Monday, January 21

Bike Friendly Los Angeles

The city of Angels has always been considered the iconic automotive city. Not only have they built an entire statue dedicated to traffic, but Jane H. Kay commented on a person who was stopped by the police simply for walking down the sidewalk next to Disneyland.

However despite the negative stereotype that Los Angeles has, there are many bike and transit friendly aspects to the city. The most dramatic example of bike friendly LA is a 21 mile bike path stretching from the edge of Malibu to Redondo Beach. This is where I first got into long distance cycling as a teenager. Although many roads in LA are wide multi-lane arterials, most of the major roads have bike lanes, which makes for a much simpler ride in places like Orange County. I had very little trouble getting through the sprawling suburbs east of Los Angeles because I always had a bike lane. The other positive aspect to cycling in LA is that most of the roads actually connect. So unlike the outer suburbs of many cities (including Portland), I was able to ride from Redondo Beach all the way to Wilmington on low-traffic roads. This is very helpful for people who don't feel comfortable using bike lanes with fast traffic. The only difficulty I had as a teenager was trying to get far enough out of the city that you could experience nature. If you do want to experience a natural setting in LA, the most bike-friendly places are:
Palos Verdes- while very built-up, many areas on the coastline are still beautiful. Ride Palos Verdes Blvd from Torrance up into the hills and ride counter-clockwise around the penninsula. The south side of the peninsula is the most scenic with amazing coastline vistas.
Malibu- the east side of Malibu is very hollywoodish, but if you remain patient and continue along Pacific Coast Hwy towards Point Magu you will see incredible views of the shoreline and watch the power of the ocean as it plays back and forth against the rocks.
West Whittier- if you're up for a longer trip you can take a ride up the San Gabriel bike path.which stretches all the way from Long Beach to West Covina. This path is basically a bicycle freeway in that it's fast and direct with very little scenery since the rivers have been transformed into concrete culverts. However there is one very enjoyable section between West Whittier and El Monte at the Whittier Narrows dam. This park has some wonderful trails through it and offers a break from the endless concrete throughout the rest of the city. If you take this trial, you can also stop at the Whittier Narrows Recreational area just west of the dam.
If you don't have a bike while your down there, simply take the light rail system to Long Beach and visit the BikeStation. Modeled after the Seattle BikeStation, this collective offers storage, rental, tool use, and advice for safe cycling around the Los Angeles area.
LA has been spending the past decade building and improving it's mass-transit system. There is now a multi-tiered light rail system connecting Long Beach, Oxnard, and Covina with downtown LA as well as a high-speed bus line running along the Harbor Freeway. I even got to see articulated buses running through Santa Monica. Unlike the situation when I was a teenager, the buses all have bike racks to allow you to use multiple options to get around the city. How successful this system becomes depends on how open-minded the population is. However there are many signs of intelligent lifestyle ideas throughout the urban metropolis that is Los Angeles.