Los Angeles has a bike plan, and it's a fine idea. We have quite enough cars and quite enough drivers, thank you very much, and the counter-stereotypical truth is that we also have thousands and thousands of bicyclists who would gladly leave the car in the garage (or not buy one in the first place) and take to the pedals if only we could make enough room for them on the pavement.
That's the idea behind the mile-and-a-half or so of green-painted bike lane that runs along Spring Street downtown. By itself it's not much, but as the anchor of a bikeway network, it's an inviting path.
Of course, bike lanes are nothing new, although they always seemed to work out well enough without being painted a garish color. And this green is just so, well — green. Kind of a gimmick, right? But whatever. It's not like it does anyone any harm.
Except that it apparently does. That mile and a half of Spring Street turns out to be the most filmed stretch of street in town. Or rather, it was until about last November, when the green lane spoiled the shots that made Spring the perfect stand-in for Anytown, USA. It was the perfect street for car commercials, the perfect backdrop of stolid bank buildings, the perfect mix of marble columns and Art Deco spandrels, the perfect modern or 1920s downtown — until the wide green stripe appeared.
Now a lot of the filming has moved one block over to Main Street, according to Paul Audley, president of Film L.A. Inc., the organization that coordinates city and county film permits for the entertainment industry, which last time we checked is a pretty important part of the local economy. So, guess where the Department of Transportation was about to add the next green bike lane?
Funny thing about green: With a little movie magic it'll disappear. Even amateur videographers know how to use green screens as backdrops to blend subjects on tape or film. But they also know it has to be the right shade of green or it doesn't work — at least, not without additional expense. Bike lane green, however, is dictated by the federal government, which doesn't require bike lanes, and doesn't require green, but requires that if bike lanes are green they must be this particular shade — which is not digitally erasable Hollywood green.
Can we just get along? Slip-ups happen, but they don't need to happen twice. We can be bike-friendly and film-friendly at the same time. The Department of Transportation now promises to make its Main Street bike lane green-free. It's a start. Now please: Talk to Film L.A. Fix this mess.