Elysian Valley Bike Path Blues: Delays

July 27, 2010 § 18 Comments

NO ENTRY signs - on the Great Heron Gate at Fletcher Drive today


Over a year has passed since the June 29th 2009 groundbreaking for the city of Los Angeles’ L.A. River Bike Path through Elysian Valley. That day, speakers proudly announced that the 2.7-mile project would be completed in six to eight months – likely by December 2009, at the latest, maybe February 2010.   

L.A. Creek Freak is was pretty excited about the project. Before there was a creek freak blog, I was pushing for this project to be funded and to get built. Creek Freak wrote about the project’s tortured legal history and celebrated the city’s groundbreaking. We reported on closures, the new underpass and the new asphalt. Then it seems like the work kinda… slowed… down… and… maybe… stopped.    

By early 2010, the bikeway’s new asphalt was already all in place. The pipe fencing was making its way down the stretch… then it seemed like there was less and less work getting done.   

In March 2010, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation’s (LADOT’s) error-prone and grammatically-challenged official Bike Blog reported that the facility was “almost there.” By “almost”, did they mean 4+more months on a project which had been announced to take 6 months to build? LADOT announced two reasons for the delays. The first reason was that “rainy weeks … really threw a wrench into the construction schedule.”  Who would have guessed that it would actually rain in Los Angeles during winter of an El Niño year? (sarcasm, groan)    

The other reason, first announced at Creek Freak and also stated by LADOT, was that the city had changed the lighting specifications midway through the project, unfortunately leading to delays in negotiating a change order for the work in progress.   

On June 6th, the Bike Coalition’s annual River Ride was irritatingly detoured around this very nice stretch of river. In the past couple months, I haven’t seen any workers out there constructing the bikeway. What I have seen are more rented fences, more locked gates, and more signs stating “NO ENTRY.”   

The good thing about these fences is that they don’t work in neighborhoods like Elysian Valley. People pry them open:   

Access point with gap in temporary fencing


Bent fences are perhaps a nostalgic reminder of the pre-1990's river access issues. This is what many river access points used to look like in those days.


Cut them open:  

Frogtown 1, Rent-a-Fence 0


Throw them down:  

Let's hope this gets cleared out before the city is surprised by winter rains again


Because folks in Elysian Valley use the river all the time, and it’ll take more than a temporary rental fence to keep them out of their largest green space. Unfortunately the fences make for more ugly infrastructure between people’s homes and the river… and the community’s small parks are where there’s the longest stretches of ugly fence have been placed.    

From my tone, you’ve probably guessed that I am pretty disappointed the project has dragged on for so long. We urge the city to end the delays and finish off this project. L.A. Creek Freak calls on councilmembers Garcetti and Reyes, whose disticts both border this project, to get this construction done and open the river up again. It’s unfair and inappropriate for the city to fence off this stretch, arguably the nicest part of the entire river, for over a year, while it ambles along on completing this project.  

Renegade pedestrians engaging in civil disobedience on the path today

 Luckily it’s really not all that difficult to get around the barriers and take a walk or ride along this great stretch of river. Today, plenty of pedestrians and bicyclists figured out how to get in, around the barriers. Perhaps the fences are there mostly there to keep out the elderly and those who use a wheelchair to get around. 


Mid-day today, construction crews were nowhere in sight.  

The new path is great for walking and biking. I highly recommend it.  

(This is intended to be the first of three Elysian Valley Bike Path Blues articles. Within the next month or so, I plan to also cover bike-ped conflict and drainage issues.)

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§ 18 Responses to Elysian Valley Bike Path Blues: Delays

  • Brian Frobisher says:

    I have been doing a 21 mile loop after work on weekdays that involve(d) using the new section of bike path. For a while I was entering it the south and riding north and there were no fences blocking me out, then some new fences appeared at the south entrance but I could still ride up to Duvall Road and get in at the end of it, but now they have really fenced the areas all shut, I feel safer on the bike path than I do riding around on city streets and if it’s only because of the lights not being installed, I am riding during daylight hours and also have lights on my bike etc. And my feeling is that the lights will work for about 2 weeks before they fail or someone “Scofflaw” steals the copper wiring!

    I have heard from CD-13 representatives that they have had problems with contractors doing funky work etc (What do you expect when you give contracts to bottom feeders) and other goings on.

    I want to use the bike path, let’s get it open soon!

  • […] Marvin Braude Bike Path isn’t the only city bikeway with problems; Joe Linton says the new Elysian Valley bike path along the L.A. River is a great place to walk and ride, even if it isn’t open yet — and no […]

  • CF:

    Mitch O’Farrell has been doing an extraordinary job in my office managing this project through funding challenges, delays, contracting and bureaucratic difficulties. Give him a call (323) 957-4500 or email him at the address above and he can give you an official, day-to-day update, but I have been committed to this bike path for five long years of work and we are going to get it done and in a quality way. Hold tight and know that we are pushing daily.

    All the best,

    Eric Garcetti

  • P.S. A big part of this delay was insisting that the workers stop getting asphalt into the river itself, moving our years of work to clean the water and banks backwards.

