Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

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crystalbank
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Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by crystalbank » Mon Mar 12, 2018 7:05 pm

Hi BH,

So my new workplace is barely close enough to commute on a bicycle (around 7 miles but hills). Right now I drive everyday and even though I'm an avid car enthusiast, I really hate driving in commute traffic. I'm thinking about bicycling to work atleast half the days. My primary reason is not just to save money on gas, but to increase my fitness levels.

But I'm somewhat scared to pull the trigger. I live in Los Angeles and I have seen some nasty bicycle accidents caused by poor roads and also inattentive drivers. Another daunting task is choosing the right bicycle. There are far too many choices and attributes. I'm thinking about just going to a bike shop instead of scouring through online reviews. Any thoughts?

Jack FFR1846
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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by Jack FFR1846 » Mon Mar 12, 2018 7:13 pm

Since there's hills and a good number of miles, how about an eBike that assists? I do understand the concern with traffic. I roadraced for years, training everywhere including commuting from Worcester to Boston to see my girlfriend on weekends. These days, I stick with trails since there are just too many SUVs driven by inattentive people responding to the LOL on their phone.
Last edited by Jack FFR1846 on Mon Mar 12, 2018 7:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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HIinvestor
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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by HIinvestor » Mon Mar 12, 2018 7:14 pm

I think you’d have to weigh any fitness gains vs more danger of being hit by car and also inhaling more pollution and small particulate matter. Somehow bikes and traffic are a very bad mix, in my mind.

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by GCD » Mon Mar 12, 2018 7:29 pm

We use road bicyclists as examples to our children of how not to take risks in life. I tell them that I fully support them risking their life in search of an adrenaline fix and to challenge themselves. If they want to take up rock climbing, SCUBA diving or any other risky endeavor I will happily pay for lessons and might join them. However, if they are going to risk their life it should be by taking responsibility themselves for the risk. If you make a mistake you suffer the consequences. With road bicyclists if someone else makes a mistake they suffer the consequences.

Road bicyclists risk their life every minute they are on the road and they have no control over whether they live or die. They have abdicated that decision to the drunks and teenage texting drivers.

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by furwut » Mon Mar 12, 2018 7:44 pm

HIinvestor wrote:
Mon Mar 12, 2018 7:14 pm
I think you’d have to weigh any fitness gains vs more danger of being hit by car and also inhaling more pollution and small particulate matter. Somehow bikes and traffic are a very bad mix, in my mind.
It’s been done and - granting that assumptions could be widely off - most studies give a positive life benefit to active transportation. Bear in mind that those sitting in traffic in their cars are breathing the same polluted air.

stlutz
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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by stlutz » Mon Mar 12, 2018 7:47 pm

7 miles is a very doable distance. Long enough that it's worth the trouble but short enough as not to be too arduous.

The best route by bike is rarely the best route by car.

Spending your life in a car is a good example for kids of a bad way to spend your life. :sharebeer

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by 123 » Mon Mar 12, 2018 7:48 pm

What alternatives do you with mass transit? When I was in LA I always took a bus to work. It took a little longer than driving myself but I got a lot more free time to read and relax on the bus.
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furwut
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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by furwut » Mon Mar 12, 2018 7:48 pm

GCD wrote:
Mon Mar 12, 2018 7:29 pm
We use road bicyclists as examples to our children of how not to take risks in life.
Number 1 cause of death of children are traffic crashes. Seems that even riding in a car is an unnecessary risk.

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by Sojourner » Mon Mar 12, 2018 7:49 pm

If you do choose to bike in spite of the risks, there are bikes that would help with the climb as well as the speed: electronic bikes and cyclocross bikes.

In terms of safety, I highly recommend investing in visible apparel with reflections, two front bike lights, 1-2 rear bike lights as well as consider adding reflective tape to your spokes. I would also recommend obtaining a bike mirror that you can hook onto your helmet to be aware of upcoming cars from behind as well. Lastly, I would obtain a Go-Pro like camera that you can attach to your helmet or to you front handlebars.

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by livesoft » Mon Mar 12, 2018 7:59 pm

Does anybody else at work commute by bicycle? If yes, get tips from them. If not, ask if any of your colleagues have bike that you can try out before getting one of your own.

I'm an avid road cyclist and live in a great place for rides of 5 miles to 80 miles on roads shared with cars. There are things that one can do safety-wise, but you are never 100% safe.
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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by apokryphon » Mon Mar 12, 2018 8:15 pm

I have commuted to work solely by e-bike since January, 2017. I believe American society in general overestimates the risks of biking and grossly underestimates the risks of automobile dependence; I have never had any safety problems riding on the street. I use a Yuba Mundo cargo bike. Consider the Rad City electric commuter bike for $1499. With the electric bike I believe you will find that you can commute solely on bicycle and avoid gas purchases for your car. There may even be a return on your investment.
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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by bloom2708 » Mon Mar 12, 2018 8:21 pm

7 miles should take about 30 minutes at a 12-13 mph easy pace. Do you have bike paths or a route planned out?

What is your budget? If money is no object, look at a folding Brompton. They are coming out with an electric version. Front bag on the bike. No sweaty back.

