What To Do When Bike Path Gates Are Locked

January 26, 2010 § 3 Comments

Lifting the kids trailer over the locked gates on Ballona Creek - photo David Pulsipher

Los Angeles County’s concreted rivers and creeks can be pretty dangerous when it’s raining. Water levels can rise quickly; wet concrete can be slippery.

Generally, reinforcing channels with concrete also includes straightening (which also means steepening.) This makes the waters flow even faster. It’s a pretty efficient solution for getting rid of stormwater, but it also makes for about as deadly a river as one can imagine. Concrete channels flow at relatively uniform velocities and depths with with almost no slower flow refuge areas. The fast moving water often carries debris and sometimes toxins. Folks who enter these high waters generally end up dead.

For these reasons, when rain is predicted, bike path gates are locked… and L.A. Creek Freak recommends that folks stay away from our streams those days… and come back and enjoy them during the 300+ non-rainy days each year.

Sometimes the locked gates don’t get re-opened promptly. This is especially frustrating when the rain has stopped and the air is wondrously clear and the day is completely perfect for riding. This happens most often when it’s raining on a Friday, then it’s clear on a Saturday… just like the last couple days. My friend David blogged here about his birthday dinner, last Saturday, which involved lifting bikes and trailers and kids over locked gates along the Ballona Creek bikeway. Another friend of mine, Bobby, who commutes on the lower L.A. River bikeways, also mentioned to me that the gates there were locked today – Monday morning and evening. 

What follows is my advice on who to complain to notify politely when the gates are locked on a sunny day. Unfortunately it’s somewhat convoluted jurisdictionally… depends which path you’re accessing where.

First off, let me editorialize a moment. When it rains hard, like it did the past week, the folks who maintain waterways get pretty busy doing critically important things like clearing debris basins. I don’t know if there’s any official standard as to how soon they’re supposed to get the gates open, but I’d suggest giving them something like 8 hours of dry weather before I notify them of a locked gate.

Note also that they may close gates before the rain actually starts. If rain is predicted with certainty to begin at night… then they do close the gates during the day. If it’s raining up in the San Fernando Valley but not in Long Beach… they will still close the gates, because rain in other parts of the water can cause heavy downstream flows, which can rise quickly. If you know rain has been predicted soon, expect the gates to be locked and use alternative routes.

I don’t say this to let the maintenance folks off the hook for re-opening bikeways… I mean, would they forget to re-open a roadway? I just want to remind us that there’s plenty of important work that they’re doing. They sometimes need polite reminders that cyclists are out there using these facilities every day, and that we deserve respect. I recommend that if you contact these folks, be polite and brief just let them know where the locked gate is.

Note also that this contact information is good for reporting any other maintenance issues on these bikeways – ie: trees down in the path, potholes, or any other potentially dangerous conditions.


County of Los Angeles

Most of the bikeways are maintained by the county – more specifically the Los Angeles County Flood Control District, which is basically a part of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works.

LACDPW is responsible for maintaining pretty much every waterway bike path outside the city of Los Angeles and those that touch the city but extend outside of it (Ballona and Dominguez.) These county maintained paths include:

  • Ballona Creek
  • Compton Creek (lower – from the 91 Freeway to Del Amo)
  • Dominguez Channel
  • Lario Trail (Lario is the lower Rio Hondo and the lower Los Angeles River – from the Whittier Narrows to Long Beach)
  • Rio Hondo (upper and lower)
  • San Gabriel River
  • San Jose Creek
  • South County L.A. River Bike Trail (from Vernon to South Gate)

If you’re not sure what waterway you’re riding on, I’d say report the location to the county.

County Public Works has an on-line form for reporting problems or you can call their public problems hotline at 800-675-4357. If you report problems, and the problems persist,  then you might consider escalating your concern to your elected county supervisor.

City of Los Angeles

There are two bike paths in central Los Angeles that are maintained by the city of Los Angeles. They’re under the jurisdiction of the city’s Department of Transportation, but sometimes maintained by the Department of Recreation and Parks.

Waterway bike paths maintained by the city include: Arroyo Seco, and the Glendale Narrows stretch of the Los Angeles River Bike Path (from Griffith Park to Elysian Park.)

To report problems with locked bike path gates in the city of L.A., I think the best thing to do would be to contact the city’s bikeways coordinator. Her contact information is online here. Call her at 213-972-4962 or email her at michelle.mowery {at} lacity [dot] org.

City of Compton

The upper Compton Creek Bike Path (from Greenleaf Boulevard to El Segundo Blvd) is maintained by the city of Compton. I haven’t heard of gate closure problems there, but I would use the city’s online service request form or call their Public Works Maintenance Department at (310) 605-5691.


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