Pedal Power on the Plaza
Put down the keys and step away from the car. The time has come to reckon with the bicycle. Need proof? Look no further than District 7â€™s Bike to Work event.
[Click on photos to read captions.]
Most people think of Caltrans as a car-focused agency – one that builds, operates and maintains freeways and highways to be used by cars, trucks, and other multi-ton, gas guzzling vehicles. And that’s true, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Car-centric Caltrans is increasingly working to accommodate the humble (and far more environmentally friendly) bicycle. This commitment to two-wheeled transport was evident to anyone who happened by the plaza outside Headquarters on May 19, District 7’s Bike to Work Day.
Participants in District 7’s Bike to Work event included the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), and the Southern California Association of Governments, all of whom had booths and friendly staff members eager to discuss bicycles and bike issues – everything from the importance of bike-sensitive urban planning to tire-chewing bike routes. Event attendees chatted with booth staff, participated in games, picked up some great giveaways and checked out a demo featuring a slick Dahon folding bike.
(The folding bike, incidentally, was part of a Metro program that provides discounts on folding bikes to be used in conjunction with transit systems. The project was made possible in part by a grant from – guess who – Caltrans.)
The District 7 bike event was part of Bike Week L.A., which aims to encourage people to get out of their cars and onto a bike and, for those who drive, to share the road with bicyclists. Caltrans was an official co-sponsor of Bike Week, along with Metro and 20 other organizations. The week-long annual event included a kickoff at Los Angeles Police Department Headquarters, a “blessing of bicycles” at Good Samaritan Hospital, a Downtown bike ride, free rides for bicyclists on transit, and free mini bike tune-ups at designated Metro stations, courtesy of REI. (Full disclosure: This writer received a free brake adjustment, air, and a bag of awesome bike swag at the Fillmore Gold Line station.)
“The main purpose of the plaza event was to raise awareness about bicycling and to let Caltrans staff know that the bicycle coordinator and staff are available to help them better accommodate bicycles and pedestrians on their projects,” said Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Dale Benson, who assists local governments and agencies in developing bike and pedestrian routes. “We also want to let the staff and the visiting public know that Caltrans acknowledges that all modes of transportation are important, and that it considers bicycling as a viable mode of transportation.”
In his welcoming remarks at the event, Interim Chief Deputy District Director Terry Abbott underscored the benefits of biking. “Caltrans is very supportive of bicycling,” he said. “Biking helps with physical conditioning, reducing air pollution and congestion, and making cities more pleasant for all of us.”
Abbott’s observation reflects Caltrans’ commitment to providing for the needs of all travelers – including bicyclists – in planning, programming, design, construction, operations and maintenance. This effort to create integrated transportation facilities is known as “complete streets.” The idea is that a transportation infrastructure that accommodates multiple modes of transportation allows people to reduce their reliance on cars. Something as simple as a “sharrow” – a shared lane marking (see photo) – can go a long way toward making our streets more bike-friendly.
“There are some easy things we can do, like include bike lanes in projects, ensure that visibility is good, and make sure on- and off-ramps intersect with city streets in a bike-friendly way,” said Benson. “When we create roads that are safe for pedestrians and bicyclists, we create places that people want to live in, and that strengthens communities.”
For full coverage of District 7's Bike to Work Day, see the video below.