Cycling in Los Angeles vs Portland

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Saturday, August 02, 2008
By Yokota Fritz


I was talking with Russ Roca last night for an article I wrote for Momentum Magazine. Russ is the eco friendly bicycling photographer who uses a cargo bike and trailer to haul his photo gear around the Los Angeles area. You might know him from Bike Commuters, his personal blog or his Flickr stream.

Russ Roca bikes in Portland, Oregon. Photo used by permission.
Russ lives in Long Beach, California (south of L.A.) He's visited Portland, OR several times, and I was a little bummed to learn that Russ and his girlfriend plan to move from California to Portland this spring. The "bike friendliness" of Portland has a lot to do with their decision. Russ tells me that the cycling environment in Portland is "vastly more appealing" than southern California. When comparing his cycling experiences in Portland versus southern California, Russ describes cycling in L.A. with words like "warrior," "draining," "struggle" and "thick skin."

This Wall Street Journal article describes cycling in L.A. as "Risking Life and Limb." Reporter Rhonda Rundle writes about several new bike commuters who encounter motorist harassment, poor road conditions, and drunk drivers. C.I.C.L.E.'s bike riding safety workshops are mentioned in the article, but bike commuting in the L.A. area still comes across as something only for the foolhardy or brave.

There's an online poll to accompany to the Wall Street Journal article, asking the question "Is bicycling a realistic commuting option for you?"

How about you? Is cycling relaxing for you in spite of the traffic? Or is it something you feel you must do? Do you enjoy biking, or do you grin and bear it?

Props to Jack in St. Louis and Alison for the Wall Street Journal links.


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Comments:
I bike in Austin, TX and for the most part it is really good. I ride in a mixed style where if I am going slow (under 13mph) I will ride in a bike lane, and if I am going faster than this, I try to claim the lane (Unless it is really wide, and then I just ride in a safe position maybe 4' from the curb).

I do not have a lot of problems, most drivers are courteous, occasionally I get the real close minded individual who will harass me. Only on one occasion did someone turn around and aim their car at me. (I hopped onto the sidewalk, I am pretty sure they were drunk, and they drove off laughing, I called 911 but it didn't help anything).

So, I get the harassment just like any cyclist, but when I claim the lane, I rarely have a fight on my hands to keep it. The only time I get in a lot of trouble is when I hug the curb. Then cars will pass too close etc etc.

Anyway, mostly good, when it is bad it really really sucks, and stands out in my mind. From what I have heard this is pretty much the same most places.
 
I lived and bicycled in LA for a couple of years a number of years ago. I always enjoyed my commutes there. A good part of my ride to work was along the ocean. Nicest commute I've ever had.

The weather in the coastal areas of LA is the best thing about bicycling there. The worst thing is that the city is just too darn big to get around in.
 
I try to bike commute as much as I can here in the Chicago suburbs. I enjoy it every time. I am lucky that I have a bike path along the Fox River for about 10 miles of my 15 mile trip.I can use it from April to November. I don't really have to contend much with traffic. I just cross a few busy streets.

I would say that the bike infrastructure has a long way to go, there are a lot of routes that would require bravery, and in winter it would be insane because the suburban bike paths aren't maintained year round. However, this year I'm seeing more bike commuters than ever, so perhaps things will change.

I used to live in LA and the distances that most people travel there are really the biggesst problem. Everything seemed like it was at least 40 min. by car.
 
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