Mid-City to Downtown L.A.: Which route is the safest to bike?

Mid-City to Downtown LA

Every weekday morning I commute to work during rush hour on bike, starting from the Mid-City neighborhood and ending at Metro headquarters, adjacent to Union Station in downtown LA.

On a bike it’s a tricky commute for many cyclists. Only one east-west street in the area has a bike lane — 7th Street — and that’s only from just west of Vermont to Figueroa. One other street, Venice Boulevard, has been designated as a bike route by the city of Los Angeles, meaning it’s deemed suitable for bike travel but there are no bike lanes. (Here’s the city’s online bike map, a very helpful tool)

Nonetheless, I’ve found there are many options in the area, although nearly all of them involve riding side-by-side with motorized vehicles. On most commute days, I prefer taking one of the main boulevards because they are faster and more convenient; there are smaller residential streets, but taking them means encountering a lot of stop signs and crossing L.A.’s busy north-south streets at intersections that may not have traffic signals or stop signs.

Some of my conclusions that may be helpful to other Mid-City-to-downtown bike commuters: 

• I favor and often take Venice Boulevard or Pico Boulevard straight down as they seem to be the safest and less hectic of the big boulevards. For example, if I take Pico Boulevard starting from Arlington Avenue to Union Station, it takes me about 18 minutes to bike to work (Google Maps predicts it would take about 18 to 28 minutes to drive during rush hour).

• Olympic Boulevard is in my opinion the worst to bike on during rush hour, especially if you’re heading west. Its road conditions are beyond poor (cracks and potholes everywhere), and the right lane is less than ideal in size for car drivers going at 35+ MPH to safely pass a cyclist without having to fully switch lanes.

• Wilshire Boulevard is also a nasty monster for cyclists. But its recent addition of a dedicated bus only lane between Western Avenue to South Park View Street (cyclists are allowed to use the bus lane) has also been an improvement for cyclists, especially those who are looking to connect to the 7th Street bike lane. The other advantage of Wilshire is that cyclists can use the Purple Line subway’s Wilshire/Western station to leapfrog into downtown. Relying on the 720 bus is trickier as bike racks are often full.

• Connecting to 7th Street’s bike lane from Vermont Avenue to Figueroa Street is a nice addition to my route on days when traffic is more congested than usual on Pico or Venice Boulevard. Only issue with biking on 7th Street is that the bike lane ends abruptly at Figueroa and the lanes get significantly narrower east of that. Also, the number of red lights you hit between Figueroa and Spring Street is superabundant.

Having said that, which boulevard do you prefer to bike on? And, if you don’t take or prefer any, what are some neighborhood streets that allow for a safe and fast way to bike from the Mid-City area to Downtown LA?

Bike path from Constitution Ave to Waterford St closed from Aug 8 to 14

untitledThe bike path that runs to the west of the I-405, from Constitution Avenue to Waterford Street, will be closed from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. starting Thursday, August 8 through Wednesday, August 14.

Closure is required to conduct slope grading between the bike path and freeway retaining wall. Cyclists can detour northbound on Church Lane to eastbound on Montana Avenue to southbound Sepulveda Boulevard to Constitution Avenue and vice versa.

Pedestrians can detour northbound on Church Lane to westbound on Sunset Boulevard to southbound on Barrington to eastbound on Wilshire to Sepulveda Boulevard.

Why You Ride: Bicycle Edition – riding down the Imperial Highway

During Bike Week LA, we collected nominations for the Golden Pedal Awards, Metro’s annual competition for great stories about bicycling. We’re featuring these stories in a weekly Why You Ride series – because for many Angelenos, every week is Bike Week!

Breeanna Taylor bikes 12 miles down the Imperial Highway to get to work.

Name: Breeanna Taylor
Start: Downey
End: La Habra
Distance: 12 miles (one way)
Time: 90 minutes (one way)

Breeanna with her mountain bike, helmet, and sunglasses getting ready to bike to work. Photo courtesy of Breeanna Taylor.

Breeanna with her mountain bike, helmet, and sunglasses, ready to bike to work. Photo courtesy of Breeanna Taylor.