Get to work, fold it up, put it by your desk.

Other than very warm days, you have great weather. I got 4 miles. My route is not the same as I would drive. I take a sidewalk/bike path route that keeps me out of traffic and minimizes crossing roads and stop lights.

Biking to work is my second favorite part of the day. Biking home is my favorite. :wink:
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hexagon
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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by hexagon » Mon Mar 12, 2018 8:29 pm

stlutz wrote:
Mon Mar 12, 2018 7:47 pm

Spending your life in a car is a good example for kids of a bad way to spend your life. :sharebeer
+1

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weltschmerz
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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by weltschmerz » Mon Mar 12, 2018 8:40 pm

This time of the year, the weather is cool and bike commuting seems doable. But soon the temps will rise, and for 6 months, a 7-mile bike commute with hills will result in you arriving to work VERY sweaty. I did a 4-mile bike commute a few times last summer in SoCal, it took me a few hours to cool down after getting to work. There's nothing like putting your pants onto your sweaty legs and just sitting there. Uggghh! But I will say, it really made me appreciate using an air-conditioned car, and arriving to work clean and fresh...

As far as the risks of biking, that's fine with me. When I ride my bike, sure I could die, but I could also die in my car. My risk of dying goes from 0.005% to 0.01%. It is negligible. You gotta live your life. Just be as safe as you can, avoid the roads with no bike lanes, and always be on high alert for distracted drivers.

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by Clever_Username » Mon Mar 12, 2018 8:42 pm

When I moved to Los Angeles in over a decade ago, I debated bringing a bike (I left it at my parents' place). Within three years, four friends got hit by cars while biking. I decided against it.

A few years later, I moved to a small city in Oregon. I brought my bike with me and biked quite a bit for the year I lived there, including commuting to and from work. I miss that.

I returned to Los Angeles and haven't gone back to biking as anything other than exercise, and that only when I moved to Pasadena. I might be overly paranoid about it (and also I don't exactly work in an area I could easily bike to, plus as a teacher I don't want to show up sweaty).
"What was true then is true now. Have a plan. Stick to it." -- XXXX, _Layer Cake_

crystalbank
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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by crystalbank » Mon Mar 12, 2018 8:51 pm

Thanks for the replies!

eBikes - I did hear about them, but have to try one out in real life. I'm not sure how exactly they feel like (are they like low speed mopeds or just a little boost when you pedal?). But, even if I can optionally turn it off, then I will end up with a heavy bike that needs to be pedaled. Interesting nonetheless and yes those hill rides will be easier.

Safety - This is what is holding me back. I appreciate all of your comments and my route is somewhat bike friendly (Griffith Park via the Zoo). I do have some roads that don't have a dedicated bike lane, but for the most part it's bicycle friendly. Alternatively, I can also take the LA River Bike Trail (for 50% of the commute) which is a Bicycle only route but I heard that there are significant number of homeless tents lately, which is something I would rather avoid.

Brompton Foldable - Very interesting! This is something that definitely piqued my interest.

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by crit » Mon Mar 12, 2018 8:52 pm

Honestly, it really depends on the specifics. There is a decent biking culture in LA, and enough awareness of cyclists and bike lanes that, well, maybe. It would really depend on the route. You may be best off asking some local cyclists for their opinion on the roads you'd be taking.

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by weltschmerz » Mon Mar 12, 2018 8:59 pm

A lot of this also depends on the bike culture in your town. I was in Seattle last year, and the bike culture is amazing there, at least in the South Lake Union, Queen Anne, Ballard areas. Even on a rainy day, I saw tons of bike commuters, all bundled up and riding bikes with fenders. With so many bike commuters, i think the drivers are more respectful. But in SoCal, bike commuters are not as prevalent, so the drivers are less likely to look out for them, making it a more dangerous situation. It's a shame, the weather is so good here for riding, I wish more people would bike.

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by JMacDonald » Mon Mar 12, 2018 9:02 pm

I live in the LA area. I would only consider biking if the route had dedicated bike lanes. Otherwise, you will become a statistic at some point.
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warner25
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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by warner25 » Mon Mar 12, 2018 9:08 pm

The point about finding a good bicycle route vs. a good driving route is really key, and something that non-cyclists don't see. If you imagine riding your bike down a busy, 4-lane, 45 MPH, main road, yeah... that's scary. But if you can ride on trails, cut through parks, and move through quiet residential side streets, it feels very different.

I'll second the recommendation for a folding bike. I have a $500 Dahon Mariner. It's not as fast as a nice road bike, but it's still not uncommon for me to pass other cyclists on the trail. The flexibility it offers for a casual cyclist is great. I can bicycle to work (mostly downhill) and then take the train home (mostly uphill). My wife and I can carpool somewhere near my destination, and then I can hop on my bike for the last mile to work and later bicycle home. A couple times I've called an Uber to get home and just put my bike in their trunk. In the future I might normally drive between home and work, but have my bike to ride around our sprawling office campus.

I imagine that LA weather is perfect for this, so it would be a shame to not spend time outside being active. I've comfortably bicycled 7 miles in temperatures ranging from 25-95 degrees. I sweat a lot, but it dries eventually.

