Here’s the problem with bicycling in L.A. (Okay, one of the problems.) Unlike other places I’ve lived, there’s really no great place to ride here.
What should be L.A.’s crown jewel – the beachfront bike path that runs from Will Rogers State Beach in Pacific Palisades down past Redondo Beach – is so clogged with pedestrians and drunken tourists (is that redundant?) that it’s almost impassible at times. The lower section, below the marina, is usually better. But the upper section, through Santa Monica and Venice, is so bad that it’s not even worth riding if you can’t get there before noon. And most riders just avoid it entirely from Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Even if you wanted to ride it, the problem is getting there.
Some people try riding the major streets like Santa Monica, Wilshire or Olympic Boulevards, which is akin to playing Russian Roulette with five live rounds.
The Ballona Creek bike trail, which runs from Culver City all the way to the coast, should be a freeway for the velo crowd. But the need to swerve around all the homeless encampments and drunks passed out in your pathway kind of limits its ride-ability. As does the fact that it runs through some of the most dangerous, crime and gang-infested neighborhoods in the city. (Evidently, I’m not the only one to notice this sort of problem.) So if a nice young man with facial tattoos stops to admire your bike, I’d suggest giving it to him. Seriously.
You can get to the beach by taking the bike lanes on Colorado, if you don’t mind stopping every few blocks and dodging buses once you get below 4th. Or you can try avoiding all the oblivious drivers with their surgically attached cell phones on Montana.
But the best, and most popular, route to the coast is the bike lanes along San Vicente Blvd. Unlike most of L.A., the drivers on San Vicente are used to seeing bicyclists, so they usually drive safely, and there are no stops signs, and only two stop lights, giving you a safe, fast ride. But even here you can have problems, like when a construction or film crew takes over the bike lane for no apparent reason, forcing you to compete with drivers for the limited space remaining in the traffic lanes.
And don’t even get me started on riding PCH through Malibu.
Sure, it’s flat and scenic, making it one of the area’s most popular rides. But with narrow – or sometimes no – shoulders on the road, high speed traffic, countless cars turning right in or out of driveways, and frequent construction sites that force riders into traffic lanes – which resulted in the death of two riders a couple years ago – it’s often more demolition derby than relaxing ride.
Sure, I used to ride it anyway, like everyone else. But these days, my wife insists that I come home in one piece.