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STREET SMART

Bad Valley Roads Make Rough Riders Out of Bicyclists

August 30, 1993|HUGO MARTIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dear Street Smart:

As a bicyclist on the increasingly meaner streets of Los Angeles, I know I'm in pursuit of a losing cause.

The difficulties and dangers of riding on the so-called suburban byways of the Valley and Westside are multiplying daily, not least of which is the pathetic and dangerous condition of the streets themselves. The streets are torn up with apparent impunity by every utility, construction company, developer and road crew in existence. Then, when they are finally finished, they slap down some shoddy asphalt patches and call it quits.

Is there no regulation concerning the patching and finishing of roadwork?

Steve (Bent Wheels) Nelson, Van Nuys

Dear Reader:

You may call your pursuit a losing cause. I like to think it's admirable.

Imagine the benefits if everyone rode bicycles everywhere. Less smog. Less traffic. Even a high-speed police pursuit wouldn't last more than a few minutes. Long before the TV helicopters could arrive, the bad guys and the cops would be on the side of the road, sweating and panting.

But there would still be the problem of poor roadwork.

There are regulations concerning patching up streets. But street inspectors are not assigned to make sure utilities and other road crews uphold those standards unless more than 100 square feet of street has been patched, said Bob Hayes, spokesman for the Los Angeles City Board of Public Works.

For smaller jobs, crews who tear up the streets are pretty much on their honor to fix them up like new again, he said.

But also, those crews are required to stamp a small metal medallion into the pavement to identify who is responsible for the work, Hayes said.

If you find a particularly bad patch job on a Los Angeles city street that has jarred a few fillings loose during your ride, you can call (818) 908-4055 and ask for Alex Lisenko, a city contract inspector who will investigate the problem.

If it's bad, he'll find out who is responsible and tell them: "Your work did not make the grade."

*

Dear Street Smart:

Directly across from Warner Villa Apartments on Topanga Canyon Boulevard in Woodland Hills is Warner Ranch Park. Most of the residents in Warner Villa are senior citizens and small children, yet there is no safe crosswalk within half a mile of the complex. What good is a public park if the residents who live directly across the street from it have to risk their lives to use it?

James Nelms, Woodland Hills

Dear Reader:

Remember the good ol' days, when the worst that could happen at a park is you might get smacked on the noggin by an errant Frisbee?

Then the gangs moved in and you had to worry about getting smacked in the noggin by an errant .38-caliber bullet.

Your problem is you have a fairly safe park, but it takes a daredevil to get there. Ironically, it's not dangerous enough to warrant a crosswalk.

Topanga Canyon Boulevard is actually a state highway, which is governed and maintained by Caltrans. About a year ago, someone from your neighborhood asked Caltrans for a traffic signal and crosswalk at Collins Street near Warner Ranch Park. Caltrans spokeswoman Pat Reid said state traffic experts measured traffic volume and counted the number of accidents that have taken place at that intersection and concluded that it did not meet the criteria for a traffic signal.

She said a crosswalk was not added because Caltrans feels that a crosswalk without a traffic signal would give pedestrians a "false sense of security." Motorists tend to speed through crosswalks unless there is a big red signal light forcing them to stop, Reid said.

So, it looks like you're not getting your crosswalk until traffic volumes and accident figures creep up some more.

In other words, it's going to have to get worse before it gets better.

*

Dear Street Smart:

Is there a standard or universal signal to let another driver know that he unknowingly left his directional signal on? If you honk, you undoubtedly will get a gesture showing he thinks you're No. 1.

H. S. Edwards, Los Angeles

Dear Reader:

That gesture is very common on L. A. streets. I like to think of it as half of a peace sign or one-fifth of a wave.

My sources at the Automobile Club of Southern California and at the Department of Motor Vehicles say they haven't heard of a standard signal to remind other motorists to turn off a directional signal.

But Robert Irving, a reader from Sun Valley, wrote to say that some truck drivers respond to a gesture made by repeatedly touching your thumb to your other grouped fingers. It's like the gesture you would make to show that someone talks too much. You know, the "yak-yak" gesture.

However, until motorists outside of trucking circles learn the meaning of this gesture, many will think you consider them too talkative. This being L. A., they will probably respond by letting their fingers do the talking.

*

Dear Street Smart:

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