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by EddyB » Mon Mar 12, 2018 9:12 pm

GCD wrote:
Mon Mar 12, 2018 7:29 pm
We use road bicyclists as examples to our children of how not to take risks in life. I tell them that I fully support them risking their life in search of an adrenaline fix and to challenge themselves. If they want to take up rock climbing, SCUBA diving or any other risky endeavor I will happily pay for lessons and might join them. However, if they are going to risk their life it should be by taking responsibility themselves for the risk. If you make a mistake you suffer the consequences. With road bicyclists if someone else makes a mistake they suffer the consequences.
I guess SCUBA divers going out with dive guides are “taking responsibility” in the sense that they’ve signed a waiver, but you might be kidding yourself if you think that these adrenaline activities don’t involve depending on others.

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by ThankYouJack » Mon Mar 12, 2018 9:14 pm

crystalbank wrote:
Mon Mar 12, 2018 8:51 pm


Safety - This is what is holding me back. I appreciate all of your comments and my route is somewhat bike friendly (Griffith Park via the Zoo). I do have some roads that don't have a dedicated bike lane, but for the most part it's bicycle friendly. Alternatively, I can also take the LA River Bike Trail (for 50% of the commute) which is a Bicycle only route but I heard that there are significant number of homeless tents lately, which is something I would rather avoid.
I personally would feel safer going on the bike trail and going past the homeless tents. I've never felt threatened by a homeless person. I have been hit (right hooked) by a car while I was on my bike commuting from work. And I was in a bike lane. The driver was from out of town, lost and made a last second right turn.

Just be very safe and use precautions with whatever transportation method (car or bike) and route you decide.

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by JDot » Mon Mar 12, 2018 9:37 pm

GCD wrote:
Mon Mar 12, 2018 7:29 pm
We use road bicyclists as examples to our children of how not to take risks in life. I tell them that I fully support them risking their life in search of an adrenaline fix and to challenge themselves. If they want to take up rock climbing, SCUBA diving or any other risky endeavor I will happily pay for lessons and might join them. However, if they are going to risk their life it should be by taking responsibility themselves for the risk. If you make a mistake you suffer the consequences. With road bicyclists if someone else makes a mistake they suffer the consequences.

Road bicyclists risk their life every minute they are on the road and they have no control over whether they live or die. They have abdicated that decision to the drunks and teenage texting drivers.
Some people would argue bicying is a lot safer than driving a motor vehicle. https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/06 ... portation/

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by mhadden1 » Mon Mar 12, 2018 9:43 pm

warner25 wrote:
Mon Mar 12, 2018 9:08 pm
The point about finding a good bicycle route vs. a good driving route is really key, and something that non-cyclists don't see.
Big affirmation on that one. When I tried a 5 mile commute in my small city, there were even bike paths and lanes partway. But, they paralleled busy streets with curb cuts and intersections every 30 feet (it seemed). The necessary vigilance was tremendous. Not to mention the last half mile of heavy traffic 4-lane with narrow bridge. I didn't like it. For a colleague, a similar distance starting from another neighborhood was easy-peasy.
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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by Cyclone » Mon Mar 12, 2018 9:54 pm

I drive in Los Angeles every day, and I don't think it's a good idea. Drivers are supposed to leave a certain distance between their vehicle and the bicycle (three feet?), but hardly anybody does that. I notice that bicycle lanes seem to disappear for no reason as well. It's really going to depend on the route.

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by black jack » Mon Mar 12, 2018 10:15 pm

I commute 15 miles each way year-round, in temps ranging from 15 - 100 degrees, on a road bike, in DC on roads without bike lanes or shoulders. I would love to have the LA climate to ride in. It helps to have a shower at work, and to have a job where I don't have to wear a suit all day. In the summer I stay in shorts and a t-shirt for an hour or so after showering to let my metabolism slow down enough to comfortably don more formal clothing.

Everyone has their own level of comfort in terms of the risks they are willing to take. The cliche is that everyone who rides more cautiously than oneself is a weenie, and everyone who rides more daringly is a lunatic. I have occasionally been hit by a driver, or run into a car driven by someone turning right across my path without signaling. These have all occurred at low speed (a benefit of rush hour congestion). The results of these crashes have been some scrapes and, once, a broken bone in my foot. So getting hit by a car can happen, and it is not necessarily catastrophic, or even particularly traumatic. I do always pause and look before venturing into intersections when the light turns green, as I see drivers running red lights every day, and being hit in that manner WOULD be traumatic.

I'm also 59 years old. I agree with other posters who say they accept the small risk of injury in exchange for the great pleasure (and great health benefits) of biking. I have a colleague who's 71 who commutes 7 miles each way. Anyone can bike to work (given a reasonable commute distance), and everyone would be the better for it.

I said all that for context and encouragement. As for bikes, I prefer the road or cyclocross bike; for 7 miles a more upright hybrid would be fine too. The hills will get easier as you get in shape; if they're very steep get a wider gear range or try an e-bike.

