The Big Green Stripe (BGS)

Today as Laura and I rode through Belmont Shore in Long Beach, we were greeted with what almost every cyclist dreams of – the proverbial yellow brick road for cyclists – a painted lane with Sharrows, that says in no uncertain terms – Bikes Are Welcome Here.

Behold. The Big Green Stripe in all its glory.

It was a long time coming and many of us had reservations about how it was going to be executed, but I think it came out beautifully.

However, not everything is perfect. There is still the public backlash to such a bold and progressive move to contend with. Already, many residents of the area are up in arms -questioning the safety of the sharrows. Like the fellow in this video that interrupted when I was interviewing our city’s new mobility coordinator, Charley Gandy.

To be clear, sharrows are mere reminders that cyclists have the right to be on the road. They are not bike lanes. They do not take real estate from motorists and confer them to cyclists. As a cyclist , you’re not getting any special privilege. Simply, your RIGHT to be in the road and to be in the center where it’s safe is just writ large.

It will be interesting to see how this all unfolds in the coming weeks. I’m expecting lots of heated debate from motorists, residents, business owners and so-called “cyclists”. Ah, we live in interesting times.

20 Comments

  1. Krisjohn June 26, 2009 12:21 am 

    First up, I use my (folding) bike for commuting and fitness whenever the weather is favourable. My car is 25 years old. I’m by no means a driver who thinks they own the road because they bought a car…

    But did you actually hear what the guy who interrupted said? He questioned the safety of cycling on this particular road, rather than the less busy back and side streets. I tend to agree with him. I prefer cycle paths or back streets. I only use main streets if it’s completely unavoidable and I refuse to touch bus routes.

    He also questioned the value of a big expensive green stripe down the middle of the road that wasn’t actually a bike lane. Again, I tend to agree.

    I’m all for improving cycling infrastructure, but this particular project looks like a big confusing waste of money. Sorry.

  2. Russ Roca June 26, 2009 12:43 am 

    I ride that particular road all the time and traffic moves pretty slowly. There’s a stoplight at every corner and on the weekend a cyclist doing a slow 10-13MPH can keep up with the flow of traffic pretty well.

    I can understand that he himself is probably afraid of riding in the street and that’s ok. If it’s outside your comfort zone, then don’t do it. The sharrows aren’t forcing anyone to use them.

    However, I do take issue when he imposes his own fears on what I should do. I’m pretty comfortable riding that street. Just because he won’t ride it, doesn’t mean it should restrict me or others or that the design is bad. He’s afraid of traffic, there’s no helping that.

    The sharrow is completely voluntary. People are still free to use smaller side streets. It doesn’t force anyone to use it. Heck, people can still choose to ride in the doorzone if they so wish.

    All the sharrow does, is make it painfully obvious the already pre-existing law that a cyclist 1) has a right to be on the road 2) can be in the center of the lane if they so choose.

    No one is forcing toddlers on trikes to ride it. No one is forcing that old guy in the video to ride it.

    I don’t think it’s a waste of money.

    Frankly, if we want to make bike commuting mainstream and an acceptable thing to do, we HAVE to do it in high-profile areas. What good is it if we put bike lanes on small streets? That’s like bringing snow to the mountain or sand to the beach. Nothing of any great worth is accomplished.

    By putting it right smack in the middle of a commercial district, that is making a powerful statement.

  3. Ken Sturrock June 26, 2009 4:52 am 

    Russ:

    Can you snap a picture of the “signage” that indicates to motorists what’s going on? I was curious because we’ve talked about this idea in Tampa but I’ve never actually seen it implemented anywhere until your pictures.

    We currently have a bike lane/bus stop lane on a major road where 4 narrow vehicle lanes have been turned into 2 wide vehicle lanes with a left hand turn lane and the bike/bus lane. Now, it’s not a dedicated bus lane – it’s a bike lane that widens at bus stops to get the bus out of the traffic lanes. It’s pretty clear what’s going on based on the design of the lane but the signage is confusing.

