While the buses aren’t running yet, most of the major changes to Park Blvd are complete. There are two new signals, one at Howard Ave and another at Lincoln Ave. At Howard Ave, left turns onto Park Blvd are now allowed.
At Polk Ave, things are a bit different. Polk Ave is now blocked at Park Blvd, with only a pedestrian signal in place. To get past Park Blvd, use Howard or Lincoln. Left turns from SB Park Blvd are also now allowed onto University Ave.
Sharrows have also been added to Park Blvd as a part of this project. They run from near Cypress Ave to El Cajon Blvd. These changes have made bicycling and walking around the area much easier. While it was at the loss of the historic aspects of the roadway, it is an overall positive change. Please be aware of these changes and adjust your trips accordingly.
The City of San Diego has expanded the use of “sharrows” along Park Blvd to now include the section from I-5 to Market Street. This is helpful for cyclists climbing Park Blvd out of downtown San Diego, though still lacks “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signs as used on 6th Avenue.
Sharrows. I’m sure you’ve seen them. Perhaps you’ve even heard about them. What do they mean? A “sharrow” or Shared Lane Marking is a newer addition to roadway striping. They are designed to be along major bicycle routes where a bicycle lane is impractical. The markings show that motorists should not only expect to see cyclists but they should also be further out in the lane.
The rules behind these markings are fairly simple. They must be 11′ from the curb and beyond the “door zone”. These sharrows cannot be on roadways with a speed limit greater than 35 mph, though there are some exceptions such as Park Blvd through Balboa Park, which is signed as 40 mph. When a roadway is not marked with sharrows, the rules are still the same. According to the California Vehicle Code (CVC 21202(a)), a cyclist doesn’t always have to ride to the right side of the roadway. The term used is “as far right as practicable”. This means that if roadway conditions warrant, a cyclist may travel away from the right side. When a roadway is marked with sharrows, cyclists should ride with the tires lining up with the arrows.
So, Sharrow or no, a roadway must be shared with cyclists.
It seems I have to redefine what a short ride is for me lately. I’ve been gradually increasing my distance record over the past three years. Sometimes I increase my record by only a few miles, sometimes by a whole lot more.
On May 7, 2011, I took the train to Los Angeles Union Station, and rode home. Downtown Los Angeles and my home in San Diego seem so far apart. They are about 110 miles apart, along the 5. The route I took, which I felt was the easiest and safest route, was 154 miles in length. San Diego may be southeast of Los Angeles but I started my ride heading west. Seems odd to go the opposite way to my destination, but it was the best way. I’ve found a really nice and fast route west from Downtown LA to Mid-City (Vineyard Junction, or for those non-Pacific Electric knowing folk – San Vicente Blvd and Venice Blvd). Past that, the options open up. On that ride, I followed Venice Blvd to Overland Ave, then to the Ballona Creek Trail. It proved to be a good way to bypass a large swath of city in a fast and efficient way. Once at the coast, I took the South Bay Trail down to Redondo Beach. That trail can be quite fun to ride, with all the distractions of the hot surfer boys in their wetsuits to watch!
After Redondo Beach, I followed Palos Verdes Drive North, then around the harbor, and into Long Beach. From Long Beach, I followed the coast the rest of the way down. The ride got more interesting and more tiring through Laguna Beach, with all those rolling hills. Things did look up though, as I found $80 alongside the roadway not long after taking a break just south of Laguna Beach. Sometimes, it does pay to bicycle! It did add a bit of brightness to my day, as the last few miles had been less than fun. Just too much traffic, and too narrow a roadway. Beyond that, there were a few more rolling hills, and San Clemente. At least that town could be avoided, quite nicely too. The signed bike route has sharrows and bike lanes. It can be tougher to follow at the north end, but overall, a good route. Just past San Clemente was San Diego County. So, goodbye Orange County, hello San Diego County!
I kept a good pace most of the route south, stopping in Oceanside for some food. It got dark around Torrey Pines, but most of the ride was over by then. I finally got home right about 8:30pm, tired, a bit sore, but quite happy. It was a long ride, but my next would be even further. I had a 200 mile ride in the works for the end of May.
In 2011, the newest Metro Rail line in Los Angeles will open. Running from downtown Los Angeles at 7th St/Metro Center station, to Culver City at Venice Blvd / Robertson Blvd, it will be the first new line to open since the Metro Gold Line in 2003. This bike ride was to follow that from Culver City to Santa Monica Blvd. I wanted to see what was left of the old Pacific Electric line, and photograph it. It also made for a nice bike ride. The Metro Expo Line (no color for it yet) was set to open this year, but numerous delays changed that.
The line west of Culver City, however, has been a bit more of a challenge. The section from Culver City to Sepulveda Blvd has been the most contentious of them all. A small group of people in the Cheviot Hills, where the rail line will run, have fought the construction of the line for so many reasons. None are valid reasons, as they are just plain silly from the start. One of their biggest complaints, as seen in the sign pictured, is that kids and trains don’t mix. Now… to that I agree. They don’t. Kids shouldn’t be playing on active tracks, much for the same reasons they shouldn’t on any one of the major thoroughfares in the area. It should be simple, teach the kids to not play in front of trains, but to hold up a major rail line for it? They take the stance of “build it right, or don’t build at all”. All or nothing is a rather poor way of doing things. Kind of sad really, but hey, the line will get built despite them. Yeah!
