Sunday, May 19, 2013

In Los Angeles, Every Lane is a Bike Lane

One of many Metro bus banners encouraging Los Angels to share the road[4]

In Los Angeles, cars clearly dominate the roads. However, in spirit of expanding and promoting cooperation with all users of the streets, Los Angeles Metro created the “Every Lane is a Bike Lane” (ELBL) campaign. Aimed primarily at automobile users, the push behind ELBL is to bring increased awareness to cycling “without showing cycling as reckless or dangerous.”[1]
Drivers and bicyclists alike are encouraged to share the road and exercise patience, especially in situations when cyclists need to use “a full lane to safely navigate certain traffic situations.”[1] The “safe situations” that Metro wants public education highlighting includes common cycling situations such as:
  • Keeping clear of cars turning right (“Right Hooks”)
  • Doors opening on parallel parked cars (“Dooring”)
  • Making a left-hand turn
  • Riding on a narrow road[1]
The 3-month long public awareness movement ran from March to mid-May, cascading just prior to Bike to Work Day. But before the sunset of the program, the city saw and heard plenty of promotional material from ELBL. The campaign was focused “on bus backs, billboards, drive-time radio and all across Los Angeles County.”[1] As a takeaway item at community driven bicycle events, such as Ciclavia, bumper stickers were created and distributed to promote sharing the road.

Metro’s “Every Lane is Bike Lane” campaign quickly evolved into a media blitz, extending beyond Los Angeles cycling blogs and those closely working with the transportation community. On March 18th, top-rated NBC Los Angeles ran a story featuring the ELBL campaign in a two-minute segment that included interviews from bicycle commuters and Metro staff. The newscasts timeliness showcased the program at the beginning of the campaign and put a strong message into every Los Angeles home.
Metro campaign reminds drivers that "Every Lane is a Bike Lane"[3]

While Metro ran a successful ELBL campaign, not all were pleased with Metro’s message. Culver City Chamber of Commerce President Steve Rose called for greater responsibility on the part of Los Angeles cyclists in an opinion editorial to the Culver City Patch. Rose denounced Metro’s “Every Lane is a Bike Lane” campaign and said the campaign sends the wrong message to bicyclists by encourages dangerous bicycling habits, and that bicycles should not have a right to be on Los Angeles streets. The bicycling community responded to Rose vowing to not shop in Culver City until bicycling was welcomed by the business community.[2]

Although Metro wrapped up the campaign in mid-May, this leaves important questions about the future of bicycling in Los Angeles. The program highlights the perception of the “war on cycling” and lack of education on both sides about the legal standing of bicyclists on the road. Adding to the complexity of the campaign’s message, many Los Angeles streets are designed for fast moving vehicles traffic, clashing with the concept of slow moving bicycles in the travel lane. Given the autocentric design of Los Angeles, is every lane truly a bike lane? 



  1. Very interesting. As a full time bike commuter in Portland I find myself very invested in the bike/car debate on how they interact in shared space. Do we have a similar law here in Portland that allows bikes to "take the lane?" It seems that there is conflict on both sides of the argument and I'm anxious to see how it turns out!

    1. Daniel,

      I will defer to the bicycle lawyers here in town (Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton) to answer this. But, in short, yes, absolutely there is a law that allows bicycles in Oregon to "take the lane" and since you are a full time bike commuter, this information is good for you to have. The Oregon "Bicyclist Bill of Rights" is contained in ORS 814.430 but it is too long to post in its entirety here as a comment. If you follow the following link, you can read all about your roles, responsibilities and rights as a cyclist here in Oregon:

  2. While I can appreciate the message of this campaign and do feel that perceptions of bikers and their right to the road needs to improve, I am wary of an overly complex issue being summarized in such few words. I can understand Rose taking an issue with the message, but his response was a bit unwarranted.

    I think an improvement that could be made to the message is determining what roads bikers can take a lane. Roads that are of a certain speed or higher may not be appropriate and put the biker at unnecessary risk. Therefore designating appropriate roads would help drivers and bikers alike.

    The most important issue here is perception. Drivers that do not bike nor understand the benefits to biking may be less inclined to share the road. At the core this campaign I think is successful in notifying drivers that bikers have just as much a right to use the road.

    I have seen similar share the road signs in the Portland area. They are friendly reminders to be courteous with others and to be aware. Would like to see more of these.

    1. << I have seen similar share the road signs in the Portland area. They are friendly reminders to be courteous with others and to be aware. Would like to see more of these. >>
      You make really great points, Shawn. Max and I (authors) totally agree with a lot of what you said. In fact, while we were researching this, Max pointed out the messaging used by Metro compared to the messaging used by the CicLAvia campaign. Vast differences exist within the verbiage and overall feel. Of course, they are two totally different groups vying for different goals but just how different spoke in their marketing material. Metro's campaign seems very law driven whereas CicLAvia’s program leans toward a more fun and easy approach. Something that you would want to do. Not a message that very nearly provokes aggression.


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