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A bike rider’s view of an Echo Park-to-Downtown commute

ECHO PARK — Would you ever ride a bicycle to work in Los Angeles? Specifically, from Echo Park to Downtown?

That’s the route that Matthew Fleischer, the senior digital editor of the L.A. Times Opinion section, talks about as he rides his bike in a 360-degree video.

Fleischer encourages drivers to see things from the bicyclist’s point of view, and invites drivers to join him on his daily three-mile ride — a commute that he says is, statistically speaking, relatively safe. Of the 77 cyclists who have been killed in Los Angeles since 2011, none happened to have occurred on his morning route, he said.

Fleischer, in an accompanying article,  also speaks favorably of road diets, noting that the best way to reduce congestion is to get people out of their cars.

“Of all trips taken outside the house in L.A., 47% are three miles or less,” Fleischer writes. “Angelenos use their cars for 84% of these trips. Even if you allow for the way L.A.’s hills prevent many from regularly biking or walking, this is a ridiculously high percentage of drivers for such a short distance.”

In the video, Fleischer huffs-and-puffs up a steep hill, rolls past a stop sign, gets honked at by a truck and then is forced to ride on the sidewalk when traffic gets too close for comfort on Glendale Boulevard near Echo Park Lake.

After watching his video, are you more likely to jump on a bike and ride Downtown or are you better off driving, taking the bus or walking?

And if you’re a cyclist, got any tips that would improve on Fleischer’s Echo Park-to-Downtown commute?

Screenshot 2015-12-10 at 3.10.51 PM

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Jesús Sanchez, Publisher
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20 comments

  1. Damn. This video helps me be more conscious about how I drive when there are bikers around… but no way in hell does it convince me to bike. It’s so clear that it can be pretty unsafe.

  2. We need more PHYSICALLY SEPARATED bike lines. Like where the bike lane is separated from car traffic by a concrete barrier, or a row of parked cars. If we had this, I’d be so much happier biking to work than driving but as it is, there are some stretches in my commute (which is more than twice as long as this one) where there are simply no quiet side streets available (which, to me and many other cyclits, is a way safer/more comfortable bet than a bike lane on a big boulevard that cars too often ignore)

  3. People are trying to be healthy and environmentally conscious and risking their lives in the process to do it.

    And the old farts of LA literally get a seething rage at this for some reason. I can never figure out why. Why does seeing someone try to be healthy and try to bike this dangerous landscape infuriate you so? Is it because it reminds you how out of shape you are? Is it because you are old and hate change?

    I will never understand the hate. But over the next 20 years LA will continue to improve it’s bike lanes and the old people will keep dying off leaving less of them to throw hissy fits about it. Hopefully we can get lanes much better then what we have now because this is truly an embarrassment to behold coming from the second largest city in the United States.

    • Stop making up crap. When have these “old people” complained about anyone bicycling. The complaints are about closing down car lanes for the purpose of intentionally causing serious traffic jams, especially when everyone can see that hardly anyone is bicycling regardless of all the bike lanes all over now for over 15 years. We now have empty bike lanes and manufactured traffic jams. The bike lanes are NOT about bikes. they are about overdevelopment.

      • The closure of car lanes isn’t “for the purpose of intentionally causing serious traffic jams” It’s because wide roads are deadly. The traffic jams are a consequence of safer roads and a correction to how we plan for mobility.

        For decades we operated under the assumption that more road means less traffic, and that works for a bit, but at some point that practice fails to make sense or function as intended. That point is now in Los Angeles were traffic has been crippling for decades and suddenly there’s no room to continue widening. The solution to traffic is reducing the need to drive. The challenge in Los Angeles is reducing the need to drive without cramming people on top of each other. Naturally, we need a little more room to allow for appropriate density and space, in this scenario a bike makes perfect sense as a mobility option and that’s what the city of Los Angeles is working towards.

        • Cars speeding down my side street to avoid the road diet on an arterial road are what’s deadly.

          • Another instance where somehow the biker is at fault for the driver, driving recklessly through neighborhoods… open your eyes. The danger is because of cars, which is exactly why we’re trying to reduce their use.

        • James, that’s just BS, and you have bought it lock, stock and sinker. You have been brainwashed and blinded, you can’t see. Simply spinning a BS story and wrapping it around a connivance does not a truth make. But yes, it does have a way of blinding people, that’s why PR people are very highly paid to come up with spin. You have been blinded.

          • I like how you dispute my assertion with facts like “that’s just BS” and “you have been brainwashed”

            That’s funny, cause I work in urban planning and have spent much of my professional life in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Rome, Tokyo, Seoul. I also visit cities all over the globe on a regular basis as my passion for ubanism influences my travel.

            Urban planning is my job, I’ve spent the majority of my lifetime learning, observing and experiencing the ways cities are laid out and how they operate.

            What the hell makes you qualified to call my perspective “BS” ?

  4. His whining and entitlement won’t help anyone.

    Glendale Boulevard is clearly how motorists from the 2 and the 5 enter the city. Take a different route and half his problems would be solved.