Now, back to the bike ride! So, after doing a bit of research using Google Maps and Street View, I found free parking right near the old Helms Bakery. Perfect, right near where I wanted to start. After parking and getting the bike ready, it was time to go. The weather was fairly decent, though a bit on the cooler side near the beach. I started off heading to Venice Blvd, then onto Exposition Blvd. Just before National Blvd, I saw the first tracks of the day. The first thing I noticed was the bonds between the rail segments. These were original Pacific Electric tracks from the 1920’s. I took some photos, and moved on. Heading west from here, I went under the 10, then headed west through the Cheviot Hills area – remember them? Well, ignoring them and their silly signs, this is the best section of the whole line, certainly the most scenic. About halfway through the big cut here, there is a pedestrian bridge. It makes a great place to get photos, and will be a good place to watch the trains in 2015.
After that, the next major hurdle was Overland Ave. There were some remains of a crossing signal there, so I got some photos. The rails were cut at the crossing, but were still there on both sides. After Westwood Blvd, I got a different idea. There was plenty of dirt between the rails, and no plants. As railroad tracks usually have lots of thorns around them, I was a bit leery of doing this. I still did it anyway. After all, it is a cross bike, gotta ride dirt at some point! It was pretty smooth overall, with some muddy spots. Just beyond Military Ave, the tracks ended, for a while. The east switch for Home Junction still remained, but after that, no more tracks. At Sepulveda Blvd, only the guard rail for a crossing arm remained. From here west, there wasn’t as much to see. I was surprised to see the tracks still in place, along with the remains of the west switch for Home Junction, at the edge of a parking lot west of Sawtelle Blvd. They just paved right up to the north rail.
After Pico Blvd, Exposition Blvd picked up again. This time, even less remained of the tracks. From what I could tell, they had been pulled up long ago. No trace remained at the road crossings, only the occasional crossing signal or pole remained. At Centinela Ave, it was time to go over to Olympic Blvd. This ride isn’t about the PE after all! Olympic Blvd is an old State Highway, former Route 26. West of Centinela, the roadway turns into a four lane divided roadway, complete with concrete. I had only driven the roadway before, so this would be a good opportunity to find a date stamp on the concrete.
Just after Cloverfield Blvd, I found two things I had been looking for. The rail line crossed Olympic here, with the rails still in place, and there was a date stamp in the concrete. The stamp was from 1948, a bit earlier than I had thought, as I saw a 1958 stamp in a curb just before Cloverfield Blvd. I continued down Olympic Blvd as far as Lincoln Ave. Why that far? Well, that intersection, or at least the modern equivalent (the 10 freeway has modified things around there), was the west end of US 66. US 66, the Mother Road, ending at such a bland location? Yes. It never ended at Ocean, never mind what the signs may say. It always ended at the intersection of Lincoln Ave and Olympic Blvd. This intersection was formerly the junction of US 101A, SR-26, and US 66. The last two ended here, the first continued north to Malibu and Oxnard. After making some zigs and zags through central Santa Monica, I made it to Ocean Ave. Finally, the coast! It was a good place to take a break, enjoy the view from the cliffs, and figure out my next move.
I decided it was time to take some photos. There was a plaque for Will Rogers, and a sign stating it ended here. As stated before, it didn’t. Once I had taken my photos of the Will Rogers Highway plaque, I headed on south. It was time to hit Venice and see what remnants of the Pacific Electric I could find. I followed Ocean Blvd down until I could connect to the beach path. It wasn’t a busy beach day, so taking the path wasn’t a bad idea. Before I got to the beach, I found some reminders of why I like to ride there – SURFERS! Yes, it is always a good day for a ride here. The trouble with the path is sand. Lots of sand. It is a beach path after all! It wouldn’t be so much trouble, if it weren’t for the very sharp curvy nature of too many sections of the beach path. Seems to go out of its way to put curves in places there should be none. Just gotta take it slow. After I got as far south as central Venice, I left the path. As it turned out, I was right at Venice Blvd.
I took Pacific Avenue for a while, looking for traces of the PE. I found some, a building that had loops for hanging the overhead wire. After a while, I moved over to Main St, and followed it to the south end of Santa Monica. I was searching for a train station, but did not find it. Next time perhaps, when I remember to bring the address! No matter, I headed back south, following 2nd St this time, which eventually turns into Electric Avenue (yes, I did rock down to…. Electric Avenue, but I didn’t take it higher.) This follows another PE line, with some tracks still extant. There were two small sections of track, at Broadway St and Westminster St. I got my photos, and headed onto Abbott Kinney Blvd, which has sharrows. I took it just for that reason.
After roaming through Venice, it was time to get back to the car. No rush, but I decided to take the shortest route – Venice Blvd. The roadway is wide, with overall decent paving, and bike lanes both directions. Winds, the seemingly slight downhill, and my energy at that point in the ride seemed to meet. I kept a decent pace down the road, averaging about 26 mph, sometimes up to 30 mph. Not bad, I thought, as I noticed I was keeping up with traffic. With that, the ride took less time than I had thought it might, and I got back to the car just shy of two hours later than I started. Overall, a fun ride. I saw most of what I set out to see, with few problems. The future of Los Angeles, it seems, lies in its past. Where there were trains before, there will be again. Instead of building a city as they did, they’ll keep it moving.