I strongly encourage you to take a bicycle education class (it may be called a commuter cycling class). These are typically offered by bicycle clubs and bike shops. There are nuances to riding a bike in traffic that we are not taught when riding as children, and thus that most people never learn. But as with other activities, a body of knowledge has been accumulated that you can profit from.
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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by harrychan » Mon Mar 12, 2018 10:22 pm

Cyclone wrote:
Mon Mar 12, 2018 9:54 pm
I drive in Los Angeles every day, and I don't think it's a good idea. Drivers are supposed to leave a certain distance between their vehicle and the bicycle (three feet?), but hardly anybody does that. I notice that bicycle lanes seem to disappear for no reason as well. It's really going to depend on the route.
Cosign with /u/Cyclone. I also drive in LA and used to enjoy cycling on the roads. However, the combination of unwarranted hostility towards cyclists, lack of awareness of drivers and technology addiction made me stop. I now cycle at bike-only trails.
This is not legal or certified financial advice but you know that already.

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by lightheir » Mon Mar 12, 2018 10:40 pm

JMacDonald wrote:
Mon Mar 12, 2018 9:02 pm
I live in the LA area. I would only consider biking if the route had dedicated bike lanes. Otherwise, you will become a statistic at some point.
I bike commuted in the UCLA area for 4 years.

Honestly, it's all about finding the right time and right route that is safe and convenient on a bike. Not all places are easily bike accessible unfortunately, but I found that most places are with a good mix of judgment and planning, and for something like a daily commute, you will be well familiar with the route and you can definite avoid the risks.

I am not even exaggerating one bit when I say it was wayyyy safer for me to do my 7 mile commute on a bike than by car. In LA, traffic density at rush hour is high enough that you can usually stay on congested streets where traffic is well <15mph (often <10mph) so you are faster as a bike. In addition, you can duck onto neighborhood streets pretty easily, esp ones where cars can't enter due to one-way restrictions, etc.

The key is to not just go in blindly without planning - if you go in blindly, you'll def be in for some scary moments if you get stuck on a fast-moving road with a tiny shoulder. But with good planning, and good timing (early is good), and good safety gear (good lights and blinkers and reflectors for the ride home), it's a lot of fun actually, and totally safe.

I will add that as I mentioned above though, despite my regular bike commuting in LA, the car-centric focus meant that I did NOT just take my bike with me everywhere such as on random errands to new areas, etc. If I chose to go somewhere via bike, and didn't know the route, I was very careful in scoping out the route beforehand and planning the route. So you won't be doing it like a car where you can just drive wherever you want on a whim - the roads unfortunately aren't set up to be bike-friendly enough consistently across distances to do so.

Max car congestion is a bike commuter's friend - slow cars = more routes. I would take lots of Wilshire blvd at peak congestion hour regularly where the cars would be snarled to <10mph, no problemo, whereas that route is a complete no-go any other time since cars will do 50mph on it.

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by investor997 » Mon Mar 12, 2018 11:09 pm

Back in a previous life, I used to commute ~13 miles each way via road bike, but this was in South Orange County. Think wide open roads with bike lanes and little cross traffic. I would never, *ever* consider commuting via bike in the City of Los Angeles - or any congested urban area, for that matter.

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by freckles01 » Mon Mar 12, 2018 11:15 pm

i grew up in los angeles and mindlessly drove everywhere but started biking to work on a whim and to combat my mounting stress playing "musical chairs" of disappearing parking spaces at work- ie not enough parking spaces for employees, ugh.

realized i live within walking and cycling distance and just started on a old steel bicycle. it was terrifying at first but so much fun!!!! a great way to start work and get the heck away from work.

you will find alternative routes that are more bike friendly/safer or just jump on the sidewalk and coast if thats the only alternative.

i'm a slow rider on a upright bike but it sounds like for your commuting needs, an ebike assist would help tackle the hills and allow you to arrive presentable. i have watched, in a car sitting in traffic of course, a few fixed gear cyclists run up los feliz blvd- kick-ass impressive!

los angeles roads are dangerous period-for people in cars, on bikes or walking, mostly because of people in cars. fatalistic but i'd rather die on a bike than in a car accident and of course, on vacation rather than going to work:)

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by tesuzuki2002 » Mon Mar 12, 2018 11:26 pm

crystalbank wrote:
Mon Mar 12, 2018 7:05 pm
Hi BH,

So my new workplace is barely close enough to commute on a bicycle (around 7 miles but hills). Right now I drive everyday and even though I'm an avid car enthusiast, I really hate driving in commute traffic. I'm thinking about bicycling to work atleast half the days. My primary reason is not just to save money on gas, but to increase my fitness levels.

But I'm somewhat scared to pull the trigger. I live in Los Angeles and I have seen some nasty bicycle accidents caused by poor roads and also inattentive drivers. Another daunting task is choosing the right bicycle. There are far too many choices and attributes. I'm thinking about just going to a bike shop instead of scouring through online reviews. Any thoughts?
I cycle LA on occasion just for fun. I guess it depends on what your route is that I would base my decision. I used to ride 21 miles to work... and 21 home.. but that route was pretty flat... also extremely windy.