    Also, changing the law so that some people don’t have to stop at stop signs is absurd. The Idaho stop? LA and Idaho are similar in what way? Maybe it’s time for cyclists to put on their adult pants and follow the same laws as pedestrians and motorists. Or get an electric bike with hydraulic brakes.

    Yes, biking in LA is pretty scary. But neither road diets nor some green or white paint in the curb lane are the solution. Separate cyclists from the rest of traffic, like at the LA River, and keep them away from important throughways and tunnels. No form of transport is perfect, and cycling in a hilly city is one of the worst.

    • Just FYI, California has already passed a new law to allow bicylcists not to stop at many stop signs. That law takes effect Jan. 1, 2018. The legislators presented the argument that it is too much trouble for a bicyclist to have to stop at a stop sign.

      I guess there haven’t been enough bicyclsts getting killed when cars make right turns — something they are not allowed to do from anything but the right most lane for safety reasons, and now we put bicyclists to the right of that — so they are now determined to get them by having them blow through stop signs. I guess the stop signs should not be there at all if it is not important to stop at them.

    • “Your kind must sit at the back of the bus.”

      Dude… Glendale Boulevard *is* the way a cyclist avoids hills (in “a hilly city”) between Echo Park and Downtown.

  5. This shows the futility of biking to work or running most errands in LA on a bike. Corner liquor store for a 40 or almost spoiled milk and maybe a pack of oreos? Yes. Fish market? No, it would rot before you got home. How about grocery store? Sure if you only buy one bag of groceries and none of it need to be refrigerated and you’ve got 2 hours to kill between picking up the kids and going to work Oh and you live somewhere near a decent grocery store. Dry cleaners? try riding a bike with a stack of clothes in hangers. Also I wonder does this guy sweat? Does he have clean clothes when he gets to work or a shower room? Another thing it I did not see even one other bike rider. Why? because it sucks to ride a bike to in LA even if they cleared every damn car from the road TOO HOT AND TOO FAR. Also 87% if “trips” whatever that mean is 3 miles or is that 6 miles round trip? And for most of these bike lanes how much are they used? Where is that data? Biking in LA is totally impractical. It’s a fantasy. Paris is great for bikes. London not so much. NYC is quite good for biking and SF is just OK. Bottom line is creating traffic jams to cause frustration in drivers is NOT going to get them on a bike for all the reasons above. it’s not just about whether it is safe. It’s just completely impractical. Kinda like having a car in NYC. You want to get people out of cars? Let’s start riding Vespas and Motorcycles like paris and rome and london. That’s the way forward.

    • I agree with you about the Vespas, the irony is that it’s basically the same infrastructure and spatial demands of a bike.

      I bike everywhere in Los Angeles. It works fine for me. I even bike UP Glendale to get to Whole Foods then bike back with groceries. It’s weird that people like you talk about the impossibility of biking here because it’s obvious by what you say, that you’ve never done it.

      How often do most people go to the dry cleaner? that can’t honestly be used as an example for why “we can’t bike in LA” Don’t get me wrong, I’ve gone a few times in the years I’ve been in Echo Park, but it’s about 500 ft from my house

  6. Anyone truly interested in learning about how to commute through this city by bike or metro can contact me. I’m 37, have never bothered getting my drivers license & own Revenge Fantasy Cycles in Echo Park. My commute is 20 miles each way. Bicycles are wonderful. I feel sorry that the presence of something that brings so many people joy upsets other people. The city is working towards infrastructure that will make it easier. There’s never been a better time to start riding.

    • Nice work Megan. I cycle to work at least 3 days a week, the other two I go by motorcycle. By and large, most drivers are considerate and leave plenty of room, there are some aggressive idiots and a lot of distracted (phone) drivers. By and large it’s a pretty benign city to pedal around. I don’t buy into the physically segregated bike lane stuff – there are loads in London (my home town) and they divert drivers attention away from bikes rather than to them.
      To each his own really, but I save myself at least 5hrs a week sitting in the car just in commuting and it feels good doing it. As far as the hills go, I love them, up and down – weirdly most cyclists do. Do I still need a car? Of course, but it’s nice to have options.

  7. I commute by bicycle most days, and I very much disagree with his advocating riding on the sidewalk next to Glendale Blvd. In my opinion that’s more dangerous than claiming/sharing the lane on a narrow, busy road. Motorists aren’t looking for pedestrians moving at the speed of a cyclist on a sidewalk. Sidewalks are not for bike commuters.

    • What pedestrians? I counted a grand total of TWO the entire 3-mile route. I own three bikes )road, mountain, and cross-country) and I ALWAYS choose the empty sidewalk whenever I’m compelled to ride city streets. It’s just plain common sense AND courtesy. Besides, in this age of gadget-distraction, no imaginary barrier between traffic and cyclists can ever be considered to be truly safe. Also, cycling on the sidewalk is already legal in L.A.

  8. Why is choosing safer and already legal option of cycling on a virtually empty sidewalk “unfortunate?” It’s the perfect compromise between his personal agenda and “aggressively” hogging an entire traffic lane to himself, during rush hour no less(?!?). In fact, the ideal compromise is a combination of sidewalks and cordoned-off bike lanes IF safety is the priority. Otherwise, it becomes obvious that it’s not.

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