My Other Car is a Bike: Caltrans Celebrates Pedal Power!
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Los Angeles is famous for being a car-centric city. But each year, for one week in May, the internal combustion engine takes a back seat to two-wheeled transport as bikes are celebrated as a vital part of our regional transportation network. This year, Bike Week was held May 14 through 18.
One might think that an organization focused primarily on building, maintaining and operating freeways wouldn’t have much interest in bike-based transport or a week dedicated to celebrating them. But one would be quite wrong. Caltrans is increasingly recognizing the role of bikes in our transportation infrastructure, and yes, participating in Bike Week. And it has plenty of company.
Caltrans, Metro, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and other bicycle-advocacy organizations sponsored numerous special events during Bike Week, such as a guided ride through Mid-City, a Blessing of the Bicycles at Good Samaritan Hospital, bike safety instruction at local schools, and the ever-popular pit stops on Bike to Work Day, May 17. The stops typically provided bike maps, energy bars, giveaways such as lights and decals, biking literature, folding bikes to try out, and in some cases, quickie tune-ups — all in an effort to encourage people to consider hopping on a bike, instead of into a car, for some trips.
Caltrans made a strong case for doing just that in its bike-themed Museum exhibit, “Everyday Bicycling: Gearing Up for Transportation.” The exhibit featured designs for bike boulevards, case studies in bike sharing, cool bike accessories, tips for safe cycling, insightful videos of cyclists biking to work while narrating their rides, and a variety of bikes — but, notably, not high-end models that cost a fortune.
“We wanted to focus on affordable bikes for everyday use — bikes for commuting to work and running errands,” said District 7 Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Dale Benson. “You don’t have to be an athlete or have a $5,000 bike to be a cyclist. Anyone can do it.”
The importance of bikes in California’s transportation infrastructure is reflected in Caltrans’ Complete Streets policy, which aims to provide safe mobility for bicyclists, motorcyclists, pedestrians and transit riders. Caltrans views transportation improvements as opportunities to improve safety, access, and mobility for all travelers — not just motorists.
“Caltrans staff are increasingly aware of the Complete Streets policy. They’re contacting my office more often, asking us to review plans and suggest ways to accommodate multimodal transportation,” said Benson. “This is a promising change, because building more freeways and adding more lanes to existing freeways isn’t sustainable. We need to be creative in developing transportation solutions.”
District 7 is doing just that. Several major projects that in years past might have been built exclusively for cars have been designed to accommodate bikes as well. The carpool lane project now in construction on the Ventura Freeway (US 101) in Ventura County will include a bike lane, as will the new Gerald Desmond Bridge.
It’s not just in planning and designing projects that Caltrans is considering the needs of cyclists. Construction and Maintenance staff are also keeping bike riders and pedestrians in mind, for example, by establishing bike detours that safely route cyclists around work zones. Case in point: A bike detour has recently been established for the Coyote Creek Bikeway adjacent to I-5 near La Mirada, part of which must be closed for about a year during the freeway widening project at Alondra Boulevard.
These efforts let cyclists know that Caltrans recognizes the importance of bikes in our transportation system, cares about the unique needs of cyclists, and is looking out for them — not just during Bike Week, but all year round.