Greening Bike Lanes in Los Angeles

You've seen bike lanes, and you might call them a "green" street feature in that they provide an alternative to car travel.  But have you ever seen a bike lane that was actually the color green?

Angelenos hadn't -- that is, until last November, when the City of Los Angeles's Department of Transportation (DOT) installed 3.1 miles of green bike lanes in an effort to provide a safer, designated traveling lane for cyclists on our traditionally car-heavy roads.

These two stretches of bright lime-green lanes—1.5 miles on Spring Street in downtown L.A. and 1.6 miles on First Street in Boyle Heights—will serve as a litmus test to help the City decide whether to adopt a city-wide green bike lane strategy. City officials will ponder questions like: do the bike lanes spur an increase in ridership? A decrease in cyclist fatalities? A decrease in car traffic and subsequent air pollution? An increase in economic activity on streets with green bike lanes?

I interviewed the City's Tim Fremaux about the new green bike lanes in this short video.  Check it out:


Of course, as with any pilot program, unexpected hurdles have come up. First, rain washed away one bike lane’s green paint job before it had fully dried, as the surface quality of the roads may have played a role in preventing the paint from adhering properly.  DOT engineers are testing a barrage of materials and preparing city roads’ concrete surfaces to better absorb the paint.  The other lane’s green thermoplastic has proved more resilient thus far.

Also, as I mentioned in the video, the film industry has complained that the bike lane’s neon green hue might deter filmmakers from shooting movies on certain L.A. streets. Cycling advocates have proposed compromises, such as offering permits for filmmakers to cover the lanes during or after production.

I believe these green bike lanes will make cycling a safer option for Angelenos commuting to work or school. The positive effects of getting more people onto their bikes and out of their cars will reverberate throughout Los Angeles -- from decreased particulate matter in the air to increased economic activity and participation in our communities.  As I mentioned in the video, cities like San Francisco, Portland, Oregon and New York City already boast their own city-wide networks of green bike lanes, so there's no reason why we can't do this in L.A.  I hope the DOT can work the kinks out of this pilot program so it can expand in the future. 

Special thanks to Lauren Packard and Dylan Gasperik, who produced and edited the video and contributed to this post.