Rumble Strips on the L.A. River Walk/Bike Path

The horizontal white lines are LADOT's new bike rumble strips, designed to slow cyclists down so they can share the path with pedestrians. Joe Linton/Streetsblog LA
The horizontal white lines are LADOT’s new bike rumble strips, designed to slow cyclists down so they can better share the path with pedestrians. Joe Linton/Streetsblog LA

The Los Angeles River path through Elysian Valley has new speed bumps.

They’re small strips of thermoplastic perpendicular to the direction of travel. For now, they’re located only where the multi-use river path intersects Riverdale Avenue. They’ve been covered in articles at the LADOT Bike Blog and at L.A. City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell’s blog. The most extensive story is this article at the Eastsider which reports:

A 65-year-old woman suffered a broken arm last week after she was hit by a cyclist on the L.A. River Path on the same day that city transportation officials announced a pilot program to help reduce such collisions on the popular but narrow pathway. Now, an Elysian Valley leader has organized a community meeting to find out if the city can take stronger measures to protect walkers and prevent future collisions.  “My objective is to get greater awareness to the problem at hand and get a true remedy to this,” said David De La Torre of the Elysian Valley Neighborhood Watch.

The Elysian Valley woman was walking northbound on the path on the morning of Thursday, March 27 when she turned left at Gatewood Street and was hit by a cyclist who was riding behind her, De La Torre said. The woman, who said she looked over her shoulder before turning to walk across the path, was thrown to the pavement. The cyclist stopped and called the woman’s family for her help.  The woman was transported to a Glendale hospital, where she was found to have suffered a broken arm.

The Elysian Valley stretch of the L.A. River Walk/Bike Path has been a fairly contentious site for some time. To date, this is only stretch of L.A. River path where residential neighborhoods are immediately adjacent to an improved accessible stretch of relatively natural river. Prior to the path’s official opening in 2010, this area featured an unimproved access road that served as an unofficial shared walking and bicycling path. The access road was bumpy, with several large dips for surface drainage. This uneven surface served as a sort of unintentional traffic calming device, making for relatively-conflict-free sharing between cyclists and pedestrians.

The smoother newly-paved surface (with improved access under Fletcher Drive) attracted more cyclists, many of whom are moving faster. Though the path is officially a multi-use path, some cyclists express a misconception that the path is only for cyclists. Elysian Valley residents frequently mention “near-misses” and cyclists being verbally critical of pedestrians.

Overall this points to a few issues. Los Angeles lacks safe, convenient spaces for walking and for bicycling. Our streets are not perceived as safe inviting places for walking and cycling, so people seek out the rare sites where they can walk and ride away from dangerous, noisy car traffic.

In popular places, including the river and the beach, what’s needed is space enough to share: a wider than minimum path. One that allows for faster moving folks to safely pass slower moving folks.

In built-out corridors, including the L.A. River, this doesn’t come cheap, but, ultimately, river revitalization should widen the public right-of-way, perhaps by terracing multiple steps down the river’s sloped concrete levee wall. In the meantime, as they do at CicLAvia, cyclists need to share with pedestrians.

It’s unclear whether the rumble strip will work or not, but let’s hope that the Department of Transportation will continue to intervene when fast-moving traffic makes things unsafe for slower moving users.

This should be especially true in street locations where cars crash into vulnerable road users, and where the result is deadlier than just broken bones.

  • MaxUtil

    Sadly, this seems to be the fate of just about all Multi-Use Paths. The beach path seems to function mostly because there is plenty of open space around it for peds to move through and because it is always so crowded that bikes are forced to stay reasonably slow. But there’s always the few hardcore riders who think this is a good place to train and are freaking out at peds or swerving around them dangerously.

    As the river access continues to improve and more people come to use the space I really hope to see it turn into a welcoming space where everyone can wander, relax, explore, fish, picnic, ride, etc. Sadly that may mean that the path becomes a not very useful route for cyclists using it as a quick transportation route or training area.

    Road diet on Riverside Dr! That’s where the bikes should be anyway.

  • monarca310

    This is silly, riders are just going to go around them.

  • monarca310

    Next thing you’ll see will be speed limit signs.

  • M

    If only people were so on top of things every time a bicyclist or
    pedestrian was injured or felt tight on space because of the cars in the
    street, we’d be doing pretty well!

  • grrlyrida

    Mitch, can we get one for Effie Street between Lucille and Mitcheltorena? And Sunset near polka dot park?

  • BC

    The LA River path is 10.5? feet wide, 2 way for bikes and pedestrians. A typical Dutch (ie global best practices) 2-way bike path is 12-14 feet wide, with pedestrians on a separated, differently paved, 6-7 foot sidewalk. Width is the main issue, but also separation and appearance. The Orange Line bike path is wider, but the paths are still only marked with white paint, which is very ineffective. Bike pedestrian interactions have led to collisions and serious injury.

    The best way to do these paths would be with parallel grade separation with the pedestrian lane raised up a few inches. This would mimic the typical sidewalk / roadway layout which everyone is familiar with and make it difficult to wander onto the bike lane section without realizing the additional risk. This could have drainage design problems, but might be cheaper than having a completely different, more expensive, paving treatment for the pedestrian section (paving stones, etc.).

  • Joe Linton

    Definitely bike lanes on Riverside Drive! I think they can be done without a road diet, too.

    I think this a pretty good “fate” for multi-use paths: popular, slow, with plenty of people using various modes. I wish our cities this fate!

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