Navigating LA: How to travel from Silver Lake to Atwater Village
Previously, the lightbulb had gone off that I could bike The Little Dictator to daycare. I knew I didn't want to bike over the hills, because that would just suck. I also knew I didn't want to take the bike lane up Silver Lake Blvd. because the stretch of bike lane from Sunset Blvd. to LAMill doesn't leave enough margin for error. It's a pretty tight squeeze between the door zone and speeding traffic.
My preferred way to travel to Atwater from Silver Lake & Sunset was to start by riding "salmon" on the sidewalk along the west side of Silver Lake Blvd. until we reached West Silver Lake Drive (the 7-11). The reason I chose to ride salmon, which is generally to be avoided, is that there are more blind alleys, curbs, and side streets on the east side of Silver Lake Blvd. Also, riding on the east side of the street would've required me crossing the very busy arterial Silver Lake Blvd. at Reservoir only to then cross it back again a half-mile later at the 7-11. Riding the speed of a jogger on the sidewalk was safer, quicker, and less stressful than the alternatives.
After we took a shallow left onto West Silver Lake Drive (at the 7-11) we finally got to leave the sidewalk and ride on a calm street. There is very little traffic and a wide lane that easily accommodates both cars and bikes on the gradual uphill climb to the rec center.
At the stop sign next to the rec center take a right onto Van Pelt Place (that's the tiny street in front of the park). As you approach Silver Lake Blvd., you take a left onto the pedestrian pathway up the hill past the dog park (beware of uneven pavement/dirt here) then continue on the jogging path all the way around the lake. You have a cement wall between you and traffic. Enjoy your views of the lake, wildlife, and riding through the meadow.
Once you exit the park, continue on the sidewalk until you reach Glendale Blvd. Go straight at the library then take a left on the small street (Teviot) that travels behind Whole Foods 365. There are speed bumps there which keep traffic to relatively calm speeds. Take the side streets all the way to the very wide sidewalk on Fletcher. Be amazed at how many cars you are passing as they sit stuck on Fletcher.
I would recommend crossing Fletcher at Ripple (the first light after biking under the 5 Freeway), otherwise further up ahead you will have to cross the onramp to the 2 freeway while looking over your shoulder at cars that have already accelerated to freeway speeds. It's no fun. Trust me and cross Fletcher at Ripple. Once you cross at Ripple, ride salmon over the LA River (there are no driveways or doorways - it's as good as a cycle path here), stop to check out the wildlife, then take a left onto Larga Ave. (U-Haul is on the corner) into Atwater Village. You've ridden the whole way with hardly any interaction with cars.
An alternative, quicker route that required a little more mixing with cars was: After we reached the Silver Lake Rec Center, instead of taking a right on Van Pelt, we stayed going straight on West Silver Lake Drive. After the rec center came the steep incline around the curve that got my heart-rate pumping. The Little Dictator and I would exchange smiles and waves with the regular fitness trainers and the sweet ladies whose class worked out on the banister near the top of the hill. It is amazing how much biking with your kid stitches you into the fabric of your community. Which is the exact opposite of the experience of driving the same route.
Sometimes I even stopped to take a picture.
Then came my favorite part of the ride: The gentle downhill past the reservoir. I would turn back and describe the flora and fauna to The Little Dictator. We would make duck noises. I would point out the difference in coloring between "mommy" and "daddy" mallards.
If you look up in the trees next to the reservoir just after you pass the stop sign at Harwick Street, you will see the great blue heron nests. The blue heron parents would sometimes swoop low over the road to arrive at the nest to feed the chicks.
Photo credit: Silverlakereservoirs.org
Then we would continue cycling on the side streets all the way to Rowena. The trip between Rowena and the L.A. river was my least favorite part of the ride. I would travel in the Rowena bike lane for a short distance until taking a left onto Rokeby Street (the last street before Glendale Blvd.) Then I would hop onto Glendale Blvd. at Waring. This descent is uncomfortable because there isn't room in the right lane for a car to pass you without changing lanes, so you are forced to "take" the whole right lane.
As a quick aside, there should be a bike lane on this stretch. There is not nearly enough car traffic to justify four lanes even at rush hour. A bike lane here would also connect the LA river bike path to Silver Lake. With the addition of one meager bike lane on Glendale Blvd. between Riverside and Rowena, you could travel from Lincoln Park or Burbank on the LA river bike path all the way to Silver Lake buffered from traffic. Can you ask your councilman to make this happen please?
Once you cross Riverside Drive, the right lane becomes quite wide. I would stay on Glendale until the first side street where I would escape into the quiet neighborhood streets. All in all, Rowena to Atwater wasn't the most pleasant part of the ride. Here was my route:
There you have it. A drive that took 12 to 18 minutes in a car, took me 18 to 25 minutes on a bike. So, I got about 45 minutes of cardio on the round trip while only traveling about 15 minutes slower than in my car. If you include the 45 minutes you would have to spend at the gym to get the same workout and the commute to and from the gym, riding the bike with your kid just saved you a ton of time.
Throw in the savings in gas, vehicle wear, pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions and you are winning the day, my friend. You're also likely extending your life by avoiding a sedentary lifestyle. The biggest win of all is that your kid wasn't sitting in the car seat staring at the backseat. They were learning and interacting with the world the whole time...
Outside the Silver Lake Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library
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