A letter writer from Los Angeles, Mehmet Berker, was seriously shaded when he wrote his “advice from L.A.” letter (Readers Write, Dec. 11). I did my homework after reading his letter. Mehmet is a designer for city street planning in L.A. His bio on a pedestrian advocacy group’s website says he doesn’t have a car.

Berker says he doesn’t understand why Dr. Geoffrey Emerson wrote “Bike lanes are a hindrance around busy medical facilities,” while providing a photo of three blocks’ worth of backed-up traffic on S. 28th Street in Minneapolis (Dec. 8).

Emerson works at a hospital and travels that route daily. If Berker visits Minneapolis, Emerson should arrange a ride in an ambulance, so Berker can picture himself or a loved one as the patient, before stating that it “disturbs me greatly” that Emerson said the bike lanes don’t work.

Berker should comment on reaction from car drivers if he sells his services to lobbyists and city officials to help install bike lanes on boulevards leading on and off L.A. highways such as I-405, I-5 or the 110. Why not start with Sepulveda Boulevard, parallel to the 405 in and out of L.A.? That would equate to bike lanes on Park and Portland avenues, parallel to I-35W in and out of Minneapolis.

Next, let’s interview emergency vehicle drivers to get their opinions. Berker suggested that emergency vehicles could squeak by and work around two bumper-to-bumper car lanes, with cars unable to get out of the way on Park and Portland avenues and 26th and 28th streets leading to Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Minneapolis and Hennepin County Medical Center. He then says “the worst thing” is that we object to bike lanes because they hinder emergency vehicle response times. You bet we do!

Berker thought Emerson’s assessment wrong. The vast majority of us agree with Emerson. According to Berker, “If it truly is difficult to maneuver an ambulance in the bike lane ... the bollard tops can be removed.” And, who exactly, is going to do that? The ambulance drivers?

We will look forward to reading the reaction from L.A. commuters once they have comparable examples out there like the situations we are attempting to deal with here.

Lastly, Berker stated “the worst thing …” is not having a discussion about how to improve all of this. Oh, how we’ve tried. One discussion city officials won’t have regarding this touchy subject: Tell us why bike riders aren’t required to purchase licenses (with fees) like cars? Why aren’t they required to wear reflective vests? Why they aren’t required to have reflector lights front and back of bikes? Why they aren’t required to have headlights turned on at dusk? Why aren’t riders required to wear helmets? Why are bike riders not ticketed and fined for not following the rules?

A true win-win for everyone would be enforcing such rules for bike riders.

Citizens don’t expect there to be no bike lanes, but they don’t expect the lanes on streets needed to move traffic efficiently and avoid traffic snarls and rush-hour nightmares. With answers to these questions, we will attempt to not fret about it and will strive to embrace it when interacting with bike lanes and users.

Maybe our newly elected officials will take action and answer these questions, ignored so far. Please.


Barbara Nylen lives in Minneapolis.