She gives us her tips on bicycling to work and tells us about handling “steep hills and scary car situations” in an interview after the jump. Continue reading

Get ready to rock and roll with your bicycle

Hop on your bike to see Mucca Pazza! Photo: Mucca Pazza Official Facebook

Hop on your bike to see Mucca Pazza! Photo: Mucca Pazza Official Facebook

Beat the summer heat with an evening bicycle ride to hear live music under the stars on Saturday, July 20. Bike from the Rose Gardens at Exposition Park to MacArthur Park to experience the unique sounds and beats of Mucca Pazza at Levitt Pavilion.

The 8-mile ride, sponsored by Metro, C.I.C.L.E. and Bici Libre, is family-friendly and leisurely paced. Meet at 6:30 p.m. in front of the Rose Gardens, located across from the Expo Park/USC Station. The ride leaves promptly at 7 p.m. and returns to the starting point around 10:30 p.m. For those who want to leave from Levitt Pavilion MacArthur Park, the Red/Purple Line Westlake/MacArthur Park Station is right across the street and can help you out if you’d rather not ride.

Bike riding can be hunger-inducing business, but luckily you can fill up on great Mexican fare at La Fonda Supper Club during your ride. The restaurant is located just a block northwest of MacArthur Park. Present a valid TAP card to your server on the day of the ride and save 20% on dinner and appetizers.

To get to Expo Park/USC, hop on the Expo Line, Metro Rapid 705, Bus 38, Bus 217 or Culver City Bus 4.

Keep reading after the jump for the full press release from C.I.C.L.E.

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Why You Ride: Bicycle Edition – NASA “bike train engineer” conducts “bike train” to JPL

During Bike Week LA, we collected nominations for the Golden Pedal Awards, Metro’s annual competition for great stories about bicycling. We’re featuring these stories in a weekly Why You Ride series – because for many Angelenos, every week is Bike Week!

Our next Golden Pedal Award goes to Charles Dandino, unofficial “bike train engineer” at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Charles was nominated by colleague Tushar Thrivikraman for spearheading their weekly “bike train” – a group ride to work that stops to pick up fellow JPL employees on the way. With Charles at the helm of the train, they’ve hit their time points nearly every week for the last nine months, rain or shine. (Hey Charles, have you ever thought about working for a transit agency?)

Name: Charles Dandino
Start: Silver Lake
End: Pasadena
Distance: 15 miles
Time: 75 minutes

Charles on his bicycle. Photo courtesy of Charles Dandino.

Charles, resident “bike train engineer” for NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Photo courtesy of Charles Dandino.

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LA Bike Trains running on schedule, fueled by enthusiasm

Hop on a bike train to work! If you’re looking for a new way to commute, LA Bike Trains has been up and running since May this year.

Bike trains are group bicycle rides that make scheduled stops for bicycle commuters to join in along the way. According to LA Bike Trains, they “harness the safety of riding in a group while kicking it up a notch by making the ride a fun social experience.”

“Conductors” with LA Bike Trains lead weekly rides along eight routes that crisscross Los Angeles County. The conductors keep the ride moving at a moderate pace and help fix any problems that come up, like a flat tire. They also offer a “Special Valet Service” to help you navigate from your home to a bike train meeting point. And unlike a traditional train, rides are free.

Bike trains are an easy way to get to work -- or to the nearest Metro station. Photo courtesy of LA Bike Trains.

Bike trains are an easy way to get to work — or to the nearest Metro station. Photo courtesy of LA Bike Trains.

“Most participants are completely new to commuting by bike,” said Nona Varnado, LA Bike Trains co-founder. “Bike trains aren’t fast or competitive. They’re for people with jobs, just trying to get to work while having fun and being healthy.”

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VIDEO: Metro news conference on traffic skills classes for L.A. County

Rain did not dampen interest in Metro’s press conference this morning at Union Station announcing the availability of traffic skills classes for cyclists seeking to increase their safe riding skills in L.A. County.  Read details in earlier Source post.

Here’s Metro’s Youtube video on the announcement.