Anatomy of a bikeway — L.A.’s abandoned Class 1 bike path

In a city with so few bikeways, why would an off-road bike path over a mile long be forgotten — abandoned by cyclists and the city alike?

This Class 1 bike path runs south from Wilshire along Veteran, through the park, down Sepulveda, then several blocks west on Ohio.

Just a few blocks from the 275 foot long “stupidest bike lane in America,” you’ll find – if you look hard enough — a Class 1 bike path that should serve the massive biking population of UCLA, while providing a viable alternative to driving into car-clogged Westwood.

Yet few people even know it’s there.

It’s a bikeway that’s virtually unmarked, so hidden from view that I only found the final segment a few weeks ago when I decided to ride it from one end to the other.

This used to say Bike Path. I think.

Maybe I’m not very observant. Or maybe I just mistakenly assumed that a valuable asset like that would have signs indicating its existence.

Then again, I would also assume that it would be at least minimally maintained. While I understand that L.A. doesn’t have any legal responsibility to maintain any off-road path — having won their legal battle to absolve themselves of any liability for injuries suffered by cyclists — you would think common decency and human compassion would compel them to take some steps to protect the safety of those who might use it.

You would be wrong.

See any sign indicating a bike path? Me neither.

This path has been allowed to deteriorate to the point that it is virtually unridable in some places, putting the safety of less attentive riders at risk — particularly shameful since it runs through a public park and past a popular Little League field, explaining why most of the cyclists I’ve seen on it have been children.

This indentation is several inches deep — more than enough to catch the wheel of a passing cyclist.

However, the city may get an unpleasant surprise one of these days. Because the same law that the courts have ruled absolves the city of any liability for dangerous conditions on a Class 1 bike path also requires that adequate warning be provided for any known hazards.

And I can assure you that LADOT has been made aware of these conditions.

After all, I informed them myself.

One of the better sections of the path, and a great place to teach a child how to ride a bike.

And I saved a copy of the email, just in case anyone happens to need it.


Bike Radar notes that two days remain to submit your thoughts on what constitutes harassment of cyclists on the streets of L.A. This year’s Amgen Tour of California kicks off with a Nevada City to Sacramento route on May 16. How to pee while riding your bike, male edition — step four, “Direct the stream away from you.”

If you want to keep cyclists from using a bike path, that’s a good way to do it.

A new book tells the story of how a masters cyclist recovered from a near-fatal broken neck to win 11 gold medals. South Dakota’s proposed three-foot passing law dies in committee. Forth Worth adopts a new bike plan with a 900% increase in biking infrastructure, including nearly 500 miles of on-street bike lanes. Central Oregon considers banning bike events on a popular racing route. A $10,000 racing bike stolen from Lance’s U23 development team is discovered in a Mexican flea market. Still drunk from the night before, a driver blames bright sunlight for why he struck and killed a Florida cyclist last fall. Biking continues despite the snowpacolypse. Finally, an Oxford, England cyclist has a unique approach to dealing with potholes — rather than complaining, he plants them with primroses. And You Are The Engine tells the tale of the first mile-a-minute cyclist, who accomplished the feat in 1899 by drafting on a steam engine train(!).

A cyclist on a bike can brake, turn or accelerate to avoid a collision; a rider walking his bike is a sitting duck if a driver runs the red light.

No signage indicating a bikeway here, either, but at least cars aren’t allowed on the sidewalk/bikeway. And yes, this is shown as a Class 1 bike path in the latest draft of the new bike plan.

These cracks rise several inches, and run most of the way across the path.

Note the faded yellow paint. Would you consider that an adequate hazard warning?

Now imagine encountering that after dark.

Of course, the crosswalk at Sepulveda and Ohio isn’t much better.

At Ohio, the bikeway turns west, sharing the sidewalk with pedestrians — few of whom seem to notice the faded markings on the cement.

At least this section has signs, though most people assume they indicate a bike lane in the street — which could be why most cyclists ride there, instead. And at the next intersection, cyclists going straight have to cross the path of drivers entering the VA grounds.


  1. e.n says:

    wow! i never would have known that was a bike path! it’s not on any bike map i’ve ever seen.

    • bikinginla says:

      You can find it on the print editions of the LADOT and Metro bike maps, as well as on page 67 of the proposed bike plan.

  2. Digital Dame says:

    Oh come, come, now. Why would you think “common decency and human compassion” play any part in government or public service? Surely you jest.

  3. Will Campbell says:

    Wow. I’ve biked up and down that stretch of Sepulveda many times and never knew about this. Excellent post!

  4. Yokota Fritz says:

    If that Florida motorist wasn’t DUI, I wonder if his “sun in my eyes” defense would have excused his infraction. That excuse doesn’t fly here in Santa Cruz, thankfully.

    • bikinginla says:

      “Officer Dave Reed adds, ‘If you can’t see, the speed limit is zero.'”

      That man is my new hero.

  5. Joe Linton says:

    An unnamed culprit in your article is the “silo” mentality that results in an inability for the city’s departments of Transportation (DOT) and Recreation and Parks (DRP) to work together.

