Dave Reid
Car Culture

LA Now a Bicycle Town?

Open street events have helped to make bicycling more mainstream in L.A. When will Milwaukee join a world-wide trend?

By - Jun 15th, 2012 01:06 pm
Car Culture

Car Culture

“For years, bicyclists in Los Angeles were just another renegade subculture in a city that is teeming with all manner of subcultures,” Adam Nagourney writes in the NY Times. “These days, they have become downright mainstream.”

Mainstream might be a bit of a stretch, but let’s remember, L.A. is the city that epitomizes auto-sprawl, the place where people drive just to be seen.  When Lindsay Lohan hits somebody with her Porsche or crashes on the way to the set you know you’re in L.A.  It’s where Access Hollywood makes its living featuring stars getting out of their Jag, Mercedes, or BMW to a blitz of paparazzi.  L.A. is  Car Culture’s Ground Zero.

But the city is also where “Carmageddon,” as the temporary closure of the 405 freeway was billed, turned into a non-event. It was supposed to bring L.A. to a screeching halt but didn’t, which may be a sign of how the city is changing. The Times story notes that close to 40 miles of bike paths and lanes were created in the last 18 months, and a city plan passed in March 2011 pledges to build 1,350 miles of bicycle-friendly streets, dedicated lanes and pathways.

No, L.A. hasn’t quite become Copenhagen yet. There, 33 percent of the population commute by bicycle, 33 percent via transit, and 33 percent drive their car.

But clearly America’s capital of car culture is changing. And if L.A. can change, why not Milwaukee?  Milwaukee actually has a long history with bicycling. In 1891 this city launched bicycle messenger service to the world.  Today, Milwaukee is building (painting) 76 more miles of bike infrastructure, recently put bike racks on buses, was one of the first Midwestern cities to install on-street bike corrals, and has seen a dramatic rise in bicycle ridership.

But it requires more than shiny new infrastructure to free us from the trap of car-dependency.  While L.A. just held its 4th Ciclovia style event Milwaukee continues to view streets as automobile accessories, not public places.  A Ciclovia is an event that closes down streets, often over the weekend, to allow people to walk, bike, roller blade, or simply enjoy their city from the middle of the road.  Known as Summer Streets in New York, Open Streets in Minneapolis, and CicLAvia in L.A. (where 100,000 people on bicycles), these open street events originally  started in Brazil and since have spread worldwide. It’s time for Milwaukee to join the crowd.

It’s the start of Summer therefore we drive

Fox 6 Now reported that over 600,000 Wisconsinites would travel, most by car, over the Memorial Day weekend.  It is as if every single person from Milwaukee woke up, loaded up the Explorer, and hit the road at once.  In addition to believing that we must barbeque over Memorial Day, apparently we’ve been conditioned to believe we have to get in the car and drive.  Hopefully we all took at least a second to remember a fallen friend, brother, parent, or unknown soldier.

Car condos

Boyd Huppert, reporting for Kare11.com out of Minneapolis – St. Paul, tells the fascinating story (in the video below) of a new car-oriented development, Motorplex Minneapolis. Yes, it is the logical end point of an illogical culture: condos for cars.

We have for a long time built homes backwards, placing the auto door in a location with more prominence than the door for humans, but now someone is actually building homes for cars, not people.  The developer, Bruno Silikowsky, says “it’s designed to look like an old European village,” but that couldn’t be the any further from the truth. While the garages are built to human scale on narrow streets, instead having of an entry way for people, a utilitarian garage door is only way to get in and out.  It’s as if the developer has forgotten that the sentient being isn’t the one with four wheels.

(If the video doesn’t play in your browser you can view it here)

Dangerous Roads

Not just dangerous roads, but dangerous sofas, rivers,  and checkout counters.  While horses are being mauled, dogs are causing mayhem. Yikes. Just another day in dangerous roads.

Loosen Your Belt to Cure Obesity

More roads won’t cure congestion. But more are planned:

Featured Tweet

If I stop my car so you can walk across the street, I better see some hustle out of you! Knees to chest dammit KNEES TO CHEST!

— JerseyGirl (@Boggie_love) May 21, 2012


Categories: Car Culture

2 thoughts on “Car Culture: LA Now a Bicycle Town?”

  1. Tyrell Track Master says:

    Yep, LA has made incredible progress. It’s still a dump though 🙂 Seriously, Santa Monica has done wonders. Not so sure about the rest of LA.

  2. Sam says:

    The quality of LA’s new bike infrastructure is 1000x what we’ve got here, and it’s combined with a rapidly expanding metro system. I’d be willing to be the difference is that they spend a lot more money on it than we do, too. If we want people to bike in Milwaukee like they do in Portland or Minneapolis or New York then we need to actually put the money and effort into making sure we build good facilities for it..

    PS. LA’s city bike blog is pretty cool for complete streets nerds: http://ladotbikeblog.wordpress.com/

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