I’ve been working in Downtown LA now for five months and along the way, you learn a few things. Like it gets boring doing the same route from the valley everyday.
Rolling down the LA River
There are a few options for getting into DTLA, but I’m listing my most popular ones, considering I budget about an hour to get to work. You may think I’m staring at Riverside and Colfax because it’s near my home, but it’s what I consider the pivot point for the routes that I go no matter what part of valley I’m coming from(except east of here). These two streets not only provide access, but a balance between speed and safety, which are always up for debate.
A couple more notes:
- These routes apply to morning rush hour traffic, so I would probably switch things up on other times and day.
- I go at a pretty good clip on these routes because it’s my one workout for the day. Results may vary.
Have fun with this, as there’s many routes that can be up for discussion:
Cahuenga Pass – 13.8 miles ~50 minutes
This is by far the fastest route going into Downtown and maybe the hairiest. The cars going up Cahuenga are antsy thinking they’re making up time over those stalled adjacent to them on the 101 Freeway. Even though there’s a lane to pass you, drivers prefer zipping by as close as possible as their favorite past time.
By the way, isn’t the Cahuenga Pass the most ill conceived in the city? There aren’t even sidewalks for pedestrians.
You turn onto Franklin with a sharrowed lane which is semi comfortable riding in traffic. The larger problem is finding the part of the street without cracks. Make sure to be aggressive and take the lane because the arrows don’t always put you in the proper position.
I’ll turn down Hillhurst then roll over Sunset Blvd. enjoying the bike lane, but remembering to stay on the left side so I don’t catch a door from a hipster’s Fiat around Intelligensia.
The fastest cut through into downtown is turning onto to Park Ave. to reach Glendale Ave. It’s a bit cozy with traffic, but claim your space and you should be fine. From there, merge onto 2nd Street, cut down Spring and Bob’s your uncle.
LA River Path – 17.5 miles. ~60 minutes
This was my early staple until I realized I had to branch out. Who doesn’t want to ride seven miles of uninterrupted bike path? Those who have a problem getting there.
Riverside Drive is fast and on the mayor’s high-injury network. You get drivers taken in by the higher speed limits and wide lanes, so I try to push it here to stay in front of the cars as far as possible.
Olive / Barham can be a bit of a circus as well with cars frustrated as they meld into stop and go traffic.
At this point, your job is to get across three lanes of traffic to make a left turn onto Forrest Lawn Dr. Good luck. Half the time I’ll make a box turn out of the Universal back entry(that’s good advice).
Forrest Lawn is slightly downhill and downwind, so it’s easy to go 25mph+, but cars take advantage of these conditions as well keeping speeds over 50 mph. To top it off, you ride in substandard bike lanes that needed repair twenty years ago.
Turning onto Zoo Drive is far more pleasant and before you know it, you’re on the bike path. If it’s open.
Coming off requires patience to get onto the currently under-construction Figueroa Bridge, but there’s a nice cut through onto San Fernando Road that cars don’t have access to(for now).
Broadway isn’t too difficult to navigate, especially if you go between 7am – 9am when the street has no stopping restrictions for vehicles. Around Sunset, I navigate onto Spring to enjoy buffered lane bliss.
Hillhurst – A lot more fun going down than coming up
Mount Hollywood Drive – 18.1 miles ~70 minutes
This is a combination of the first two routes I take when I want some quick elevation. Following my LA River route, I make the opposite turn off of Zoo Drive to cut up Trash Truck Hill.
As the you reach the top of the first part of the climb, you can take an off road path that’ll shave a few seconds off if you look to your left. After some flattening out, you steadily climb with a few hairpins until you reach the toughest portion nicknamed the “Three Bitches”.
You’re rewarded with an expansive view of Hollywood that can stretch to Santa Monica and Catalina depending on conditions. Don’t enjoy the view too much as there’s a cluster of horse poop at the top.
The descent should be fun, but there’s always leftover debris from rainfall to watch out for. How ironic since all we know is drought.
As you see start to see the Observatory, you ready yourself for the smooth Vermont Canyon descent where you’ll discover 40mph speeds and a 1:1 ratio of humans to coyotes.
Take the split over to Hillhurst and just pickup where my Cahuenga Pass route left off.
Mullholland / Lake Hollywood – 18.5 miles ~ 75 minutes
Sometimes I need more elevation and unusualness keep Jack from being a dull boy. Heading south on Colfax, I make my way up a series of winding roads up to Mulholland. The route is too hard to describe step by step, but if you keep choosing the streets that head up, you should make it.
I’ve been taking the Wrightwood jigsaw as a quiet route up to Mulholland for years, but recently Waze has taken over and filled the road with anxious cut-throughers. How do I know it’s Waze? Just look at each driver when they come to a stop sign as they check for updated directions.
At least once you’ve made it onto Mulholland, you’re back up to speed, especially now that they’re repaved most of this section. The downhill used to be really sketchy around the Hollywood Bowl lookout, but now it’s super fast, so make sure you know what you’re doing.
From there I take the bridge across the 101 to the bitch of a climb on Wonder View where you’ll use all your gears on a morning commute. You’re soon rewarded heading down to Lake Hollywood and getting your first glance of the Hollywood Sign.
The upcoming Canyon Lake Drive climb is a steep one, but you’ll be back on Mulholland Hwy(how’d that happen?) before you know it. You soon turn down Ledgewood where you’ll encounter a number of lost tourists trying to find their way to the Hollywood Sign. Good Luck.
Beachwood is the last element of this route as you’ll speed down as fast as cars, but they won’t like it. Watch out for the cracks in the road. Once you’ve hit Franklin, you’re back on my Cahuenga Pass route into downtown.
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These are my staple routes, but there’s many more variations that I take adding elevation and distance.
What’s great about cycling across Los Angeles is the number of options you always have. Everyday is not like Sunday. Mix things up. There’s always something to look forward to.