An L.A. River Path for All Users
The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition appreciates Councilmember O’Farrell and LADOT’s recent response to address issues on the Elysian Valley portion of the L.A. River Bike & Pedestrian Path. The path is a highly used route for both biking and walking for both commuting and recreational purposes. The path connects neighborhoods and people, and local Elysian Valley residents enjoy the green space that the L.A. River provides. We envision a future in which the path is fully complete, running continuously from the west San Fernando Valley all the way to Long Beach and serving as a vital part of a countywide greenway network.
We believe that the suggested future enhancements for the Elysian Valley section are a step in the right direction. Signage and stenciling are important to notify all users to slow down and to look for others, especially when the path is crowded. However, we do believe that there are more things that the City of Los Angeles can do to keep all path users safe, and we do have some concerns about suggested changes.
LACBC encourages the City of Los Angeles to provide regular and ongoing education and outreach on proper river path etiquette for all path users, as well as explore and implement engineering improvements on the path.
Many cities employ bicycle ambassadors to regularly ride and talk with community members in areas where bicycle use is high and etiquette problems arise. The L.A. River Path and other paths around L.A. County would benefit from a similar program of bike ambassadors. It is important that an increased presence on the path isn’t just represented by police officers who are enforcing.
Proper education about trail etiquette is needed to make sure that all path users are utilizing the path with consideration and care for each other. For people riding bicycles, it means things like slowing down and communicating with people walking on the path, whether that means ringing a bike bell, or calling “on your left” when passing on the left. For people walking on the path, it means leaving some space for bicycle riders to get by, keeping dogs on a leash, and maintaining control of dogs when others pass.
The City of Los Angeles also needs to consider that the current path configuration may not be the safest one and that engineering changes may need to be made. The added stencils have helped, but both pedestrians and bicyclists are being squeezed onto a path that just barely fits them. Options for widening the path, particularly on the channel side of the path can and should be explored, primarily in Elysian Valley where crowding is common. LACBC asks to be involved and engaged as a coalition and our members as the community.
We understand the desire for stepped up enforcement on the River Path, but enforcement should follow a robust education campaign that’s regular and ongoing, which we haven’t yet seen. We have real concerns about how enforcement will be implemented equitably. Who will be targeted? Is it just about cyclists? Are certain people going to be stopped more than others? We’re concerned about enforcement leading to abuse and harassment, based on what we hear from bicyclists in Los Angeles and other parts of the County. We have seen this happen in many settings and we don’t think these concerns should or can be ignored. LACBC has partnered in the past with the Elysian Valley Neighborhood Watch and Elysian Valley community members on locally sponsored outreach projects. We were grateful to be invited and were more than happy to contribute.
We’d like to see outreach and education that goes beyond our resources and those of the local community. We’re concerned about statements regarding loitering on the path when we know that there are benches and pocket parks along the path encouraging people to stay and enjoy the river. We also know that residents of the Elysian Valley often congregate at the path, and we’re concerned that activity such as this may be deemed loitering or somehow criminalized. We acknowledge the need to prevent the worst and most dangerous behavior that has taken place there, but that acknowledgement comes with real concern about policing being the only way to address these behaviors.
The path is meant for all Angelenos, and we want to continue to see the L.A. River and this path thrive. Together, we can make positive changes for all path users. If you have questions or concerns about what’s happening on the LA River path, please contact LACBC at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to working with you, our members, and our elected officials as we continue to make this path a safer place to bike, walk, and play.