding through Santa Monica and Venice, or at least I think I do, back when Abbott-Kinney was an early morning ground zero for epic Walks of Shame, bedraggled waifs hoofing it barefoot with their high heels in one hand and their handbag in the other, long before Uber.

After the bike lanes went in, and it did take a few years, it seemed like bike riding in Santa Monica exploded, and along with it people’s expectations that lawless, unpredictable, stoned or soon-to-be-stoned bikers/skaters/e-bikers/walkers/Segway-ers were lurking on every corner ready to trash their clear coat. And incredibly, people slowed down, or at least they sure seemed to.

In a similar vein, the horrible Bikeway o’ Death on Hermosa Ave. in the South Bay seems to have resulted in completely non-hostile drivers for that short one-mile stretch, combined as it is with BMUFL stickers in the roadway that parallels the cycle track, which gives cyclists a choice to either ride in the Deathway or on the road. No one honks at me any more there.

Is it possible that badly engineered, inherently dangerous, congested and confusing bike infrastructure can actually slow down motorists, make them more patient, and give cyclists a safer riding environment?

Nowadays when I drive downtown I hold the wheel in a lizard grip because of all the cyclists, none of whom is predictable, and all of whom seem to zoom randomly in and out of the numerous bike lanes. It’s almost as if repeated, nonstop chaos keeps the cagers on their toes.

Or at least, it keeps us off their hoods.

END

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14 thoughts on “Do bike lanes make drivers friendlier?”

    1. There’s nothing wrong with being loved by an imaginary friend, especially when real ones are in such obviously short supply.

  1. Maybe bike infrastructure is a sign to cagers that cycling is an activity sanctified by the government.

    1. I think the excessive number of cyclists attracted to the honey makes the cagers slow down.

  2. I think acceptance of cyclists in a given area can develop for a variety of reasons. Perhaps crappy infra is one of those ways. The introduction of crappy dockless shared bikes might be another.

    1. And the introduction of crappy e-scooters a third. They are everywhere in SM.

      1. The whiners/NIMBYS/Chapman-wannabes have mostly moved on to hating on scooters. Bike-hating is like soooo yesterday.

  3. I’m currently reading a great new book, “COPENHAGENIZE” — (The Definitive Guide to Global Bicycle Urbanism) by Mikael Colville-Anderson…those Danes are so cray cray! “The cycling citizens of the city save us $1.7 billion kroner ($270million US dollars) each year because of the health benefits. Every time we build one kilometer of cycle track, we get our investment back in under five years.” Have a nice day!

  4. As a Santa Monica denizen – nobody honks at bikes anymore. Maybe try extending your riding eastward? Could be different there. I’ve been to downtown Los Angeles an it’s the same now. Honking ended. Maybe it’s all in your head?

  5. Honking is the sound of a frustrated sense of entitlement.
    CA motorists equate Right of Way with a fallacious Right of Speed. When the roadway is crowed with no-motorists, speed is no longer achievable. I think they throw in the towel and slow down. Maybe when an area becomes known as a frustrating place to drive they simply drive elsewhere.
    But rather than install crappy infra, how ’bout just lower the speed limit– “20 is Plenty” works really well in many downtowns, makes them walkable and rideable without the chaos.
    Will entitled drivers tolerate 20mph? Yes, the majority actually will and the outlaws will be trapped by the lawful. I’ve experience this first hand in several cities I’ve visited. And it works.
    No green paint required.

    1. I totally agree. But since the magical protection green stripes are there, and the chaos is full-bore, I can’t help noticing how things are way more copacetic than in Entitled South Bay.

  6. My hubs and I just returned to the OC after a week-long ride in French Polynesia, on five different islands. The cycling infrastructure and the drivers there are both very bike-friendly! Pure paradise!

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