I was recently on holiday in California. Here are some thoughts and images from the week I spent in Los Angeles, a car-dependent city that is, like Auckland, trying to become something different.

One of the frustrations of travelling in California is how much time I spent in cars. While in Auckland, I get in a car perhaps one day every two weeks – the rest of the time I get around by public transport or under my own power. In California, I drove every day, which was enjoyable at times and frustrating at others.

However, I was lucky enough to spend a fantastic afternoon cycling in Los Angeles. This is not as stupid an idea as you may initially assume. While the city has devoted little space on its wide roads to cyclists, it does have some amazing cycling assets, such as the Marvin Braude Bike Trail. (Unfortunately, I left two days too soon to attend CicLAvia, which a friend highly recommended.)

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Marvin Braude is an example of doing cycling infrastructure right. It is a fully separated bidirectional cycleway that runs along a seemingly endless string of Southern Californian white-sand beaches. We rode about 20 kilometres from Redondo Beach to Marina Del Rey and returned via the same path.

Although LA is not known as a walking and cycling city, the cycleway was mobbed by people even on Monday afternoon. We were often cycling in the midst of a crowd of cyclists. Some surfers were even transporting their boards via bike-mounted surfboard racks!

It just goes to show that if you build it well, they will come:

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The cycleway also gave a nice view on LA’s eclectic mix of architectural styles and land uses. There were many, many blocks of elegant beach-front mansions and condos, complete with traffic-calmed residential streets and pedestrian-focused accessways.

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However, there were also signs of LA’s practical, industrial side, such as the monolithic Scattergood Power Station, which serves as a dividing line between the well-to-do southern beaches and the decidedly more working-class Dockweiler State Beach.

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We finished up the ride with a sunset swim back in Redondo. Just after we got in the water, we were surprised by a pack of friendly dolphins that were frolicking in the surf. I didn’t get a picture of the dolphins, but here’s one of the sunset:

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I’d recommend this bike trip to anyone visiting Los Angeles. I’d also recommend that all other coastal cities should get to work on building their own separated cycleway on the beachfront! Hint, hint, Tamaki Drive…

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8 comments

  1. Given the sea wall at Tamaki Drive is going to need a serious check at some stage and the subsidence issues around the city end are going to need to be remedied, we really need to be having a discussion about what Tamaki Drive should look like. Objectively speaking, no one really wins in the current layout and it’s extremely limiting in terms of options. If we’re going to have a road/space along by the water’s edge then we might as well make it as functional as possible.

    1. Tamaki Drive just needs some parking removed and the missing bike lanes added, and bus use optimised. Leave the footpath for people walking. No tree destroying and driving inducing widening.

      1. That won’t help in choke points like outside Kelly Tarltons or the Mission Bay traffic lights, where the traffic actually builds up. You could remove all the car parking you like but until you can run proper bus lanes along it (or similar frequent transport) you’re still going to have pinch points.

        And bike lanes are all well and good but I don’t see too many cyclists on the way to work each day when it rains.

  2. If you head further north, you’ll find the small city of Santa Monica actually has a lot of on-road bike infrastructure, as well as the beach run, and the traffic is remarkably accommodating towards cyclists. We stayed about 2km in from the beach front for a month, and cycled/walked everywhere. They also have good bike racks on the buses.
    PS – There are some cycle mounted surfboard racks in use in Dunedin.

  3. I have ridden this route many times. Last time with my 12 year son. Staying in Lomita inland from Redondo with friends, and biking to see friends in Santa Monica and see the sites and freaks, skate at Venice Beach etc. Also from Redondo you can ride around Pallos Verdes with views out to Catalina Island with little traffic on two lane blacktop. Sea breezes. Also across to San Pedro. I had no idea LA could be so pleasant. Yes, I’ve been South Central and thundering all over the freeways too so I know it can be tough and ugly too. But this stretch is a delightful surprise. Beats Disneyland!

  4. Some people take a rather Myopic view of LA transport but I’ve always found it a city of contrasts.

    There are extensive provisions for walking, roller skating and cycling in some areas.

    Transplanting what they have in L.A to Tamaki Drive is disingenuous but no doubt that area of Auckland could be improved.

  5. It’s not fully segregated, the section at Marina Del Rey is a dog, there should be a dedicated bridge instead of the inland schlep you need to do.

    In general LA public transport is under rated, the $1 bus fare is stunning value, light rail is also quite decent

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