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.