Bike Friendly Neighborhoods in Los Angeles

Cycling in Los Angeles is tough. Most of our public space has been given over to cars. Drivers also feel they have more rights than non-motorists. Just the other day, within 1.5min of starting my ride to the farmer's market, some driver felt they had the right to honk at me on a residential street as they sped by.


But when you do find those areas where riding feels safe and enjoyable, it's absolutely heaven. Safety is subjective, and it usually only lasts about a block or two, but if you've been riding for any length of time, you'll immediately recognize the difference between what feels safe and everything else.


Below are some of the places where I have generally felt riding to be safe and enjoyable. I would add that these places should also feel safe for adults looking to start riding, but unfortunately, nowhere is it safe for children, elderly or the handicap.


Santa Monica

I know Santa Monica is not in the city of Los Angeles, but it's surrounded by Los Angeles. And, Santa Monica has done an amazing job in building bike infrastructure. Santa Monica has by far the most number of connected bike lanes in the region.


Google Maps of the regions bike lanes in green

Pulling up Google Maps, one can see the number of bike lanes that connect to one another compared to neighboring Los Angeles, with its patchwork of disconnected and dangerous bike lanes.


Santa Monica Blvd, for example, has a painted bike lane next to 6-7 lanes of traffic, is insanely dangerous. Add to the fact that drivers are cutting into and out of Little Santa Monica Blvd and the parking garage at Westfield Century City Mall makes most people who would like to ride, hop back into their cars. But I've digressed. Back to the city of Santa Monica.



Santa Monica Broadway Protected Bike Lane

The most recent upgrade is the parking protected bike lane along Broadway (see image on left). Prior to COVID-19, Santa Monica was already making it safer for people to walk, bike and scoot. The protected bike lane on Broadway ups Santa Monica's commitment to encourage more people to ditch their cars for their bikes for short trips.


However, with budget shortfall due to the lack of tourism dollars because of the COVID-19 pandemic, future projects like these may grind to a halt. See SMDP here and here.


But not all of Santa Monica is bike friendly. I've found that west of 17th St tends to be more stress free for those getting on the bike for the first time (The Broadway project pushes that out to 21st St).

San Vicente is best if you are a MAMIL, and Montana's bike lane (where it exists) can put you in the doorzone. But California, Washington, Arizona and Broadway all seem to be well laid out. 6th, 11th and 14th all seems to be good north-south routes. And of course, the Expo bike path starts in Santa Monica on 17th and Colorado and takes you into what I consider the next bike friendly neighborhood: Sawtelle.


As of August 2020

Average Home Sale Price: $1,500,000



Sawtelle

The Sawtelle neighborhood borders roughly I-405 on the east, Centinela on the west, Wilshire to the north and I-10 to the south. The most popular sub-neighborhood in Sawtelle is Sawtelle Japantown aka Little Osaka. Although outside of the Expo Bike Path, this area has almost no bike lanes. But despite that, there are plenty of neighborhood streets which makes riding enjoyable. Most of this neighborhood streets are set up like a grid, so if you want to get coffee at Cafe Tomo or ramen at Tsujita, there's no need to bike along busy Sawtelle Blvd. Take Corinth or Purdue then cut across on Mississippi or even La Grange. There are lots of residential streets that allow you to get to the commercial corridor in this neighborhood. In addition to amazing Japanese food, you can ride to Trader Joe's or Ralphs. You might have to cross Barrington, but Mississippi, La Grange and Nebraska all have a stop light.


Riding north through the residential streets to Santa Monica Blvd, there are more Japanese restaurants, along with Thai, Mexican and much more. The old Vons and Buerge Ford dealership are now mixed use apartments which, hopefully, after COVID-19 will bring more street life to those blocks. If you ride north of Santa Monica Blvd. on residential streets, there are some steep hills for you to climb. It's best to have some gears. Sawtelle neighborhood easily connects to Santa Monica via the Expo Bike Path which makes this area a great place to ride.


Photo Credit: JapanTimes (https://www.japantimes.co.jp/)

As of August 2020

Average Home Sale Price: $1,200,000


Venice

Another great neighborhood to ride is Venice (at least west of Lincoln). AWOL, amirite?? Just kidding! But other than the bike path along the boardwalk, there are plenty of small residential streets a bike rider can take. Similar Sawtelle, Venice has very few bike lanes, but the grid-like blocks and large residential areas makes riding more stress free. Riding in Venice is not really suitable for kids unless you are along the boardwalk, but for adults looking at a car-lite lifestyle, the residential streets feed into the commercial corridor which allows you to grab food and drinks without a car. Abbott Kinney on a Friday night? Take Westminster, Market, Windward, Andalusia, Navarre, California, Millwood, I can go on. You can also ride parallel to Abbot Kinney on Alhambra Ct or S. Irving Tabor Ct if you want to avoid the Abbott Kinney traffic.


In addition to AK, you have options to eat and drink on Washington near the pier, and of course the Venice Boardwalk. Venice has definitely come up over the decades to become one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Los Angeles.


Finally, from my experience, drivers tend to tolerate people on bikes once they are west of Abbott Kinney if they are on Venice. If they are on Washington going west of AK, they still have the driver superiority mentality, up until about Via Marina/ Ocean Ave.


