Los Angeles is home to a robust community of avid cyclists. Few, however, take the bold step of cycling to work – and for understandable reasons. On top of LA’s notorious traffic, cyclists face numerous challenges. Bike lanes are in short supply, making it difficult to work out a feasible route. Drivers often aren’t paying attention. They may even resort to road rage when forced to share the busy road with cyclists.
What’s more, California has long ranked at the top of the list in terms of annual cycling deaths. LA in particular is an epicenter of car-bicycle collisions. Eight of the ten deadliest intersections in California are located here. Not surprisingly, only 1.2 percent of LA residents decide to bike to work, according to the League of American Bicyclists.
Despite these hurdles, there are plenty of reasons to take the leap into bicycle commuting. It’s healthy, free and environmentally friendly. Depending on your situation, it may even save you some time.
Whether you decide to bike the entire way to work, or just a mile or two to the nearest public transit stop, it is possible to do so without jeopardizing life and limb. Follow these tips to stay safe on the roads.
Practice safe riding habits
When you’re commuting through the urban jungle, you need to be at the top of your game every moment. This means:
- Being watchful of traffic at all times
- Anticipating potential hazards such as pedestrians, turning vehicles and debris in the roadway
- Never assuming other drivers can see you
- Always signaling your intentions
- Staying out of the “door zone” of parked cars
- Riding at reasonable speeds
- Making yourself seen with proper gear, lights and reflective decals
- Keeping your bike in good working order
Plan your route carefully
Your choice of route can go a long way toward mitigating dangers. Whenever possible, follow established bike routes with well-metered intersections. Stick to bicycle lanes as much as you can. Avoid intersections with a history of accidents. Opt for less busy streets, even if it tacks a few extra minutes onto your commute.
Take advantage of the city’s expanding bicycle culture and infrastructure
Although avid cyclists still remain a minority in LA, bicycle-friendly culture has seen encouraging growth in recent years. The LA City Council has developed a long-term plan for improving bicycle infrastructure. LADOT’s Bike Program now boasts more biking lanes and bikeways, bicycle corrals, bicycle-friendly business districts and even cycling repair stations. Last summer, Metro Bike Share launched downtown with convenient bike rental stations. And one nonprofit, recognizing there’s safety in numbers, organizes free group cycling commutes or “bike trains” led by experienced “conductors.” Getting involved in this burgeoning cycling community is a great way to make connections, share tips and enhance your skills.