Do you not find this stressful?: A Vancouverite’s experience cycling in Los Angeles

/, Infrastructure/Do you not find this stressful?: A Vancouverite’s experience cycling in Los Angeles

By Stephen Corwin in medium.com:

When I suggested (to my Vancouver girlfriend) that we take our bikes to Koreatown, I fully expected a bit of friction. But I also expected that once I got her out there, she’d be pleasantly surprised by what a difference our little wins here and there have made, and would soon relax and enjoy the night-time ride.
That was a delusion.
Our ride was exasperating. I reserve the use of my bell for avoiding potentially dangerous situations, and even still, I was ringing it the entire ride. We had a near-miss with a driver pulling out of a curbside parking space before checking for cyclists, and shortly after we were aggressively honked at by a young woman in a sedan who was simultaneously sharing an apparently hilarious story with her passenger. …
Cycling infrastructure isn’t about people like me. I’m a diehard. I get a kick out of cycling in the road with the cars. I get a sick pleasure out of blazing past gridlocked Audis and Mercedes on the streets of downtown. I love keeping up with the commuters along the length of Wilshire Blvd, giving them a passenger-side nod as we reunite at every single red light. I’m going to be on my bike whether or not there’s a dedicated lane there for me.


But for Kristi, and for the vast majority of everyone else in this city, that’s not the case. She’s not the kind of person that would “identify” herself as a “cyclist”. She’s just someone who went from relying on a bicycle for transportation in a city where cycling is such an inherent and obvious part of daily life that it hardly counts as a decision, to being forced off her bike and into a car by one where cycling is such a laughable option that choosing to ride three blocks on two wheels makes your friends question your mental health.

Those are the people we’re building bike infrastructure for. And as far as I’m concerned, until they’re making the decision to get out on the streets of their own accord, we’ve failed.

Full article here.


  1. You see this is what some people opposed to cycling infrastructure don’t understand. Installing, for example, a protected bike lane isn’t for the lycra-clad racing types with the aerodynamic helmets nor for the crazy couriers on their fixies. It’s for everyone else who isn’t currently cycling. People who currently only cycle in certain situations where it doesn’t feel scary.
    That’s who this is all for. The people who are brave or willing to cycle in heavy fast motor traffic aren’t interested in cycling infrastructure and may not have even noticed it being installed. No, the newer infrastructure is for all the people who say “I’m not a cyclist, I’m just biking to the store right now to get something. But I’m not a cyclist.”

  2. I just got back from a week in LA. The hotel we were staying at in Koreatown had several great Linus bikes for guest use. However, we didn’t take advantage of them because of the ‘car first infrastructure’ in the neighbourhood. Even the side roads running beside Wilshire were very hostile to cyclist. Thankfully, we found the transit system to be surprisingly good, but it was a shame not to be able to bike in a city, with only slight changes to the roads, could be a cyclist’s paradise.

  3. I thought it was a great article, but I couldn’t help giggling at this line:
    “Coming from a place like Vancouver, where bike lanes are clearly marked and are available on almost every road, that’s not surprising.”
    Which might be *slightly* overstating the bike infrastructure here considering considering how hard it seems sometimes to get even small improvements in infra here.

    1. Yeah, that line was pretty crazy. I think some people interchange the words “route”, “lane”, and “path” without even knowing the distinction. Then they go and point to a route and call it a lane.

  4. I’ve just come back from a cycle trip down the west coast, including a necessary two day, 130 km north-south traverse of LA.
    I was actually pleasantly surprised at the relative ease of getting through that enormous city. From Santa Monica to Redondo Beach the dedicated bike lanes along the beaches were a pleasure to use, and south of Redondo the painted lanes on the Pacific Coast Highway were adequate and the traffic surprisingly light (admittedly day 2 was a Sunday). I don’t know what it’s like to cycle in Los Angeles, but getting through it was much easier than expected.
    One thing that could be criticized in the Lower Mainland’s cycling network is the difficulty in getting out of the metropolitan area via efficient and clearly marked routes, particularly when heading south. More coordination between the different municipalities would be a good start…ideally there might even be provincially designated long distance routes one day. It’s not unusual to come across frustrated cycle tourists trying to figure out how to get to the US border, and wondering why such signage is completely lacking.

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