This past week I took advantage of the nice weather and borrowed LADOT’s Active Transportation GoPro to film a bike ride from my home in South Pasadena to the Silver Lake Reservoir. I am a graduate student at USC and typically commute to school by transit and on bike. Initially, I wanted to use the GoPro to capture my experience on a new route to USC, but instead I decided to go for a relaxing ride without having to worry about getting to class on time. Doing so let me reflect on the perceived differences between biking in South Pasadena and Los Angeles. South Pasadena is very small, so it’s relatively easy to get anywhere on a bike within a few minutes. Los Angeles, on the other hand, is a lot larger and can seem inhospitable for bicycling. However, if you view each neighborhood as its own self-contained community, riding in the City of Angeles can feel like you are traversing a series of small towns rather than a monolithic sprawling landscape.

My leisurely-paced journey took me through a few LA neighborhoods and along the way I passed by some of my favorite restaurants and cafes. One of the many benefits of biking is being able to stop and walk right into places that seem interesting since parking a bicycle is a lot easier than parking a car. Just lift your bike onto the sidewalk, lock it up to a nearby bike rack, and go. No circling the block for a parking space!

I started my trip at Buster’s Coffee, located on the corner of Mission Street and Meridian Avenue near my apartment in South Pasadena. This neighborhood coffee shop is within walking distance from the South Pasadena Gold Line Station and is a convenient place to meet friends getting off the train. There is plenty of outdoor seating, which is great for people-watching, as well as charming indoor spaces for all your reading/studying needs. For those arriving by bicycle, a hand-painted bike parking sign shows you where you’re welcome to safely lock your bike up towards the rear of the table-strewn alcove next to the shop while you enjoy your meal.

After coffee I walked across the street to the great used book shop, Battery Books and Music, to pick up a new read. On a typical day after getting coffee and perusing books I might go to Mix ‘n Munch, which serves great grilled cheese sandwiches right next door to Battery Books.

Buster's Coffee

Dubbed “the coffee shop by the tracks,” Buster’s Cafe welcomes people arriving by any mode. (Image Source: Leisa Collins Art)

On this relaxed sunny afternoon, however, I went one block south on Meridian Avenue and made a right on El Centro Street, to get to Nicole’s, which offers tasty low-key French fare in a sidewalk cafe setting. The place doubles as a French market so I loaded up my bike’s saddlebags with sandwiches and cheeses, and proceeded to my next destination. After all, you can’t stop at a cheese shop on your way to a meadow and not pack a picnic!

Nicole's Gourmet Foods

Nothing better than a lazy afternoon at Nicole’s Gourmet Foods. (Image Source: Creative Expressions and More)

After leaving Nicole’s, I pedaled from South Pasadena into the City of Los Angeles by way of the York Boulevard Bridge, which brought me into the Highland Park neighborhood. There are a number of restaurants and shops along York Boulevard easily accessible by bike thanks to the bike lanes. If I did not already have lunch packed away in my panniers, I might have stopped at the Highland Cafe for some chilaquiles. Although I am a few miles from my home at this point in the journey, this translates into a mere 20-something minute bicycle ride, which is enough to get my muscles moving but not so far that it feels like a workout.

Highland Cafe

People on all sorts of bikes can’t stay away from the good eats at Highland Cafe. (Image Source: Happening in Highland Park)

As I continued west on York Boulevard, I eventually reached Eagle Rock Boulevard where I made a left and continue south. After a short ride down this wide boulevard I find myself in the neighborhood of Glassell Park. I passed by Habitat Coffee, a cafe that recently sprouted up in an otherwise unassuming stretch of Eagle Rock Boulevard. It’s not uncommon to see people enjoying pastries, good conversation, and taking advantage of Habitat’s outdoor dining to enjoy the sunshine.

