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?

2 replies

  1. I quit biking in 1972, after my knee got broken by an uninsured motorist in a traffic accident.

    I suggest that you advise one of your Metro bosses, the mayor of Los Angeles (who is a member of Metro’s Board of Directors along with 3 of his appointees), to add more bike lanes, and to promote more biking and less driving, if you still want to bike. I won’t bike on the public streets until your boss makes it safer to do so. Also, tell your bosses that if Metro doesn’t have enough buses with adequate bike racks, why should we bike to work?

  2. venice has too many cracks from crenshaw to vermont and gets too narrow along the cemetery before vermont. Venice In my opinion the worst of the top three above and should not even be an option unless you are an experienced commuter.

    Pico just got repaved so in my opinion is a smoother safer ride from arlington to around papa christos.

    washington is nice and fast as well. the roads got better as well on washington. watch out for the bump at the intersection of washington and western. some of the asphalt got raised from heavy trucks.

    Beverly is getting repaved from rimpau to hopefully downtown but they started repaving it otherwise it has too many holes and cracks.

    Adams has the hill from crenshaw to western. after the hill east you get some cracks till vermont. more experience riders should venture here.

    olympic should only be ridden by experience riders. but its really fast if you ride in the car lanes avoiding the bad road surface on the leftest lane. as of august 2013 there are some metal plates on olympic around Union St or something like that. watch out for those.

    Wilshire is also for experience riders but if you ride the flow of traffic you can get some awesome speed on this road. they are starting to repave it. just paved rimpau to wilton. stay in the car lane and not to the right as there are alot of cracks. i dont recommend this one.