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Archive for the ‘Bicyquality of Life’ Category

Spring (or is this one long perpetual summer?) is back and adventure options for those on two wheels are endless! After travelling to a few other places, we wanted to get back on our local tourism tip!

This bicycle tour features destinations in between the Red Line North Hollywood Station (in NoHo) and the Griffith Park Sunday Drum Circle. Yes, a drum circle! This 8.5 mile-long bike ride travels along different bike facilities (bike paths, lanes, and routes) and features a variety of LA neighborhood attractions from shops & entertainment in NoHo to nature & culture in Griffith Park.

Come along for the ride! To prepare, you need: a bike, a bike lock, some kind of map or smart phone, water, snacks, and don’t forget your sun protection, because it can get HOT!

Pleasant 8.5 mile-long features NoHo Arts District, Burbank and Griffith Park

Pleasant 8.5 mile-long bike ride features the NoHo Arts District, Burbank and Griffith Park. Photo: Google Map

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People walking, bicycling, and driving all share the road in downtown Seattle

This year’s annual conference for the American Planning Association (APA), Sustainable Seattle, was hosted in a city rich with sustainable practices and, appropriately for our interests, complete streets infrastructure.  The APA covers all faces of planning, but complete streets are increasingly a focus of urban (and suburban) planners everywhere. Complete streets that make up walkable, bikeable, and ultimately livable communities, have become the national best practice because they make for sustainable communities, a core tenet and charge of the urban planning profession. The integration of complete streets with retail, mixed-use development, the densification of cities, and sustainable practices were highlighted throughout the conference.

Though LADOT performs much implementation, we are also tasked with planning and project development, which is the area we inhabit in Bicycle Outreach and Planning. Attending the APA conference gives us a broad context for what we do, which can be really helpful in a time where cities are growing at some of the fastest rates ever.  Here are some of our take aways from the conference, followed with a few snapshots of Seattle’s pedestrian-first culture.

Bicycle, bus, and car networks seamlessly weave through the retail-lined Aloha Street

Network connectivity is the nexus of people, land, and local economic vitality

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(One of our Student Professional Workers, Jose Tchopourian, took a trip to the Northeast during his Spring Break from UCLA. In this post he shares his experience getting around by bicycle during his visit to three East Coast cities.)

The Northeastern United States may not be the most popular Spring Break destination for folks trying to avoid winter weather, however I decided to take on the challenge. Over the course of a week, my wife and I explored Philadelphia, New York City, and Washington D.C. on two wheels.

Chillin’ in Philly

Our first stop on this journey was Philadelphia. Our home base was the Fishtown neighborhood, located three miles northeast of the Center City and walking distance to cafes, restaurants, and the Girard MFL Subway Station. We explored the city on foot, by bike, and on transit. The compact footprint allowed us to visit multiple neighborhoods, but also destinations such as City HallReding Terminal Market, Barnes FoundationSchuylkill River Trail, South Philadelphia’s scenic architecture, and many more cultural and historic institutions.

Schuylkill River Trail, Philadelphia.

Although temperatures were below freezing, us two Angelenos managed to tough it out by traveling via trains and buses into the Center City and walking and biking between the many attractions. We found that pedestrian-oriented facilities are common around the Central City. Ample sidewalks and crosswalks, benches and trees, street lighting, squares and parks, and river banks create a pleasant walking environment. We found that bike facilities vary and include off-street bike paths along the rivers, on-street facilities such as buffered bike lanes, sharrowed routes, and streets without markings. Philadelphia’s narrow streets in the urban core facilitate transportation on bike and foot due to low motor-vehicles speeds and volumes.

Philly Bike Shop

A hip bike shop in South Philadelphia.

For all these reasons, Philadelphia is in the top-tier of bicycle commuting cities in the nation. Bicycle mode share is 2.3%, compared to 0.6% nationally. Notably, the share of women bicycle commuters is 33%, compared to 24% nationally. With the arrival of a bike share program later this year, the city will most likely maintain its lead and continue growing. (more…)

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Me (Heather!) and my bicycle

My favorite means of commuting to and from work has always been by bicycle, and my commute to LADOT  is no different. For many bicycle commuters, the decision to bike to work is often because they find the convenience, affordability, enjoyability, and commute time appealing. Biking also takes away the stress of having to rush to catch the [insert any public transit mode] or the all-too-familiar road-rage-inducing traffic congestion.