Habitat Coffee

Habitat Coffee’s frontage is accented by our latest sidewalk bike rack design.
(Image Source: L.A.CAFE)

After winding my way through some side streets I reached Fletcher Drive. As with the other streets I used for my trip, Fletcher is its own main street with blossoming businesses. At this point, it was only a 10 minute bicycle ride to the Silver Lake Meadow where I enjoyed my picnic.

To most people, traversing the Los Angeles region by bicycle may seem intimidating. If you watch the video below of my ride, your can judge for yourself how easy it is to get to many local businesses using my bicycle- especially when there are bike lanes available! This trip would undoubtedly be faster by car, there’s no secret there, but when we spend our lives focusing on time saved, we tend to forget about time well spent, and this bike ride was an absolute delight.

This blog post was authored by Paul Cipriani, a Student Volunteer Intern in the LADOT Bicycle Program.

Here at LADOT, we support and encourage active transportation in all shapes and forms such as walking, jogging, cycling, skating, or whatever best fits your interests. This time around, we are shifting gears from talking about our beloved two-wheeled vehicle to (re)introduce a mode transportation and recreation that seems long forgotten, but is still alive and kicking: skates!

Sidewalk Bike Parking 20th Birthday

Author of this post, Braulio, enjoys the roll from Metro’s Expo Line to his class at USC.

Who said inline skates and roller skates were a thing of the past? Believe it or not, people still skate around for recreational purposes, and some even utilize them as a mode of transportation. You can find most inline and roller skaters along one of L.A.’s piers rolling up and down the coast and taking advantage of Southern California’s sunny days. However, there are a few people who also use their skates to  reach less leisurely destinations like school, work, or shops. These people demonstrate that skates are a convenient and fast way to complete short trips. When adding public transportation to the mix, the average skater can reach virtually any destination they can think of! Continue Reading »

This year, LADOT’s Sidewalk Bike Parking Program is turning 20! What better way to celebrate two decades of bike parking than by telling you the story of how this indispensable end-of-trip bike amenity in our City came to be.

Sidewalk Bike Parking 20th Birthday

Our beloved end-of-trip facility is leaving behind its teenage years!

Where It Started At

It all started in 1995, when our Senior Project Coordinator Michelle Mowery spearheaded our Department’s efforts to provide ample amounts of sidewalk bike parking in the City. Initially, the Sidewalk Bike Parking Program was introduced as a “pilot” and was made possible by funds from a Metro Call for Projects grant. During its pilot phase, the Program purchased and installed approximately 1,700 inverted-U bike racks citywide. This momentous investment marked the beginning of the Department’s growing endeavors to encourage and facilitate active transportation in the City. Two years later, in 1997, the L.A. region began experimenting with the first generation of bike racks on buses, as a way to provide greater multi-modal connectivity to people traveling throughout the region.

Since its origin, the Sidewalk Bike Parking Program has relied heavily on the work and dedication of graduate students, including Ben Ortiz, Jose Elias, Kathleen King, Austin Sos, Jose Tchopourian, and others, working part-time at the LADOT Bike Program. Over the years, these bike parking mavens have nurtured hundreds of requests for bike parking, from being a data entry stored in a server to being a bike rack on the sidewalk.

This Is How We Do It

Our Sidewalk Bike Parking Program installs inverted-U bike racks at the request of business owners or any other member of the public, which definitely includes you. Each rack is 36″ tall, 24″ wide and can hold up to two bikes. The rack is designed to provide great support for bicycles, allowing the person parking the bike to lock both wheels and the bike frame to the inverted-U bike rack without worrying about the bike falling over. The City of Los Angeles assumes responsibility for the rack but not for bikes parked on it.  Although there is no fee to request a bike rack and installation is free, all racks are City property.

Bike parking installed through the Program can only be placed in the public right-of-way (primarily sidewalks) within the City of Los Angeles. Racks are situated on sidewalks to avoid conflicts with people walking or rolling and people exiting or entering parked motor vehicles or buses. You will find that racks are usually parallel but sometimes perpendicular to the curb and not directly next to building entrances and crosswalks.

