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Letter: ‘Every Lane is a Bike Lane’ Redux

Culver City Chamber of Commerce President Steve Rose calls for greater responsibility on the part of cyclists.

With the push of the unelected Los Angeles METRO Board to encourage cyclists to travel on streets as a right, I question responsibility that should go with those rights.

In many cases, responsibility is being forced on vehicle owners and not on bicyclists. I'm not going to argue the point of “rights” since that is interpreted as the law. I'm concerned with my rights and responsibilities as unlicensed bicyclists enter the public right of way of the street.

 Here are a few points I would like to ask about bicyclist's responsibility:

  • Insurance in case of an accident. Is my uninsured motorist insurance going to be raised because of bicyclists’ rights?
  • Motorcyclists are required to wear helmets. Are all bicyclists?
  • Why can a bicyclist ride in the street and then on the sidewalk and then back on to pedestrian walkways?
  • Bicyclists should not only have lights on the front and rear of their bikes, but lights that can be seen from a legal distance.
  • Should bicyclists be allowed to straddle the white line and then stop in front of vehicles at a red light?
  • Why do bicyclists not stop at stop signs, as vehicles legally must do?
  • How do we tax bicyclists for maintenance of the right of way, as motor vehicle owners have to do?

Just a few thoughts as the rights of bicyclists may become more important than motorists.

Steven J. Rose, ACE

President/CEO

Culver City Chamber of Commerce 

Editor’s note: Letters may be edited for brevity and clarity. These views are also the personal reflections of Steven J. Rose and not those of the Chamber of Commerce.

