Thursday, May 26, 2011

Mind the Gap: The Enigma of a Regional Bicycle Network...

What springs to mind when you hear, or see, the phrase mind the gap? If you ride the rails, maybe as a daily subway or other rail line commuter, or perhaps as a longer distance traveller, you will know it refers to watching your step as you board. In particular it is a warning to be aware of the gap between train and platform. If you have any experience at racing bicycles, you may recognize it as a warning for you to be aware of gaps opening up between riders ahead of you in the peloton, to fill the gap, or bridge up before the gap becomes too large. 

Today, however, I am using it in a pejorative sense, in reference to those gaps which exist in bikeway systems due to differing jurisdictional priorities, policies, or what have you. In particular I am going to consider the eastern edge of Los Angeles County, the cities of Claremont, La Verne, Pomona, San Dimas and Glendora. I have seen Beverly Hills referenced as a black hole of bicycling infrastructure; well, out here in the east County area we have our own black hole, it is a space occupied by two municipalities, the cities of La Verne and Pomona. For a quick look at what I am talking about, check out the handy Metro Bike Map, the relevant area of which I have reproduced here:

In case you are unfamiliar, all the green lines represent class 3 designated bike routes, the pink lines are class 2 bike lanes and, the blue are class 1 bike paths. Keep in mind that the map is a bit dated now, it does not show the Pacific Electric Trail running east from Claremont (which would be a blue line), nor does it show the Citrus Regional Bikeway on Bonita Avenue in Claremont (which would be a pink line). Now, notice how a lot of those lines, especially those going in an  east/west direction across the map, end when they get to La Verne and Pomona. Below is what it looks like in reality where one of those lines ends:

Nothing dramatic, the painted line simply ends, the pavement continues. This is along Baseline; I am standing in Claremont, where the line ends is La Verne. If you continue along this road for another two miles or so, you will come to the city of San Dimas where, miraculously the bike lane reappears (actually it is an even better one, taking into account parked cars). In reality, I don't know if these lines are even necessary. I don't need a painted stripe to tell me where to ride, drivers too frequently ignore them, and things like this,

parking in the bike lane which, to me, would seem to render their entire purpose mute. To my understanding the purpose of a bike lane is to provide a designated space out of the way of faster moving vehicles; so does not allowing cars to be parked in these spaces, and thus forcing bicyclists out into auto lanes, defeat their entire purpose? Now, this post is not intended to be an argument about the validity, or otherwise, of bike lanes, whether or not they actually make things safer for bicyclists, create more problems than they solve. 

How many riders, who travel across multiple jurisdictions, stop riding when a bike lane ends at one municipal boundary. None, might be a good guess. The presence of a bike lane, or lack of one, is little deterrent when you have some place to go. If you have been reading here for a while, you may know that I feel bike lanes are niceties, but not necessities. At this moment in time bike lanes seem to be the defacto means of measuring a municipality's bikability, a city's commitment to providing for people who chose not to contribute to the problems of automobility. I tend to view bike lanes as a start, part of a progression to a better, more complete transportation system. But that is somewhere in the future. Right now, a city that incorporates bike lanes into its transportation plans is one that considers the well being of both residents and non-residents passing through. Those blank spaces on the map, the black holes where the bike lanes end, exhibit a lack of concern.

The lane ends/begins here. When so many bike routes/paths end at a city's boundary, does it say something about that city's commitment to providing safe, efficient means of mobility? And as a non-resident how do you respond, if at all?


  1. Thank you for raising this issue. There is a complete lack of bike-friendly infrastructure in Pomona despite the fact that there are a number of locations where bike lanes would make sense from a transportational standpoint (Cal Poly, Metrolink stations, etc.). I'd only add that while bike lanes are not necessities for experienced cyclists, if we are ever to get more people on bikes (a desirable goal, as far as I'm concerned), we've got to offer them a safer infrastructure.

  2. This is a great piece. Daryl Grigsby, Pomona Public Works Director, has a Saturday Ride Around Pomona, bike ride. Daryl is well aware of Pomona's lack of bike lanes and has plans to make Pomona more Bicycle Friendly.

    As a seasoned Cyclist, I view Bike Lanes as "Nice" to have but agree if we are ever to get more people on bikes, we do need a safer infrastructure.


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