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by Shallowpockets » Tue Mar 13, 2018 8:48 am

Find thyself a bike route. Explore on Google maps.
Get thee a mountain or cross bike. You can go across grass, curbs, gravel, etc.
Almost all car bike accidents are road bikes. Riding on the roads.
A mountain bike will be a solid base and you can ride more upright, see better with head up, and take on all terrains you will encounter. You can cut corners through parks. You can stay off the streets, which are where the dangers lie. Cars.
Much more fun than a road bike.

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by lightheir » Tue Mar 13, 2018 9:32 am

Shallowpockets wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 8:48 am
Find thyself a bike route. Explore on Google maps.
Get thee a mountain or cross bike. You can go across grass, curbs, gravel, etc.
Almost all car bike accidents are road bikes. Riding on the roads.
A mountain bike will be a solid base and you can ride more upright, see better with head up, and take on all terrains you will encounter. You can cut corners through parks. You can stay off the streets, which are where the dangers lie. Cars.
Much more fun than a road bike.
Sidewalks are legal to ride in LA, and you def should incorporate them where you can/have to,

I will warn however, that sidewalks are definitely NOT necessarily safer than roads, by a long shot. When you're riding even at slow speeds through a neighborhood with lots of condos, the odds of a car pulling out fast onto the sidewalk is VERY high - your odds of getting hit there are very significant. If you are riding faster than 10mph, you are likely safer on the road - if the road is so fast/busy it's not safe, slow it down on the bike, and ride the sidewalk. My commute had a few stretches where I was sidewalk-bound, and I went pretty slow on those sections to avoid getting hit by a car pulling out.

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by Cyclesafe » Tue Mar 13, 2018 9:51 am

Literally 10's of thousands of cycling miles.

I have completely stopped riding on the street because of too many very scary close calls. If you want to feel Death at your elbow get sideswiped by a textng teen who then drives away flipping you off in the rear-view mirror. Ride your bike defensively; make eye contact with anyone whos trajectory could potentially kill you. You'll discover that many of these drivers have their eyes in their laps. You notice when the stakes (for you) are so high.

If you can be on a dedicated bike path, no problem. If you have to share the road with cars, you take your chances. It stopped being worth the risk to me several years ago.

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by J Dough » Tue Mar 13, 2018 10:13 am

I bike commute to work nearly every day. I'm not in LA, but I'm not in a "bike-friendly" town either. If you want to do it, you can, and safety concerns can be managed. There are incredible health and financial benefits to cycling, especially on a regular basis. I feel a lot better overall since I started biking to work.

Re: sweat -- Of course it varies by person, but I ride in heat and humidity in the summer, and being sweaty at work has never been an issue. To begin with, it's usually cooler in the morning when going to work. Riding a little slower helps. If sweat is a concern, don't use a backpack. The heat/humidity is more of a factor on the way home, but I ride hard and don't worry about it because I shower when I get there.

You can almost certainly find a good route that works for you. You should be aware of the statistics and car safety vs. bike safety plus health benefits, but you can change your own circumstances to better your chances. The statistics include all cyclists, including those who are impaired, riding on the wrong side of the road, not stopping at stop signs, riding without adequate lighting, etc. By finding a good route and being smart about how you ride, you don't eliminate the risk (that would be an impossible goal), but you can do better than the statistics suggest.

For some reason, nearly everyone who is strongly opposed to bike-commuting, or cycling on the roads, cites knowing someone who was hit and injured or killed as the reason they would never do it. Those same people all know someone who was injured or killed in a car crash, but the reaction is never "I will never drive or ride in a car again." There is a disconnect in that logic. It isn't about eliminating the risk, it's about having the information to make an informed decision.

As an anecdote regarding the risk/reward of biking, I recently got a new (replacement) life insurance policy and my bike commute was a significant factor in cutting my insurance premiums in half, even though I'm five years older than I was when I got my prior policy. Both were 20 year term, same value.

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by Andyrunner » Tue Mar 13, 2018 10:28 am

I bike quite a bit on gravel its great because I will maybe see 2 or three cars over several hours. I bike to work sometimes as I have a lot of bike trails, but that 400 yards I'm on a road I am 100% focused on what and who is around me, I will think twice before turning or riding by a parked car (riding into an opening door).

I always tell people when riding a bike on the road, no matter what the laws of the road are, the laws of physics will say when it comes to car vs bike, the car will win every time.

I have no idea what LA is like, but unless you had dedicated bike trails for most of the way, I wouldn't do it.

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by simpleman1 » Tue Mar 13, 2018 10:45 am

crystalbank wrote:
Mon Mar 12, 2018 7:05 pm
Hi BH,

So my new workplace is barely close enough to commute on a bicycle (around 7 miles but hills). Right now I drive everyday and even though I'm an avid car enthusiast, I really hate driving in commute traffic. I'm thinking about bicycling to work atleast half the days. My primary reason is not just to save money on gas, but to increase my fitness levels.

But I'm somewhat scared to pull the trigger. I live in Los Angeles and I have seen some nasty bicycle accidents caused by poor roads and also inattentive drivers. Another daunting task is choosing the right bicycle. There are far too many choices and attributes. I'm thinking about just going to a bike shop instead of scouring through online reviews. Any thoughts?
We live in Los Angeles and we see so many bicyclists in accidents due to their inability to observe the rules of the road. Not stopping for stop signs or red-lights has real consequences. If you do this please observe the rules of the road.