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Dan Gutierrez March 29, 2013 at 04:14 PM
The article makes a prejudicial statement and can be dismissed on that basis alone: "I'm not going to argue the point of “rights” since that is interpreted as the law. I'm concerned with my rights and responsibilities as unlicensed bicyclists enter the public right of way of the street." Your rights and responsibilities as a motor vehicle driver are clearly laid out in law (the CA Vehicle Code), and to refer to bicyclists as "unlicensed" clearly shows that you don't understand that if something is a "right", no license is required. To make your prejudice easier to detect, allow me to engage in an exercise parallel structure. Had you written: "I'm not going to argue the point of “rights” since that is interpreted as the law. I'm concerned with my rights and responsibilities as unlicensed minorities enter the public." Just as members of a minority racial class have rights, there can be no talk of licensing them to be in public, any more than there can be talk of licensing bicyclists, who also have the right as a minority class of drivers to use public infrastructure. The author is also confused about what "bicyclist's responsibility" means: "Here are a few points I would like to ask about bicyclist's responsibility: * Insurance in case of an accident. Is my uninsured motorist insurance going to be raised because of bicyclists’ rights?" That isn't a question about bicyclists' responsibility; that's a question about YOUR responsibility! More prejudice.
Joshua Putnam March 29, 2013 at 04:19 PM
As for the question of taxes, that's been debunked so many times it's sad to see someone still fooled into thinking motorists cover the cost of roads with their gas taxes and license fees. According to the most recent study from the Tax Foundation, in California, only 22.7% of road funding comes from motorist user fees such as gas tax, licensing, etc. The rest comes from general fund taxes, which are paid as heavily by cyclists as by motorists. Indeed, bicycle commuters tend to pay slightly *higher* general fund taxes than motorists, and tend to pay more of those taxes to the jurisdictions where they live and work. Bicyclists tend to shop and eat in a smaller radius from home and work -- nobody bicycles two hours out of town to buy things they'd have to carry home by bike. Motorists spend significant disposable income on gasoline, which generates minimal local economic activity and tax revenue compared to other consumer spending. Most gas station revenues go to distant oil producers and refiners, not local businesses. Consider, too, the amount of road wear generated by cyclists vs. motorists, and the minimal share of transportation spending devoted to facilities for bicyclists. In short, if you actually do the math, cyclists subsidize local streets for motorists, not the other way around.
david plaut March 29, 2013 at 04:35 PM
so bicyclists have no responsibility for their behavior and how is riding a bike a right guaranteed by the costitution and if it is a right why are their laws governing their use I dont believe to use your comparison that their are laws covering minority uses?
Dan Gutierrez March 29, 2013 at 04:46 PM
I didn't make the claim that bicyclists have no responsibility for their behavior; that's a straw man argument of yours, David Plout. The right to travel is a constitutionally protected right, thus bicyclists and pedestrians cannot be subject to licensing to use public infrastructure. Motor vehicle drivers OTOH, are required to demonstrate proficiency because they operate machinery that can be unusually hazardous when operated incompetently. So motoring is a privilege, bicycling and walking are rights. As for user responsibilities, they are outlined in the CA Vehicle Code. I used the racial analogy to show that when a person has a right use public infrastructure or simply be in public, there can be no rational talk of licensing. To use the term "unlicensed" to describe a bicyclist is just as prejudicial a slur as to refer to a racial minority or even a pedestrian as unlicensed. Would you David Plout ever think to refer to pedestrians as unlicensed?
Kathie Rose March 29, 2013 at 05:04 PM
I have responses for all but most want to address the following: "Should bicyclists be allowed to straddle the white line and then stop in front of vehicles at a red light?" Cyclists straddle the white line so that motorists may safely pass them, When cyclists do go into the full lane (which by state law is allowed) it's generally because of unsafe conditions on the shoulder IE glass, potholes, doors opened without warning, uneven pavement and the like. As far as stopping in front of the cars at a red light? I do that so you can see me. I am no match for a multi-ton vehicle and do us both a favor my making myself as visible as possible.
David Huntsman March 29, 2013 at 05:05 PM
Responding to Mr Rose's questions (Part 1): Q: Insurance in case of an accident. Is my uninsured motorist insurance going to be raised because of bicyclists’ rights? A: It may or may not, depending on the policy. It's a question for an insurance agent. In any case, it would have been the same answer 5, 10, 20, 50 years ago. Cyclists have always had the right to use the road. Q: Motorcyclists are required to wear helmets. Are all bicyclists? A: Adult cyclists are required to wear helmets in Australia. The legislation is largely considered a nonsensical, nanny-state, knee-jerk reaction to people who want to regulate cycling for the purpose of limiting it under the guise of "protecting" cyclists from an activity that has always been safe. Q: Why can a bicyclist ride in the street and then on the sidewalk and then back on to pedestrian walkways? A: Because a cyclist is allowed to, depending on local regulation of sidewalk cycling. Generally, what Mr. Rose is missing, is that regulation of traffic is targeted at heavy, fast automobiles that create grave dangers just proceeding down the street. Bicycles can be dangerous (as dangerous as say adults playing soccer on the sidewalk) but don't pose nearly the same hazards as automobiles. Keep in mind children ride bicycles too, and not all bicycle riders are comfortable riding in the kind of traffic Mr. Rose believes should have priority on the road.
