Every Lane is a Bike Lane
Turns out every lane really is a bike lane. Some of us knew this already, but now L.A. Metro is spreading the word, with a new bold campaign which clearly states just that.
The campaign features messages including “Every Lane is a Bike Lane;” “Bicyclists may need a full lane;” and “Please share the road” in bright yellow lettering on the back of 75 Metro buses and on 135 billboards. Radio spots on 21 local radio stations throughout the region also share the straight-to-the-point PSAs. The campaign will run through May, leading up to Bike Week, May 13-17.
“It has been really surprising over the past 3 to 5 years to see the cities like L.A. that are coming on board in a very strong way,” said Carolyn Szczepanski, director of communications for the League of American Bicyclists. Recently Los Angeles received a bronze award from the League’s Bike Friendly America program, which designates bicycle friendly communities. “Cities like Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville—these are cities that we wouldn’t have thought of as particularly progressive—they’re not Boulder; they’re not Portland … but they are coming around.”
Los Angeles has been vehemently car-centric for decades, but over the last couple years city officials have been more receptive to events and infrastructure improvements that signal a cultural shift away from auto dependency. Perhaps the starry-eyed dreamers begging the city to give CicLAvia a try had a hand in that. Maybe it had something to do with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa getting doored by a taxicab during a Saturday cruise down Venice Boulevard (though the Mayor prefers to credit his trips to Mexico City and Copenhagen as eye-openers).
Then CicLAvia wasn’t a failure, and Wolfpack beat JetBlue’s charter from Burbank to Long Beach, proving to be the most exciting event of 2011’s Carmageddon (turns out the city didn’t explode and everyone had an OK day). And nearly a decade after getting the notion that the streets were a place to play and channels of exploration, those damned Midnight Ridazz just won’t give up.
In reality, no one or two parties can take all the credit—rather, a confluence of events and players have contributed to the city’s sea change. And it’s the same situation in cities across the country, where small grassroots-level organizations are banding together with policymakers, businesses, and one another. According to the most recent BFA survey, at least 35 states currently have Share the Road campaigns.
One surprising new ally in the mission to make streets across the nation more bike- and ped-friendly is AAA. The company’s Managing Director for Public Relations, Yolanda Cade, was on hand at this year’s National Bike Summit to present its new AAA Share the Road PSAs—videos in which cyclists are depicted as mothers, fathers, sons and daughters—and as drivers, too.
“We have a shared responsibility, beyond just sharing the road,” said Cade, addressing the summit. With more than 53 million members in the U.S. and Canada, AAA’s endorsement of bicyclists on streets provides a powerful reach for an important message. “It’s so brilliant because it rings so true,” said Szczepanski. “The vast majority of folks that ride a bike also drive a car. We’re not one or the other. It highlights a dual identity of people: they ride a bike sometimes; they drive a car sometimes.
“One of the things about that campaign is it also highlights the humanity of ‘I am a mother,’ ‘I am a brother,’—Those kinds of messages really are so true and they get to the human side of things.”
As new bike lanes prompt more people to ride bikes, and a more diverse group of cyclists, campaigns educating road users on the rights of cyclists and promoting a cooperative responsibility towards safety are a critical piece of the puzzle in working to reduce bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities. While traffic fatalities overall decreased by nearly 2 percent from 2010 to 2011, bicyclist and pedestrian deaths have increased by 3 percent over the same period. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, car occupancy from 2010 to 2011 dropped by more than 4 percent.
In light of these contradicting statistics, 69 members of Congress signed a recent letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood calling for the DOT to set separate performance measures for non-motorized users in future transportation safety improvements that will be funded by 2012′s transportation legislation (MAP-21).
“The discussion about bicycling has changed so much, it’s really not a liberal notion anymore,”Szczepanski said. “Bikes as transportation is kind of becoming a status quo notion. Part of that has to do with Ray LaHood.”
LaHood and Villaraigosa, both enthusiastic champions of establishing new bike infrastructure, will be leaving their posts soon, but each has contributed significantly to improving conditions on the streets for millions of Americans.
“He’s really done a huge job moving the needle,” said Szczepanski. “At this point it would be pretty difficult moving the goal post.”
“There has been a clear move towards more pro-bike policies,” she added. “The more people that are out riding the more this is seen less as a niche athletic pursuit for older white males. The notion of who’s riding a bike is starting to change pretty quickly.”