Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bike Path Fail – The Pacific Electric Trail

The western end of the trail begins in Claremont.  Asphalt is the material of choice here.

I’ll preface this article by stating I wrote this installment of “Surface Fail’ with not too keen a sense of satisfaction.  See, I had high hopes for a bike trail that is one of the most accessible in the Los Angeles Basin.  The problem seems to be the trail is funded by each respective city it traverses instead of being completed uniformly by one agency.  It was put together piece-meal, and it shows.

Formally the Right-of-Way of the famous Pacific Electric Railway “Red Cars,” the Pacific Electric Trail is one of the newer, dynamic bicycle trails to open here in Southern California.  After the passing of the Red Cars, the Southern Pacific Rail Road took over the line until suffering its own demise.  The land lay dormant for some time, until it was decided a bike trail though each city would be a wise use of said land.  I agree.  However, a good idea and good execution are two distinctly different animals.

Rancho Cucamonga - Beautiful concrete here.  Expansion relief channels are like speed bumps.

While we are all grateful for the nice, new surface, we are all left wondering why portions were done in concrete and not asphalt.  While it is true that concrete wins in the durability department, the downside is it requires stress relief channels to avoid cracking.  See, with these stress relief channels every ten feet or so, it feels like little speed bumps while riding over them.  It makes for one heck of an uncomfortable ride, and it quickly becomes so annoying you want to get off the trail, all together.

Another problem is the extremely high number of street crossings the trail makes.  The issue is so bad in the City of Upland, that it is best to get off the trail and take side streets to actually be able to ride your bike.  See, when a portion of the Upland trail has Stop Signs almost every one hundred feet (100), we have a problem. 

Additionally, the crossing at Euclid Avenue may as well be a life-and-death crap-shoot.  You truly do take your life in your own hands crossing there, as there is no clearly designated bicycle crossing, and there is not a signal to halt the fast moving traffic on the six-lane (6) highway to make anything remotely resembling a safe crossing.

One of the numerous crosswalk buttons placed ridiculously far from the trail.

One of the numerous, and dangerous, major street crossing one must brave to ride the trail.

Oddly, the oldest portions of the trail are the smoothest for cycling.

Most other street crossings on the trail have a push button to change the provided traffic signal.  However, the buttons are either so far off the trail you have to dismount and walk over to them, or when you do manage to find, and push, a button next to the path, the change of signal time can be an eternity.  Because of the latter scenario, I have witnessed most cyclists (and pedestrians) flat-out dangerously jay-walk.

And a quick note on those pedestrians.  The trail planners were wise enough to provide dirt trails along the bike path for walkers, runners, and Fat Tire riders.  However, that does not stop walkers, and the dreaded runners from clogging the bike path, refusing to yield the right of way.  The runners are especially guilty, as for some unknown reason to the rational world, they see fit to run opposite traffic and think they are somehow doing cyclists a favor by forcing us to swerve for these creatures.

So, all-in-all, while it is a nice trail that meanders through many of our beautiful foothill communities, for serious cyclists, it is best avoided and left to the recreational users.

And, that bums me out.

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