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by Pajamas » Tue Mar 13, 2018 10:49 am

Talk to some other people where you work about their experience and to get tips. Buying a bike at a shop is a good idea, but consider buying a used bike with a warranty provided by the shop. A new bike becomes a used bike very quickly, anyway.
harrychan wrote:
Mon Mar 12, 2018 10:22 pm
unwarranted hostility towards cyclists
I'm sure that you are a respectful and law-abiding cyclist, but even if the hostility towards you in particular is not warranted by your behavior, at least acknowledge that a lot of the hostility towards cyclists in general IS warranted by poor behavior by some cyclists, starting with a selfish refusal to follow applicable laws accompanied by a failure to show any respect for pedestrians.

Pedestrians should not have to worry about being clipped by a bicyclist while walking on a sidewalk or about being mowed down in a crosswalk by a bicyclist running a light, for instance. Because pedestrians do experience the consequences of such illegal behavior, it's hard for them to feel any sympathy for a bicyclist hit by a bus and severely injured, especially when it is the bicyclist's fault. It's a lot easier to feel sorry for the real victim, the bus driver, and for other potential victims of cyclists.

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by JDot » Tue Mar 13, 2018 11:18 am

Deleting my original post. But in summary, hostility towards bicyclists is never warranted in my opinion. There are plenty of bicyclists who do not follow the rules. But I've seen too often where a driver believes it's okay to try to punish a bicyclist (sometimes the bicyclist is "in the wrong"). But regardless, if you're driving a vehicle, you're relatively well protected from their mistakes. It doesn't excuse the bicyclist. But it is absolutely immoral and unwarranted to try to punish a bicyclist for such behavior.

signed- dude who drives a car, rides a motorcycle, and rides a bicycle

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by EddyB » Tue Mar 13, 2018 11:44 am

Pajamas wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 10:49 am
Talk to some other people where you work about their experience and to get tips. Buying a bike at a shop is a good idea, but consider buying a used bike with a warranty provided by the shop. A new bike becomes a used bike very quickly, anyway.
harrychan wrote:
Mon Mar 12, 2018 10:22 pm
unwarranted hostility towards cyclists
I'm sure that you are a respectful and law-abiding cyclist, but even if the hostility towards you in particular is not warranted by your behavior, at least acknowledge that a lot of the hostility towards cyclists in general IS warranted by poor behavior by some cyclists, starting with a selfish refusal to follow applicable laws accompanied by a failure to show any respect for pedestrians.

Pedestrians should not have to worry about being clipped by a bicyclist while walking on a sidewalk or about being mowed down in a crosswalk by a bicyclist running a light, for instance. Because pedestrians do experience the consequences of such illegal behavior, it's hard for them to feel any sympathy for a bicyclist hit by a bus and severely injured, especially when it is the bicyclist's fault. It's a lot easier to feel sorry for the real victim, the bus driver, and for other potential victims of cyclists.
Please explain how hostility toward an entire group is justified by your personal perception of the actions of certain members. If you actually want to, please explain why it’s not similarly justified for all drivers, or all pedestrians (none have ever intentionally crossed against the signal, or done so because they failed perceive an appReaching cyclist, right?).

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by Smorgasbord » Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:07 pm

I had a ~4 mile bicycle commute for several years. My recommendation would be to start out with a cheap yard sale road bike and see how much you actually use it. Additionally, when your bike gets stolen (or parts of your bike stolen) it's not nearly as annoying the bike is a yard sale bike.

My other advice is to avoid the main roads as much as you can. The side roads are a much nicer place to ride a bike.

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by Cycle » Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:13 pm

Get a bike off Craigslist, it'll take u a few months to learn your needs.

Put fenders on it and a rack. On your rack you can put a folding basket or a milk crate from home Depot. I prefer milk crate bc groceries fit more easily, though the weight is a little higher (trade-off). You're going to want your work bag in the basket or your back will get super sweaty.

Find a local buddy on next door or from work to ride with once or twice to get comfortable with the routes. I've changed my route 4 times in the last year

Obey the laws when cars are around.

I cycle 6-7 times a week year round, even during our 6 month winter. Also consider bike/bus combo, which is what I do. Bike 4 miles to my express bus.

Also, I live in a bikers Paradise, so ymmv.
Last edited by Cycle on Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by alfaspider » Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:29 pm

GCD wrote:
Mon Mar 12, 2018 7:29 pm
We use road bicyclists as examples to our children of how not to take risks in life. I tell them that I fully support them risking their life in search of an adrenaline fix and to challenge themselves. If they want to take up rock climbing, SCUBA diving or any other risky endeavor I will happily pay for lessons and might join them. However, if they are going to risk their life it should be by taking responsibility themselves for the risk. If you make a mistake you suffer the consequences. With road bicyclists if someone else makes a mistake they suffer the consequences.

Road bicyclists risk their life every minute they are on the road and they have no control over whether they live or die. They have abdicated that decision to the drunks and teenage texting drivers.
As someone who has participated in rock climbing, SCUBA diving, and rock climbing, think this shows a lack of understanding of the risks of these activities.

