Bike Traffic Lights Installed in Downtown Los Angeles

The new lights are part of the mayor's plan to end traffic fatalities by 2025

The ribbon was cut Thursday to celebrate the installation of four new bicycle traffic lights in downtown Los Angeles, part of a city bike safety initiative.

The bike traffic lights are spread out from South Alameda Street to East 1st Street, and will work similarly to regular traffic lights. They are designed to keep bikes from weaving across traffic and cars from turning into bikes, said Jose Huizar, the city councilman behind the legislation.

Link: More LA Bike Projects

"In the past, we always saw transit as how do we get people from point A to point B as quick as possible," said Huizar, "but now it's about creating safe destinations and experiences."

The City Council, Department of Transportation, and the Public Works Commission also noted some other cycling infrastructure improvements since April. Improvements included resurfaced current bike lanes across the city and added physical buffers against cars in certain areas. These projects all together cost $750,000.

These changes fall under the Vision Zero plan, a plan spearheaded by Mayor Eric Garcetti to eliminate all traffic fatalities by 2025.

"We need to start prioritizing pedestrians, bikes, and public transport just as much as cars," said Rick Coca, spokesperson for Huizar.

These policy changes come at a time when people, especially young adults, are moving away from cars and toward other forms of transportation, said attorney Josh Cohen. Cohen specializes in bike law, and deals mostly with personal injury.

Cohen said though these changes are progressive for LA, they are something that "many cities take for granted."

Just like any traffic light, all cyclists need to follow it to make intersections safe. When asked if he thought bikes would follow the light's instructions instead of simply riding off, Coca said that was besides the point.

"Whether you are in a car or bike you need to obey our traffic laws. No one get a pass when they are in a particular mode of transportation," he said.

Coca did admit that there would be a period of learning as all parties got adjusted to the new system, though he said eventually bike traffic lights would become "the new normal."

LA Department of Transportation spokesman Bruce Gillman said drivers would also not have to worry about potential added traffic with an extra traffic light. He said it helps to visualize the signal times for a traffic light as a pie.

"What we did was, we didn't cut down the pie at all, just carved a little out of what was already there, for this new light," he said.

Though attorney Cohen thinks the bicycle traffic lights are a good idea, "maybe even more effective than car traffic lights," he isn't too worried about business yet.

"Not enough has happened to decrease [number of cases]. There are still going to be accidents. I get cases from all over, and I don't think just four traffic lights downtown are going to make a huge impact," Cohen said.

For now, these four traffic lights are just the beginning of a wave of legislation to protect current riders and encourage new rides to try biking without feeling unsafe.

"We need to be innovative and creative in our approach to meet the multimodal transportation needs of the future," said Coca, "and this is the direction we are taking."

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