Paved with Good Intentions

The Westside’s Expo Line bike path is, for the most part, beautifully made: smooth, wide asphalt with a “center divider” and sometime a marked walking path alongside it. It’s separated from both cars and the Expo Line itself (no dodging trolleys here, folks) for stretches of a mile or two at a time. Then you come to an intersection, and…things change radically.

The Expo Line crosses streets on a diagonal, for the most part, and LADOT and Metro (not to mention their contractors, who are often indifferent to cyclists’ issues) have never handled these well. “Design-build” contracts often mean that the contractors are more or less improvising as they go, and while they have experience building rail lines or busways, they seem not to know, or care, much about bike paths. As long as they can lay down an uninterrupted lane and hem it in with some pretty landscaping, they do well.

But the fact is that, at present, they do a piss-poor job of guiding cyclists across those busy and often complicated crossings that the trains usually soar over on the system’s bridges. Or even some of the more straightforeward right-angle intersections, such as Overland below.

Here are snapshots of two such treatments…. The first is of the Overland crossing, seen as you approach it from the east:


Signage is nonexistent on this side, but the path jogs left.


Once you cross Overland, the path goes up onto the sidewalk—although the sign seems to indicate a phantom pathway along Overland.


The sidewalk path ends up here…. There is a sign, barely noticeable, on the right. The bikepath actually moves onto the street to the left, and detours along a series of 6% grades, following widely-spaced sharrows till it eventually—and I do mean eventually—rejoins the light rail right-of-way.

Overland’s actually an easy one, because to get to it you had to cross the intersection of Pico and Exposition, which is really breathtaking in its absurdity:

Whe you get to it, there’s a tiny sign directing you across Pico here, in the crosswalk. And it’s a long way across—the photo shows about two-thirds of the crossing..


Once you make it across (if you do), another sign tells you to turn left, cross the street, and mount the sidewalk.


The sidewalk leads you past a strip joint and into another crosswalk, followed by another sidewalk.

I ran out of enthusiasm for phonecam documentation at this point, but way up ahead, under the bridge, a sign (inevitably small and inconspicuous) instructs you to turn right and ride the sidewalk under the train bridge. At the next corner—about sixty feet down—a sign does not exist to let you know you’re to turn left and cross the street, where the off-road path picks up again.

And so, in the words of Kurt Vonnegut, it goes. In fits and starts, bits and pieces, fragments and segments, or whatever pair of words indicating discontinuity you might prefer.

This often-beautiful path coulda been a contender. But…we’re holding back the distribution of cigars for now.

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  1. […] Risemberg says the Expo Line bike path could have been a contender, but was done in by inadequate street […]