LA River Bike Path Closure to Affect Cyclists and Businesses

Late word came to me on Friday, via LACBC’s Eric Bruins and Biking in LA’s Ted Rogers, that starting this week, the LA River Bike Path will be closing from Griffith Park to the Elysian Valley for flood control measures to counter El Niño.

The Army Corps of Engineers will be installing temporary 4-foot tall Hesco barriers that are expected to be in place until some time in April.

For many local cyclists, this is a big blow for those using the path for both recreation and commuting. As you can see from the redness in last year’s Strava Heat Map, this portion of the LA River Bike Path is one of the most cycled routes anywhere in Los Angeles:


Mr. CiclaValley is a heavy user of this bike path on my commute from the valley to downtown. I use it especially more this time of year as an alternative home now that Daylight Savings has ended and considering how unsafe the Cahuenga Pass is going northbound.

For me, I’ll have to settle riding on Riverside Dr. until the barriers clear. This street moves relatively well for cyclists, but conditions are shoddy and you face the wrath of hurry home traffic in the evening. This will be an inconvenience for me, but I think the majority of cyclists who do not have the confidence to ride through this area will have to reconsider.

The issue I haven’t heard much about is the effect this closure will have on businesses. The Elysian Valley’s economy is growing and to say that the bike path isn’t playing a part of it would be one of the biggest falsehood’s I’ve ever written.

Now, I’m no water engineer, but I did take a geology class in college with the Naked Guy before his 15 minutes of fame. So there’s that. Last Friday morning, I was biking by the LA River and I was a bit surprised at what I could see.

Spoke Bicycle Cafe
Spoke Bicycle Cafe

After four days of rain, the base of the trees planted in the river around the Glendale Narrows were still visible. I didn’t think much of it at the time, since the news was still hours away.

On Sunday, I decided to take a stroll over to Spoke Bicycle Cafe, a welcome addition along the bike path in the heart of Frog Town. I met Laurie, one of the co-owners, wanting to get her opinion on this matter, except that I was the first one to make her aware of this. I caught her a bit by surprise, but just to show I’m no charleton, I shared the message released from LA City Council Member Mitch O’Farrell’s office.

At that point, I didn’t really need a reaction about the closure. It was obvious that if the path was going to close for the entire four month span, that it would slow the cafe’s momentum as it nears its first anniversary.

Instead, I was curious to know how bad the river got. Laurie said the worst hit on the Wednesday, where the portion of the bike path that dips under the Glendale Freeway became submerged by a few feet, but nowhere near overflowing:

River path under Fletcher bridge #elnino #lariver #lariverbikepath

A photo posted by @tysongschmidt on

Another person I contacted was good friend and partner at Industry Partners, Trevor Belden. His firm focuses on creative work spaces and adaptive reuse and currently, Trevor is developing a couple of commercial properties right along the LA River Bike Path.

His main concern about the closure is safety, but hopes that the barriers aren’t an overreaction, as he knows the bike path plays a critical role in Frog Town’s growth.

On my way back on Sunday, I took a more keenful look at the river. By looking at the line of debris along the embankments, I could tell water levels only reached halfway up the channel:LARiverFlow

Of course, halfway up doesn’t mean half filled as the angle of the embankments allows for more water the higher it goes. And oh yes, I got a B+ in that class.

You can say this is just a four months span and that it’ll pass, but for growing businesses, that’s enough time to make or break them.

But you have to think, what if this happens again? And again? The Elysian Valley is one of the most promising areas in the city and this uptick can easily be negated with this uncertain. I’m just hoping that the LA River Bike Path closure isn’t premature and that a second look will be given.