David Huntsman March 29, 2013 at 05:06 PM
Responding to Mr. Rose's questions (Part 2): Q: Bicyclists should not only have lights on the front and rear of their bikes, but lights that can be seen from a legal distance. A: This is legally required, at night. Just like other vehicles. Q: Should bicyclists be allowed to straddle the white line and then stop in front of vehicles at a red light? A: A matter of opinion. I think bicyclists should wait their turn. Q: Why do bicyclists not stop at stop signs, as vehicles legally must do? A: Human nature, I suppose. Combined with a need to preserve momentum (cyclists can't just press a gas pedal to go - it takes actual effort on a bike). I note Mr. Rose suggests that vehicles legally must stop at STOP signs, but acknowledges that vehicles do not, in fact, stop. People should realize that rolling the STOP sign, and only stopping after the line when another vehicle is coming, is not the same thing as stopping? The "California stop"...
David Huntsman March 29, 2013 at 05:06 PM
Responding to Mr. Rose's questions (Part 3): Q: How do we tax bicyclists for maintenance of the right of way, as motor vehicle owners have to do? A: First, the maintenance of the "right of way" is a legal issue. It involves the easement all share over a road. What Mr. Rose is probably wondering is whether cyclists pay for improvements of the right of way (pavement, street lights, signs, paint, curbs, sidewalks). They do, as much of this expense is raised from local sales taxes, some comes from property taxes, some comes from "gas taxes". Keep in mind that motor vehicles are responsible for virtually all the damage done to roads, and that of there were no motor vehicles, roads could be built once and last forever. Want proof? Walk a Culver City or WLA sidewalk: see those "Roger Averill" and "Janss" stamps in the concrete? They are from as far back as 1916...
Sam Otazu March 29, 2013 at 05:27 PM
In reference to this, Would you David Plout ever think to refer to pedestrians as unlicensed? I say, pedestrians, unlike cyclists, are not allowed to walk in traffic lanes. Not an apt analogy.
Dan Gutierrez March 29, 2013 at 05:35 PM
Well Sam, you don't understand traffic law as well as you think you do. When no sidewalk or shoulder is available, pedestrians are allowed to walk in travel lanes. However, that has no bearing on the issue of licensing. Conventional highways (not controlled access freeways) are are public infrastructure and people have a right to use them for travel. Conversely, to use a motor vehicle on said infrastructure is NOT a right, it is a revokable privilege contingent on demonstrating proficiency via licensing. It is really sad how few people understand rights versus privileges when it comes to highway infrastructure.
Tom Armstrong March 29, 2013 at 06:10 PM
To address your fears, by the bullet points: Insurance in case of an accident. Is my uninsured motorist insurance going to be raised because of bicyclists’ rights? In a word, no. See Joshua's comment above. Motorcyclists are required to wear helmets. Are all bicyclists? No, nor should they be. Educated cyclists know a concept called "five layers of safety." We find that riding intelligently limits our exposure to the need for a helmet. This is not to say I advocate not wearing a helmet, but that I recognize it as a personal choice--a right, if you will. Why can a bicyclist ride in the street and then on the sidewalk and then back on to pedestrian walkways? This is not supposed to happen. That it does is more due to a societal sense that bicycles are "neither fish nor fowl" when it comes to where we are to operate. The law reads differently: a bicycle is to be used as a vehicle. Bicyclists should not only have lights on the front and rear of their bikes, but lights that can be seen from a legal distance. What is that distance? Should bicyclists be allowed to straddle the white line and then stop in front of vehicles at a red light? No, and smart cyclists don't. Why do bicyclists not stop at stop signs, as vehicles legally must do? See my "fish nor fowl" comment above. How do we tax bicyclists for maintenance of the right of way, as motor vehicle owners have to do? We already do. And then some. Car use is subsidized, and heavily.
Gary Kavanagh March 29, 2013 at 06:19 PM
This letter reads like something that might have been written 5 years ago before it was common place for such questions to be answered so frequently & thoroughly by advocates of bike riding. Such extreme ignorance from the president of a chamber of commerce of a city such as Culver City is especially disappointing. I'm tired of refuting comments coming from such a level of ignorance from people who ought to know better, and others have already chimed in. But I will say a bicycle is my primary mode of transportation and not because I cannot afford to drive if I felt like it. If the Culver City Chamber of Commerce would prefer that I keep my dollars and business out of their city, staying in Santa Monica instead, I will gladly take my money instead where businesses understand the value of bicycling customers.
Serge Issakov March 29, 2013 at 06:33 PM
