The Valley’s Crosstown Corridor

Not so long ago, a rail line ran along Chandler Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley. Originally built by the Southern Pacific as its main line through the Valley, in 1893, the “Burbank Branch” was superseded by a faster nearby track for through freight but still provided local freight and occasional passenger service. By 1980 the line was no longer a through route, and Metro bought it in 1991 to build, eventually, the Orange Line busway with its excellent and well-known bike path from North Hollywood to the West Valley.

Even more excellent, though apparently less well-known, is the Chandler Bike Path heading east from the NoHo Red Line station. Although it begins as a standard door zone bike lane by the station, after a couple of blocks (and a poorly-indicated dogleg to the left), it turns into a spacious separated bike path running along the the old Burbank Branch right-of-way.

Traversing a mostly residential area, it crosses several onstreet bike routes, and features excellent wayfinding signs, such as the one pictured here at the intersection with California Street:

A few pleasantly whimsical bronze sculptures also adorn the wayside, as well as benches here and there. Although it’s not particularly scenic—unless you’re a fan of low-slung ranch houses and equally low-slung cinderblock commerce boxes—there are plenty of trees and not much traffic, making for a clean and quiet ride. And a quick one, along a smooth concrete path with infrequent street crossings.

Particularly noteworthy, and good for a giggle, is the almost-seamless change of jurisdiction between the City of Los Angeles and the City of Burbank. I wouldn’t even have noticed as I pedaled along, except for the “Bikepath Ends” sign at one point, followed by a “Begin Bikepath” sign not ten feet farther on—with no other obvious change, except that the street signs on the corners were now green rather than blue.

Unfortunately, the path comes to an abrupt and unindicated end at Mariposa Street, with no hint of where to go to continue your passage to downtown Burbank. All you see are the rusty vestiges of the original railroad tracks in a litter-strewn gravel strip. Pedaling along the adjacent road got me to a T-intersection with Victory Boulevard.

From there, I could find my own way to the rest of Burbank—but had I not been already somewhat familiar with the city, I’d have been quite lost.

Still, it’s one of the better bikepaths in the county, I’d say, and in particular in the underserved Valley neighborhoods. Try it out; if you have to traverse that area at all frequently, you may end up making it a habit.

And it’s future could be very lively indeed, if Metro shows any imagination. As the Valley’s population grows, it’s likely that the Orange Line will be rebuilt as light rail, and there’s no reason that shouldn’t extend eastwards as well. The Chandler bike path is flanked by two quite wide two-lane roads, and certainly only one of them is needed for motor traffic. There’s plenty of room to extend a future Orange Line train to Burbank along one of those streets—which after all follow an old freight track. That would make for a true multi-modal corridor from Burbank to Chatsworth, accommodating trains, cars, and bicycles (and including the Brown’s Creek extension to the Orange Line path.)

Something to look forward to!

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