Making the valley bike friendly is a larger task than you think. It may be considered a suburb, but population-wise the San Fernando Valley would be considered the fifth largest city in the United States.
There’s a lot of real estate to cover too. Griffith Park to Calabasas is twenty miles east to west and and the valley stretches north-south fourteen miles from the tip of Sylmar to the Sherman Oaks Galleria.
We are seeing signs of progress, but I constantly travel across the valley coming up with a wish list for which streets could use a complete streets makeover.
There is no exact formula for my selections, but it’s a combination of connectivity, access to transit, usage and areas where businesses would benefit most.
It’s no easy task, as there are many worthy streets, so in no particular order:
- Lankershim Blvd. – As the only street in the valley with two Metro Red Line Stations, Lankershim badly needs a way to shuttle subway riders on the streets above. It also has the potential to be a great link to the northeast part of the valley, but it’s littered with potholes. I just shutter to think if we had bike lanes years ago, we could have saved the legendary Palomino Club!
- Topanga Canyon – For a street that’s so important to access the Santa Monica Mountains and Santa Susana Pass, it could use a little improving to make it more bike friendly. With Westfield and the Warner Center determined to make Woodland Hills more of an urban hub, a slower speed limit coupled with better bike infrastructure would reap dividends.
- Ventura Blvd. – Did we learn anything from CicLAvia? Cycling access equalled packed businesses. It’s the valley’s signature commercial corridor, but one I partially avoid because of my allergy to valet parking. There are many bike lanes that take you to Ventura, but once you get there you are on your own. Let’s get some more butts in those seats!
- Sherman Way – You wouldn’t think of the term “urban flight” in a suburb, but the Sherman Way used to be far more dynamic when the Pacific Electric Railway reached out to Canoga Park. When the line got lifted in the 1950’s, so did some of the street’s vibrancy. There are a lot of mid-century businesses that still align, so it would be great to build on that framework and bring Sherman Way back to life.
- Glenoaks Blvd. – Getting across the far eastern portion of the valley is difficult from the awkward way the city grid triangulates along the Verdugo Mountains. Glenoaks contains some long stretches of bike lanes, but the Sun Valley section is always covered in debris and you fear a semi will turn you into a doormat. There’s a lot of great riding around the Sylmar area and the City of San Fernando has some great bike potential, just getting out there is problematic.
- Magnolia St. – One of the most underrated streets in the valley, but Magnolia St. packs quite a punch. The NoHo portion is vibrant, attracts the younger crowd, but lacks parking. The Burbank section has a number of great businesses (Porto’s, Tony’s Darts), but is unfriendly to bikes. While the Chandler Bikeway parallels nearby, accessibility is a real problem in Burbank, the one portion of the valley that could benefit most from complete streets.
- Reseda Blvd. – The valley’s first protected bike lanes are a hit, but I’m hoping it’s just the start. CSUN is the 3rd largest university in the state, but the area doesn’t capitalize serving mostly commuters. Furthermore, many of the businesses in Winnetka and Reseda area peaked in the mid 20th century before the freeways made living along the fringes of the west valley more palatable. Get more people into bikes and you’ll see that trend reverse.
- Van Nuys Blvd. – If Ventura Blvd. is our main commercial thoroughfare, then Van Nuys Blvd. is our working man’s street. It is the heart of Pacoima, Panorama City and Van Nuys itself. If/when the East Valley Transit Corridor gets built, Van Nuys Blvd. will become a multimodalist’s dream.
- Nordoff St.– Nordoff’s inclusion is part doubling down on CSUN accessibility, but also to help reach the Northridge Fashion Center. There is no solid way to go east-west across the valley and Nordoff would be a great central thoroughfare.
- Riverside Dr. – Until the LA River Bikeway gets completed sometime in the indefinite future, cyclists need a safer way to access Griffith Park and the heavily used Elysian Valley portion of the river path. Riverside contains plenty of bike lanes, but the western portion pairs you next to 50 mph traffic, the Toluca Lake section awkwardly thrusts you into traffic and the eastern side is very bumpy. Throw in the awkward connection getting you onto the river path and you see why Riverside could become more bike friendly.