I live in Los Feliz and it takes me an average of 35 minutes to bike to work Downtown. In total, the ride is about 5.5 very doable miles. If I were to commute by car it would take me roughly 40 minutes plus a few bucks for gas (and then… parking).  There are a few bike routes I can take to work because of the growing bike lane network leading to and through Downtown and the route I take most often is straightforward, based in two prominent north/south and east/west bike network connectors: the 2nd Street tunnel and Spring Street bike lanes.

From my home, I use neighborhood streets to reach Sunset Boulevard, then take Sunset (more than half the ride), and finally catch the bike lane on Spring Street to the reach the LADOT office. My ride starts out in the quiet Los Feliz flatlands, where I weave through neighborhood streets and a few mid-block alleyways. I enjoy the slow pace I can take in the alleyways that feature limited vehicle traffic- their separation from major roadways allows me to relax and take it easy. I also enjoy the sense of community here. There are several schools in Los Feliz, so I routinely see a lot of moms and dads walking their kids to school or older kids walking together in groups.

Turning into mid-block alleyway in the Los Feliz neighborhood.

Turning into a mid-block alleyway in the Los Feliz neighborhood

When I reach Sunset, I take the popular Sunset bike lane for an easy 4.5 miles through a couple different neighborhoods: Silverlake and Echo Park. Biking on Sunset is my favorite part of the ride because it is scenic, varied, and social. There are a few rolling hills, but all elevation climbs are manageable and are subsequently rewarded with fun, gentle downhills. To my surprise, Sunset Blvd. in the mornings doesn’t ever seem as busy as it usually is in the evenings and on weekends.

Silverlake and Echo Park have a lot of locally beloved coffee shops. They’re always in full swing with people enjoying their favorite morning pastries alongside a cup of joe. Mornings along Sunset are also bustling with the bigger business of everyday life- there are always a few freight trucks unloading, buses picking up and dropping off people on their way to work. It’s important to follow the same rules of the road with these larger vehicles. When they are stopped to unload, I pass them safely, on the left.  With busses, sometimes I slow down and wait behind them until they exit the bus zone. Patience and common sense are important when sharing the road!

Using the bike lane on Sunset and passing the Sunset-Silverlake Junction Plaza.

Using the bike lane on Sunset and passing the Sunset-Silverlake Junction Plaza

When the weather is rainy or just too cold or too hot, I’ll opt for a multi-modal commute. For these rides, I dress according to the weather and bike to the nearest Metro Red Line Station, taking my bike on the train. From the Red Line, I get off at Civic Center Station, and then bike the rest of my way to work. Like Jose mentioned in his previous My Bicycle Route post, taking your bike on the train is super easy.

In addition to using other modes of transportation to supplement biking, I’ve also learned a few wardrobe tips to make my trips more successful. These include: 1) layering 2) wearing comfortable or slightly stretchy clothes to allow for lots of leg movement 3) cuffing pants to avoid greasy chain smears and, 4) adorning a reflective strap or vest for safety. Storing work clothes and extra gear like a multi-tool, bike lights, and flat tire patch kit in a pannier will also help ease your ride and facilitate a safe trip.

When I get the opportunity, I like to join an LA Bike Train to commute to work! LA Bike Trains is a free, community-oriented organization that helps people bike to work together. LA Bike Trains currently offer 10+ weekly or bi-weekly routes throughout the city that are led by Conductors, experienced urban cyclists. Some examples of the routes include Silverlake to Santa Monica and K-Town to UCLA. LA Bike Trains is a fantastic resource for people who want to ride their bikes to work, and the organization continues to grow, adding 5 additional routes since 2013. Luckily for me, there’s a Bike Train that leaves from Cafe Vitta in Los Feliz every other Thursday morning at 8 am and rides all the way to Downtown. It’s exactly the same route I usually take, but way more fun because I get to meet fellow bike commuters and have some company on my ride. Apart from social incentives, another great benefit of bike trains or biking with others is creating the “safety-in-numbers” effect, which makes you a little more visible to people driving. My ride to work with the Bike Train always feels fast- I guess time flies when you’re having fun ;)

