urban transportation and the use of bicycles in los angeles city l.
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urban transportation and the use of bicycles in los angeles city



los angeles urban form and travel behavior
Los Angeles Urban form and Travel behavior

The history of the urban form of Los Angeles is tied to its transportation patterns, which was developed during the most important transportation revolutions:

1.- The first major transportation revolution was the Electric Streetcar Era (1890-1920)

  • Which altered the urban form of Los Angeles by establishing interurban railway routes that spread out through the whole metropolis. The burgeoning expansion of railway and streetcar routes gave the impetus for development along these fixed routes.
  • Transportation access changed the travel behavior for Angelinos during the streetcar era because people were able to expand outward from the city center to the periphery.
  • The reasons why the streetcar did not survive are numerous but the point is that Angelinos prefer private transportation over public.
2.- The second major transportation revolution was during the Freeway Era (1945-present).
  • During this era Los Angeles’ urban form would forever change travel behavior to accommodate the proliferation of automobiles.
  • The introduction of freeways further facilitated sprawl and made Angelinos auto-dependents.
  • Given the fact that automobiles were becoming inexpensive and more efficient, more people began buying automobiles because they were more reliable than mass transit.
  • Population growth along with higher incomes caused an induce demand for roads and more parking.
environment and transportation in united states los angeles
Environment and transportation in United States: Los Angeles
  • The automobiles had dominated since they replaced horses and bicycles in 1910, becoming in the most popular way to go anywhere since 1945.
  • Unfortunately that automobile popularity has brought a series of problems related with environment not just in those areas where the most the auto is used but also in the entire world.
  • The exploitation of natural resources such as the excessive use of fuel and land has been a typical activity of automobiles use in big cities such as Los Angeles.
  • Environmental issues related with transportation are so many, some of them are:
  • Fuel use like gasoline and diesel;
  • Land fragmentation that occurs because of the big quantity of autos on streets, because of roads construction and so on;
  • Non-point pollution, which is created when rain falls to the earth and the water runs across the pavement, taking with it oil, fuel and many other toxic material, some of them generated by automobiles;
  • And finally excessive noise.

Of all those issues we center our attention in the automobiles fuel use and the consequences that it brings to the earth and to humans.

It is said by authors like Ian G. Simmons “that environmental change has been faster than ever before during the 1950-2000 period” (2006: pg. 15).
  • Relating that date with the moment when automobile appeared, we can also affirm based on literature studied that automobiles are some of the actors that generated and continues generating environment problems.
  • Prove of that is “that automobiles operating in urban areas are responsible for upwards of one-third of locally generated greenhouse gases” (Cohen, 2006: pg. 29).
  • We also have for example that specifically “The United States produces 20 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions” (Kahn, 2006: pg. 114).
energy consumption
Energy consumption…
  • To give us an idea of how people depend of vehicles in United States we have as showed in This table, that just the 8% of households do not have car, 30.2 % have 1 car and 61.9% have 2 or more cars.

Source: Table elaborated in base of table 3 from Giuliano and Dargay, 2006: pg 113

air quality indicators for metropolitan areas in united states
Air Quality indicators for Metropolitan Areas in United States

Automobiles are some of the major generators of carbon monoxide (CO) emissions and by consequences of air pollution. If we make a comparison between Los Angeles city and other metropolitan areas in United States (See table 1.1) we have that the most number of unhealthy days regarding to more number of pollutants in the air, is in Los Angeles.

Source: Table elaborated in base of table 2 from Crane, 2004: pg 7

So the link of transportation with environment is very strong given that this is one of the most important generators of pollution. Los Angeles it is suffering of the effects of transportation in their environment, however that effects affects not just that city but also the entire world.
  • Transportation systems consume large quantity of energy which is obtained from the exploitation of natural resources. Gasoline and diesel are the most common fuel used by transportation systems to allow their function. Bringing forward some figures we have that in United States “gasoline use contributes some 86 percent of total transportation energy use” (Newman and Kenworthy, 1999: pg. 219).
  • The transportation energy use per capita in some global cities –Los Angeles, Sydney, Toronto and Paris- regarding private transportation shows that American cities such as Los Angeles consume four times more fuel than Asian cities like Singapore.

