Wilshire Boulevard has a new bus-only lane, but it’s bus-only in name only. Until the City gets serious about enforcement, perhaps the bus-only lane should be known by a more descriptive name: the bus, bike and asshole lane.
Cars routinely drive in the bus lane during bus-only/bike-only hours and enforcement is non-existent. Most drivers respect the bus lane during the operative hours and dutifully hew to their own designated lanes, even when they are highly congested. But the temptation of that wide-open lane on the right is evidently too strong for a number of drivers, and cars go zipping along in the bus lane, merry as can be, and with no thought of cutting off the law-abiding drivers when the bus-lane ends.
I see the problem every day on my Wilshire commute from Santa Monica to UCLA, and have never yet seen a driver stopped. Joe Linton at Streetsblog has documented the same problem in Mid-Wilshire. And yes, the bus lane can legally be used as a right-turn lane before an intersection—but not for the 3 blocks before a right turn.
One sensible solution has been proposed (although only for San Francisco) by Assemblymember David Chiu : let bus drivers write citations using their forward-facing cameras to snap photos of license plates. That bill was watered down in the legislative process so that cameras can now ticket double-parkers, but not moving vehicles in the bus-only lane. Getting cars out of the bus lanes really speeds up transit, but there are safety issues as well.
For bikers, legally using the bus-lane during rush hour, it can be terrifying to have the scofflaws zooming up from behind, because you know that these are the most reckless, least considerate of drivers, and that they’ve placed an obvious premium on speed over the law. Without better enforcement of bus- and bike-only times, these bus/bike/asshole lanes could end up being a net negative for bike safety. Public health would be well served by fewer stops for busted taillights, and more stops for dangerous driving.