Getting Out and About on a Bike: Here Are Tips from Some of WeHo’s Most Passionate Cyclists

West Hollywood is a city dedicated to sustainability and preserving the environment.  The city adopted one of America’s first mandatory green building ordinances to ensure that new buildings will be more energy efficient. In 2012 it instituted a ban on single-use plastic bags.  It also offers free two-hour parking for electric vehicles that are charging in municipal garages. And it has joined a consortium of other area cities to offer cleaner power to electricity users.

Karen O’Keefe (center)

But what about those loud, gas-guzzling cars? They are one of the largest sources of pollutants that can cause allergic reactions, irritations, bronchitis, and even pneumonia and, over time, fatal heart disease.  The answer would be bicycles.

West Hollywood is not a bike-friendly city. But that hasn’t stopped some from trying to take it in that direction, notably the West Hollywood Bicycle Coalition, whose goal is “to make complete and sustainable streets available to all and to promote health and wellness through cycling, thereby making West Hollywood an even more delightful place to live, work, and play.” Some of its members were early contributors to the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Mobility Plan, which was written in 2003 and updated most recently in 2017.

Despite all the challenges, there are residents who ride and enjoy doing it.  Here we are sharing the stories (recently published in our Summer issue of West Hollywood Magazine) of four of them who offer their perspectives on the pluses and minuses of getting out and about on a bicycle. Click on the links at the bottom of this story to read their individual stories.

The challenges are many and mostly described as “infrastructure” issues.  How does one create a safe bike lane in a city of narrow streets lined by parking spaces?  Where can you safely park your bike when you’ve arrived at the coffee shop? 

The city’s mobility plan notes that West Hollywood “currently has three types of on-street bike facilities: bike lanes, signed bike routes, and bike sharrows (which are traffic lanes painted with a bicycle image, alerting car drivers that they might encounter bicyclists and bike riders to keep some distance from parked cars.) However, there are gaps in this network – especially east/west connectors – that need to be addressed in order to provide an effective bicycle network. … Major constraints for cyclists include narrow street widths that bring cyclists close to vehicles, high-traffic corridors with regional pass-through traffic, a steep incline north of Santa Monica Boulevard, and large intersections that can be difficult to cross comfortably.”

The city launched WeHo Pedals, a bike-share program, in August 2016 but concluded last year that it wasn’t a success.  It will end on Aug. 30. The City Council has asked city staffers to look into options for testing a dockless electric bike program.

Alexander Bazley

Kevin Burton

Karen O’Keefe

Victor Omelczenko

Following the Rules

How to you bicycle around West Hollywood safely and legally?  The West Hollywood Bicycle Coalition says it best:

— Always obey the same traffic rules as cars.

— Remember to use lights — white in the front, red in the back — and to wear a helmet, if your head’s important to you. Helmets are required if you’re under eighteen, and optional for adults.

— Don’t wear earphones or earbuds. It’s illegal to cover both of your ears, but covering just one of them is still less safe than having them uncovered.

— In West Hollywood, city code allows bicyclists to ride on the sidewalk if there is no bicycle lane available, and bicycles must ride with traffic, not against.  Also, “bicycle riders shall yield to pedestrians and shall not ride in a wanton or reckless manner as to endanger any person or property”. Please respect pedestrians on sidewalks!

— Take the whole lane if the lane isn’t wide enough for you and a car to safely ride side-by-side. If you can’t both fit next to each other in the lane, with several feet of clearance between you, that means that it’s a “substandard lane width” and you are entitled to use it. Drivers can change lanes to go around you if they want to pass. If more than five cars are bunched up behind you, pull over when it’s safe to do so and let them pass.

— You are also allowed to use the full lane if you’re going the same speed as traffic, or if the right-hand gutter isn’t safe.

It’s always possible to dress appropriately for biking, no matter what the weather is! When it’s raining, you can get yourself a pair of waterproof bike pants and windbreaker; when it’s cold, wear gloves and a scarf; when it’s hot, wear loose clothing and always bring water with you. And remember to pack some sunscreen.


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No Responsibility
Guest
No Responsibility

One might think that advocates for expanded bike usage and expenditures for infrastructure would have used “education of their own” as a starting point. Folks that ride bikes seemingly have no responsibility. They lack established/published rules of the road, tests, requirements for licenses or insurance at least as a parallel to DMV practices. Seems foolhardy and could have been an important foundational strategy to expand their agenda. It would seem that anyone riding should have a heightened sense of awareness and anticipation of all the moving parts they claim to grapple with and constantly denigrate. If safely is paramount with… Read more »

Weakest Link
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Weakest Link

It seems the elements of safe operation of bicycles will be available through sessions at Plummer Park as of Wehoville’s article but these elements need to move forward to license requirements, insurance. and enforcement. Otherwise conscientious folks may appear, join the false orbit of safety and vehicles will continue to operate along with out of control riders. Strong as the weakest link.

