Rider Review: The Orange Line Bike Path Extension

A sign along the bike path notes that among the many "mores" of the Orange Line Extension to Chatsworth is "more bike paths." For more, visit the ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/29300710@N08/##Streetsblog Flickr page.##

Last Wednesday, I had the opportunity to visit all five of the new Orange Line stations on a tour of the newly installed art (more on that tomorrow.)  The afternoon also gave me a chance to ride and review the Orange Line Bike Path.  While I found the bike trail easy to use for the most part, the delay caused by the crossings create a trail of two bike rides.

While my overall review of the path itself is mixed, that it exists at all is still a victory for cyclists.  Just as the Orange Line extension busway is a four mile extension of the Bus Rapid Transitway from Canoga Station north to Chatsworth, the bikeway is a parallel extension.  While it’s being referred to as a bike path, it’s actually a 10 foot wide mixed use trail.  Along the path, there is more than adequate bike parking at the stations, although we should note it was over 100 degrees last Wednesday, and it wasn’t exactlty pleasant biking conditions.

The afternoon ride began at Canoga Station at the corner of Canoga Ave. and Victory Blvd.  The actual path extension begins at Canoga Ave. and Vanowen Boulevard.  I set out in the late morning with Metro’s Senior Creative Services Director, Heidi Zeller and Sammy, my two-year-old co-editor.  Zeller is also a member of the CicLAvia steering committee.

The actual start of the trail at Vanowen and Canoga

For the most part, the trail was a smooth ride. It was roughly a mile between stations, leaving Zeller and I a couple of minutes to talk between stations about art, the path or CicLAvia’s new route.   Together, we the route easy to navigate and the ride pretty smooth.  The only place where things were even a little difficult was the street crossing at the end of the line immediately before the Chatsworth Station.  Chatsworth Station is not just a station for the Orange Line and Orange Line Extension, but also Metrolink and Amtrak.

The path ends before the station area, requiring riders to cross a busy four lane street and ride on the roadway for roughly a quarter mile if they want to access Chatsworth Station.  The signage isn’t completely clear, but I was able to figure it out without before I had to ask my Metro tour guide for help.

The 10 foot wide path is easy to ride two abreast, even if you’re passing a cyclist in the other direction.  Of course, the route isn’t striped for that kind of riding, but in the middle of the day on a blistering and humid weekday there was plenty of room.  Of course, all the rules about two abreast riding were followed to the letter of the rules.

At the end of the route, I was ready to give the path an A-.  We had an easy and smooth ride and at no point did I feel unsafe.  The minus would have been for inconvenience at the end and that there was a small area where utility vehicles blocked part of the trail while construction crews continued to add utilities.  But of course, that was only half the ride.

Bike parking at Roscoe Blvd. Station

The way back was a different story.  After calling my brother to arrange for lunch, it’s rare that one of us is near the other at lunch time, Sammy and I headed back on our own.  That’s when we discovered that the street crossings are more difficult than it appeared on the way over.  The longer trip, instead of a four short trips, highlighted in a way that wasn’t as obvious when there was someone to talk to and you were only crossing a handful of streets at a time, the difficulty with the crossings.

Push the button...

A cyclist on the bikeway that wants to cross any of the signalized intersections has to push the signal button on the adjacent to get a crossing signal.  If a cyclist pulls up to a traffic signal and the light is green, the button must still be pushed.  Sometimes the cyclist gets a crossing signal immediately.  Sometimes the cyclist has to wait for the next signal.

For a cyclist in a rush, the constant waiting is excruciating.  The four mile trip back took twenty seven minutes, a couple of minutes longer than it would have taken on the street.  This may not seem like a lot of time, but at the time all the waiting, starting and stopping felt as though it was taking forever, especially with the sun beating down.  A mixed use separated path should be faster than riding on the street, not slower.

But that being said, the route itself was still an easy ride.  I worry that one day a cyclist training for a competition or just someone in a rush will get frustrated with the stop and go, run a signal and put themself at risk.  But any cyclist looking for a safe and smooth ride will benefit from the path.