Table 1.2 Transportation Energy Use per Capita in Global cities

Source: Table elaborated in base of table 3.2 from Newman and Kenworthy, 1999: pg 217

Some of the principal air pollutants emitted by transportation systems are: Carbon monoxide –CO-, Nitrogen Dioxide -NO2-, Particulate matter - PM10
  • PM2.5 - , Sulfur Dioxide – SO2- and Ozone –O3-.
  • In general all those pollutants -CO, NO2, PM10, PM2.5, O2, and O3-. emitted by transportation generates different sickness such as headache, dizziness, nausea, heart attack, impaired vision, brain damage, lung infection, children’s bronchitis, ayes and nose irritation, serious impact on human health, stomach cancer, asthma, cardiovascular disease, respiratory illness, sneezing, chest pain, DEATH.
  • According to the Earth Day Network (2006), in Los Angeles city, for example, we have that the 8.51% of children and 7.85% of adults have asthma, and at least the 11.5 of the total population has cardiovascular diseases-this is 417, 862.9 people in the whole city-.
  • Their impacts on natures goes since effects on plant Respiration until generating acidification of soils, lakes, and streams, the damage of forests, the reduction of agricultural crop, pests, environmental stress, etc.
  • Regarding their effects on atmosphere they can cause acid rain, reduce ozone shields, affects vegetation and ecosystem, damages paint, erosion of building materials, forms urban smog, contributes to the oxidation efficiency of the atmosphere, and so on.
los angeles city and its transportation problems cycling as an alternative
Los Angeles city and its transportation problems: Cycling as an alternative?
  • Traffic and congestion are some of the main distinctiveness of Los Angeles city, where prosperity is the justification of those problems.
  • But, how does congestion come forward in Los Angeles? Prosperity exists thanks to an economic, political and social interaction, were people requires the use of transportation to achieve diverse objectives. And many of those objectives use to be the same regarding destiny’s places, using as a consequence the same mode of transportation at the same time, in the same places/roads, generating in that way traffic’s congestion.
  • It is estimated that between the most important cities in United States, “New York and Los Angeles are the most congested” (Taylor, 2002: pp 12).
Another factor that provoke congestion is the unconsciously use of automobiles, it means that people use automobiles as their main mode of transportation no matter the place they are going regarding distances
  • Furthermore, people use to drive their cars alone, putting away the carpool option, which means the use of cars by two or more persons. Carpooling is a good way to have fewer cars on streets, but unfortunately in Los Angeles city, “the 70.4 %t of their population commute individuality to their jobs” (Barbour, 2006: pp 4).
But well, what does Los Angeles city government could do to solve transportation problems? Or what does it actually doing?
  • Focusing our attention in alternatives such as the use of bicycle as a massive mode of transportation, we made an interview with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), and found that they had done research where they discover that cycling is an important and viable mode of transportation to solve congestion and traffic in Los Angeles city. Nevertheless, they face diverse problems to implement it, which one of the most important is education. Cycling is a wonderful way to avoid traffic, congestion, pollution, human diseases, and also to get involved with the city.
  • In addition, the problem related with space, parking, is a headache for people living in metropolitan cities, in this case Los Angeles city. Looking for parking can take until half hour and even worse you could not be able to find it. Parking is besides of difficult to find, expensive. According to an article published at Los Angeles time(2007), two hours in an office building garage in Century City can set you back $28, more than twice what it cost in the early 1990s. Club hopping in Hollywood? It could cost $60 before you even tip the valet. That amounts of money are astonishing.
  • Parking is one of the most often complaints regarding transportation problems; and cycling can helps to achieve good land use because it allows allocating a bigger quantity of bicycles in small lots of land than allocating cars.