Karen O'Keefe
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Karen O'Keefe

Bike weigh under 20 pounds and go about 12 mph typically. Why on earth would anyone need a license to do such a benign activity? Shall we license people for walking, too? Ooh, and definitely for walking on stilts. Swimming? Operating one’s oven at home? Creating a fire while camping? Putting up Christmas lights? Using ladders? Tell me, what else should the government require tests and licenses for? How far should this nanny state reach? And, as noted, there is bike education — including that the WeHo Bicycle Coalition disseminates — and laws related to biking. There is 0 need for… Read more »

Karen O'Keefe
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Karen O'Keefe

Oh, and of course people who don’t yield to peds and otherwise bike recklessly can and should be subject to penalties. But there are lots of things that you can get a civil or criminal penalty for that don’t require a license to do — virtually everything except driving a car, owning a gun, or being a licensed to operate businesses/professions. (Examples include smoking — discarding cigarettes creates fires, drinking alcohol, cooking at home, owning knives, and on and on.) Riding a bike should be encouraged, not discouraged, and it in no way comparable to a operating a 2-ton machine… Read more »

Time's Up
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Time's Up

I see a parallel between people saying victims of rape were ‘asking for it’ by dressing a certain way, and people saying that bicyclists were ‘risking their lives’ by simply riding a bike in a big city. It is the law breaker and criminal that causes a risk and crime, not the victim.

Randy
Guest
Randy

Thank you for that. Exactly. Let people make their own choices about how they move about. In the meantime, law enforcement can enforce the law, no matter how people chooses to get around, be it on foot, on bicycle, in an automobile, and yes, even on a scooter.

Josh Kurpies
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Josh Kurpies

I absolutely agree. Well said.

Karen O'Keefe
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Karen O'Keefe

Excellent point.

Karen O'Keefe
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Karen O'Keefe

I should note, I personally know people who have stopped biking after being victims of traffic violence while biking. I know two city commissioners who have had doors opened into them while biking. One was sliced open. My uncle was killed by a driver/car while biking. A fellow WeHoBicycle Coalition member had a driver intentionally try to hit him here in WeHo. He asked, “are you trying to kill me?” The driver said, “yes.” And that’s just the most overt, admitted case of intentional traffic violence. When I bike on a street with parked cars, I “take the lane” so… Read more »

Randy
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Randy

Karen, spot on. Completely agree.

Weho123
Guest
Weho123

Bikers think they own the road. The comments below comparing bikes to cars and driving a bike with one hand to a driving a car with one hand is ridiculous. The DMV allows one handed driving but bikers are always told to keep two hands on the bars. Its clear in this photo that bikers are not all wearing helmets or not all riding in the bike lanes. The driver in front appears to be wearing shoes that can easily slip off and cause confusion to another bike or car. She is also talking and not focused on the road.… Read more »

Karen O'Keefe
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Karen O'Keefe

I really don’t understand this paternalistic finger wagging about bikes. Drivers operate 2 ton machines that kill 40,000 people/year in the US alone — and have killed and maimed in WeHo, and break the law in ways that endanger other people ALL THE TIME. Bikes weigh 20-pound or less. Yesterday, in the space of 1.5 blocks while I walked, two cars in a row failed to stop before crosswalks/ to yield to me and other peds and another was parked across a driveway. There is no law requiring helmet wearing for adults. I have driven cars with those same shoes. They… Read more »

Josh Kurpies
Guest
Josh Kurpies

I am not a religious person but all I can say is God bless Karen O’Keefe for bringing some facts and real research data to this comment thread that would otherwise represent pure insanity.

Randy
Guest
Randy

Thank you so much for your comment. And for her her’s.

Ham
Guest
Ham

West Hollywood is a terrible city for riding a bike. they have no problem subsidizing a parade…….but they can’t create bike lanes or do anything that improves everyone’s quality of life here.

Manny
Guest
Manny

West Hollywood is also a terrible city to take a canoe ride…..City council, more canals please!!!

Manny
Guest
Manny

The Bicycle Coalition has made little progress in educating cyclists to follow the rules. Most cyclists, including some that may surprise you, ride on the sidewalk even when there is an empty and very expensive bike lane on the other side of the curb. But I appreciate their continued attempts at reaching out to the public and at least trying to promote safe and lawful bicycling. Maybe some of those cyclists behaving badly will read this article…..but I doubt it.

Karen O'Keefe
Guest
Karen O'Keefe

Research shows people who ride bikes don’t break the rules more than people in cars. The difference is, bikes weigh about 20 lbs, very rarely injury others, and have a tiny footprint. So, they pose far less of a danger. Motor vehicles are 1 to 3 ton machines that kill 40,000 Americans a year, injure exponentially more, pollute the air we breathe, and are the single largest contributor in CA to the climate crisis. Almost every time I walk (which is usually multiple times per day), a car is parked in a driveway blocking a sidewalk, one fails to yield… Read more »

Manny
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Manny

The article is about bicycles, cyclist behavior and the rules of the road as it pertains to cyclists, it is not about cars or motorists.