Our City’s sidewalk bike parking has been turning heads since 1995.

Won’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough

Two decades have passed since some of the first sidewalk bike racks were introduced in LA and now we have over 6,000 bike racks on the ground. Much of our public right-of-way has been accessorized with bike parking, allowing Angelenos to ride and park their bikes at locations convenient to shopping, dining, playing, and most other spontaneous activities you can think of. The Sidewalk Bike Parking Program aims to provide highly visible and convenient short-term bike parking near office buildings and retail destinations near public sidewalks.

Now that you know where all the sidewalk bike parking in our City comes from, it’s your turn to tell us where people in your community want bike parking. To request a bike rack, complete an online Bicycle Parking Request Form. To determine if a location you would love to have bike parking qualifies for one of our program’s bike racks, please review our bicycle rack location criteria here. You can email bike rack coordinator extraordinaire Jose Tchopourian, if you have additional questions or notice a rack has become loose or damaged.

Today, our Department’s Sidewalk Bike Parking Program keeps expanding into new places within the City and upgrading inadequate parking equipment along the way. The Program could not be successful without your requests and feedback. Thank you! Now, walk, ride, or roll to your favorite destination near a sidewalk bike rack to celebrate.

Putting on the finishing touches at Hope St Parklet

People St is excited to kick off the new year with the installation and official opening of Hope St Parklet in the South Park neighborhood of Downtown Los Angeles. The new Parklet is located at the southwest corner of Hope and 11th Street, just a few blocks south of STAPLES Center, L.A. Live, and the Metro Pico Station. This is the first parklet to be constructed within the framework of the People St program, which hosted its first application cycle in Spring 2014

As a part of South Park’s Walkability Project, Hope St Parklet serves as a catalyst for future investment in pedestrian and bicycle amenities for the South Park community. The Parklet replaces two parking spaces, providing 288 square feet of new public green space complete with planters and seating for people to meet, talk, and enjoy the neighborhood. The parklet design is based in the People St Kit of Parts model, The Steps, which provides space for 2-3 tables and chairs and is flanked with built-in terraced benches and planters. The combination and configuration of movable and permanent seating encourages flexibility in uses.

Like other People St projects, identity and wayfinding signage at Hope St Parklet orient visitors to local destinations that are within walking and biking distance to the site. A quick look at the map shows that Metro Blue and Expo Lines are only a five-minute walk away. Raising awareness of walkable destinations, transit, and bikeways encourages people to explore the neighborhood, creating a dedicated resting place along the way.

Hope St parklet signage panel shows a person-oriented wayfinding with 10 minute radius

People St projects like Hope St Parklet align neighborhoods around street life, creating a place of communal respite in otherwise urban neighborhoods. Amenities like parklets are important to the vitality of any people-oriented corridor, creating an oasis of free public seating so people can pause, relax, and take in the neighborhood. “Working with the community to make neighborhoods more enjoyable and walkable is one of our goals,” said Seleta Reynolds, LADOT General Manager. “Creating spaces like the Hope Street Parklet gives people the opportunity to meet, relax and spend time where they live and shop.”

Councilmember Huizar, LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds, and South Park BID Executive Director Jessica Lall host parklet ribbon cutting ceremony

As the Community Partner for this project, South Park Business Improvement District (BID) is responsible for the management and ongoing maintenance of the Parklet. Funds for parklet materials, design, and labor were largely donated by members of the South Park community, including SODA Architects, Mia Lehrer + Associates, Mack Urban, Benchmark + Tishman Construction, A Joint Venture, Swinerton Builders, Trumark Urban, Hazens Group, USA, ValleyCrest Landscape Development, Harry H. Joh Construction, ABC Resources, Tinco Sheet Metal, Helix Electric. By leveraging donations and community good will, South Park BID managed to construct the parklet for less than $10,000.