    In and around the 1970’s there was a guiding principle for bike paths that they were recreational features that should be in (or connected to) parks. The city and the county built a few bike paths including the one you’ve shown. Gradually the guiding principles have changed to see bicycling as a transportation mode. The responsibility for bike paths shifts to the Dept of Transportation (DOT), and bike paths in parks become orphans. The DRP doesn’t see biking as their thing; the DOT doesn’t see paths in parks as their thing. Maintenance and upkeep suffer.

    It’s true for the Westwood Park path, and also for the Sepulveda Basin and North Hollywood Park… the 2009 draft bike plan maps don’t even map those latter facilities correctly.

    While I, personally, tend to bike as transportation… and I think that bicycling won’t be taken as seriously if it’s something that is perceived as “mere” recreation… I think that a more broad view of bicycling as transportation and recreation would serve us better. A bike path through a park (including along a river and along the beach) serves both recreation and transportation riders. So, there’s a need for those departments to collaborate. This important collaboration isn’t happening in L.A. today, not on the ground, and not in bike planning.

    • bikinginla says:

      Agreed. With a little love from the city, this could easily be a prime feeder route to and from UCLA, channeling the cyclists who currently ride on Ohio up to Veteran, where they could easily connect to campus — and avoiding some of the most crowded intersections in the city.

      On the other hand the section through the park, while pretty, is also quite secluded and hidden from view from the street, as well as the residential buildings to the south. I’m not sure it’s a path I could recommend to a woman riding alone, especially at night.

  6. jlyle says:

    Here’s another example: The Dominguez Channel bike path is 1.4 miles of beautiful, Class I path in the City of Carson, between Vermont and Main. The bike path goes no where, does not connect with any other bike routes, and truncates on busy streets. What a waste of money.

  7. […] L.A.'s Abandoned Class I Bikeway (Biking in L.A.) […]

  8. David says:

    I just spoke to a friend of mine who use to bike to/from UCLA during grad school. He said he became aware of this path, but he stopped using it because prickly plants were on the veteran section and gave him two popped bike tires, and the Ohio section that is shared with pedestrians led to him being cursed out by pedestrians several times.

    Thanks for posting this, Bikingla! I’m sure this would be a HEAVILY used route if it were improved a bit. Lots of UCLA students (undergrad and grad) live in the area.

  9. daniel says:

    had no idea this existed. thanks!

  10. Nate says:

    Is this the “West Los Angeles Veloway”?

    Does anybody have a good (kml) Google Earth version of this bikeway?

  11. Matt says:

    This is great journalism. Thank you for this huge effort.

  12. Evan says:

    I read this with even more interest than usual, because I ride between Santa Monica and Westwood. When I first started, I would get west going down Veteran, and riding through the parking lot of the Federal Building–a nice easy east/west route from Veteran to Sepulveda. I would then wait an eternity at the pedestrian crossing, then down the messed up sidewalk along Sepulveda, then the sidewalk on Ohio. The bike route then abruptly ends at the driveway of an apartment building. Then I started going through the Federal Building lot, down the sidewalk on Sepulveda, and crossing Ohio and remaining on the street. Now I just stick on Veteran and turn right on Ohio, or I will sometimes stay on the sidewalk on Veteran and turn into the parking lot for the park, and turn out onto Greenfield and then go right on Ohio.

    Long story short, it would be great if the Constitution Ave. gate at the Veterans Cemetery was open at Veteran, and we could cross at the light at Sepulveda, then take Bonsall down as it turns into Sawtelle at Ohio.

  13. Ty says:

    I rode/walked this bikeway for years when I lived in West LA and went to school at UCLA. It is a convenient route. Far more convenient, and better IMO, was when there was bike access through the VA Cemetery. As Evan said, losing this access was a real blow to biking between UCLA and points west. Real shame.

    • bikinginla says:

      There are efforts taking place to regain bike access through the Veteran’s Cemetery. The UCLA Bicycle Academy and the Bicycle Coalition at UCLA are holding a public meeting with Lisa Pinto, District Director for Congressman Henry Waxman, along with a number of local officials and their representatives. The meeting will take place at 5:15 pm on Wednesday, Feb. 17th, at a site to be determined.

      Personally, I think as long as riders show proper courtesy and respect when riding through the cemetery, I see no reason to deny access to a much safer and faster route.

  14. Thanks for relinking to this story. I had NO idea that the sidewalk along Veteran adjacent to the Federal Building was actually a bike path. I hate that the bike path suddenly disappears and I have to leap onto the street. Oy vey.

  15. […] discussed it before, from Westwood’s long abandoned and barely ridable bike path, to bikeways blocked by everything from sand to trash […]

  16. Mikki says:

    Hi there, I enjoy reading through your article post.

    I like to write a little comment to support you.

  17. […] I haven’t seen enough of this interdepartmental greenways collaboration in Los Angeles. Frequently neither LADOT nor L.A.’s Department of Recreation and Parks (LADRP) will take full ownership of L.A. Greenway facilities. LADOT doesn’t include LADRP bike paths on its website and its bike maps. For example, the full extent of Sepulveda Basin bike paths never appear in DOT materials. LADRP doesn’t see bikes in its core mission, so bike paths through L.A. parks are often poorly maintained. For example, see this coverage of the Westwood Park bike path. […]

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