The Westside Whirlpool

San Vicente is one of LA’s oddest streets: a diagonal avenue that starts near downtown at Venice Boulevard, slants across Midtown, the eastern edge of Beverly hills, and through West Hollywood to Santa Monica Boulevard, where it more or less stops….

…Only to start up again on the far West Side, just past UCLA and the VA, where it continues at approximately the same angle to connect Wilshire Boulevard with Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica.

It’s as though an immense but unnoticed earthquake had split the street and left a ten-mile gap between its two segments.

There have long been bike lanes on the westernmost portion of the street, from the edge of Brentwood to the Palisades, and those was recently extended through Brentwood itself as far as Wilshire.

But bicycle facilites have grown rather piecemeal along the Midtown stretch, with West Hollywood painting bike lanes on their bit of it several years ago, and Los Angeles promising to do likewise…eventually.

Well, eventually finally came, at least on the half of San Vicente that is in LA: from Wilshire to West Hollywood, there is in fact a bike lane…for westbound pedalers. Unfortunately, the eastbound lanes belong to Beverly Hills, a city resolutely committed to the ineffective car-only paradigms of the past, though there is a snippet of bike lane on the eastbound side till just past Burton Way, which might be in LA, though I’m not sure.

That means that someone somewhere had to figure out what to do at the massive, messy, and menacing intersection of San Vicente, La Cienega, and Burton Way, the “Westside Whilrpool.” Because all of these streets feed into each other. In particular, westbound San Vicente splits as it approaches Burton Way, with two lanes swerving right to continue as San Vicente, and two swerving left to feed into Burton Way, plus right turns onto La Cienega, with traffic flowing like riptides all over the various channels as drivers try to sort themselves out, while sometimes not being quite sure of where the hell they are anyway.

I am both a photographer and a writer, and I’ll tell you that a picture is rarely worth a thousand words…but in this case it is (though it will take more than one picture). Here’s a package of views showing how LADOT resolved the issue of feeding cyclists through the intersection and accommodating all the choices they might want to make:


Believe it or not, this solution, while not ideal, makes for a far more comfortable intersection than it was before. I go through here often, and it seems that so do many other bicycle riders. I certainly saw a number of fellow pedalers while wandering around taking pictures, and I wasn’t there at anybody’s peak hour, either.

So I’ll throw this into the reading public’s lap: How do you feel about this treatment, given that it would be a budget-buster even to think of reconfiguring the intersection in any extensive way? Have you ridden it? Would you ride it? What would you do differently?

Ladies and gentlemen, start your comments!

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