    • Joe Linton says:

      Honorable Councilmember Garcetti –

      I am glad that you’ve commented and that this issue has gotten some of your attention. I’m grateful for your support of river, water and environmental issues. I’m also grateful to Mitch O’Farrell for his hard work on CD13 stretches of the L.A. River.

      I find it somewhat hard to believe that the city a) didn’t expect rain and b) didn’t have procedures in place up front that keep construction asphalt out of our waterways.

      I understand that there are often delays in projects, I just hope that our vocal public frustrations with the way this project has gone (including a lack of communication with the public about what’s going on) will put some pressure on getting the project done, and getting this great stretch of river back fully open to the public.

  • Veronica says:

    Kudos to Mr. Garcetti for his response to the blog. I lived in Elysian Valley for three years and loved it. It’s a wonderfully diverse community but one seriously starved of green space. A finished bike/walk path will be a blessing. Thanks Creek Freak for keepin’ them honest!

  • Will Campbell says:

    I’m glad Councilman Garcetti’s pushing for completion, but here’s my argument why the fences should come down (especially in these last couple months when all I’ve encountered is smooth asphalt and my fellow trespassers and NO construction activity of any kind):

    Riding the off-street bikeways of the city is totally use-at-your-own-risk thanks to the 2007 decision in Prokop v. Los Angeles which reinforced that the city has ABSOLUTE IMMUNITY under Government Code section 831.4 from liability for injuries sustained by anyone utilizing the LA River Bikeway. Scary, but true: David Prokop hurt himself pretty badly crashing into a poorly designed and inadequately signed gate he was trying to pass through, sued the city alleging negligence and lost both the trial and the subsequent appeal.

    Rattling across those bumpy drainage ditches, dodging bad pavement, bumpy tree roots, broken glass and the occasional stray dog or gangbanger I’ve endured the L.A. River south of Fletcher through Frogtown since my first ride on it in 1997 — as well as for these last three years knowing that if anything fell onto me or I fell onto anything it was in no way, shape or form the city’s responsibility.

    In the ultimate irony the bikeway south of Fletcher to Figueroa is now the best it’s ever been, the ditches are all filled in, and we’ve got billiard-slate smooth pavement all the way down and back. Yet NOW the city blocks citizens from it fearing someone might get hurt? That’s a laugh.

    Lose the fences

    • Joe Linton says:

      While I agree with you sentiment Will – definitely “Lose the fences!!!” – I think that there may be differences in liability between finished bike facilities and construction sites. I’m no lawyer, though… so it’s just a guess. I think if the city puts up construction fences, then lets the community trash them, it can point to their existence if someone injures themself at the fenced site.

      It’s disheartening to see the best part of the whole river fenced off for so long, with no end in sight.

      • Will Campbell says:

        I know there are things still needing to be done, and I guess if it were still an actual construction site I’d understand, but the times I’ve been on it these last couple months the only things being worked on are the fences that the residents keep understandably knocking down.

      • Joe Linton says:

        What if someone hits a knocked-over fence and sues the city?!? (kidding)

        You’re completely correct – as you stated above – the path is in better shape now than it has been for 20 years! It shouldn’t be treated like a constuction site, unless they’re actually out there doing construction!

  • Eric Grammel says:

    I’m excited that the new section is almost completed, looking forward to it finally getting done soon I hope…
    All these expanded LA River paths sound great, but there is all but no upkeep on the existing bike trails. Endless graffiti, trash, camps of seedy bums, weeds, and non working lights are what we endure along the existing paths. I’m all for extending the trails, but the city also needs to have some plan for more maintenance and policing of what already exists. Lack of funds is not an excuse, I pay quite a lot in property taxes, this is what it is supposed to go to!!

  • Liz says:

    Thank you, LA Creek Freak and all, for keeping up the pressure on this!

    EVERYBODY uses this path, and I feel so sad every time I go by the locked gates — even tho I know you can go around through one of the um “informal” entrances. Take down the darn fencing already! This is hardly an active construction site, as no one has been working here for months.

    Kudos to Garcetti for responding, and to Mitch O’Farrell for working in this, but … darn. It doesn’t inspire confidence in the City of LA when such a small project can get delayed so badly, by such totally predictable things.

  • […] remains unfinished. All the access points were blocked with fences. However, as Joe Linton says, “The good thing about these fences is that they don’t work in neighborhoods like Elysian Val… There were many people out there both walking and cycling this section. In many ways, it was even […]

  • Scott says:

    Actually, having an El Nino does not necessarily mean more rain. It can actually mean a dryer season. So don’t groan too much.

  • Rafe Greenlee says:

    There’s no excuse for not opening this — and Councilmember Garcetti doesn’t even try and provide one. The asphalt has been in place for months. It’s just sheer incompetence on the City’s part.

  • Alan says:

    Rode the extension today. No construction work going on. Railings unfinished, no lighting, and no lane markings. And no maintenance.

  • Marta segura says:

    The bike path is complete.

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