The alliance between L.A.'s bicyclists and Metro buses strengthened Monday with a clear message: bike riders are not confined to the far right of the street.
Motorists, take note.
Metro announced the launch of a new campaign called "Every Lane is a Bike Lane" to increase bicycle safety in L.A. County. Calling for everyone to share the road, the campaign message will be posted on the back of 75 Metro buses, 135 billboards and receive spots on 21 local radio stations throughout the region.
The campaign runs between March and May, leading up to Bike Week L.A., which will be held May 13-17.
The agency's extensive campaign will help raise motorist awareness that cyclists have equal rights and responsibilities to the road per the California Vehicle Code.
Section 21200 of the state code stipulates that bicycle riders may use any lane in the street since they have the same rights and must follow the same laws as car drivers.
Culver City Councilmember Meghan Sahli-Wells who is an active member of transition Culver City as well as the Culver City Bicycle Coalition and who is regularly seen making her way around Culver City on her bicycle told Patch she felt the campagin was "great. Until I took a bicycle safety skills class from Sustainable Streets, I didn't fully understand the rights and responsibilities of cyclists, even though I had been riding for years," Sahli-Wells said.
"It's clear I'm not the only one who needed educating," she added. "Many cyclists and drivers are unaware of the vehicle code regarding bicycles, making both cycling and driving a challenge. Metro's campaign asserts the rights of cyclists to enjoy full use of our city streets, and also underlines the correct way to use them: simply follow the law. Ride in the direction of traffic; Stop at traffic lights and stop signs; Pass cyclists at a safe distance; Share the road. When all road users understand that bicycles are vehicles, we will all be safer. Metro's "Every Lane is a Bike Lane" campaign will help us get there."
Steve Herbert of the Culver City Bicycle Coalition told Patch, "As a cycling commuter this campaign is an important educational effort to help motorists and cyclists alike understand that the roadway is a shared resource for all users."
He added he particularly liked the radio spots, "which explain why cyclists may need to use the full lane. Many times this may be the safest option a cyclist is presented with at a given location. I only hope the message resonates with motorists both now and a year or more from now."
Culver City's Jim Shanman who runs the Walk 'n Rollers program to encourage kids to cycle, walk and skate to school told Patch he thinks the campaign sends a powerful message.
"[It] educate[s] both drivers and cyclists that the appropriate place for adult cyclists to be riding is in the lane and, a reminder to all, that by law, they have that right," Shanman said, adding, "Hopefully this will not only reduce car-bike collisions and ease tensions between motorists and cyclists, but also encourage more people to trade in their car for a bike, if only occasionally."
John Brown, head mechanic at the volunteer-run Bikerowave on Venice Boulevard in Mar Vista, said he wholly endorses Metro's campaign.
"We hope that this will lead more motorists and law enforcement officers in certain jurisdictions to understand that CVC 21202(a)(3) allows cyclists to take a full traffic lane when they feel the need to do so for their own safety," Brown told Patch. "Sharing the road isn't just basic courtesy, it's the law."
The code further states that bicyclists may need the full lane to safely navigate specific road and traffic conditions, as well as outlines several situations where bicyclists are specifically permitted to leave their usual position on the far right of the street, such as:
- To avoid obstacles and unsafe conditions (including the door zone along parallel-parked vehicles).
- To pass another bicyclist, car or bus.
- To prepare for a left turn.
- To avoid an area where right turns are made.
- When traveling as fast or faster than other traffic at that time and place.
- When the lane is too narrow to share with a vehicle.
Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Jennifer Klausner said they know that education is needed for both drivers and bicyclists on how to properly share the road.
"We're working hard to educate bicyclists to ride with traffic, use lights at night and other ways to avoid the most common types of collisions," Klausner said. "We're excited to see Metro help with the other half of the equation by making sure drivers know to expect bicyclists on any street and to pass only when it's safe."
Metro officials noted it is becoming increasingly important for motorists and cyclists to safely co-exist on the region’s roadways, citing that in L.A. County, 19 percent of all trips are made by walking and biking, but bicyclists and pedestrians make up 39 percent of roadway fatalities.
In Southern California, nearly four percent of all traffic-related fatalities involved cyclists, and 4.3 percent of all traffic-related injuries involved cyclists, according to Metro. Deaths of pedestrians and cyclists were continually highlighted issues in Santa Monica and along the Pacific Coast Highway in 2012.
"The breakneck pace of bikeway construction demonstrates that Los Angeles is riding fast on its way to becoming a truly bike-friendly city," said L.A. City Mayor Antonio Villariagosa on Monday. "As more cyclists take to our streets we need to ensure that safety and awareness are of utmost importance as our riders share the road."
Metro also plans to begin traffic skills courses for bicyclists to help ensure cyclists know their responsibilities for riding safely on local streets as part of the safety campaign. Cyclists interested in participating in these future classes should e-mail Metro’s Bicycle Program at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additionally, Metro is planning to sponsor 20 bike rides to further promote safe cycling in the county.
- Culver City Patch Editor Kelly Hartog contributed to this report.