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05/25/2011: "Natural Progress"
While Los Angeles, where I live, is far from being a bicycle city yet--very far--I do regularly see signs of progress. What I call "natural progress," ridership increases on streets that are not, or are not yet, showcase streets with obvious, perhaps brilliant bicycle-oriented infrastructure. Relatively ordinary streets.

My beloved Fourth Street, for example; though plans are in the works, as regular readers here will know, to transform it into a bicycle boulevard, and it recently received sharrows, it is really a rather neglected "bike route" still, with horribly broken pavements and two wide streets to cross without the benefits of traffic lights. Yet yesterday, as I rode it around the tail end of rush hour, I saw many fellow cyclists of all sorts, riding every sort of bike from the shiny to the pathetic, all apparently on their way somewhere.... (For while Fourth is a pretty street, it is not a recreational route. It does, however, tie several parts of town together nicely, from the densely-packed apartment streets on the east to job-rich Miracle Mile on the west.)

And the day before I was on Seventh, on my way to a meeting at the sewing factory, and once I got near downtown it seemed that nearly every one of the numerous sidewalk bike racks was in use.

And Sunday, the day before that, when I stopped for coffee on the far west side, on Abbot Kinney in the formerly boho realm of Venice Beach, the lanes were full of bikes, and the array of racks in front of Intelligentsia Coffee were nearly full. (They could use a bike corral there!)

Nothing spectacular--just more folks riding bikes to get somewhere. But the ordinariness of it is perhaps what is truly spectacular. And that aside from bike racks and some paint strips on a few roads, little has been done here to nurture this growth in riding. It is self-directed growth--people choosing to bicycle in spite of civic neglect.

Imagine how much more we could have with a little encouragement!

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