Can L.A. Become a Cycling City?

As bikeway mileage grows, Angelenos are getting a bike share

As New York prepares to launch the nation’s biggest bike share next month, TreeHugger takes a look today at another city seemingly at the polar opposite of the urban cycling revolution—and finds some reasons for hope there.

Los Angeles isn’t likely on anyone’s list of best bike cities. Not to say this sprawling land of freeways, endless traffic jams and patchy public transportation couldn’t use a solid bike culture, but right now nobody would argue it has much of one.

With 431 miles of bikeways—including bike lanes, dedicated paths, and “sharrows” that signify shared roads—for its 469 square miles of land area, car-packed Los Angeles is simply not a safe place to get around by bicycle.

That may change. As the story’s author, A.K. Streeter, points out, the city is just entering its third year of an ambitious four-decade program to build 1,684 miles of bikeways at a pace of 200 miles every five years. The city has installed 123 miles so far.

Not a bad beginning, but we’re as close to 1975 as were are to the completion of this project, and a lot can happen in the next 38 years to derail it. Regardless, the network looks impressive on paper (check the “2010 Bike Plan Bikeways” box), stretching nearly uninterrupted from San Pedro to the Valley.

Streeter finds another source of optimism in L.A.’s soon-to-launch bike share, run by Bike Nation. Currently in a pilot phase in Anaheim, the system is slated to have 4,000 bikes at 400 stations in L.A. proper. (She incorrectly says it is to be larger than NYC’s bike share, which will have 600 stations and 10,000 bikes.)

Given the obstacles to riding in this patchwork city of 3.8 million, it remains to be seen how much use those 4,000 bikes will see in the short term.

Still, it’s a start.

Via TreeHugger.