New Routing Near Silver Lake Reservoir Could Close off Part of Park for Bikes

This photo is looking west on Zoo Drive from Riverside Drive. If the City follows through on the proposed closure for west-bound road users, these cyclists will not be able to ride as pictured. Photo: Colin Bogart/LACBC

Visitors to Griffith Park over the last year have noted that there is some major construction going on near the Silver Lake Resevoir.  In order to protect Angelenos from any future plans to poison the water, the federal government is ordering that all open air resevoirs be taken offline and replaced with below ground ones.  That edict is creating constrcution projects in parks across the country, but in in Griffith Park it might alwo seal off parts of the park to bicyclists.

The city’s Department of Water and Power is currently working in Griffith Park to create a new underground reservoir so they can take the Silver Lake reservoir off-line. Roughly one year from now, DWP will be working in the northern tip of Griffith Park. That work will result in the partial closure of Zoo Drive from Riverside Drive to the west entrance at Forest Lawn.

During construction, which could last for at least a year, the street will be kept open for cars and other road users traveling eastbound into the park from Forest Lawn. However, cyclists will face a longer and more inconvenient route traveling west.

Westbound motorists, cyclists, and other road users will not be allowed to proceed past the intersection of Zoo Drive and Riverside Drive. Any motorist or cyclist traveling in the park westbound from the Zoo/Autry area will be forced to detour out of the park and across the 134 Freeway on Riverside Drive. Many cyclists use the stretch of road in Griffith Park from the intersection of Zoo Drive and Riverside to the west park entrance near Travel Town.

Instead of forcing a detour for west-bound cyclists, one solution that could ensure two-way access for cyclists and other park users (joggers, walkers, etc.) without requiring a significant detour for motorists AND maintaining motorist access to the Zoo and the Autry. Zoo Drive could be completely closed to cars and left open for cyclists, pedestrians, and joggers as though it were a multi-use path (or a street closure a la CicLAvia or like the weekend street closures in Golden Gate Park in SF.)  It certainly wouldn’t be the first time a park opened up some street space for bicycle and pedestrian usage.

Here's the intersection of Zoo Drive and Riverside Drive, looking north at Riverside as it goes over the 134 Freeway. You can see the eastbound freeway exit in the foreground and the on-ramp westbound in the distance. Photo: Colin Bogart/LACBC

Motorists could easily detour onto the 134 freeway in both directions. There are entrances and exits at Riverside Drive and at Forest Lawn Drive. Motorists traveling west-bound can easily get on the freeway, go to the next exit at Forest Lawn and get off. This will enable access to Travel Town, Forest Lawn Cemetery, or enable continued travel towards Warner Brothers studio parking and Barham Blvd.  

Eastbound motorists who currently use Zoo Drive could get on the 134 freeway at Forest Lawn, go to the next exit at Riverside and get off the freeway again. This “detour” would take roughly one minute and allows motor vehicle access to the Zoo and the Autry. If the road is closed for all westbound road users, the detour for west-bound cyclists is significant, plus it effectively closes a large part of the park to members of the bicycling community.

This solution was first publicly proposed by the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition at a recent meeting of the city’s official Bicycle Advisory Committee and received a warm welcome from the Committee Members and staff.  However, city staff won’t proceed with the proposal presented by the LACBC to the BAC without the approval of the local elected leader who has not given the okay.

Griffith Park falls in the Fourth City Council District, represented by Councilman Tom LaBonge.  LaBonge is a champion of an open Griffith Park, but hasn’t announced a position on the Zoo Drive proposal.  The Councilman’s Office declined to comment for this story.

While the proposed changes won’t happen for about a year, the transportation plans are being created now. During early construction of the underground reservoir, cyclists have been accommodated for over a year now. Special bike lanes were striped from near the entrance at Los Feliz and a temporary multi-use path was created parallel to Crystal Springs Drive between Park Center and the Zoo Parking lot.

While Streetsblog appreciates these efforts, it’s more important to provide long-term solutions than short-term ones.  The solution to keep Zoo Drive open for 2-way access for cyclists, pedestrians, and joggers on Zoo Drive seems so simple and yet still seems a proposal that is too far away.

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