3) The bicycle at the present time: NGO´S, Bike programs

  • Bicycles are used throughout the world:
  • for transport (70 percent)
  • recreation (29 percent)
  • and competition (one percent)
  • The bicycles prices are so low compared with cars that almost everybody can afford them.
  • In United States “…the cost of a typical adult bicycle ($300) amount to less than a week’s worth of average pay, while the cost of buying and maintaining a typical automobile consumes over two months of the average income” (Perry, 1995: pp. 236).
  • And doing a field study in the city of Los Angeles, where we are focusing on, we found that bicycle prices had felt because of competitiveness. At the moment, people in Los Angeles can buy a bike that cost less than $200 dollars.
Concerning the bicycle industry at the moment, we made some interviews (February-April 2007) in different bike shops around Los Angeles city, and discovered that this industry –regarding bike sells- has grown up in the last seventh-teen years.
  • The majority of the bike shops we interviewed coincided in that there are Latin-American men who buy more bicycles and that almost all of them use these machines as a mode of transportation to go to work.
  • We also asked to the bike shops managers about why they think that people use bikes; they responded that because of diverse reasons: they believe that people use bicycles because of gas tax increase, because income is increasing, so people can use more bikes for recreation; because gasoline is expensive, and because many people as immigrants are not able to afford a driver license.
Bicycles are a real way in trying to enhance transportation systems in Los Angeles, and also to improve environment, human and city health. Inclusive there are politics implemented by the federal, state and local government that encourage the massive use of bicycles in Los Angeles city. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which is part of the local government, is the unit in charge of transportation modes in Los Angeles city and the county as well. Into the MTA there are many programs and subdivisions, being the Metro Bike Program one of them.
  • The bike program in the MTA was formed in 1992 and that was the first year when they got interested in multi-modal use.
  • They work to develop plans that promote bike use together with train and bus. They encourage people to commute by bike from home to train or bus station and vice versa, to go to their different destinations. They also look for the safety on streets regarding cycling.
Lynne Goldsmith
  • Their most important achievements had been:
  • In 1995 they made the first cycling plan in Los Angeles county.
  • They has gave -and continue giving- money to cities to implement biking and to encourage people to bike more.
  • They have achieved to put lockers in train stations to allow cyclist to put their things there before taking the train.
  • They also have some bike parking lots outside of train stations, being the long beach bike parking lot the biggest one.
ngo s lacbc
  • Additionally, there have emerged Non Governmental Organizations that also look for the improvement of cycling’s conditions.
  • Los Angeles bicycle coalition is the first and the only non-profit governmental organization focused in bicycles in Los Angeles city. It was created in 1998, started with just ten people, and now it has about 1, 000 members.
  • Among their attainments are:
  • They reached that the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority consent to put bike racks in buses to allow people riding a bike be able to take a bus too.
  • They accomplished to remove restrictions regarding allowed times for the use of bikes on trains. At the moment that Los Angeles Bicycle coalition started fighting to diminish those restrictions, people were not able to get into the train with bikes seven hours during the day. At the end, LCBC achieved that those hours diminish until just three hours per day, LACBC has encouraged that most people be interested on cycling
field study
Field Study…
  • They had found that the majority of cyclist are immigrants, lower income people or those who works too late at night; what causes this last one is that there are not enough buses at that time and it is more dangerous to be waiting them at night.
  • They also know that the places where more people ride bikes in Los Angeles are: Around the University of Southern California, USC in downtown; South Central Los Angeles, South Los Angeles; Venice Beach; North Hollywood and Silver Lake.
  • He is optimistic about the use of bicycles as a mode of transportation in Los Angeles city. However there is a lot of work to do to be able of achieving that.
  • Los Angeles is a sprawling and auto-dependent metropolis, which haveserious problems around transportation: traffic, congestion, environment, energy consumption, air quality, human health, cities and atmosphere health are some of the most important issues related to it.
  • It is necessary to look for a more sustainable transportation which encourage the use of other modes of transportation such as non-motorized modes –bicycling and walking- as well as the use of transit, the encourage of carpooling, vanpooling, and so on.
  • Bicycles are an important mode of transportation which should be use as mode of transportation of massive use.
  • Nevertheless, there are problems around the use of bicycles that must be solve, such as problems related with education, roads design, bike lines, bike paths, and so on, which are problems that are being boarded by NGO´S, government and grassroots movements.
  • In addition, Los Angeles is a sprawl city, which make that distances be very big, being difficult the use of just bicycles to go from some places to another ones. For that reason it impossible that the answer to the question: Bicycling as an alternative? Be that bicycles by themselves, I mean as the only mode of transportation, could be the solution. What it would be the best, is the implementation of multi-modal, where people use bicycles as wells as buses or trains at the same time.
  • When people think in the use of bicycles in Los Angeles city just think about the enormous distances that people have to go through to arrive to destiny’s places. Thus they think that using a bicycle is an impossible way to be able to travel around Los Angeles. However, linking the use of bicycles with transit make distances shorter, given that between the place you are living and the place you are going to by bike, there are bus stations or bike trains that you can also take instead of just riding a bike.