With a full crew, the parklet was constructed in just over a day

Hope St Parklet is one of three parklets approved in the inaugural People St application cycle, along with People St Plazas in North Hollywood, Leimert Park, and Pacoima. Because the People St program is a public-private partnership, LADOT has provided technical assistance, project support, and the wayfinding signage. To date, the People St program has created a total of 30,600 square feet of Plaza space, a total of 1,540 square feet of Parklet space, and 1,500 square feet of Bicycle Corral space. The addition of Hope St Parklet adds to over 33,640 square feet of people-oriented green space in the City of Los Angeles – that’s 3/4 of an acre, nearly the size of the Taj Mahal! By reallocating vehicular right of way to people uses, we give new life to our public realm.

Can’t get enough parklets? There are two more parklets located on Motor Avenue in Palms that will complete installation in the coming month, so stay tuned! For more information about the People St program, visit our website, peoplest.lacity.org or email peoplest@lacity.org.

On Friday, January 8, 2016 Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles District Commander Col. Kirk Gibbs announced that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) will be taking new interim measures to improve flood protection on the Los Angeles River during #ElNiñoLA.

The USACE is the federal agency responsible for navigable bodies of water, including our very own Los Angeles River. The LA River has an almost century-long history with the USACE that started after a series of floods, including the 1914 flood which caused $10 million in damages. A public outcry for action to address the recurring flooding problems led to the formation of the Los Angeles County Flood Control District. Early flood control efforts included some channelization and the need for reservoirs. Bonds were approved by taxpayers in 1917 and 1924 to build major dams. After two additional destructive floods in the 1930s, Federal assistance was requested and the Army Corps of Engineers took a lead role in channelizing the River. Channelization began in 1938. By 1960, the project was completed to form the fifty-one mile engineered waterway we are familiar with today.

A hisoric shot of the Los Angeles River at Griffith Park, circa 1898-1910 (Source: Wikipedia)

Due to the expectations of a powerful El Niño season, USACE recently received emergency federal funding to put in place safety measures for the area of the river that spans from Griffith Park to Elysian Valley.

“Our river is unique — most of the year it runs nearly dry, and then during the rainy season it runs in powerful torrents as we’ve seen this week,” said Mayor Garcetti. “My top priority during El Niño is to ensure the safety of everyone in our city, and I thank the Army Corps of Engineers for taking action now to enhance the river’s flood management functions.”

The Los Angeles District of USACE determined this area needed increased capacity to keep the river in its banks. The L.A. District declared an emergency to USACE headquarters on January 6, prompting headquarters to provide $3.1 million in federal funding and nearly 3-miles of temporary barriers, known as HESCO Bastion. The temporary barriers act as industrial size sandbags, effectively raising the sides of the river channel and temporarily increasing its capacity during the winter storm rains.  The District also received approximately $500,000 to begin removing water-flow impeding vegetation from the highest-risk areas within the channel, in an area just upstream and downstream of Riverside Drive and the Zoo Bridge.

Industrial size sandbags were mobilized from Nebraska to LA a few days ago in preparation for the expected storms

Anytime rain is in the forecast the LA River Bike Path is closed for safety (shelters and resources are available for people experiencing homelessness). In the coming months, the raised barriers will allow for the expected volumes and help protect against flooding in adjacent neighborhoods. The barrier will be under construction on the bike path beginning Tuesday, January 19, 2016.

Due to the configuration of the HESCO barriers on the bike path by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the LA River Bike Path will remain closed through #ElNiñoLA season from Zoo Drive to Glendale Blvd (with the Alex Baum Bridge remaining open as a bicycle and pedestrian crossing across the LA River and 5 freeway).  North of this location, in the Griffith Park section of the Path, there is also an unrelated intermittent closure due to Caltrans freeway bridge rehabilitation work. Check out the City’s Detour Guide for getting around temporary closures on the LA River bike/ped path here.

UPDATE: As many of you may already know, the Bike Path has been closed due to flood control measures installed by the Los Angeles District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers since January 2016. At this juncture, our agencies anticipate the earliest the Bike Path may reopen, post-‪#‎ElNiñoLA‬ flood risk and weather permitting, will be Memorial Day weekend.