As of August 2020

Average Home Sale Price: $2,000,000


Playa Vista

Photo Credit: LA Times

This is the newest neighborhood in the city of Los Angeles. Just south of Marina del Rey and north of LAX, Playa Vista to me is like the Irvine of Los Angeles- a master planned community. I believe it's the only area in the city that has mello roos. So, if you purchase a home here, you'll pay your mortgage (unless you buy all cash), property tax, local HOA, master HOA and mello roos. Those are a lot of monthly payments. But for those that call Playa Vista home, it's a beautiful community of newer homes, perfectly manicured parks and lawns, shops, restaurants, an entertainment hub, walking/hiking trails and summertime outdoor movies and concerts in the park (again, at least pre-COVID).


Photo Credit: www.playavista.com

Playa Vista is also home to some of the largest tech giants and start-ups around. I remember going to the sales office of Playa Vista almost 20 years ago when it was planned as a car-lite community. They envisioned residents riding around in golf carts and a local shuttle that can take them around the neighborhood. Although that didn't really pan out, the area is still a great place to ride. Given the fact that most of the streets are narrower than even the residential streets in Hancock Park, drivers are forced, or should slow down a bit more. To ride from one end of Playa Vista going east and west takes about 10 minutes. Riding feels safe, the roads are nicely paved, it's flat, drivers seem to be generally considerate and the compact size of the neighborhood makes Playa Vista a bike friendly community.


As of August 2020

Average Home Sale Price: $1,500,000


Larchmont Village

Up to now, all the areas I consider bike friendly neighborhoods have been on the Westside. In my opinion, most of Central Los Angeles is hostile to people on bikes and scooters. Also, if you look on Google Maps (below), Central Los Angeles lacks any safe and connected cycling infrastructure.


Google Maps of Bike Infrastructure in Central Los Angeles

The Expo Bike path ends right before you reach Cheviot Hills, then continues from Palms to end at La Cienega. The longest stretch of bike lanes on Venice Blvd and Santa Monica Blvd are ridiculously unsafe for anybody starting out on a bike. Then there are also these little patches of green lines for bikes, which are completely useless.


These are the bike lanes the city provides us with

What am I supposed to do with an unprotected bike lane on Hauser that only goes from 6th St to 3rd St?


Basically, certain blocks feel safer than others, and that's about it. One of those blocks is in Larchmont Village. Larchmont Village lacks any kind of bike infrastructure. The only amenity the area has is a bike corral in front of Burger Lounge on Larchmont Blvd. The streets around Larchmont Blvd feel safe to ride, and there are quite a bit of people riding to the Larchmont Village Farmer's Market on Sunday.


I have added Larchmont Village on this list because ironically, more blocks around the village now feel safer because of the current pandemic.


Photo: Discoverlosangeles.com

4th St is a sharrow and since the pandemic, residents have taken over the street by jogging, walking and cycling. I have also seen this spill over onto 1st, 2nd and 5th St. Given our sidewalks are too narrow to social distance, and the abundant amount of space we have given over to cars, people just started moving onto the streets, which allows for safer exercise and running errands without a car in order to keep our distance. It's interesting to see how 4th St and the surrounding areas are not part of the #SlowStreet program and do not have safe bike infrastructure, yet the residents organically took over the space to make it feel safer while not being in a car.


As of August 2020

Average Home Sale Price: $1,090,000


Downtown Los Angeles (Historic Core, Civic Center)

I would say the most aggressive restructuring of our public streets is in Downtown Los Angeles. The most number of protected bikes lanes are here. The most number of bus only lanes are here. And I believe, the longest road diet done is also here on Broadway. The protected bikes lanes are starting to connect. Generally, things are progressing. But cars parking in protected bike lanes continue to be a problem and mixed zones between drivers and cyclists is still an issue.


Photo Credit: LA Mayor's office

The changes are not uniform. South Park, despite MyFig still doesn't feel inviting for newer cyclists. The Financial District is the same. Most of the development ends at Main St, which leaves Skid Row, Fashion District, Toy District and the Arts District completely untouched.


So, really, the ideal parts of the area to ride in are the Historic Core and Civic Center.

New 7th St Protected Bike Lane. Photo courtesy of Urbanize LA


As of August 2020

Average Home Sale Price (Historic Core): $485,000


Los Feliz

Finally, I would say Los Feliz rounds out my list of bike friendly neighborhoods in the city. Maybe given it's proximity to Griffith Park, but I see quite a bit of riders here, and hopefully that means drivers are used to seeing people on bikes. But I generally find myself feeling a bit calmer and happier when I ride around here.


Riding up Vermont into Griffith Park

If I am riding northbound on Edgemont, once I pass Franklin, the area generally makes me feel calmer. That doesn't mean there aren't entitled drivers, but maybe because the area becomes more residential?


It's also not too difficult to get to the commercial corridors on Vermont and Hillhurst by taking side streets. Just keep in mind the side streets sometimes end and don't pick up again for another block. The novice rider, should go online and plan out their route first because you can find yourself on a dead end street and be forced onto a commercial street. Also, for the novice rider, I would recommend taking a longer route by not riding down Franklin. Franklin is a feeder street and drivers drive like that too. The streets are less of a grid and once you are north of Los Feliz Blvd, it gets hilly. But again, I think because of its close proximity to Griffith Park, motorist might be more accustomed to people walking and biking.


Los Feliz has all the amenities you need such as bars, restaurants, cafes and grocery stores to one of LA's greatest parks that includes miles of hiking, biking, concert venue (The Greek), The Observatory, Los Angeles Zoo, The Autry and Travel Town museums. It also connects to the LA River (although sort of always under construction).


As of August 2020

Average Home Sale Price $1,860,000



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