Motorists are specifically prohibited from driving on sidewalks because of the extreme hazards that would create, and damage that would cause. Bicyclists do not create such extreme hazards, nor cause any damage, so generally are not prohibited from sidewalk cycling. In some business districts sidewalk bicycling is prohibited. Check your local ordinances. That said, TRANSITIONING between roadway and sidewalk bicycling puts the bicyclist in an ambiguous legal liability situation, and should be done with commensurate caution, by yielding right of way to everyone during the transition. But once right of way is established on the roadway upon safe entry, the bicyclist has the same right to be there as any other driver.
David Huntsman March 29, 2013 at 07:45 PM
What is troubling, on review, is Mr. Rose's 1st paragraph premise. He wrote: "With the push of the unelected Los Angeles METRO Board to encourage cyclists to travel on streets as a right..." That is not at all the theme of the Patch article he cites. The article he cites was an explanation of the MTA's educational campaign directed at motorists, to help them understand that a cyclist is allowed to use the lane. The article is not about encouraging bicyclists to do anything at all. http://culvercity.patch.com/articles/officials-urge-la-county-drivers-to-share-lanes-with-bicyclists-9c931afb
BJToepper March 30, 2013 at 05:35 AM
By the tone of this question list, I'd guess Mr. Rose hasn't ridden a bicycle since grade school. If he really wants answers to his questions, I would challenge him to take a few non-trivial bike rides (three miles or more) in Culver City during normal business hours. After he has a few miles under his belt, he may find himself more informed, and perhaps even motivated to become a cycling advocate.
Urban Reason April 01, 2013 at 06:24 PM
It's good to see you publicly formulating your very first thoughts on multi-modal transportation, Steven. And thanks for posing the exact same, insulting, uninformed, one-sided questions that have been answered over and over again in books, articles, studies, and virtually every comments section of every article on every blog or newspaper in LA. If you had just taken 30 minutes to do a tiny bit of research on this you probably could've answered these questions yourself. But instead you decided to go the route of publicly insulting every one of us who has tried to make a difference by getting out of our cars and commuting by bike by hurling the same uneducated assumptions, accusations and stereotypes made by anonymous commenters on Curbed LA who use words like "f*cktard" to emphasize their point. I apologize for the snarky tone of this comment, but I'm tired of seeing the responsible, law-abiding cycling community, most of whom are just concerned with making a positive impact in the quality of life of our communities, insulted like this. Especially by people who should know better. Try biking for a month, try talking to people who do. And then see if you still have these kind of sentiments.
Jake Wegmann April 01, 2013 at 09:33 PM
I'm super-impressed and encouraged by the comments here. Clearly Culver City and the LA region have a deep pool of well-informed and articulate bike advocates. Bit by bit, the ignorance towards urban biking displayed by the likes of Mr. Rose will get neutralized. Yes, it's going to take a frustratingly long time. But the other side has nothing other than hyperventilating histrionics and a sense of entitlement in its favor.
Oscar Goldman April 01, 2013 at 11:34 PM
Sad strawman. If bicyclists ride WITHOUT IMPEDING TRAFFIC, then all is good. But when they seek to cause trouble by riding in the middle of a lane when ample room to the side (or even a bike lane) is available, they're HARMING the environment and stealing from other taxpayers by blocking traffic. And don't pretend that a significant number of riders don't go out looking for trouble with cars, because we've all seen them do it.
Urban Reason April 02, 2013 at 04:00 AM
@Oscar Goldman, what on earth are you talking about? You're making accusations and applying stereotypes based on what sounds like a very narrow, personal interpretation of what you see on the road. This kind of attitude and talk only encourages anger of the kind that could take someone's life with one small push on the gas pedal or flick of the steering wheel. No cyclist I've ever met "seeks to cause trouble". You should try talking to a few people who commute by bike before you assume you know what everyone's intentions are.
Oscar Goldman April 02, 2013 at 04:14 AM
Wrong. As you can see, I didn't say "all." I said a significant number. And I HAVE commuted by bike. You're the one trying to create drama with "you assume you know what everyone's intentions are." Since you're responding to TEXT, however, misquoting me isn't going to work. I've also seen bicyclists in Brentwood riding OUTSIDE an empty bike line to block traffic intentionally. The taxpayers gave up part of the street to make way for bicyclists, and they are expected to use THAT PART when possible. Not to mention many other incidents where they'll block traffic despite ample area to ride in without doing so. That creates danger for them and motorists alike. The obvious question raised by "every lane is a bike lane" is: If that's true, why should we have designated bike lanes? And I'm not against bike lanes in general; that's just the question this campaign raises. Bicyclists have rights that should be respected. But this is absurd: "This kind of attitude and talk only encourages anger of the kind that could take someone's life." Wrong again. It's the BEHAVIOR that promotes anger, not the talking about it.
BJToepper April 02, 2013 at 04:38 AM