Stay tuned for updates about construction and planned detour routes. Information will be available via our Blog (where you can also find articles about how to bike through El Nino and more!) and social media channels (@ladotbikeprog) using the hashtag #ElNiñoLA.

Updated 3/16/2016: Current information on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ barrier configuration added.

In previous segments of “The Engineer’s Corner,” we have introduced you to some of the talented engineers part of our Bikeways group. This time around, we take a coffee break away from the bikeway design plans to chat with LADOT’s new Chief of Staff Bridget Smith.

While Bridget is a newcomer to our Department, she is a skilled engineer with a civil engineering education from UC Berkeley, over 25 years of professional experience, and not one but three professional certifications: Professional Engineer (P.E.), Transportation Engineer (T.E.), and Professional Traffic Operations Engineer (P.T.O.E.). In this interview for “The Engineer’s Corner,” we ask Bridget about her move to our City, her experience in the field of engineering, and her idea of a livable street.

Taking a Break with Bridget

LADOT’s new Chief of Staff Bridget Smith takes a break to chat with us.

LADOT Bike Blog: Can you tell us about yourself?

Continue Reading »

The City of Los Angeles is the backdrop to countless scenes broadcast through the lens of a camera around the world. Most commonly, the City is associated with surfing, high school love, Noirs (animated and acted), miles of freeway, and the apocalypse in the form of volcanoes, meteor showers, martians, zombies, and, of course, earthquakes. While movie directors are interested in portraying the destruction of Los Angeles in cinematic productions, civil servants work day in and day out to make sure these catastrophic plot lines don’t unfold and life in the City goes on as usual.

This year, a main focus of the City’s is to prepare for the upcoming winter season. Scientists predict one of the strongest El Niño’s recorded will torment Southern California and parts of the Northern Hemisphere from January to March 2016. On November, 2015 the City El Niño Task Force was created by an Executive Directive signed by Mayor Garcetti. The goals of the Task Force are to bring together different City departments to collaborate and ensure the City is prepared to respond and, if necessary, recover from any issues caused by El Niño weather conditions. From stockpiling sandbags (200,00 of them!) to scheduling extra street sweeping, City agencies are ready to handle the wet weather our drought-parched landscape will soon receive.

Executive Directive on El Niño

Mayor Garcetti signing Executive Directive No. 14, which formed a City task force in preparation for El Niño. #squadgoals

To help Angelenos prepare for changing weather and stay informed about any emergencies, the City has some helpful resources available at its El Niño LA websiteAngelenos should check their roofs for leaks, clear gutters of leaves, and make sure their cars’ wipers, tires, and brake pads are up to spec. What if you get around on your bike, you ask? With a little bit of know-how under your belt and the right gear, you can keep riding through El Niño too. Stay one step ahead with our helpful tips below to keep moving through the winter, whether on foot, bike, bus, train, or car.

Tips for Riding in the Rain

Just as if you were driving a car or taking transit in the rain, you’ll have to adjust your behavior when riding your bike in the rain. Unlike putting on that fancy rain cape you’ve been storing in your closet, the following tips for riding in the rain involve a little more effort:

    • Check the Anatomy of Your Bicycle: The following tips all assume that your bike is working well. Take a few moments to inspect your bike’s most critical parts before your ride. If your bike’s brakes were having trouble slowing you down in dry weather, this is a good time to fix them or take your bike to a shop for a professional’s touch. The rear wheel should lift off the ground when you squeeze your front brake and lean into the front handlebars. Spin your wheels and make sure they aren’t loose. The last thing you want on a wet day is for your wheels to pop off!
Anatomy of a Safe Bike

To ride on streets, California law requires you ride a bike that meets all these specs, rain or shine.

