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L.A. River Bike Path

L.A. City Repairing L.A. River Bike Path along Griffith Park

It shouldn't take sustained advocacy pressure (and injury lawsuits) from cyclists to get the city to keep its walk/bike paths in a state of good repair

3+inch wide crack in the L.A. River bike path asphalt. 2021 photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog

L.A. City is making much needed repairs to a section of popular bike path, which has been in a state of disrepair for several years.

Location of current L.A. City L.A. River path repairs. Base map via Google

This part of the Los Angeles River walk/bike path, between Los Feliz Boulevard and Riverside Drive, opened in 1996. At that time, it was a significant milestone in then-nascent efforts toward river revitalization, which had often focused on opening fenced-off parts of the river to allow walk and bike access.

The aging asphalt showed signs of wear about a decade ago, especially where the path is located atop a berm between Griffith Park's Ferraro soccer fields and the river (photo at top). Over time, rains washed soil away, undermining the asphalt. In a few locations, parts of the asphalt slumped, opening cracks a few inches wide in some places. These cracks are large enough to trap a bicycle wheel. This can cause cyclists to crash, which can cause cyclists to sue the city.

The path has also seen some less severe damage caused by tree roots.

2021 photograph of signage and fence closing off the river path along Griffith Park. Cyclists continued to ride the path, ignoring the signs and going through holes in the fences.

Around 2020, the city posted signs and put fences up to block off parts of the path. Cyclist ignored the signs and continued to use the path.

In 2020, the city completed construction of a new bike/walk undercrossing - below the widened Riverside/Zoo Bridge - but never officially opened that path to the public.

2021 photo of BIKE PATH CLOSED sign at the new Riverside Drive Bridge undercrossing

The new extension connected to the nearby damaged path, so the city slapped a BIKE PATH CLOSED sign on the new undercrossing. A hole in the fence soon appeared and cyclists and pedestrians began using the new stretch of path.

Similar closure signage on the G Line path in late 2022

The city posted similar closure signage on the G (Orange) Line path in Van Nuys, which cyclists similarly ignore. (That path is newer; the asphalt appears to mostly be in decent shape.)

The signs appear to perhaps be a city tactic to shift liability to cyclists, while not actually promptly repairing path infrastructure. If a cyclist gets injured on an uneven failing bike path, the city can blame the cyclist, saying that they didn't follow the posted signage.

Thanks to advocacy from Streets Are For Everyone, Pasadena Athletic Association (PAA) cycling club, and other cyclists, with the support of L.A. Councilmember Nithya Raman, the city Transportation Department (LADOT) and Bureau of Engineering (BOE) are now repairing the path.

LADOT Director Of Public Information Colin Sweeney, via email, noted that BOE and LADOT recently began repairs to the closed portion of the LA River bike path between Zoo Drive and Riverside Drive. According to Sweeney, repairs are on schedule to be complete by Spring 2024, weather permitting. (On-site signage says repairs will be complete by February 26.)

Sweeney further stated that:

Detour signs are in place to direct cyclists to use Zoo Drive to bypass the closure area. Cyclists should be aware of additional repair work to the south of the closed section near the Autry Museum of the American West. The additional repair work does not require the closure of the bike path and flaggers will be present during construction to alert cyclists to the presence of crews.

This is great news. Streetsblog looks forward to smooth riding on the repaired river path.

It is tempting to end on that high note, but, unfortunately, it is a sad contrast that the city marshals resources to repair streets (even fire-damaged freeways) fairly quickly, while allowing popular bike paths to fall into disrepair for years. It's also telling that many cyclists feel safer (and probably are safer) on a deteriorating path than on the city's car-centric streets.

It shouldn't take sustained advocacy pressure (and injury lawsuits) from cyclists to get the city to keep its walk/bike infrastructure in a state of good repair. Better late than never.

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