Is This Actually “Safer”?

Over on Yo! Venice they are talking about the recent enforcement of the one-way-ness of Speedway, especially in regards to cyclists. In case you don’t know Speedway is the very last road that runs along the coast through Venice and it’s one way on it’s entire length, though which direction alternates every few blocks. Actually calling it a road is giving it a lot of credit, as it’s actually much more like an alley as it’s populated mostly with the backs of houses with address on other nearby streets. The next street over is Pacific which is very narrow and regularly packed with traffic, especially on the weekend.

For people who live in Venice, Speedway is kind of a secret artery used when moving around in the neighborhood to avoid the mess that is Pacific. Given the crowds it makes sense that the police are keeping an eye on Speedway as it’s very narrow and one car going the wrong way could cause a major traffic mess. The thing Yo! Venice is pointing out, and that Tara and I ran into ourselves this weekend is that there have recently been police stationed on Venice who seem to be spending all their time stopping cyclists. The officer who stopped us this weekend actually said “look folks, I know this is petty but…” and it is, so the question is why are spending resources on it?

Now I understand that bikes and cars are required to follow the same laws, and technically if a road is one way then cyclists shouldn’t ride the wrong way on it either. The issue is that enforcing that in this situation pushes cyclists off a quiet very low traffic street onto a very narrow heavily trafficked road that is often filled with people making quick stops and sharp turns as they desperately look for beach parking. Additionally, Speedway is oneway to prevent traffic issues, and it would be hard to argue that a handful of cyclists going back and forth on it are causing any jams. And since even the officers who are stationed there enforcing this seem to think it’s a waste of their time, why does the city think this is something worth spending money on?

5 Replies to “Is This Actually “Safer”?”

  1. At the risk of subjecting myself to ridicule, let me say this: while I understand the need for consistent traffic laws, forcing bicycles to adhere to laws originally written for automobiles and trucks often doesn’t make sense.

  2. See, there’s the problem. Bicyclists are expected to observe traffic laws regardless of whether they make sense or make it more dangerous for us. As a result, we often have to choose whether to obey the law, or obey a higher law and do whatever it takes ride as safely as possible, even if that means breaking the law in some way. We always hope that if we get caught we’ll run into a cop who understands the situation; problem is, they’re often under pressure to do something about all those damn, law-breaking cyclists.

  3. It seems like law enforcement in Santa Monica and Venice have it out for bicyclists, but at the same time it seems like bicyclists on the Westside especially want to have their right of way respected… but don’t want to follow the laws when inconvenienced.

    Whether or not driving down Speedway in the wrong direction is safer than the legal path, no one is forcing anyone to ride a bike. They can get off their bike and walk it down Speedway in the opposite direction if truly concerned about safety and obeying the law.

    But, I agree entirely that police should be paying less attention to this stuff than more serious crimes. That is, of course, until a ghost bike appears on Speedway after a wrong way rider is struck by a car not expecting it.

  4. As opposed to if a right way rider is hit by a car and killed?

    The thing is, Speedway is not a normal road. It’s effectively an alley that is glorified by LADOT as a street.

    Time and again we reach this impasse on bikes – there is the group that says “if you want to have your right of way respected then you must follow the law.” And there is the group which reasons that the law’s purpose, in the case of traffic, is to facilitate safe travel, and therefore safety is the ultimate concern.

    I find myself in the latter group, and I think this is a waste of resources. The only place where wrong way riding on Speedway (where car speeds rarely exceed 12mph) is at intersections with larger streets, particularly where line of sight is reduced.

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