  • Slow Down: Water between the roadway and your bike’s tires reduces traction. Less traction means slowing down and stopping will take more time. The best way to avoid skidding is to lower speed. Take your normal riding speed and ride at 75% that speed or so in the rain. Slowing down gives you enough time to correct any traction issues.
  • Brake Early: In the rain, roadways, tires, brake pads, and rims all get wet and, combined, extending braking time. If your bike has rim brakes, it will take a few tire revolutions before water between the brake pads and wheel is cleared and the brakes can grip the rim. Plan for this delay, look ahead, and start slowing down early to make a complete stop.
  • Brake Straight: Your bike’s brakes work best when you are traveling in a straight line. If you have to slow down or stop, do so before you’re making a turn.
  • Corner Wide and Slow: Make turns at corners slower and wider than usual. Start further out and take the widest and straightest path possible. Avoid sudden sharp turns.
  • Braking while Turning: Don’t do it! Slow down enough (see ‘Brake Early’ tip) before turning so you can coast through the motion. Sudden corner braking may cause your back wheel to skid and slide a bit. If this happens, don’t panic! Just let off the brake and look straight ahead, the bike will straight itself out.

Watch Out for Tricky Surfaces

Now that you’re riding, braking, and cornering safely, there are some special surface conditions caused by El Niño you should know how to handle.

  • Oil Slicks: After the rain, all the oil and gunk leaking out cars will float to the top of puddles and on the roadway. Keep an eye out for an iridescent sheen when riding and try to avoid riding over it to prevent skidding. If you can’t avoid a slick, coast through it without pedaling or braking to maximize traction.     

    Street. Yellow lines. Oil.

    Avoid oil slicks brought to the surface to prevent skidding. Photo courtesy: Flickr user Nik Stanbridge

  • Puddles: What looks like a bit of standing water could be a foot of water filling a hole in the roadway. To help avoid puddle-related hazards, ride towards the center of the lane (take the entire lane when possible) to give yourself enough room to move left or right around puddles.
  • Road Markings and Metal: Road markings can become slicker when wet. Similarly, drainage grates, manhole covers, and other metallic surfaces can become more slippery when wet. Ride slowly enough that you will be able to proceed cautiously over or around these surfaces.

Helpful Gear

Riding tips will help you maneuver through wet conditions and the right equipment and attire will help you stay warm and cozy in any ride.

Helpful Gear when Biking in the Rain

Don’t let the rain stop ya! Get suited up and arrive on your bike.

  • Get Fenders: Invest in some fenders for your bike! These metal contraptions keep all the debris washed onto the roadway by the rain on the ground and off of you.
  • Turn On Lights: By law, you should have a front white light and a red rear light. When it’s raining, even if you’re riding during the day, you should turn on your lights to increase your visibility.
  • Wear Waterproof Garments: A stylish rain cape is a particularly useful do-it-all piece of equipment during inclement weather. It drapes over your whole body, so you can wear whatever you want underneath. Other great options include waterproof jackets or plastic bags in a pinch.
  • Dress in Layers: If you’re not outfitted properly, you’re going to get wet. Make sure you’re wearing clothes that prevent water from getting in while allowing you to vent away excess heat and sweat. It may be cold out but you’re going to work up a sweat riding to your destination, so dress in layers to accommodate your needs. Consider wearing thermal under-layers made of wool or some other moisture-wicking fabric under your clothes during colder, windier days. Gloves are another great addition to prevent your wet and wind-blasted hands from getting too frigid.
  • Save your Stuff: While keeping yourself dry is most important, you should keep your electronics and important documents moisture-free too. Make sure your backpack or panniers are waterproof. If not, cover them with a waterproof layer. You can put the last of your plastic bags to good use here.  
  • Protect your Peepers:  Wind-whipped water can take a toll on your eyes, so protect them by wearing clear-lensed glasses. Remember, you should be able to see at all times when riding.

Rainy days, courtesy of El Niño, are rapidly approaching. Share your new found knowledge and preparation skills with your friends, so we can all keep riding through the rainy season.

%d bloggers like this: