Life beyond the automobile in Southern California

New Bike Lane

baldwin bike lane

Recently, a stretch of roadway near my home was repaved, and bike lanes were installed.  As readers of this blog know, I’m a big fan of bike lanes and we have so few of them in this part of the San Gabriel Valley that I couldn’t wait to try this one out.

The lanes are on North Baldwin Avenue between Orange Grove Ave. and Foothill Blvd in Arcadia.  Now, I’ve critiqued Arcadia before as one of the most bike-unfriendly cities in the region, so the addition of even a short stretch of bike lane should be most welcome.

I had the perfect opportunity to use them the other day, when I met a friend for lunch at Din Tai Fung restaurant on South Baldwin Avenue in Arcadia.  As I headed down North Baldwin on the bike lanes, I was glad to have my own space on the road, and I didn’t feel forced into the “door zone.”  So, the good news is, the bike lanes are fantastic … as far as they go.

The bad news is, the bike lanes abruptly end at the busy intersection of Baldwin and Foothill Blvd., which abuts busy on and off ramps to the westbound 210 freeway.  It’s an odd intersection, because if you head straight, you’re going to be on the 210 freeway, so if you want to continue heading South on Baldwin, you’ve got to turn left at this busy intersection (an intimidating process for less experienced cyclists), and head east on Foothill about 200 yards until you can make a right turn and continue south on Baldwin again.  Traffic on Foothill is heavy and fast (45 MPH), and there is little room and (of course) no bike lane.  Once back on southbound Baldwin, the rest of which lacks bike lanes, you have to go under the 210 freeway and contend with the eastbound 210 on- and offramp traffic.  If it sounds a little confusing and intimidating, it is.

sb baldwin av.

Once past the 210 freeway, southbound Baldwin Avenue has a wide shoulder, which is a good thing, because traffic is heavy and traveling at a good 40-45 MPH, past the L.A. County Arboretum, the Santa Anita Racetrack, and the Santa Anita Mall.  Baldwin is thus a major arterial route serving these three heavily trafficked sites.  This stretch of Baldwin has plenty of room for bike lanes on the wide shoulder, but as yet there are none.

However, just as you head south of the Arboretum, the road narrows and the shoulder is taken by parked cars, forcing cyclists to either “take the lane” in 40 MPH traffic, or ride the sidewalk.  Fortunately, midday traffic was not too heavy, though I was nearly “Jerry Browned” by a minivan that passed within inches of me so he could beat me by several seconds to a red light at Baldwin and Huntington Drive.

South of Huntington Drive, the road narrows further, and the shoulder disappears completely, and unless you’re very confident and ride in the middle of the lane, your best bet is to retreat to the sidewalk.  However, you’ll find that Arcadia is no more friendly to pedestrians than it is to bicyclists, as there are no crosswalks between Fairview Ave and Duarte Road.  And you can forget any bike racks anywhere in the vicinity.


This is a neighborhood that marginalizes anyone not wrapped in 2,000-lbs of steel.  Which is a shame, because there are lots of small businesses and residences within walking and bicycling distance of this area, and making it more bike- and pedestrian-friendly would be good for business.  The Baldwin Av./Duarte Rd. neighborhood could be much safer and much more appealing to young people who want to bike or stroll around.  The city is also part of the emerging “626” cultural scene, including hosting the “626 Night Market.”  City leaders need to understand that many of the young people who are part of this 626 scene are into bicycling, and develop a comprehensive bike plan.  The challenge is how to get the blind mice leading the city of Arcadia to see.

Bottom line: I’m thrilled that North Baldwin has its short stretch of bike lanes, and the trip was well worth it for the delicious dumplings at DinTai Fung.  But my guess is almost no one will use the new bike lanes on North Baldwin until and unless they connect with more bike and ped-friendly infrastructure that actually goes someplace.  In order to make sure that bike lanes actually form a usable network, instead of suddenly appearing for half a mile, then disappearing, you need a bike plan.  Unfortunately, Arcadia’s leaders voted against commissioning a bike plan last year, despite the fact that the city is going to get a new Gold Line station next year, and desperately needs better bike infrastructure.  Unfortunately, at the present time the city’s leaders seem stuck in the 1950s auto-only mentality.


