What Strava Heat Maps tells us about Cycling in Los Angeles

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Universal Truth #1: Cyclists love data.

Heart rate monitors, cadence sensors, power meters are part of our love affair with numbers, but it’s hard to put all that information together and have a meaningful conversation with others. Strava does an excellent job culling all of our GPS information together and cycling has never been the same.

This app has introduced us to new routes, given us challenges against other riders and has made us train a little harder along the way. One of the most interesting things to come out of Strava is their heat map representing how much individual streets are used.

Furthermore, you can compare data from 2015 against 2014 across anywhere on the planet. So yeah, there’s a lot to look at.

Of course, I wanted to look at Los Angeles, but it’s not as simple as it looks. Not all cyclists use Strava, so you have to take it with a grain a salt, but still it does give some strong indications where people want to ride. Let’s look at some maps and dig in!

1. Los Angeles

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Looking at the overall map, you can make a few quick judgements: cyclists love mountains and protected bikeways.

While you don’t necessarily think of Strava being for commuting, even those going out of recreational rides do have to get there. There’s probably little difference between these cyclists and commuters getting around the city. They both want to take the quickest, safest way across town. This will show up more when we take a closer look.

There is a huge hole in South LA(A), but it’s not because there aren’t any cyclists. There are a lot of people in the area that use their bikes to get work or to hop onto transit, they’re just not on Strava.

2. San Fernando Valley

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It’s no surprise that the Orange Line Bike Path/Chandler bikeway(A) is the most popular in the valley. People love protected bike lanes. Build it and they will come. Personally, I try not to use it west of balboa Park because you tend to get stuck at all the stoplights for really long periods of time. I am encouraged that the Chatsworth section(B) has so many riders for being the newest part of the path.

To illustrate how cyclists hate being stuck at lights look at the Chandler/Van Nuys(C) stretch. I take this this other route to avoid the bike path because the lights are timed if you can keep a 20mph pace. Anything to avoid the two stoplights at Woodman.

There’s a lot of cycling in the northwest portion of the valley. The Santa Susana Pass(D) is red hot partially from the Simi Ride, but also because of its connectivity. Nordoff(E) also has a high volume leading into Cal State Northridge. It will be interesting if some of these numbers go down for 2016 because of the gas leak.

It’s interesting how Riverside Drive(F) starts “heating up” east of Woodman. Getting to Griffith Park(G) is important not just for recreational cyclists, but commuters as well. Riders will continue to funnel through this portion of the valley and the LA River Bike Path extension would go a long way to alleviating riders needs.

Think Ventura Blvd.(H) doesn’t need bike lanes? Look how busy it is south of the boulevard(I). Just slightly less than the main street. I always go back and forth on which route to take, but I really wish Ventura had some great bike lanes.

Although not used as much by commuters, I am surprised that Hansen Dam(J) and La Tuna(K) register higher than Sepulveda(L) through the pass.

3. Downtown / Eastside

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It’s no shocker how popular Griffith Park(A), the Elysian Valley portion of the LA River Bike Path(B) and the Rose Bowl(C) is. Opening up Mt. Hollywood Drive(D) to cars would definitely impact the results.

I would have thought the Arroyo Seco Bike Path(E) would have registered a bit heavier. It’s a bit of a head scratcher considering what an efficient route that is to downtown.

Yes, Sunset(F) has bike lanes, but I’d also like to add that there’s not a lot of parking in that stretch.

Speaking of Sunset, it’s interesting how a lot of the bike traffic through Hollywood(G) is east-west, not north-south. I credit Metro’s Red Line playing a role in that.

York(H) & Colorado(I), both with bike lanes, seem to have more cycling traffic than Figueroa(J) in the Highland Park area. I hope you’re listening Cedillo.

Looking at Downtown, you see a lot of north-south traffic, particularly on Spring and Main(K). Not only do they have buffered lanes, but the lights are timed pretty good for cyclists. Figueroa(L) is pretty strong heading down to USC which would be even better if the My Figueroa project ever got going.

Despite the difficulty getting to the southern portion of the LA River Bike Path(N), there is still a great indication that many are willing to weave their way down there.

4. Westside

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Yes, I know Mandeville Canyon(A) is a popular climb, especially with La Grange’s Wednesday morning ride, but it’s the hottest thing on the map! And it doesn’t really take you anywhere as long as you’re on a road bike. Pretty popular as well are the dirt roads that parallel just to the west.

