BICYCLISTS PLANNING treks or just hoping to find time for an occasional spin will be happy to hear that several area bike paths have undergone improvements. For example, the terrors of pedaling busy Pacific Coast Highway are now but a memory for bikers. A new section of the South Bay Bicycle Trail, an extension of 1.2 miles in Santa Monica, opened in May, creating an all-beach, 21.6-mile-stretch from the lifeguard station at Torrance State Beach to the south end of Pacific Palisades below Palisades Park. The extension was a long time coming, due to a decade-plus battle between beach dwellers and city and state agencies.
About 4 miles have been added to the Aliso Creek Bicycle Trail, a pleasant ride that takes cyclers along the creek through wooded areas for 15 miles. Given its scenic values and its few uphill grades, this trail is a favorite with riders. Located between Laguna Beach and Dana Point Harbor, the trail now ends in newly opened Aliso-Wood Canyon Regional Park with only the Aliso Creek Golf Course standing between biker and beach. Negotiations are under way to take the path the last mile.
The Bay Bike Route can take you part-way or all the way around beautiful San Diego Bay. One method of making the loop is to get on the bike path at Seaport Village. The trail takes you south through San Diego, then through National City and on to the south end of the bay, which is the city of Imperial Beach. At that point you are within a couple of miles of the Mexican border. Follow the Bay Bike Route signs, and the path will curve west as it hugs the bay and then turn north as it starts back up the other side. That will put you on the paved Silver Strand bike path that runs all the way to the city of Coronado. At the end--the Coronado Bay Bridge--you will have ridden about 30 miles. If you wish, Regional Transit buses with bike racks will transport you and your wheels across the autos-only bridge and deposit same within a mile of your Seaport Village starting point. Telephone Regional Transit for schedule information: (619) 233-3004.
Most cities have bike-path routes free for the asking, and maps are available at most sporting goods stores. For 33 years, "Norty" Stewart, Automobile Club of Southern California bike-trip planner in the downtown L.A. office, has mapped out local jaunts in Los Angeles and Orange counties as well as cross-country trips.
The Santa Ana River Bike Trail, a 22-mile asphalt strip, follows the riverbed from Yorba Regional Park south to Huntington State Beach. Cyclists can enter or exit this trail at any major crossing except that at Katella Avenue in Anaheim, which is presently under reconstruction.
The San Gabriel River Trail is a 36.6-mile trail beginning at the Santa Fe Dam, near Irwindale, and progressing to Seal Beach. There are no scenic wonders in this flood-control channel, but there is also no motorized traffic, and it's a great place to work on speed.
The Bakersfield Bikeway, a 10.5-mile paved path beginning at the Cal State campus, goes along the Kern River and passes two man-made lakes and through an area where the endangered kit fox has found a home. The Santa Barbara bike path is about 3.5-miles, a bikes-only path starting at Santa Barbara Harbor and ending at the Andree Clark Bird Refuge.
Sepulveda Basin Bikepath, 9.6 miles of predominantly bikes-only travel (there's some road sharing), makes a complete loop through mostly flat terrain.
The California Aqueduct Bikeway, formerly the longest bikeway in California at 107.2 miles, is presently closed for enlargement of the aqueduct. Parts of it are scheduled to re-open in mid-1991.