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Lizzeth Henao’s Blog

My Bike to Work Day: 4 cities, 22 miles, 1000+ calories

Lizzeth Henao

Posted May 17, 2013 in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment, Living Sustainably

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This week I’ve been doing something that many consider foolish at best, dangerous at worst. I’ve been biking to work in LA’s notorious rush hour traffic. The 11-mile commute from Los Angeles to Santa Monica cuts through four cities (Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and Santa Monica) and takes me approximately 1.25 hours to complete. I do it again on the way home and before I know it, I’ve biked 22 daily miles and burnt approximately 1000 calories. 

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I consider myself a casual rider. I mainly bike on the weekends to run local errands or visit my family in Burbank (using public transportation and the charming Chandler Bikeway). In fact, my bike was stored in their garage since last September when I underestimated the chance of showers and was given a ride home.

When I found out May was National Bike Month, it was all the incentive I needed to get back to one of my favorite activities. This week I participated in Bike to Work week and yesterday morning, I stopped by the West Hollywood Bike Hub to partake in the Bike to Work Day festivities. The awesome folks from the Bicycle Kitchen took a look at my bike (all good!) and I filled out a survey aimed at improving bikeability in WeHo. Then I was back on the Santa Monica Blvd. bike lane heading west.

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I’m very lucky to live and work off Santa Monica Boulevard, one of the region’s main east-west corridors. Santa Monica Blvd. has on-street marked bike lanes in parts of West Hollywood and West LA. The bike lanes are awesome but they are not continuous and end abruptly. Apart from extending the bike lanes throughout the four cities, I have some location-specific improvements that could make my commute safer: 

  1. Downtown Santa Monica is hellish, mainly because of on-street parking and lanes that are too narrow. Not to mention delivery trucks that take up multiple lanes. Parking and loading restrictions, especially during rush hour, would help tremendously.
  2. Going east, the intersection at Santa Monica and Avenue of the Stars is insane. The bike lane abruptly ends and you find yourself on the right side of a five-lane street, having to navigate at least two lanes of traffic to make it to the lane that continues east on Santa Monica Blvd. Some drivers are nice, some are not. My solution has been to wait until the light behind me turns red and then proceed to the left lane. An easy solution would be to restripe the bike land so that it stays to the left of the split.
  3. I’d appreciate Beverly Hills trimming the overgrown vegetation on the south side of Santa Monica Blvd., from Wilshire to San Vicente. It would be much easier to stay on the far right of cars if I had the proper room.
  4. The bike lane after San Vicente is often cluttered with buses trying to make a right turn onto a bus depot. There are also bus drivers who fail to use their right turn blinker. Both are dangerous and a reconfiguration of the bus depot, with an entrance on San Vicente, would solve these problems.

Overall, I have enjoyed biking to and from work. Besides the exercise, I get home faster in the evenings than I did taking the bus or carpooling. I am able to bike from work (near the beach) past the 405 in 30 minutes or less. That’s unimaginable to most Westside commuters. Hopefully more bike improvements encourages them to ditch their cars and realize that they can get home faster on a bike too. Maybe in time for 2014’s National Bike Month, Bike to Work Week, and Bike to Work Day!

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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