As the City works to design and build road improvements to support active transportation and revitalize the Los Angeles River, Angelenos are increasingly re-discovering the beauty of the City, changing how they travel throughout it, and visiting outdoor places to exercise. The bike path along the Los Angeles River is one of the few places in this City that can host people taking in nature, commuting to their destination, or just enjoying a pleasant bike ride or walk.
The continuous 7-mile segment of bike path that runs parallel to a mostly soft-bottom portion of the river between Glendale and Elysian Valley known as the “Glendale Narrows” has proven to be especially popular for a number of activities, including: dog-walking, bicycling, recreational walking, bird watching, and more. Like many places in Los Angeles that become popular, the limited space, often less than 15 feet wide, available at this section of the LA River bike path can become crowded. At times, the bike path is occupied by dozens of people walking, rolling, and bicycling.
If You Build It, They Will All Come
Prior to the bike path being built from Fletcher Drive to approximately Riverside Drive in 2010, there was only 4.6 miles of continuous bike path from Fletcher Dr. to Zoo Dr. Few people rode their bikes along the Los Angeles River service road on the not-yet-constructed portion of the LA River through Elysian Valley, although the passage was used informally by locals. After the LA River path was extended to its current southern endpoint at Riverside Dr. in Elysian Valley, the facility’s smooth surface and accessible entrances attracted people walking, rolling, pushing strollers, and bicycling. What was formerly a 4.6-mile bike path became a continuous 7-mile shared use bike path, giving people more room to enjoy spaces along the LA River. Over the years, communities along the Glendale Narrows have also seen change and are drawing more attention to the LA River. Today, many people happily use what will eventually become a long linear park as it is intended for a variety of uses and activities. Despite the limited space, most users are able to get along most of the time – whether they walk, bike, or roll.
Sharing the Bike Path
Unfortunately, this post is not about the usual harmonious rhythm shared by LA River bike path users, it is about the small portion of time when path users struggle to get along. Every now and then, people walking or rolling on the path encounter people riding their bicycles at high speeds, making them uncomfortable and concerned. On the other hand, people on bicycles complain about people who walk in groups of three or more abreast or against the flow of bicycle travel. We hear reports of people colliding or nearly colliding with one another on the path, which can startle path users and discourage them revisiting this beautiful resource. In a perfect world, the path would be wide enough that none of these conflicts would exist but the reality is that the current width of the bike path is what is feasible given physical constraints and available resources.
The City has few places that provide a better, uninterrupted bicycling experience than the Los Angeles River bike path, and as the River’s amenities continue to be built out all of us must do our part to keep the path a friendly and accommodating place for everyone.
Keep in mind that both people walking and bicycling are legal users of the path. Below are useful tips to keep in mind when sharing bike path:
- Yield to people walking or rolling.
- Slow down for pedestrians entering the path.
- Slow down when passing anyone.
- Pass only when it is safe to do so.
- Travel at safe speed with due regard for others.
- Be especially cautious around children and elderly people.
- When traveling side-by-side, stay on the right side of the path when pedestrians are present.
- Ride in single file when there is not enough room to adequately share the path.
- Slow down when approaching pedestrians
- Giving audible warning (i.e., saying “passing left”, ringing bell), pass only when safe to do so, and when in doubt, stop.
- Look both ways before entering the path.
- Keep to the right side of the path.
- Do not walk/stop in the middle of the path.
- Make sure children know where to walk and when in doubt hold their hand.
- Walk your dog(s) on a short leash (and please pick up after him or her).
- Look behind you and ahead- especially when moving across the path.
Remember, the LA River bike path is a shared resource and we must all be courteous to its other users.
Key Laws Regarding Bike Paths
The following is the text and summary of laws relative to Bicycle Path use in the State of California and City of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles River.
California Vehicle Code
No motorized bicycles are allowed on bike paths unless allowed by Code
- CVC21207.5 Notwithstanding Sections 21207 and 213127 of this code, or any other provision of law, no motorized bicycle may be operated on a bicycle path or trail, bikeway, bicycle lane, established pursuant to Section 21207, equestrian trail, or hiking or recreational trail, unless it is within or adjacent to a roadway or unless the local authority or the governing body of a public agency having jurisdiction over such path or trail permits, by ordinance, such operation.
It is illegal to loiter on or block a bike path except maintenance or utility vehicles
- CVC21211 (a) No person may stop, stand, sit, or loiter upon any class I bikeway, as defined in subdivision (a) of Section 890.4 of the Streets and Highways Code, or any other public or private bicycle path or trail, if the stopping, standing, sitting or loitering impedes or blocks the normal and reasonable movement of any bicyclist. (b) No person may place or park any bicycle, vehicle, or any other object upon any bikeway or bicycle path or trail as specified in subdivision (a), which impedes or blocks the normal and reasonable movement of any bicyclist unless the placement or parking is necessary for safe operation or is otherwise in compliance with the law. (C) This section does not apply to drivers or owners of utility or public utility vehicles as provided in Section 22512.
Due to inadequate available width, no separate pedestrian path is available (like the Orange Line Bike Path), thus pedestrians are legal and welcome users of the Los Angeles River Bike Path
- CVC 21966 No pedestrian shall proceed along a bicycle path or lane where there is an adjacent adequate pedestrian facility.
No cars, motorcycles, mopeds or other motorized vehicles are allowed on the path except maintenance or emergency vehicles.
- CVC213127. No person shall operate an unauthorized motor vehicle on any state, county, city, private, or district hiking or horseback riding trail or bicycle path that is clearly marked by an authorized agent or owner with signs at all entrances and exists and at intervals of not more than one mile indicating no unauthorized motor vehicles are permitted on the hiking or horseback riding trail or bicycle path, except bicycle paths which are contiguous or adjacent to a roadway dedicated solely to motor vehicle use.
California Streets and Highways Code
Bicycle Paths are designed for the use of people on bicycles AND on foot.
- S&H Code 890.4 As used in this article, “bikeway” means all facilities that provide primarily for, and promote, bicycle travel. For purposes of this article, bikeways shall be categorized as follows: (a) Bike paths or shared use paths, also referred to as “Class I bikeways,” which provide a completely separated right-of-way designated for the exclusive use of bicycles and pedestrians with crossflows by motorists minimized.
Bicycle Path design is overseen by Caltrans (State Dept. of Transportation) and various strategies may be utilized to make all users aware of each other on bike paths.
- S&H Code 890.9. The department shall establish uniform specifications and symbols for signs, markers, and traffic control devices to designate bikeways, regulate traffic, improve safety and convenience for bicyclists, and alert pedestrians and motorists of the presence of bicyclists on bikeways and on roadways where bicycle travel is permitted.
Los Angeles Municipal Code
Users of bicycle paths, or bikeways, are not allowed to use bicycles, skates, etc in a way that endangers other users of the path.
- LAMC 56.16-1. No person shall ride, operate or use a bicycle, unicycle, skateboard, cart, wagon, wheelchair, roller skates, or any other device moved exclusively by human power, on a sidewalk, bikeway or boardwalk in a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.