In rock climbing, you often see discussion of objective risk and subjective risk on a route. Subjective risks are things you can control through appropriate gear, training, and wise decisions. Objective risks are risks that are there even if you do everything right. For example in rock climbing, a route with high objective risk might have a significant chance of dangerous rockfall even under the best conditions and with every precaution taken. But even on low objective risk routes, there is always risk. Your belayer could drop dead of a heart attack, there could be a hidden defect in the rope, or you could suffer a massive brain injury from a short fluke fall (like Michael Shumacher did falling in a low-speed ski accident).

Likewise, in road biking there is objective and subjective risk. There is always a risk a drunk driver could hit you from behind. But objective risk is much lower on some routes than others, and at different times of day. You can dramatically lower the risk of road biking by riding when visibility is good, when there are fewer drunk drivers (i.e. not at 2:30 AM right after the bars close), riding defensively, and making yourself visible with lights and clothing.

At the end of the day, while road cycling is certainly more dangerous than walking down the street (which still carries risk), the objective risk isn't that much different from other risky sports.

To the OP: I do cycle to work (though not every day). What you want is a reasonably light road (less than 25lbs ideally) bike with a comfort/touring geometry fitted with moderately wide (but not treaded) tires- 32mm is a good width. You want something with rack mounts. Fenders are helpful if you are going to ride in all-weather. Choose your route carefully and be honest with yourself whether there is a safe way to get to your work. There are certain places in my city which are quite difficult to get without taking very risky routes. But there are others that have very safe and protected routes. Google maps and satellite can be very helpful in this regard- pay close attention to shoulder width, potential cross traffic, speed limits, and whether there are bike lanes. Be careful of "bike lanes" that are nothing but a stripe on a road with heavy traffic. Wear bright clothing and keep a flashing tailight on even in the day.

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by ssquared87 » Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:32 pm

Don't listen to everyone saying to commute with bicycle. LA is not the place to be riding a road bike.

I used to be an avid cyclist ($5k on a bike and rode 200 miles per week) when I lived in NY. There were plenty of roads in Westchester and Long Island that were relatively safe to bike on. Even parts of NYC had nice bike trails. Seattle and the surrounding areas were great as well

LA's streets are not friendly to cyclists. The only road I've ever seen with a proper bike trail is San Vicente through Santa Monica and Brentwood. On roads without bike trails, there is no shoulder and no way to get out of the way if something goes wrong. People who don't live in LA don't understand because most places are not like this.

Its a risk that I wouldn't take, and I haven't ridden a bike since moving to LA despite my passion for it.

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by shawndoggy » Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:42 pm

For route planning take a look at the strava heatmap: https://www.strava.com/heatmap#12.78/-1 ... 06/hot/all

This map shows where cyclists are logging the most trips on strava, and can be a good indication of alt/parallel routes to the 6 lane thoroughfares.

I'd also go talk to the mechanics in your local bike shops. Tell them where you are starting and where work is and ask for thoughts on routes. Cyclists don't want to be on dangerous streets and will have all sorts of short cuts and work arounds.

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by rgs92 » Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:45 pm

I would only do it if I could take a shower when I got to work or nearby the office. When going to the health club for a workout before work I could not imagine not showering after working out. I would feel awful.

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by lightheir » Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:06 pm

ssquared87 wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 12:32 pm
Don't listen to everyone saying to commute with bicycle. LA is not the place to be riding a road bike.

I used to be an avid cyclist ($5k on a bike and rode 200 miles per week) when I lived in NY. There were plenty of roads in Westchester and Long Island that were relatively safe to bike on. Even parts of NYC had nice bike trails. Seattle and the surrounding areas were great as well

LA's streets are not friendly to cyclists. The only road I've ever seen with a proper bike trail is San Vicente through Santa Monica and Brentwood. On roads without bike trails, there is no shoulder and no way to get out of the way if something goes wrong. People who don't live in LA don't understand because most places are not like this.

Its a risk that I wouldn't take, and I haven't ridden a bike since moving to LA despite my passion for it.
And I'll take the counterstance once again.

With the hellacious LA traffic especially in some snarled areas, bike commuting is not only doable, but the way to go (like around UCLA).

I'll agree that in general though, the LA roads, esp the main car throughways are NOT bike friendly. The trick is to find the quiet side community roads that often have ample car-restrictions and car-inconveniences that actually make them great for bike commuting.

I also train seriously on a bike at times, and will put down serious miles on a CF road bike in the mountains. That's training. VERY different than commuting in LA - you have to treat them both completely separately - I don't even ride the same bike, or even remotely attempt to get in bike training when I'm bike commuting in LA. I take it safe, slow, and carefully, which regularly involved a few stretches of 5mphish sidewalk coasting to get through some not-safe roads.

If I moved back to my same situation before, I'd go right back to bike commuting there, as it was so pleasurable (LA weather is awesome year-round!) and convenient (I put nearly no miles on my car during those years) and cheap (parking costs a fair amount in LA, even for workplaces.)