Here’s my route in detail, from Los Feliz to Downtown:

Los Feliz Downtown

If you’re looking to find your perfect bike commute route, there are tons of resources out there to help you get started. Here are a few leads:

  1. Visit our most up-to-date Bikeways Map on bicyclela.org
  2. Ask fellow bike commuters or employees at your local bike shop
  3. Use the bicycle route option on Google Maps
  4. Use Google’s street view tool to help envision your route
  5. Read about others’ bike commute routes in our My Bicycle Route series
  6. Request a bike map for your region in LA
  7. Get in touch with an LA Bike Train conductor in your area

In addition to the route itself, you might want to think about environmental factors like:

  1. Elevation inclines and declines: Dress and prepare accordingly.
  2. Bicycle infrastructure: Paths, lanes, sharrows and their varying degrees of safety, connectivity, and ease.
  3. Vehicular traffic and speeds: Neighborhood streets often yield slower vehicle speeds while main thoroughfares often yield higher vehicular speeds.
  4. Time of the day: Make sure to use the proper lights and reflectors to make yourself visible.

Keep in mind that one of the best ways to pick your favorite route is to simply go out there and take a few test rides. You can even drive the route in a car ahead of time. Have fun, and let us know what your favorite rush-hour-beating bike commute route is!

Heather Do is an intern in Active Transportation Division’s Bicycle Program.

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Jessica Ruvalcaba and Devon Fitzgerald met on their bicycle commute down Pico Boulevard

We all love happy stories about bicycling on LA streets. And biking is a great way to get involved in your community and meet new people. So when we heard about a Los Angeles bicycle commute that lead to an engagement, we definitely wanted to highlight it on the Bike Blog! Friend of the Blog, Jessica Ruvalcaba, has been an avid connoisseur of Los Angeles bikeways and even met her fiance while biking home from work one day. We interviewed Jessica about biking and living in LA… and that fateful day.

Thanks for talking with us Jessica. So tell us a bit about yourself? Did you grow up in Los Angeles? Have you always commuted by bike?

I grew up in San Diego and Riverside but I have been living in LA for the last 8 years, car-free. When I moved to LA, I was living in Hollywood and working at casting studios nearby so I walked to work and soon started biking. When my commute got longer I rode a scooter, and then a motorcycle, but after I got into an accident, I started biking again.

Now, I work at an elementary school in Northridge, which unfortunately is too far for me to bike to, so I usually borrow my fiancé’s car. When I met my fiancé, Devon, I was biking a 10 mile commute, which is kind of my limit, distance-wise.

So I’m told you and Devon met while riding bikes. Tell us the story!

I was riding home from work one evening – it was All Saints Day – and was stopped at a light heading east on Pico at Overland. Devon rode past me heading south and we smiled at each other. After he crossed the intersection, he looked back and I guess I was still smiling because he stopped, turned around, and rode back over to say hi.

He didn’t know too many people in L.A. at that time since he just moved from San Francisco to get his Masters at LMU. So we talked and he rode with me a bit and then we stopped for Ethiopian food on Fairfax. Right off the bat, we started talking about comparative theology and reincarnation. We definitely had an immediate connection.We ended up hanging out on the roof of my apartment building in MacArthur Park dancing and watching the stars. That was about 2 years ago and in January we got engaged!

Congratulations! Are bikes going to be incorporated into your wedding (a la Solange’s famous white bicycles)?

We might incorporate bikes into the wedding but our families are not as bike crazy as we are. Even though I have had to drive more recently, biking is still a huge part of my life and Devon’s as well. Devon rides his bike during his 4-mile commute most days to his job as a massage therapist. In 2013, we rode in the AIDS/Life Cycle fundraising bike ride from San Francisco to LA. It took about 7 days. It was an amazing experience. I would really recommend it.

I assume you would say bicycling is a great way to meet people! Are you involved with any other bicycling organizations? What is your advice to people who want to get to know their fellow people on bikes?

Biking is a great way to meet people! I’ve met so many people on bikes, but I’m pretty friendly so I tend to meet people wherever I go. I will say that you’re probably not going to meet anyone if you’re riding around with headphones on. It’s also kind of dangerous. I would recommend smiling and saying hi when riding if you really want to meet people.