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8 thoughts on “New Bike Lane

  1. Christine on said:

    And even where there is a crosswalk, it’s not very safe. Around the corner where Chang’s Garden is there is a crosswalk with caution signs and everything but a girl from Arcadia High was still run over and killed by someone on a motorcycle. I think it was last year or the year before. I can’t recall if the police ever caught the guy.

    I find it is a lot less stressful to use the parking lot that stretches behind the bowling alley to the other end of the block when on a bike. Of course that way is only practical depending on where you are trying to go.

    • Thanks for your comment, Christine. Yes, I recall two years ago a pedestrian was struck and killed in a crosswalk by a driver on Duarte Rd. and last year a bicyclist was struck and killed on Santa Anita and Duarte. It’s a pretty sad commentary on the unsafe streets in Arcadia when people feel they have to ride in the parking lot instead. Time for Arcadia’s leaders to implement a bike and pedestrian plan for the city’s streets.

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  3. I live in Arcadia and I can say that the entire city is stuck in the 1950’s mentality. It’s really unfortunate. I used to work at a Cold Stone in Sierra Madre and I would take Baldwin to get there, so it’s awesome that there is a bike lane there now, but it scares me that it is on a hill and stops so abruptly at a stop sign and then again right before the freeway entrance. I feel like a big part of why it is there is because Sierra Madre is so pedestrian friendly, and Baldwin is a main route to Sierra Madre.

    Arcadia is a very rich city, and unfortunately it’s going to take a lot of fighting to make some progressive changes. All of the families in my neighborhood are extremely conservative and I haven’t talked to anyone who doesn’t pity those “poor poor people who have to ride the bus or ride a bike”, even if it is just down the street. Arcadia is a giant bubble. I’ve been struggling with it my whole life, and unfortunately I can’t think of much of a solution except to change the mindset of the younger generation.

    • Thanks for your comment nikk311. I agree that in a lot of ways Arcadia is a bubble of 1950s, and has always been conservative. I also agree that it’s probably going to be up to the younger generation to drag the city into the 21st century. I think that with the Gold Line coming in 2014, the city has a real opportunity to encourage design around transit and multimodal transportation. Traffic is already pretty bad and parking is at a premium, so it seems to me that a conservative would understand the way bike lanes and such would reduce these problems at a relatively low cost and be good for local businesses. It also makes the city healthier and safer, two things I think most people across the political spectrum would agree with. It’s a matter of organizing people to speak to these issues in the community. I’ve been thinking about forming a Foothill Cities Bicycle Coalition to push for these issues in foothill communities like Altadena, Pasadena, Sierra Madre, Arcadia, Monrovia, Duarte, and Azusa. There currently exists no such organization, but I think we need one (hmmm, you just gave me an idea for a new blog post!).

  4. Richard Slimbach on said:

    Thanks for this post. The routes you reference are very familiar to me. I mainly commute from Monrovia to Azusa, but when I head to Pasadena or L.A., I avoid Foothill Blvd. like a plague. I’m forced north, meandering through Sierra Madre and north Pasadena, or south, via Huntington Drive. Foothill Blvd. from Monrovia to Pasadena would likely win the gold for the most bike “unfriendly” roadway in the nation! And it is one of the great dis-incentives to getting high school students out of their cars and onto their bikes on school days. Why not a dedicated bikeway running parallel to the Gold Line?

    • Excellent points. Yes, Foothill from Monrovia to Pasadena is truly awful, yet it is one of the main east-west routes for those foothill communities in the San Gabriel Valley. If you’re a cyclist heading east or west you’ve got to go the long way around (Colorado Blvd. through Arcadia and East Pasadena is no picnic, either). And you make a salient point that we’re virtually guaranteeing the next generation will be as car-dependent as this one if we don’t provide safe routes to schools. Finally, I’d love a dedicated bikeway along the Gold Line, but I’d settle for bike lanes leading to and from the new Gold Line stops, so as to encourage multimodal commuting.

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