A three-day count of the number of cyclists and pedestrians traveling across 50 intersections in Los Angeles found that one area in Marina del Rey saw more than three times as many bicycles as any other location in the city.
In the Los Angeles Bicycle and Pedestrian Count released March 16th by the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Washington Boulevard and Admiralty Way in Marina del Rey reported 1,683 bicyclists over two weekdays and one weekend day in September. The intersection outpaced its nearest competitor by more than three to one, as the second most traversed location by two wheels was Santa Monica and Westwood boulevards at 429.
The most traveled intersection by pedestrians was Westwood and Le Conte Avenue near UCLA with 6,792.
The heavy bike usage of the Marina intersection came as little surprise to avid cyclists who are familiar with the area and spoke of its connection to the beach bike path and other popular routes, including the Ballona Creek Bicycle Path.
“It’s probably the only place in the city where you have an intersection that connects to the beach bike path,” said Del Rey resident and regular cyclist Howard Hackett, adding that the intersection often has high usage particularly on weekends.
Westchester resident Kent Strumpell, a member of the bicycle coalition, noted that Washington and Admiralty is in a very desirable part of the city with access to the beach bikeway, which is the most heavily traveled path in the city.
“A lot of people use the beach bike path where it goes on to the road. There’s a lot of people grooving on the beach who want to continue on to the Marina and vice versa,” Strumpell said.
What the count ultimately showed is that while cars still dominate as the mode of transportation in the city, thousands of people are choosing to travel by bicycle and on foot. The count, conducted by over 100 volunteers during weekday rush hour and on a Saturday, tracked a total 14,222 cyclists and 62,275 pedestrians.
The report provides the first formal assessment of the number of bikers and pedestrians using public city streets on a typical day for commuting and recreational purposes, according to the coalition.
“Even with the limited amount of locations counted there are a lot of cyclists and pedestrians in Los Angeles,” said Dorothy Le, planning and policy director for the bicycle coalition. “The cities and county need to plan for and provide adequate infrastructure, enforcement and education programs to support bicyclists.”
Coalition members said the count was organized to help raise public awareness about the needs of whom they consider an overlooked population, and it was intended to create a “baseline” for examining programs in place for cycling and walking.
“We wanted to provide a baseline and look at how these numbers are going to change as we improve the streets,” Le said. “In order to properly improve where we’re at we need to understand where we’re at.”
In addition to tallying the number of riders and pedestrians, the count recorded statistics regarding gender, helmet use, sidewalk riding and riding on the wrong side of the street.
Among the bike riders in Los Angeles there appears to be a gender inequity, with women representing only 15 percent of the overall population, the report found. This shows that safety needs to be improved on streets to encourage more riding by women and children, according to the coalition.
Helmet use was determined to be highest during the weekday morning period, when 49 percent of riders wore protection. In areas where bike lanes exist, 17 percent of cyclists were seen riding on sidewalks compared to 52 percent where there were no lanes, while only four percent of riders were observed traveling on the wrong side of the street.
“This gives us an idea of how cyclists are behaving and how we can improve on those behaviors,” Le said.
Cyclists who have advocated for increased programs and improved infrastructure for their method of transportation praised the count for drawing attention to its popularity in the city and need for better accommodations.
“It’s a way to force the city to come to grips that we have bikes out there and we need to do something about it,” Hackett said. “It’s important because we really are out there and there’s very little action being taken by anybody. Maybe this will get somebody’s attention.”
Strumpell agreed that the count shows that cyclists’ concerns should be addressed when planning for street projects.
“This is absolutely important for the city to recognize that bikers and pedestrians need to be integrated into our streets better,” he said. “I think this will be very valuable going forward because as we make certain improvements we will be able to gauge their effectiveness.”
As the county works on updating its bicycle master plan, city planners have said the bike count can serve as a tool in deciding where to focus engineering and enforcement efforts for cycling, as well as to justify the use of resources for various improvements. Bicycle coalition members say they plan to partner with the city for counts on an annual or bi-annual basis and hope other cities will be inspired to take on similar efforts.