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LA tests wavy bike barrier to protect cyclists from passing cars

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Research suggests a solid white line isn’t enough to shield riders

A cyclist in a lane protected by a delineator
The lane delineator was installed for the CicLAvia event Sunday.
Photo courtesy LADOT

Bicyclists traveling along a three-block stretch of Venice Boulevard Sunday enjoyed a little extra protection from passing cars.

Just in time for a Mid-City CicLAvia open streets event, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation installed an undulating thermoplastic barrier dubbed “The Wave” in order to separate the street’s painted bike lane from vehicle traffic.

According to the department, it’s a temporary lane barrier designed and constructed by Saris Infrastructure and interns at architecture firm Gensler. The “pop-up bikeway delineator” is aimed at providing a “more attractive and easily portable alternative” to the orange cones or plastic barricades that the transportation department might otherwise install to shield cyclists.

The department is also assessing the delineator’s effectiveness in order to determine whether barriers like this could be installed permanently along Los Angeles bike lanes.

Right now, most lanes for cyclists in LA are delineated only by a stripe of white paint. While paint does establish a clear boundary between traffic lanes and bike lanes, a recent study conducted by researchers in Australia suggests it’s not sufficient to fully protect riders. In fact, the study indicates that drivers tend to pass closer to bicyclists when there’s a white stripe and no barriers than when there’s no bike lane at all.

Bike advocates have long argued that protecting more lanes would decrease injuries to cyclists and make casual riders feel more comfortable biking on busy streets—like Venice Boulevard.

Department of Transportation spokesperson Nora Frost tells Curbed that, for now, “The Wave” will primarily serve to demonstrate “added vertical elements” to protect cyclists in neighborhoods where it’s temporarily installed. Depending on the situation, the department might later install pylons or “more permanent” barriers, like planters or concrete curbing.

The department is now soliciting feedback from residents on places where bike barriers or other bike infrastructure might be needed. Email bike.program@lacity.org to provide feedback.

Correction: An earlier version of this story described the barriers as metal, in fact, the barriers are made from ABS thermoplastic, a flexible material which is designed to collapse flat for transportation and storage.