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.
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.
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.
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+