Overall Grade: B+

  • This is a policy I’ve never understood – if cars get a green light, then why don’t pedestrians on the sidewalk automatically have a walk signal?  I understand that at some intersections, if there is a pedestrian signal given in response to a button push, then the green lasts longer so that the pedestrian can have enough time to get across including a countdown timed for the width of the street, but can’t they just automatically give a countdown for the length of the green signal even without a button having been pushed?  There are definitely some intersections I’ve been at where pedestrians don’t need to push a button at all, and I would think that the cycle path should have this sort of treatment.

  • Exactly. Has anyone ever heard a good explanation for the policy of withholding pedestrian signals unless the button is pushed? It is SO WEIRD.

  • Erik Griswold

     You can move more cars that way and that is the primary goal of road engineers in the USA.

  • Eric B

     A modest proposal: when a pedestrian pushes a button on a side street to cross a major boulevard, the cars on the side street shouldn’t get a green until they stop on the sensor.  If they were not on the sensor when the light changed, then they should have to wait a full cycle.  Doesn’t make sense?  Exactly.

    “Beg” buttons should only be used when needed to 1) trigger a light that otherwise wouldn’t cycle, or 2) extend a light that otherwise wouldn’t be long enough to cross.  They should never be used to trigger a walk sign that doesn’t actually affect the signal cycle.

  • Dennis Hindman

    Unlike a typical intersection for crosswalks in LA, activating the walk signal along the Orange Line path also triggers a no-right turn signal for vehicles on the parallel street. This is a safety feature that all major intersections or freeway on-ramps in Los Angeles should have for pedestrians.

    The Orange Line buses also trigger a no-left or right-turn signal at intersections along Canoga Ave, but because the buses go through the intersection much faster than pedestrians, the no-turn signal cycle is shorter than it is if the walk signal had been activated.

  • Dennis Hindman

    The part of the Orange Line extension path that is striped has two four-foot wide bike lanes that have a one foot buffer separating bicycles from the busway fence and a five-foot wide walking lane that has a two-foot buffer separating pedestrians from the cyclists. This makes the path as much as sixteen feet wide and not ten feet wide.

    There are pedestrian signal buttons installed, but not yet activated, to cross Lassen St. So, going with the pedestrian themed design of the path, I’d say these are also for cyclists to cross the street.

    It looks like there will be train activated crossing gates on either side of the tracks on the sidewalk of Lassen St to prevent pedestrians or cyclists from going through and these are not yet fully installed.

    A highlight of the mixed use path is the safety measures that were installed at intersections that benefit pedestrians and cyclists, but were mainly put in to try and prevent Orange Line buses from colliding with vehicles. There are no left or right turn signals for vehicles on Canoga Ave when either the walk signal is activated, or Orange Line bus is going through the intersection. There are also red-light violation cameras installed at all the major intersections. For two weeks there were DOT traffic officers posted at the major intersections to try and train drivers about the new procedures.

    Its not within reason for most adult cyclists to strictly follow the procedures that the pedestrians are to adhere to going through the crosswalks along the path. Heading south through a intersection from the path, with a no walk signal and a green light for vehicles on Canoga Ave, if you see no vehicles heading in the other direction that could turn right, then it is safe to cross the street on a bike. If you are heading north on the path and the walk signal is not activated on a green signal for Canoga Ave, then you must turn your head to the left to see if there are any drivers that could move into the right turn lane. If there are none, then it is safe to proceed through the intersection on a green light. These are procedures that you would have to learn by experience from watching the signalization.

    On the original Orange Line path the signalizations at intersections are not all consistant like they are on the new extension. Towards the end of the green light through cycle for Victory Blvd vehicles at Mason Ave, there is a green left turn signal activated for drivers in the left turn lane heading east on Victory Blvd. Riding across the street on a green light without a walk signal at this intersection is much more hazardous than other intersections along the Orange Line path.

    Seeing a high rate of cyclists go through red light signals at intersections on the Orange Line Path reminds me why there are bicycle specific signals installed in northern european countries. Some bicycle signals in the Netherlands show a count down of how much time before the signal changes to proceed through the intersection. That should reduce the number of cyclists running red lights. 

  • Anonymous

    If a bicycle is a vehicle, why is it regulated by the walk/don’t walk signal?

    Shouldn’t the green or red light be the one a bicyclist follows?

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