Tuesday, April 12, 2011

More CicLaVia stories

Collected here, including Lance Armstrong riding the route.

One thing that bugged me about a lot of the comments there was that it seems like a lot of pedestrians, and parents in general, are raising ruckus over the perceived "unfriendliness" of all the bikes. They're suggesting more choke points, more mandatory dismount zones and other nonsense in order to "save CicLaVia," calling it "toxic" now.

And frankly, that's a bunch of bullshit.

Part of the problem is that it was much more crowded this time — it was such a blast last time, that the attendance seemed to be at least double (going by the estimates provided by organizers). With more people comes more congestion, especially with a lot of inexperienced riders, and more congestion means that everyone has to be more responsible for their own safety and space.

It also means that the rules of traffic become more important — namely, that slower traffic keeps to the right, and folks pass on the left. Fewer folks getting to the middle of the street and then stopping unannounced will make everyone happier.

But arguing that it's necessary to cripple the bike experience in order to include more pedestrians is nonsense, and that's what more choke points and more dismount zones would do. Instead of streamlining the experience, and recognizing that any time you have, essentially, a self-directed parade of 200,000 people that there's going to be some chaos, a few vocal pedestrians are retreating to the Harrison Bergeron mode of conflict resolution.

One of their common comments was that CicLaVia isn't just for bikes, or that it's not a "bike event." Honestly, it really is primarily for bikes, though everyone is invited to come. It's organized by the Bicycle Coalition, it's named after "ciclovia," or "bike path," in Spanish. It's a bike event that is generally inclusive of other modes of transport. If the Pedestrian Union would like to organize a similar event without a focus on bikes, they're welcome to it.

Another part of the problem is, and I know I've ranted about this before, that people in LA are shitty walkers. Go to any crowded event — a farmers' market is the Platonic ideal of this — and you'll see a great raft of flitting, stalling, meandering and veering idiots with no conception of their personal space or flow of people around them. If you walk out into a mass of bikes riding at you and suddenly stop — like I saw pedestrians do at CicLaVia — you are creating the danger, not the bike. The kind of idiocy that's only annoying from pedestrians generally becomes dangerous when in the midst of vehicles, and bikes are vehicles. A bike accident can really fuck you up.

Further, there's a common misconception of the maneuverability of bicyclists among pedestrians, where, I'd guess because of a tendency to normalize for our own behavior, pedestrians assume that bikers are just as agile as people walking, and that they can stop or swerve as quickly as a walker can. But they can't. So pedestrians meander out into traffic and then blame the "aggressive" cyclists for yelling at them to get out of the way.

Because the relationships between cars and pedestrians or cars and bikes are pretty well understood and codified by law, there's a default assumption that likewise, bike and pedestrian etiquette is a likewise settled matter when most pedestrians (and bicyclists) simply don't have any experience with a bike-dominant traffic paradigm, and so they default to the idea of pedestrian rules instead of recognizing that bikes are a third beast — not as fast or massive as cars, not as nimble or slow as pedestrians. That is exacerbated by things like grade, which are readily apparent to bikers but not so much to cars or pedestrians — the calls for more choke points in particular ignores the role that momentum plays in enjoyable biking.

Finally, I'll cop to my own bias here: one of the recurrent complaints was about the inability to take small children throughout the route and the demand was to have that need catered to. While I was glad that there were a bunch of kids out there (who all seemed to be doing fine), the way that kids learn the rules of the road is through respectful interaction with the mass, not shifting the mass to cater to the needs of the kids. The event was already family friendly. If it wasn't family friendly enough for you, the problem is your family and not the event. While no doubt little Caleb or Amethyst or Dribbles is precious and special, teaching them to interact with the greater world on its own terms will serve them much better than complaining that CicLaVia wasn't nerfed enough for your kid's proto-neurotic riskphobic enjoyment.

9 comments:

Larry Hogue said...

Hmmm, I guess CicLAvia is a bit different than other ciclovias around the country. Here's one description of New York's: "The streets will be free from cars ...and free for you to sit, walk, ride, relax, dance, lounge, explore, play and sing."
http://www.transalt.org/events/summerstreets

Josh said...

I'm not quite sure what you were trying to get across there, Larry.

First off, that event isn't called a ciclovia. Second off, it is still organized and aimed at the bike community. Third, you either have to accept that people did do all of those things at the CicLAvia, or that they're all being oversold (based on what definition of "free" you want to go with).

Pedestrians don't need special deference, just the general respect of fellow city citizens, and yet a lot of pedestrians seem to be calling for exactly that.

jenni x said...

I'm in love.

I'll just add about a zillion thumbs up to this one.

Rev. Joe H. Borfo said...

Try walking/jogging it next time with a stroller and a dog. Otherwise, STFU.

Josh said...

Oh, Joe, do you kiss your dog with that mouth?

I saw plenty of joggers doing fine. Maybe you were trying to do too much with too little?

Rev. Joe H. Borfo said...

I did absolutely fine and enjoyed the event. I was just given many comments that I should do so on the sidewalk by many asinine people. My dog is also a great kisser.

Josh said...

Were you blocking traffic? Were you over to the right? Were you aware of your surroundings?

If you were on point, well, some haters gonna hate. I saw a lot of pedestrians doing OK and not getting hassled, but I also saw a lot of pedestrians doing dumb shit (like usual). I see people who bring dogs and strollers to the farmers' markets too, and they cause bottlenecks and people running into each other, which is (mostly) fine at walking speeds.

And I also saw at least a few people that thought because there were no cars, it was OK to be oblivious, when it wasn't.

That's compounded by a lot of inexperienced riders and inexperienced walkers in LA.

Really, for me, all of the problems were pretty excusable when you realized how crowded it was. And none of the "solutions" I've seen proposed would make the event less crowded, so they're only going to engender resentment.

Michael G. said...

Bogotá seems to manage things well. Expanded route is what I suggest along with promoting a little more awareness on both sides of the ped / bike issue. http://www.streetfilms.org/ciclovia/

I agree the who calling the event as "toxic" is a great exaggeration. It just needs a few more runs to improve.

Daniel said...

I rode my bike for practically the entire duration and encountered no yelling or harassment of cyclists or pedestrians.

The only problem situations I saw were a handful of instances when someone was stopped or going so slow they might as well be stopped in the center of the riding lane. Bicyclist, pedestrian, whatever... that's dangerous! It reminds me of the oblivious tourists on the Bike Only path on Venice beach. It's not just one person that has to stop or swerve, but everyone behind them as well. If one person is not as quick, observant, or experienced there will be a crash.

The last dangerous thing was dogs on LONG leashes. A dog got excited by another, jumped out and between it and it's owner was now a stretched trip line ready to get caught in my bike.

All of these problems are fixed with common sense. Slow traffic stay right. Don't stop in the middle of the road. Reconsider teaching a small child to ride for their first time amongst 200,000 people. Again, PLEASE don't just walk and stop in the middle of things, it's very dangerous.

I'd like to remind everyone that people that 'hated' it are more likely to go to a website an complain than people who had a wonderful day. The Internet typically favors itself ad a forum for bitching.

THANKS YOU to the Bicycle Coalition and cyclists in general who made this possible. Hopefully everyone can assume some personal responsibility as the event grows.