The 'Ugliest Corridor In Los Angeles' Could Become A Cool Bike Freeway

Metro has taken its first step toward turning 8.5 miles of ugly, abandoned railway that cuts through South Los Angeles into a bike path and much-needed green space.

Metro is looking at the blighted railway that starts at the Los Angeles River just south of downtown at Redondo Junction. It curves southwest and runs along Slauson before dipping southwest again toward Inglewood. The path would end at the West Boulevard Station, which will be a part of the Crenshaw/LAX Line.

So far it sounds like just about everyone likes the idea. Bikers and walkers and even stroller-pushers in the area love the idea of having their own space to bike safely. "I see folks there walking, I see them biking. I see folks pushing strollers in conditions that most of us would not want to be pushing baby strollers, and moving and trying to get to work," Jameca Marshall, a life-long resident of South Los Angeles, told KPCC.

People who complain that South Los Angeles is shortchanged when it comes to green space love it (South Los Angeles has less than 2 acres of park space for every 1,000 residents, while West Los Angeles has more than 50.) Metro doesn't have any plans to use those rails right now, and just about everyone agrees that the rails are unsightly. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who chairs the MTA board, said, "This is one of the ugliest corridors in Los Angeles right now. One of the most blighted, most poorly designed, most overgrown."

The only problem? Money. The project could cost $35 million altogether and take 10 years. And right now, Metro has no clue where that money would come from—at this point, it would have to come from other projects in the works.

Garcetti advised that in the initial stages, they shouldn't worry: "money begets money." In other words, if Metro starts funding the project, it will be easier to find other streams of money, like grants and government funds, to finish the job.

So that's exactly what Metro did. Last week they approved a $2.85 million plan to get the ball rolling. They're looking to places like the High Line in New York City or closer to home, the Chandler Bikeway in Burbank and the Whittier Greenway Trails. (For Burbank, the toughest part of converting their railway to a bike trail was making sure that they designed it in a way that one day it could be converted back into a railway.)

Earlier this year, The Grist explored what made Minneapolis a great biking city. It turns out its greenway network that gives cyclists their own sort of freeway system is the secret. Heather Smith describes what it's like biking on a designated path not just for pleasure but to commute:

Here was the thing that was missing for the first time since I became a bicycle commuter: fear.

I wasn’t listening for cars behind me. I wasn’t listening for the sound of a car-door latch, which might mean that I was about to get doored. I wasn’t watching cars up ahead for signs that they weren’t paying attention to what they were doing. One of my closest calls as a cyclist happened when a Snap On Tools truck drifted into the bike lane early in the morning. “Oh sorry!” yelled the driver out his window, when he realized he had almost run me over. “I didn’t see you!”

“That’s not good enough,” I yelled back, politely. “You have to pay attention.”

In Minneapolis, none of this was happening. Except for a few minutes at the beginning and end of every trip, there were were no cars around me at all. I had been transported to a magical land of cyclists and pedestrians.

And it might take a decade, but maybe this sort of magical commute could become a reality for South Los Angeles residents heading to a job downtown.