I have been involved with a few local biking organizations. I volunteered at the Bicycle Kitchen but never made it “full-wrencher”. I also worked for AIDS/Life Cycle. Wolfpack Hustle events are also a great way to meet people, Midnight Ridazz’ are great for partying, and S.W.A.T., which is an all girls group who like to ride really hard.

What bike amenities would you like to see in your neighborhood? What would your dream bikeable neighborhood look like?

Safety is always an issue. I think a safer bike route along PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) is really needed. My dream bikeable neighborhood would have bike lanes protected by parked cars. I also think that more transit would really encourage people to bike, especially for commuters who have to drive between the Valley and the Westside or Mid-City. Maybe one day!

Great suggestions, Jessica. We’ll keep you posted on those cycletracks! ;)

A perfect view for two bicycles in love

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#CHILLIN: Buffered by parked cars, #PopUpChandler cycletrack users enjoy their morning coffee on the way to CicLAvia!

Thank you for stopping by, Los Angeles! Over 1,000 of you rolled through the #PopUpChandler cycletrack yesterday!  In case you missed it, the City hosted a pop up demonstration cycletrack at Sunday’s CicLAvia – The Valley. The one-day installation was a collaborative effort by LADOT and the Department of City Planning to create a temportary cycletrack as a means to bridge the network connection between the Chandler Bike Path and the CicLAvia NoHo Hub. #PopUpChandler, located between Vineland and Fair, gave participants an opportunity to see and experience the low-stress bicycle facilities proposed in the City’s draft Mobility Plan 2035, hands-on and in-person.

Pedestrian Coordinator, Valerie Watson presents cycletrack information and explains elements of Mobility Plan 2035

Throughout the day, people of all ages rolled through the cycletrack, protected by a row of parked cars, on their way to the CicLAvia North Hollywood Arts District Hub. CicLAvia event participants were encouraged to travel through the pop up and pit stop at the City of LA booth prior to continuing on to the day’s festivities. Upon exiting the cycletrack, users were able to directly engage with the City’s mobility planners and active transportation engineers to discuss the nuances of the protected lanes and learn more about different ways to confiure streets for all types of users.

Residents from the Valley and beyond noted the added comfort and safety of the cycletrack concept, especially for the youngest and most vulnerable: children on bicycles. Passerbys noted that “flipping the bike and parking lane just makes sense and seems safer for everyone.” Many provided City staff with feedback and shared their experience on social media using the hashtag #PopUpChandler.

City staff were joined by USC Price School externs to perfom cycletrack outreach, collecting surveys, feedback and answering questions. Unlike the traditional planning process, pop up events allow community members to experience infrastructure and provide input based on that experience.

The temporary “pop up” design utilized traffic cones to designate space for people on bicycles, people parking cars, and people driving cars. In this cycletrack design, the parking lane has been flipped with the bike lane, maintaining street parking, while adding extra protection and reducing conflicts between people travelling on bikes and people travelling in cars.  This configuration is simple and provides benefits to all users.  Beyond serving those travelling by bicycle or car, cycletracks create shorter crossing distances for people walking.  

City officials also came out to enjoy the festivities and experience the cycletrack for themselves. “The San Fernando Valley’s CicLAvia was a stunning success, bringing thousands of people out of their cars and homes and onto the streets for the day,” said Councilmember Paul Krekorian of District 2. “I tested out the Pop-Up Chandler Cycletrack, along with a lot of other happy cyclists, and I believe it showed people what is possible as we strive to make Los Angeles a more connected and bike-friendly city.”

CicLAvia attendees enjoy the low-stress nature of the Chandler demonstration cycletrack connecting their journey from the Chandler Bike Path to the event hub.

Sunday’s event is just the first step toward safer and more comfortable mobility network. Cycletracks are an important element in the City’s draft 2035 Mobility Plan, which emphasizes low-stress facilities as an important active transportation  mode that helps to reduce vehicle miles traveled throughout the city, as well other associated environmental benefits. The 2035 Mobility Plan is scheduled to be before the City Planning Commission in May, and you can find out more at an open house on Tuesday, March 24. Protected bike lanes are similarly included in LADOT’s Strategic Plan “Great Streets for Los Angeles“.