    As a dumb Floridian, if I were driving a car on the road you showed us then I’d tend to think that I wasn’t supposed to be in the green lane at all.

    What are your thoughts?

    -Ken

  4. Franklin June 26, 2009 5:52 am 

    Ken, that was the same thought I was getting. Interesting concept, would be nice to have something like that around here in Northern Alabama. Share the road signs tend to do nothing for the honks, yells, and fingers one recieves :)

  5. Rantwick June 26, 2009 6:03 am 

    That looks like a pretty nice well executed bike lane, from what I can see. My difficulty, and many others, is that bike lanes in general are being seen as the best thing for cyclists, when in fact many bike lanes put cyclists in more danger, not less.

    The Vehicular Cyclists you can find on Commute Orlando and Cycle Dallas are much more knowledgaeable than I am, but in my city there are bike lanes that hurt more than they help.

    You can check it out here … Keri, in the comments, does a pretty good analisys.

    I just wanted to point out that some of the safest, best informed cyclists on the road don’t always dig bike lane setups.

  6. Rantwick June 26, 2009 6:05 am 

    Sorry, sorry. Like the others, the visuals on that make it look more like a bike lane than a sharrow set up. I did actually read the post!

  7. Iron Man June 26, 2009 6:47 am 

    I too would be interested in seeing the signs around. If I were to visit the area my Midwest brain would think that was a bicycle only lane. A HUGE bicycle only lane. I honestly don’t know how I feel about it. Part of me likes it, part of me thinks it looks like cyclists are given special privilege that could result in resentment by the driver. Perhaps a car and a bike image could have been displayed in the lane? I don’t know. I need to process it more.

    And how slick does that paint get when wet? Normal road paint is like black ice when coated with a little rain.

  8. Rantwick June 26, 2009 8:41 am 

    Hey, I like that car and bike stencil idea, Iron Man. Clearer message that way, one would think.

  9. MKW June 26, 2009 8:54 am 

    Ever noticed how motorists are inconsiderate… Some cyclists are morons. Share your thoughts with me at my blog. http://www.cyclingsafely.com

  10. Tony Bullard June 26, 2009 9:04 am 

    I love sharrows, but I think the ‘BGS’ is a bad idea. It looks like a bike lane. Especially when you consider most areas that use a bright green area on the road, they’re indicating bikes ONLY. The use of the green paint doesn’t say “shared” it says “separate.”

    Also, it just LOOKS really expensive. Even as a cyclist who would use it daily I would wonder about how much money was spent on that. That’s a crap ton of paint.

  11. Quinn June 26, 2009 9:45 am 

    In my area Reno, NV, we need that big and bold of a statement, just so we can feel safe. I do think there would be back-lash If we got a lane like that, but we have enough of a bike culture I think it would be accepted quickly

  12. Kermit June 26, 2009 10:19 am 

    The green stripe is a mistake. If they spent that money on more white paint they could have sharrows in a lot more areas and on different streets this would get even more attention. Although I think this will get attention for all the wrong reasons.

    As was mentioned I would think that much paint on the road would pose a safety risk when it is wet.

  13. Kagi June 26, 2009 10:42 am 

    Umm…hoodie with no shirt? That’s something I’d like to see prohibited on public thoroughfares.

  14. Apertome June 26, 2009 11:54 am 

    I love sharrows — my hometown put some in (sans green stripe) a couple of years ago, and they’re great.

    However, like some other readers, the green stripe concerns me. It does seem wasteful and it does seem to indicate that that space is for bikes only, not that it is shared space. This undermines the whole point of sharrows.

    And, I share the safety concerns. Whenever it rains or snows, I avoid painted lines like the plague. How do you do that when the whole lane is painted? I hope they used paint that won’t be as slick as most.

