CityWatch, Feb 3, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 10
Orange Line Bike Path a Bumpy Ride
By Stephen Box
The Orange Line … an express bus service that runs across the south Valley … is a classic example of the axiom "Success has many parents but failure is an orphan."
When it comes to ridership, LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Metro CEO Roger Snoble and LA City Council Transportation Chair Wendy Greuel all speak glowingly of the popularity of the Orange Line and point at the near capacity numbers as evidence of their wisdom.
When it comes to the bikeway that runs alongside the Metro Orange Line, all of a sudden the crickets chirp and there's nobody left at the podium taking credit or responsibility for the maintenance issues, the homeless encampments, the graffiti, the crime, and the general decline of the bikeway.
Calls to the Metro are forwarded to the Sheriff's Department with an explanation that the Sheriff has a contract to provide security and law enforcement for the Orange Line. Calls to the Sheriff's Department yield an explanation that their contract is for the transitway, not the bikeway and that it’s an LAPD problem. Calls to the LAPD yield a series of referrals to the gang detail, the homelessness detail, the bike patrol and the Senior Lead Officers, all of whom seem to be missing in action, based on recent experience.
At the end of the day, it turns out that the LADOT has a Bikeways Division that has a contract with a contractor who is then responsible for the maintenance of the Orange Line bikeway, 14 miles of bike path, separated in many areas with a sound wall on one side and a chain link fence on the other, heavily landscaped, overgrown and littered with campsites.
The Orange Line opened in 2005 with a celebration that included a bike ride for supporters. Bike Activists reveled in the attention but grimaced at some of the engineering and design choices that indicated a lack of empathy for the cycling population and a sensitivity to the basic needs of a cyclist.
Cyclists compiled a report of the bikeway and provided recommendations on the intersection conflict points, the lack of cyclist oriented signalization, the poor landscaping choices and the isolation that results from putting up chain link fence and sound walls on either side of the path.
The Orange Line Bikeway was developed in conjunction with the LADOT Bikeways division and somewhere along the way the responsibility for the Orange Line Bikeway shifted from the Metro to the City of Los Angeles.
The City of LA took over like a proud parent, producing a PowerPoint show entitled "Orange Line Bike Path: Integrating a Bikeway within a Bus Rapid Transit Corridor" that they take on the road to transportation conferences.
The unfortunate reality is simple. The Orange Line Bike Path is no-man's land. It is isolated. The entrances are littered with shopping carts. The abundant trash and the overgrown landscaping give witness to the lack of supervision. The paths worn through the bushes bear indicate heavy off-path foot traffic.
This past Saturday, Nate Kapin of Sherman Oaks interrupted his Orange Line bike ride to comment. He says he's a regular, having lived in the Valley since May of 1940 "when you could hunt rabbits here." He says he's seen it all and that he rides the Orange Line every day. "This could be a real park. Put in some benches so people could sit and socialize, clear some of the brush back, put in a water fountain, some bathrooms, people would flock to this path. But not now! Look at it! It's trashed! I see people in the bushes, I see it all!"
It's too late to redesign the Orange Line bike path, but it's not too late to hold the contractor responsible for fulfilling his obligations for maintenance. It's not too late to get the Sheriff's Department and the LAPD to agree on who has jurisdiction and to get law enforcement to patrol the bike path. It's not too late to get the LADOT Bikeways Division to put the PowerPoint aside and to spend some time on the Orange Line bikeway.
Perhaps it's even time for a Bike Ride. After all, the Sheriff's Department has a bike patrol team. The LAPD has a bike patrol team. The Park Rangers even have a bike patrol team and by the overgrown look of things, perhaps they're the ones we should start calling