"The taxpayers gave up part of the street to make way for bicyclists, and they are expected to use THAT PART when possible." Keep in mind that cyclists are also taxpayers. The Tax Foundation says that up to seventy-percent of California's road costs are subsidized from the general fund. That means that cyclists may actually overpay to use the roads. They don't weigh enough to do much harm. To put this more directly, taxpayers aren't giving anything to cyclists, because cyclists are also taxpayers. We are all on the roads together. Thus Metro's campaign, every lane is a bike lane.
David Huntsman April 02, 2013 at 04:50 AM
Oscar Goldman, trust me, you are way off base. There are answers to your questions in the vehicle code. A few hints: (1) bicycles are not impeding traffic, they are traffic, (2) bicyclists are not always required to use the bike lanes, (3) often, what you think is a bike lane is not a bike lane (usually just road shoulder that a cyclist may but is not required to use), (4) none of this is anything new - the MTA is just pointing it out to people like yourself who had no idea about the law. You sound like a child who has tasted spicy food for the first time and is screaming in a restaurant, thinking he has been poisoned. You'll get there. Just do some research; read up on the law. Not the DMV guidance which is marginal at best, but the actual vehicle code.
Urban Reason April 02, 2013 at 05:09 AM
@Oscar: Okay, I stand corrected on your bike commuting. My apologies. "I've also seen bicyclists in Brentwood riding OUTSIDE an empty bike line to block traffic intentionally." I'm being sincere when I ask, why do you insist on making these kind of assumptions about their motives? Did you ask them why they were riding outside the bike lane? Now, if that person was riding a cruiser and going 5mph - I grant you, maybe they were just being oblivious or being a jerk. But as you must know from having commuted by bike, there are a lot of reasons you may ride next to the bike lane, not the least of which is sloppily place bike lanes, poorly maintained or too close to the door zone. "The taxpayers gave up part of the street to make way for bicyclists, and they are expected to use THAT PART when possible." If we're going to bring the tax-payers into this - since 78% of the cost of maintaining roads comes from the general fund and only 22% from usage fees - that entitles those of us who drive cars to 22% of the road. That's less than one lane on a four lane road. The rest of us don't have much of a choice in how those dollars are spent, and the voters of LA have shown over and over that they will vote to raise their own taxes in favor of improvements to alternative transportation infrastructure. So if we're going to bring the tax-payers into this, let's just be realistic.
Earle Hartling April 02, 2013 at 03:13 PM
While Steve Rose is way off base with his shots at bike riders and sounds like a grumpy old man ("Hey, you kids, get your bikes off my lawn!"), the stop sign issue is a very important one for me. As a motorist, bicyclist and pedestrian in Culver City, I constantly witness both cars and bikes blowing through stop signs, and more than once I've had this happen to me in a crosswalk, with both cars and bikes. However, just because one group does it, does not justify it for the other. And, of course, not every biker or driver is guilty of this. I, too, conserve momentum by coming to an almost stop on my bike, but I do so making sure that there isn't any cross-traffic that I'm going to lose a confrontation with in the event of a collision. There are a number of bicyclists who don't even do that, blowing through at full speed with their eyes straight ahead. I implore all my fellow bicyclists to stop doing this, not only your sake, as odds are you will eventually meet that cross-traffic, not only for loved ones who will have to take care of your broken body or mourn your loss, but for the driver who will have to live with the image of your face in his windshield for the rest of his or her life.
Francis April 02, 2013 at 05:38 PM
How does the President/CEO of the Culver City Chamber of Commerce even get to publish a letter filled with such ignorance? I call for greater responsibility of knowing facts before embarrassing oneself!
Urban Reason April 03, 2013 at 06:25 PM
And indeed, worth noting, many cities have formalized this technique by creating "bike boxes" in front of regular traffic. Among many other things, this helps cyclists avoid the infamous "right hook", when the driver, breaching lookout, makes a right turn and crushes them.
Bikelady April 04, 2013 at 07:11 PM
BAD move before CicLAVia...I'm not bringing my business here and telling everyone I know Culver City is not bike friendly!
Mark Elliot April 05, 2013 at 08:21 PM
How about for starters we simply ask that byline contributors to Patch do their homework so that they can know what they're talking about? Perhaps have the editor give it a quick read to see if it adds anything of value? That would save our attention for worthwhile posts and keep good folks from wasting their time and energy on a troll like Mr. Rose.
Meghan Sahli-Wells April 08, 2013 at 06:17 PM
@Adam, please be aware that 4 out of 5 Culver City Councilmembers voted to bring CicLAvia to the City, and 2 out of 5 are actively part of organizing the Culver City CicLAvia hub, and 1 out of 5 co-founded the Culver City Bicycle Coalition! We get to set the policy in the city - not the Chamber of Commerce - and we welcome you, your bike & your business.
Meghan Sahli-Wells April 08, 2013 at 06:23 PM
@Bikelady - fortunately, the Chamber of Commerce does not set city policy - the City Council does. As a member of the Culver City Council, community organizer and bike advocate, I assure you that the opinions stated in this blog piece do not reflect our goals as a city.

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