Friday, September 01, 2006

Dude, Where’s My Lane?

LOS ANGELES, CA. - Early morning cyclists traveling south on La Brea Avenue were shocked to discover that the bicycle lane beginning at Redondo Boulevard had disappeared overnight.

Officials were as mystified as the public and initially suggested that the missing bicycle lane was simply a prank and attributed it to local “hooligans and scalliwags.”

Upon closer examination of the crime scene it was determined that this was no prank but was the work of professional thieves.

Investigators pointed to the thoroughness and precision of the lane removal and the fact that absolutely no trace of the bicycle lane was left behind, save for the “Bike Lane” signs posted along the route.

At first pass it appears that this is the work of the same gang that has struck in other locations throughout Los Angeles, most recently on Fountain Avenue between Lodi Place and Vine Street. There is a chance that this incident is the result of “copycat” opportunists, but either way officials are sure that it has to do with the resale value of the bicycle lanes on the “Black Market.”

Apparently, the shortage of bicycle lanes in Los Angeles has resulted in a high salvage or resale price for used bicycle lanes. The lanes are taken to chop shops, dismantled and then resold.

When asked why the thieves consistently remove all traces of the bicycle lane from the street but leave the “Bike Lane” signs in place, officials responded that the signs are so widely ignored by motorists that they have no market value.

LAPD Senior Lead Officer Sonia Rimkunas of the Northeast Division (213-793-0760 cell) has been active in bicycle issues but had no comment on the missing bicycle lanes instead asking “Does anyone know anything about the large number of cyclists in the Echo Park area? I think they ride on Tuesday nights. Does anyone know who’s in charge?”

Phone calls to the LA Department of Transportation Bikeways department (213-972-4962) yielded a recorded message inviting the public to visit their website.

The City of Los Angeles 311 City Services directory was quite helpful in connecting concerned cyclists with different city departments but none of the calls yielded any useful information.

The Department of Transportation Parking Enforcement (213-485-4184) was asked if their officers had seen any unusual activity on the road during the night but their reply was “We only look for things with VIN numbers that can be cited and hopefully towed.”

Further calls to the DOT (213-485-4184 option 2) yielded extremely helpful operators that were happy to take reports on traffic signal sensors that fail to detect the presence of bicycles but were hard-pressed to explain what to do when a bicycle lane disappears.

The Department of Street Use (800-996-2489) was most interested in the incident until they realized that the crime took place during the night. A very helpful operator explained “We work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and this took place during the night so we wouldn’t be able to help you but if you know of any roadway obstructions occurring during the day, give us a call!”

Department of Street Services Senior Investigator Marcia Jackson (213-485-3711) referred calls to the DOT Bikeways department reporting “They have a website. I don’t know the address but it’s on the internet.” Ms Jackson explained that Street Services would only be interested in the situation if the bicycle lane was blocking the sidewalk. Once reassured that the bicycle lane was not on the sidewalk, she lost interest.

Calls to the Metro yielded a workaround solution that consisted of simply getting off the road and riding the bus. When it was pointed out that the bus bike racks only hold two bikes, the customer service operator suggested that concerned cyclists call Metro Customer Service and advocate for the new three-bike racks.
(800-266-6883 option 1, option 1, option 1 and wait…)

Investigators apologized for the lack of progress in the investigation and advised the cycling community to use caution when riding in bicycle lanes. “We can’t guarantee the safety and efficacy of the Bootleg bicycle lanes and they all look alike so use caution when riding!”

The Lead Investigator paused and went on to remind the gathered cyclists that the California Vehicle Code, section 21202, guarantees them the right to use the road and he then suggested that the cyclists just “take the lane!”

This caught the attention of the LAPD officers in attendance and resulted a sharp rebuke from Lt. Barbara of Rampart Division who was last heard yelling “That’s impeding traffic! You’re just impeding traffic!”

At this point, the Lead Investigator rolled his eyes, tipped his cap and was last seen gripping the bullhorn bars of a bright green 44/12 fixie as he pedaled off into the traffic.

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