Even without bike lanes, you can see a good amount of usage on Westwood Blvd.(B) That will increase even more once Phase II of the Expo Line opens this year. Try to stop us Koretz!

I’ve said it plenty of times before, Franklin Canyon(C) is the best way to get from the westside to Mulholland. Looks like many know this and avoid the parallel Coldwater Canyon.

Speaking of La Grange, the Sunday Nichols ride leaves quite an impression too, like on Santa Monica Blvd.(D) & Nichols Canyon(E), although a lot of people use these roads all week long.

Lastly, you cannot overlook the importance of the Ballona Creek Bike Path(F) connecting to the Expo Line has.

5. Santa Monica Mountains

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I’m not surprised by Latigo Canyon’s(A) popularity, but it is interesting how much yellower it gets the closer the line is to peak. I never thought so many would turn around.

Even though just as accessible as others, the tougher climbs, such as Decker(B), Yerba Buena(C) and Las Flores(D), hardly register. And yes, they are that painful.

Although I love Old Topanga Canyon(E) over the newer portion(F), I am surprised that it registers higher since it’s a less direct route from the valley.

And yes, people love having their picture taken at the Rock Store(G), even if there’s a number of race cars and motorcycles to deal with.

No surprise to see a lot of east-west movement on both sides of the Santa Monica Mountains on PCH(H) and Agoura / Portero Roads(I). I do love how heavy the Malibu cut through is used to avoid that little hill…

6. San Gabriels

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Funny to see that little heated phalange up Chantry Flats(A). That’s Santa Anita’s version of Mandeville.

Angeles Crest Highway(B) should be popular, but why do the lines abruptly end between Clear Creek(C) and Red Box(D). Most cyclists would think the ride up to Mount Wilson(E) is obviously more popular than Angeles Forest Highway(F), but Strava shows the opposite.

The Montrose(G) ride makes its mark on the map, but it’s strange the beginning(H) doesn’t really show up.

GMR. Glendora Mountain Road(I). Like Derrick Zoolander: so hot. Since this stretch gets a lot of action for time trials, this is not much of a surprise.

I hate climbing hwy 39(J). At least, the first part. The rest of you disagree. Y’all be crazy.

What I love about Mount Baldy(K) is how you’ll see people park anywhere up the way to the top to catch part of this climb. It’s a pure blessing if you’ve never been.

Full disclosure, I’ve never biked or hiked the San Dimas Canyon area(L). Boy, am I curious now.

7. Santa Clarita Valley

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There’s a good amount of cycling taking place in Santa Clarita, eh? You could see the heaviest set of lines representing the dedicated bike paths along the Santa Clarita River(A). Imagine if the LA River Bike Path ever became that connected?

You can see an awful lot of dirt riding around there, especially around the Tapia Canyon area(B). They have it all!

I imagine you’ll see a big dip along Vasquez Canyon(C) for awhile.

Reaching Camp 9(D) is more popular from the Santa Clarita(E) side than the 818(F). Hey, we’ve got a greater climb to get there!

Lake Hughes Road(G), San Francisquito Canyon(H) and Bouquet Canyon(I). All difficult climbs, but to get respect out in the SCV, you better have conquered them already.

Speaking of difficulty, Soledad Canyon(J) is full of rollers and is quite windy. That doesn’t stop anyone out here either.

8. South Bay

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Look at the heaviness on the westside. I’d say the Palos Verdes loop(A) is where you work up a sweat while the line along the coast is just a way of getting there.

While it seems light in San Pedro(B) and Long Beach(C), there are a lot of people using bikes to get around.

LA River Bike Path(D) = San Gabriel Bike Path(E) in terms of usage.

Speaking of river paths, see how popular Del Amo(F), Wardlow(G) and Anaheim(H) branch off the LA River.

See at all those tiny loops(I)? If you want to know where Crits are taking place, you don’t have to look hard.

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I think this is a real fascinating tool. Next time I go to another city, I’m pulling up this map to see where to go.

I’m also curious to see over time how cycling develops across the city. By the year 2020, will we see a lot more dark reds? Possibly, but it’ll be hard to say whether there are more cyclists or more joining Strava. Either way, I’m sure there’s enough data there for cyclists to talk about for ages.