Karen O'Keefe
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Karen O'Keefe

Here are the first 2.5 paragraphs. Paragraph 2 is all about cars and paragraph 3 starts by talking about how the city isn’t bike friendly. This is all before anything about rules of the road for bikes. “West Hollywood is a city dedicated to sustainability and preserving the environment. The city adopted one of America’s first mandatory green building ordinances to ensure that new buildings will be more energy efficient. In 2012 it instituted a ban on single-use plastic bags. It also offers free two-hour parking for electric vehicles that are charging in municipal garages. And it has joined a… Read more »

Randy
Guest
Randy

Thank you Karen. This article is about both.

Randy
Guest
Randy

Karen, THANK YOU. Completely agree. I literally can’t go for a run down SMB without almost always having to stop for a car pulling out of a lot, not looking to his or her left. Our community still runs with the attitude that “car is king,” for the most part. And this is just me running, not even on a bicycle. And, Manny, virtually any article in this publication, you will make a disparaging comment about cyclists. I have seen this for years and years. We’ve gone back-and-forth on this. This article was meant to be a positive article to… Read more »

Jerome Cleary
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Jerome Cleary

I know you included this: “Always obey the same traffic rules as cars” but you would not believe that I see every day bicycle riders in West Hollywood whizzing through red lights, not yielding to a car turning before their bike, not coming to stop at all at every stop sign, etc. And the worse part is no one ever gets a ticket/citation at all and these bicyclists endanger all of us drivers and pedestrians with all of this.

Karen O'Keefe
Guest
Karen O'Keefe

Have you ever sped while driving? Or done a rolling stop? Or failed to stop completely before a crosswalk? I see drivers do all those things ALL THE TIME, among other very dangerous behavior — including texting while driving. The idea that there’s some crisis when people getting around on a 20-pound bicycle don’t always follow every letter of the law to the “t,” but that when drivers are constantly breaking the law is not a crisis is backwards. Which mode of transit kills 40,000 American per year (more than guns)? Hint: it is not bikes. What driver would think… Read more »

Randy
Guest
Randy

Karen, thank you. Indeed, if we ranked the percentage of drivers breaking the law vs. cyclists, I think we would see a much larger percentage of the former.

I’m so sick of so many people thinking that walking and driving are our only acceptable means of transportation, and that, somehow, cyclists are some sort of great menace to society. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of cyclists who disobey the law. I’d love to see a real-world number of how many cyclists cause injuries, vs. motorists. I’m guessing the percentage is way, way lower.

mark
Guest
mark

Here’s how to value your life, don’t ride a bicycle in major cities. It’s just not practical with so many distracted minds in the world (big pharma, marijuana, phones, etc. affect people’s reaction times) and you have NO protection driving a bike. None. I’ve had many co-workers, friends, etc. seriously injured or dead from being hit on a bicycle. I’d never let my kids ride them in a city. Sorry, they’re just too dangerous. It’s a fact, so take your risks, use your intuition but remember that you’re not going to get people out of their cars. Subways aren’t safe… Read more »

Ham
Guest
Ham

the bike lanes in NYC work. people use them and they cause no issue with cars. it can be done.

Manny
Guest
Manny

NYC has wider Avenues and they are all ONE WAY…..FYI.

Karen O'Keefe
Guest
Karen O'Keefe

Cars kill 40,000 people per year in the U.S. and are the #1 contributor to greenhouse gases in California. Electric vehicles don’t fix the problem — the manufacture of cars has as big of a carbon footprint as driving them.

By and large, motor vehicles are what is dangerous to people on bikes, not biking itself. Also, exercise it key to health.

If you want a future for your kids worth living in (i.e. a planet that’s not on fire), help shift our region to one where it’s safer to take green modes of transit.

Randy
Guest
Randy

Mark, sorry, bicycles aren’t dangerous, in themselves, it is motorists who don’t pay attention, who are, generally speaking. So maybe we can improve that situation?

Larry Block
Guest
Larry Block

Karen keep your hands on the handlebar and eyes on the road!

Karen O'Keefe
Guest
Karen O'Keefe

I’m pretty sure lots of people operate two-ton motor vehicles at high levels of speed while glancing at people in their car and taking a hand off the wheel (including to have a sip of a drink, flip on a turn signal, etc).

I can manage to ride at a super slow pace uphill (on a guided/official ride, with a buffer and a person between me and traffic) and have a conversation at the same time. I am pretty skilled at riding in a straight line after ~35 years of biking. : )