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by GCD » Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:09 pm

stlutz wrote:
Mon Mar 12, 2018 7:47 pm
Spending your life in a car is a good example for kids of a bad way to spend your life. :sharebeer
Agreed.

warner25 wrote:
Mon Mar 12, 2018 9:08 pm
The point about finding a good bicycle route vs. a good driving route is really key, and something that non-cyclists don't see. If you imagine riding your bike down a busy, 4-lane, 45 MPH, main road, yeah... that's scary. But if you can ride on trails, cut through parks, and move through quiet residential side streets, it feels very different.
This is not road biking though. If you design a route that takes you through parks, on bike paths and in dedicated bike lanes you aren't really out in the traffic. I concede that urban biking is not necessarily equivalent to road biking.
lightheir wrote:
Mon Mar 12, 2018 10:40 pm
I am not even exaggerating one bit when I say it was wayyyy safer for me to do my 7 mile commute on a bike than by car. In LA, traffic density at rush hour is high enough that you can usually stay on congested streets where traffic is well <15mph (often <10mph) so you are faster as a bike. In addition, you can duck onto neighborhood streets pretty easily, esp ones where cars can't enter due to one-way restrictions, etc.
The way I read it, your style of riding seems like it is enhancing risk rather than mitigating it.

My dad was hit twice by cars. Both times ended up in the hospital. Once he had a broken back and was in the hospital for a couple weeks and in a brace for 6 months. Both times the driver said they didn't see him/weren't expecting him. He was, according to the police reports and the insurance companies, following the rules of the road each time. After the first accident he took to wearing brilliant tie-dye shirts and electrifying his bike like some kind of techno clown show. Still didn't help. The first accident was on a lazy residential street in small town America resembling Mayberry. The second one was on a rural Illinois farm/prairie road with no traffic other than the car that hit him. The driver simply wasn't expecting a bicyclist in that spot, notwithstanding the battery powered light show provided by my dad. Both accidents were in summer day time with great weather, dry and light out.

If your method of beating traffic is to ride down one way streets the wrong way, etc. then it seems to me you are increasing the risk of a car driver not expecting you.
EddyB wrote:
Mon Mar 12, 2018 9:12 pm

I guess SCUBA divers going out with dive guides are “taking responsibility” in the sense that they’ve signed a waiver, but you might be kidding yourself if you think that these adrenaline activities don’t involve depending on others.
Maybe I wasn't clear in what I meant. I'm not advocating canned adventures where you are dependent on a guide. Sure, you have to rely on an instructor at first, but eventually you are on your own whether it be cave diving, open water diving or whatever. You take a few rock climbing classes and after that you are on your own. As your skill improves, you build up to more risky activities, the risk of which you mitigate with skill. I wouldn't recommend climbing Mt. Everest with no experience and relying on the guide either. I'm not talking about canned cocooned "adventures", I'm talking about building a skill set that allows you to take risk and manage it yourself.

I'm not risk averse. I've wandered around Kyrgyzstan on foot and in a car without a guide. I used to rock climb and our whole family does mild river kayaking. It's true that you rely on your partner in rock climbing, but that is a partner you choose and pre-select to not be drunk or texting while setting your chock. So in my view, to the extent you rely on a partner in diving, climbing or some other endeavor, it is your choice who you pick and rely on. When bicycling on a road you have no choice in who chooses to "notice" you or not.

black jack wrote:
Mon Mar 12, 2018 10:15 pm
I strongly encourage you to take a bicycle education class (it may be called a commuter cycling class). These are typically offered by bicycle clubs and bike shops. There are nuances to riding a bike in traffic that we are not taught when riding as children, and thus that most people never learn. But as with other activities, a body of knowledge has been accumulated that you can profit from.
I admit to being ignorant of this. Perhaps there is more to it than I thought. The randomness of drivers still seems overwhelming though. Although many here have posted that biking is statistically safe, I wonder if anyone has done an accurate study of biking safety per miles ridden vs. drivers miles driven. Such a study would have to find a way to only compare road bikers with car drivers since we aren't talking about the safety of riding a bike in the park.

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Re: Bicycle Commuting in LA - Thoughts?

Post by ThankYouJack » Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:23 pm

GCD wrote:
Tue Mar 13, 2018 1:09 pm

I admit to being ignorant of this. Perhaps there is more to it than I thought. The randomness of drivers still seems overwhelming though. Although many here have posted that biking is statistically safe, I wonder if anyone has done an accurate study of biking safety per miles ridden vs. drivers miles driven. Such a study would have to find a way to only compare road bikers with car drivers since we aren't talking about the safety of riding a bike in the park.
I was looking up such a study myself. I found this - http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-29878233 but not much else (I didn't look too hard). Fatalities and serious injuries per mile on the road is the metric that would be most interesting.

I used to road bike and commute on bike, but I'm with you - especially after being hit by a driver on my bike. I still do it every once in a while, but I'd rather get a much greater adrenaline fix on the trails or on the water for less risk of dying. It's putting too much risk (IMO) into the hands of distracted (or lost in my case) drivers. If I loved road cycling that would be one thing, but it's pretty far down on my list of hobbies. But if it was the only way for me to get outside and get exercise, I would commute by bike.

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