Keep an eye out for similar pop-up events in the future that will help us better plan and design more permanent bicycle infrastructure in your neighborhood!

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Bicycle tourism has been well observed and practiced as a recreational activity across the United States, but often we fail to remember the multitude of sightseeing opportunities right here within our city’s diverse neighborhoods.  As Los Angeles’ bicycle network and multi-modal connectivity expands, we have more and more opportunities get out of our cars and explore new areas by bicycle. There’s no better way to spend a sunny Sunday than exploring Los Angeles’ hidden gems. We thought we would share our favorite bicycle routes and points of interest in and around San Pedro, one of L.A.’s most scenic and bikeable neighborhoods.

Cruising the Waterfront 1

Clockwise from top left: The Corner Store, view from Paseo Del Mar looking north; bike lane signage; Metro Bus 246; palms at Point Fermin Park; Point Fermin Lighthouse; and buffered bike lanes on Paseo Del Mar.

Located 25 miles south of Downtown L.A., San Pedro is home to some of the city’s most breathtaking vistas and historical sights, not to mention bike lanes and paths that even novice riders will enjoy. Our journey begins on San Pedro’s Paseo Del Mar, accessible via the terminus of Metro Bus 246 at Paseo and Parker St. Cruise Paseo’s bike lanes and check out the breathtaking cliff-side views of the Pacific and Catalina Island. Stop by local haunt, the Corner Store to refuel with coffee and snacks before making your way east to Point Fermin Park, home of legendary Walker’s Café and the Point Fermin Lighthouse, built in 1874.

Cruising the Waterfront 2

Taking in the view on Paseo Del Mar.

From Point Fermin, it is a quick 5 minute ride down Shepherd and Pacific Avenues to Cabrillo Beach, where you can check out the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium and the nearby tide pools. If squids and urchins aren’t your thing, enjoy the views along the beachfront bike path and fishing pier. Head north on sharrowed Shoshean Road toward 22nd Street where twenty-second Street Park’s scenic bike path will lead you straight to Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles, San Pedro’s new artisan marketplace located in a beautifully restored warehouse.

After picking up some homemade marmalade, head up the hill to Beacon St. to check out the Muller House Museum (open Sundays only), a cherished jewel of San Pedro’s past. Other great sights in the vicinity include: the WPA murals in the San Pedro Post Office on Beacon St,  recently constructed Cabrillo Way Marina and Warehouse No. 1 at the south end of Signal St, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Cruising the Waterfront 3

Clockwise from top left: Warehouse No. 1; view from Signal St., bike parking at the Red Car Downtown Station, bike lane on Harbor Blvd., a glimpse of the Bike Palace on Pacific Ave., the Merchant Marine Memorial and Maritime Museum off Harbor Blvd. Center: A brand new boardwalk just north of the Maritime Museum.

Take a well-deserved break at Utro’s Cafe right off of Sampson Way, home to arguably the best burger in town. Peruse Utro’s extensive collection of memorabilia to learn a bit about the history of longshore workers in San Pedro. If you’re still up for more San Pedro sights after lunch, take a stroll around the quaint shops at Ports O’Call. From here you can also take the short trip north to the fantastic Battleship USS Iowa and Los Angeles Maritime Museum both accessible via the bike lanes on Harbor Blvd.

If you want to give your legs a rest, hop on the Historic Waterfront Red Car Line, one of the last remaining vestiges of Los Angeles’ railcar past or enjoy the water show at Gateway Plaza, featuring two Fanfare fountains by WET Design. When you’re ready to catch the 246 back north, take bike-friendly 9th, 13th, or 14th Streets 4 blocks west to Pacific Ave.

Since there’s so much more to see in San Pedro – like the Warner Grand Theater and Korean Bell, just to name a few- feel free to leave us your suggestions for other great bike-friendly sights in town! Also, let us know if you have any suggestions for other bikeable L.A. neighborhoods you would like to see us explore on the blog.

More great resources for your trip: Bike Palace (located on Pacific Ave. and 16th St.); bicyclela.org (for bike maps and parking info)

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