Much ado about almost nothing — the $30 million Bike Path extension

Why would a city that’s facing a $200 million budget deficit spend $30 million to extend a recreational bikeway?

With a lot of luck — and $30 million — that arrow could point both ways someday.

Actually, it wouldn’t.

In fact, Los Angeles officials are hoping they can get the job done without spending a dime. Stranger things have happened.

As reported here last week, city officials have begun the process of requesting funds to complete the long-planned final leg of the Marvin Braude Bike Path, from where it currently ends at Temescal Canyon Road to the entrance to the Getty Villa.

What wasn’t reported was the cost — a whopping $15 million each for the approximately two miles of bike lane it would add, due to the need to elevate a significant portion of the bikeway along the beach.

As the esteemed — or in this case, steamed — Dr. Alex pointed out, 30 million dollars would pay for over 1,000 mikes of new bike lanes. Far more than contemplated in the city’s proposed bike plan, and barely enough to meet the needs of the city’s cyclists.

It would also be enough to save funding for L.A.’s neighborhood councils, and maybe even a few of the 1,000 jobs currently on the line in this city.

However, that’s apples and oranges. Or bananas and kumquats, or whatever mismatched fruit more precisely fits your tastes.

Because the funding would not come out of the city budget, or even out of the cash-strapped state’s. And it would not take away from any future funding for bicycle infrastructure, or prevent the installation of a single on-street bike commuter lane.

In fact, the money doesn’t even exist yet. Because the matter currently being considered by various council committees (10-0002-S4) isn’t a motion to decide what to spend the money on, or even to request funding.

All that Council Member Rosendahl has proposed is a resolution asking the Council and the Mayor to go on record as supporting the project. Which will then allow the city’s representatives in Washington to start scrounging around for any funds that may be available for this sort of project.

That’s it.

Even though the country is deeply in debt, there are funds available for things like this, whether as part of the stimulus package, or some other authorization or appropriation bill. And turning it down probably won’t save a penny in the federal budget, because if we don’t take it, chances are, someone else will.

That’s just the way the system works.

It’s not like this isn’t a worthwhile project. While the bike path is used primarily for recreation, opening up this last section will allow cyclists to bypass one of the most dangerous sections of PCH, where riders are forced to share the lane with impatient drivers often traveling at speeds in excess of 50 mph.

In other words, it could save lives — and probably will, if it gets built. And at the same time, open up the coast highway to riders who don’t feel comfortable taking the lane in those first few miles between Santa Monica and Malibu under those circumstances.

Just to be sure, though, I reached out to some of my contacts at City Hall this afternoon. They assured me that no one has any intention of blowing the entire bikeways budget on this one project, and that the extension won’t move forward unless it receives significant federal funding.

So don’t hold your breath.

This is a long shot. But it’s one worth taking.


Update: The L.A. Times has taken notice of the Bike Working Group’s proposed Backbone Bikeway Network, an alternative to the city’s proposed bike plan that uses major arterial streets to connect cyclists to virtually every part of the city. If the mayor and council are truly serious about making this a better city for cycling, they need to take a hard look at this — and ask why their high-cost plan isn’t nearly as effective.


The legal process has begun for the hit-and-run driver who ran down popular local rider Roadblock. Will Campbell schedules his upcoming 8 Presidents Ride for Saturday the 13th. GOOD looks at the plans to turn 4th Street into L.A.’s first bike boulevard. Writing on Bob Mionske’s blog, Rick Bernardi looks at the “I didn’t see him” excuse for hitting a cyclist. The cyclist killed in the Bay Area yesterday was a devoted single father living car-free in Los Gatos; the driver has been arrested. The SFPD plans to use Compstat to track cycling collisions — something we should look at here. World Champ Cadel Evans — or Cuddles, as the Trickster calls him — turns up unexpectedly in Palo Alto Tuesday morning. Professional cyclist Tom Zirbel faces a two-year suspension after his B sample tests positive for DHEA.You won’t be calling it the Utah stop anytime soon, as the Beehive State considers — and rejects — the Idaho stop. A well-known Nevada cyclist, racer and bike shop owner was killed over the weekend. Zeke faces a father and child riding head-on towards his car on the wrong side of a snowy the road. Admiration for living car-free in bullheaded car-centric Texas. Presenting the first self-balancing unicycle. Great photo of cowboy cyclists in Tucson’s Old Pueblo. Call it the Rosetta Stone of cycling; the Bicycle Lexicon tell you how to talk bikes in 23 languages. New Zealand employees are urged to swap four wheels for two during Bike Wise Month. Will Sydney’s planned Bike Hub be successful? Half of all bike thefts in England and Wales go unreported. Finally, a teenage Lancashire driver gets nine months for repeatedly attempting to run a cyclist off the road — not realizing his attempted victim was a police inspector.


  1. TheTricksterNZ says:

    Hey, I call him Cuddles for a reason. His “stand on my dog and I’ll cut your f**king head off” at TdF2008 earned him the nickname. – see relationship with media.

    Oh, and the killer drunk granny from down here is going away for a couple of years, although she’ll probably be out in 8 months on good behaviour :S

    Saw the news item just before and her defense lawyer committed a howler.

    “When Downer’s lawyer Sandy Baigent said the offending could not be described as the worst of its kind, because there wasn’t a multiple fatality, Ms Pauwels shouted out: “You have got to be kidding. This is a joke.”

  2. I just wanted to come say hi, let you know I’m aware of this post. You might track down the Chief Legislative Analyst’s report on this motion . . . interesting reading. Read between the lines a little and you’ll see some cool stuff. Like, for instance, do you know how much was spent just to design this project, and when it was spent? The answer surprised me!

    • bikinginla says:

      Yeah, this has been in process for the past 17 years, at a design cost of $740,000 — more than the city paid Alta Design for the entire bike plan last year. And it would have cost just $5.2 million then, as opposed to the current estimate of $30 million. Just imagine what it will cost in another 20 years when they finally get around to building it.

      You know I always respect your opinion; I just disagree with it this time. And by the way — brilliant work on the Backbone Network!

  3. Greb says:

    A couple of additional bits of info to strengthen this excellent “expose.”
    First, a study by a traffic engineer several year’s ago determined that a large percentage of cyclists using the beach bike path in the early morning are commuters.
    Second, the proposed extension will be a “next generation” path with separate lanes for cyclists and other peds, in the fashion of the path South of Bay Street in Santa Monica.

    • bikinginla says:

      I’ve seen signs of that during the day, too, as some of the riders on the path seem to be on their way too or from work. I suspect that extending the path almost to Malibu would result in a number dramatic increase in bike commuters between the two cities.

      And separate lanes for cyclists and pedestrians? Heaven.

  4. NOT

    • bikinginla says:

      And what’s a human life worth?

      We’ve already had too many cyclists killed on PCH. If this provides a safe alternative to riding on one of the highway’s most dangerous sections, I think it’s worth every penny. And it would cost a lot more than that to widen those same two miles of PCH enough to get cyclists out of the traffic lane.

      • See, now you’re grandstanding, but I promise you, that will not play with non-cyclists. What’s the cost of putting a doctor or nurse through school? Far less than $30 million. And they save lives. Whereas the misuse of this $30 million displaces bike projects with GREATER potential to save lives.

        • bikinginla says:

          How does this displace anything? Tell me what project in the Los Angeles area will not be funded if this project is built. And exactly what project in the area would save more lives?

          Funding this project — if it gets funded, which is highly unlikely — will not prevent funding of any other infrastructure project. And $30 million isn’t even pocket change in a federal budget of $3.83 trillion.

          I repeat my contention that this will save lives, while opening up large sections of the coast to cyclists who won’t currently ride that section.

          And quite frankly, I think it’s grandstanding to compare this project to educating doctors, since most doctors and nurses aren’t educated using transportation funds.

  5. Greb says:

    Alex, you are just embarrassed putting out that first screed that demonstrated a total lack of understanding how government funding works.
    Not City money. Does not take a penny from any City or Metro bike initiatives.
    Give it up.
    This is the most heavily used and longest continuous path we have. Part of a state and federally recognized trail.

  6. Having actually picked up the phone and talked to planners at other agencies, they are aghast at the cost/benefit ratio of this project. It will mean less federal money to go around, and probably mean less federal money for their agencies.

    Money doesn’t grow on trees fellas – it’s not free, and if you use it one place it’s not available in another. The Federal 2011 discretionary budget is 1.4 trillion. LA’s share of that, based on population, is $38 billion. So this project is almost .1% of that budget. That’s not how the money is allocated, but it drives home the point that this is real money, and it really matters, and really will mean less money (resources if you like) for other projects.

    Regardless, I’ve done that section enough to know that an on-street solution is feasible, so make that happen. Narrow the lanes and stripe.

    Finally, you tell me why anyone would approve this project if the county rejected it when it was $5.2 mil? And, by the way, where did you get that figure?

  7. bikinginla says:

    From the CLA, which you referred me to:
    In 1995, the City requested construction funding in the amount of $5,232,000 from MTA’s Call for Projects. However, MTA rejected this request stating that the proposed extension was recreational rather than transportation-related and not eligible for federal transportation funding.

    $5 million 15 years ago = $30 million today due to rising costs. And as the section above indicates, it was rejected because it did not meet the criteria for funding under that program. I would argue that it is transportation related, as it would allow efficient bike commuting and bicycle access to and from Malibu and Santa Monica, while improving safety.

    I’ve ridden that section too. But not everyone is an experienced cyclist with the skill to take the lane under those circumstances. We need to make provisions for the overwhelming majority of bicyclists who aren’t.

    And a line of paint may work on city streets where traffic moves at slower speed. But anyone has ever ridden or driven on PCH knows the speed limit is almost universally ignored there, and too many drivers aren’t willing to share the road with slower drivers, let alone bikes.

    It would take a road diet to significantly improve safety there, which would likely cost more, while facing far more opposition from drivers. And trust me, I think most drivers would be willing to spend far more just to get bikes out of their way on PCH.

  8. $5.232 million in 1995, if you posit a very high inflation figure of 4% per year, is $9.422 million in 2010. Not even close to $30 million.

    $30 million – $9.422 million = $20.577 million.

    So there is a huge discrepancy between the price in 95, and the price in ’10, and oddly, the price in ’10 is very round, which undermines it’s credibility.

    In 1995 dollars, the project is 3 times more expensive now than it was then. Face it, this is corruption, this is a money grab. You are being used to cover it up.

    Paint and pylons. Throwing money after the problem because of an imagined pushback from drivers is not a solution.

    • bikinginla says:

      Actually, construction costs have outpaced inflation for a number of years. Even a slight delay in a project usually results in dramatically higher costs.

      As for “imagined” pushback from drivers, just try to tell them you’re going to narrow traffic lanes and slow down speeds on PCH. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

      When you find evidence of corruption — such as who will illegally profit from this, and how — let me know. And no one is using me. I support this project on its merits, and no one has contacted me in any way to ask for my support of this.

      Now hush up, or I might have to reconsider my endorsement.

  9. and when I say you are being used, I mean that your defending this project as necessary and appropriately priced, was anticipated by the people who are hoping to get it approved with a crazy crazy price. I am not suggesting that you are in cahoots.

  10. So you’re willing to narrow lanes and lower speeds? Great, lets propose that! Problem solved.

    • bikinginla says:

      Hey, I’m all for anything that would help. I was mad as hell when they repaved a portion of that section and didn’t add bike lanes, and I’ve often said the first sharrows project should be right there on PCH. But narrower lanes, bike lanes and sharrows aren’t going to slow down an asshole in a Ferrari.

      You’re right that this project could probably be built for less. But that’s how the game is played in Washington: You asked for 30, hoping to get 20. And when they offer you 15, you try to find a way to make it work.

      All this is academic though, unless and until there’s some funding on the table. Do I think we’re going to get it? Probably not. Do I think it’s worth asking for?

      Hell yes.

  11. Greb says:

    So much smoke. Metro is never going to fund this project which would take probably their entire area-wide budget for bike/ped projects in the Call for Projects.
    Plus, you cannot narrow the lanes any more in most of that section what with landslides continuing on the inland side of the highway. Would you have the parents and their kids ride on the ocean side against 50+ MPH traffic or inland amid the landslide detritus? And how are they to easily get across the highway?
    Finally, if the project is approved, the section must be re-surveyed and plans completed. By the time that can be done there will be several more year’s of inflation to tack on.

    • Gary Wolfberg,

      If you’ve got information about the specific pool federal funds that this application is for, spill it. Cite a source. I see none.

      As the application stands now, it’ll get rejected, there is no question. I think an on-street option is feasible, based on my experiences riding it. You’d be better off pushing for study and implementation, and in the meantime signage & enforcement.

  12. […] Rogers argues that the project will “will allow cyclists to bypass one of the most dangerous sections of PCH.”  He concludes that the project “could save lives — and probably will, if it gets built.” […]

  13. […] with a plan to use federal funds for a $30 million bike path along the beach in Los Angeles. Biking in LA sees it another way. And Bike Delaware News has an open letter asking Rep. Mike Castle to support […]

  14. Greb says:

    Survey 99 talked to persons on the beach near where the bike path ends. These people turned out to be residents of 32 different zip codes. Some of these people must have thought they were going somewhere, not “nowhere.” Is the Getty Villa “nowhere”? Are beaches where you can actually see and touch the sand and surf “nowhere”. What they are is extremely rare and precious.
    Call back your transportation planners and ask them how much per mile to add bike lanes on both sides of pch in that area without reducing the highway to one lane in each direction. Maybe they have an inexpensive way to hold back the bluffs that continually crumble on to the fog line and traffic lane; I doubt it. Slicing away the bottom of the current slides doesn’t cut it. They had to move the highway onto the beach and create a new beach after the via de los Olas Slide covered the old highway where the proper beach bike path currently stops.
    If you can come up with a plan to do this within the pch right-of-way, I will be the first to applaud and support it. And while you are at it, find a way to prohibit catering trucks with active cooking in progress to stay of this highway so we don’t lose any more cyclists. . .

    • bikinginla says:

      Yeah, I was thinking about the same thing when I commented about cyclists getting killed on PCH. I didn’t know either rider, but I knew Bleifer’s father through my father-in-law, who was a patient of his. That one still breaks my heart, and confirms my belief that one death is one too many.

      I agree that this path is the crown jewel of local bikeways, and undoubtedly contributes significantly in tourist dollars; I spoke with one cyclist who came from England just to ride it. Personally, I think this extension would more than pay for itself in additional tax revenues from tourists alone.

      And all you have to do to see the demand for extending the path is to stand at the current terminus at Temescal Canyon, or at the end of the parking lot to the north, and count the number of cyclists who turn back there.

  15. Greb says:

    Oh, and signage and enforcement, guess I should have copied you on the emails and actions to accomplish just such over the past couple of years. Signage is great, up to a point. The point of diminishing returns when, finally, drivers ignore the Share the Road and other suggestions. And CalTrans has to keep cyclists in mind when executing permits and projects on pch as they have said they will do.
    Funding will occur when and if provided by legislative or other determination from the feds.

  16. “Oh, and signage and enforcement, guess I should have copied you on the emails and actions to accomplish just such over the past couple of years.”

    Oh, and I guess I should have copied you on the countless workings I’ve executed to make all of West LA safer for cyclists. You may have done a lot of work on PCH, but where have you been IN PUBLIC to call attention to the issues? Cause I’ve got a track record:

    • bikinginla says:

      Play nice, boys. This has been a great conversation, and as usual, I’ve learned a lot — which is why I enjoy hearing from people who disagree with me every bit as much as those who do.

      Let’s just accept that we all care about these issues, and have been working on them in our own ways.

  17. Greb says:

    I’m not running for public office.

  18. What I hear you saying is that you want to solve this difficult problem, and you view this project as the only likely solution. But then, in another breath, you acknowledge how unlikely this solution is to be executed anytime soon, if at all.

    In short, you have a highway through a neighborhood, and it’s creating a problem. To my eyes, the problem is the highway, and it’s a complicated problem. Narrowing the lanes and finding a sensible way to lower and enforce lower speed limits would get you enough room to have a separated path, and would decrease the problem of Malibu commuters laying waste to vulnerable road users. To lower the speed limits one probably needs to get something like AB766 passed.

    It’s a complicated problem and I don’t think that the project proposal even comes close to solving it – it just pushes the problem 2 miles down the road. Further, it’s an attack which only solves the local problem, and doesn’t positively impact the problems that other SoCal cyclists face. In fact, since it is such an enormous claim on resources, it undermines the cycling efforts in the rest of the region.

    Taking a more holistic approach has a better chance of having broad and lasting impact.

  19. Greb says:

    It is a solution.
    Did you ask your planners how they would make the already narrow pch lanes in that area any narrower without going to one lane in each direction? You can’t dump all the bike path riders onto the highway and you haven’t explained how you would do that . . .
    Two miles is all that is left in the City of Los Angeles; after that it is up to the County, the state and then City of Malibu what they want to do.

  20. It’s not a solution. You’re talking about spending obscene quantities of resources that could otherwise solve nasty problems with horrific impact. I could inoculate sixteen gajillion people against every known disease for $30 million.

  21. Greb says:

    Put up an initiative to vaccinate people and I will be the first to sign on. But research the cost for that idea first. More likely would cost a gadzillion dollars to vaccinate 30,000,000 people.

    According to CNN,

    — on average it costs about $700 million to bring a vaccine to market —

  22. […] Rogers argues that the project will “will allow cyclists to bypass one of the most dangerous sections of PCH.”  He concludes that the project “could save lives — and probably will, if it gets built.” […]

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