  15. Iron Man June 26, 2009 12:08 pm 

    I finally got to see the video. YouTube is loading content pretty slow for me. Shame goes to the old timer for his rude launch into a discussion with the city rep. I swear everyone’s becoming a troll these days. “Are you the genius that came up with this?” Kudos to Mr. Gandy for keeping it civil. The old man does have some valid concerns in regard to cost in this current economy. However clearly this is a man that sees cycling as recreation. His only grasp of the activity is enjoyment or youthful fun (note his points centered on his grandchildren), so why on Earth would someone ride a bike on that street is so foreign to him. He cannot grasp the notion that cyclists are using this street to get to work, get to businesses, etc. He thinks it’s a recreational trail getting tossed onto a street. I don’t know how you educate folks with that mindset.

  16. Alexis June 26, 2009 12:50 pm 

    It’s beautiful! So it’s like a bike boulevard?
    (In Portland we have some streets designated as bike-boulevards, which are low-traffic and not good for cars to use because there’s higher capacity streets where they can go faster next door. The nice thing about bike boulevards is that you can choose to use them (unlike a bike lane, which here you legally have to use when they’re available on that street). It’s nice because on bike boulevards cars aren’t trying to rush past you all the time and it’s much less stressful. Our signage is sub-par (a little bicycle symbol about the size of a salad plate on the road) but they’re working on getting bike, car-lane wide painted bicycles on new roads. It’s frustrating that sometimes motorists expect you to use the sidewalk and get out of their way… especially when downtown (where most people bike) it’s illegal to bike on the sidewalk. /Sigh

  17. Cycle_ed June 26, 2009 2:49 pm 

    I think there needs to be a little clarification for the out-o-towners on this area:
    1) Belmont Shores is a very liberal city in Long Beach area and is very close to the beach and is very, VERY congested with beach traffic almost all the time. which means they spend much of their time and money controlling and/or catering to the beach traffic.
    2) This section is heavily used by not only bike commuters, but beach goers, rec cyclists and towners that live within a few blocks of all the shops on this stretch of road.
    3) on Weekends cyclist traffic kicks up because this a clean way for roadies to get in longer miles without getting run over on PCH. Also due to beach parking congestion this will help beach goers park farther away get to and from the beach much safer.

    I think that this type of statement is very bold but will be well supported by this community because it will deter excess motor vehicle traffic and promote more multi-vehicle uses. Many of the residents in this community would not even slightly consider themselves “cyclists” but a large majority of this community “rides” bikes because it is faster to go get coffee and what not… hence the old curmudgeon was walking not driving.

    The paint is not expensive compared to the revenue lost from potential visitors that won’t go there due unfriendly driving and/or biking conditions. this is a major shopping area and BGS will add to the ambiance of this hip area.

    Oh and to you guys that are worried about how slippery it will be when it rains… We only got 8 inches of rain this year (down from average of 12″) it won’t be a problem :)

    Oh and on a lighter note; I know why that old fart was such a curmudgeon… he is just pissed because all the “Gays” have taken over Belmont Shores! I here that crap all the time from old farts like him and he is right, many of my friends that live there are Gay (actually all my friends that live there are) but can you blame them… it’s a nice, safe, convenient area to live that is right on the beach and has awesome old craftsmen homes everywhere. That is about the only place in LA county I would live if I had to…

  18. Guy June 28, 2009 10:25 am 

    I like it. Would make sense here in San Francisco where there are people complaining that bike lanes take up the real estate for cars. If we share the roads, then there isn’t a problem. Personally, I like to keep to the side streets when possible. The roads on the side tend to be in better repair and drivers can’t or shouldn’t be going too fast. Just gotta watch for the guy pulling out of the driveway.

  19. Green Zones promote urban biking : Green Resouces June 29, 2009 8:18 am 

    […] are clearly visible to motorists, since they are in front of them. On getting the go signal, the green stripe reminds both the cyclists and the motorists to be more […]

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