LeBron James made headlines in 2012 by biking from his Coconut Grove home to a Miami Heat game. If he wants to pedal to work as a Laker, it will take significantly more time, and could put him at risk of hurting both himself and the team’s playoff chances next year.
Mapping his potential commute illustrates the absence of a direct, safe and simple crosstown bike route in Los Angeles.
Two leading options have downsides: To commute downtown from the Westside, cyclists could follow the meandering, incomplete bike route that parallels the Expo Line but adds additional miles. Or they could take a bike lane along Venice Boulevard until it disappears about three miles short of downtown — forcing them into traffic.
“Every option is a patchwork of streets, some with bike infrastructure and some without,” said Colin Bogart, the education director at the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.
A Times reporter strapped on video cameras and rode one possible route recommended by Google Maps to give readers a sense of the journey King James might take to Staples Center from his Brentwood neighborhood. Though direct, the route followed several busy streets, many of which had no bike lanes.
“That is really a big obstacle,” Bogart said. “If you really want to encourage people to use bikes more often, you really need to have a complete connected network.”
It is not just the lack of cycling infrastructure that poses an obstacle. Sections of Venice Boulevard, like many streets across the city, can be filled with potholes, debris from collisions or broken shards of glass. A Times analysis of street inspection data earlier this year found that 19% of all of the city’s bike lanes and routes are on streets graded D or F by the city’s Bureau of Street Services.
The streets James would take to get to Staples Center aren’t much better. The Times found that on average, the 15-mile network of bike lanes and routes between Brentwood and downtown suggested by Google Maps score a C based on city data.
The worst sections of road along the route downtown are those that run on Venice Boulevard. Most of the arterial falls within what the city calls the “high-injury network,” the roughly 6% of the city’s streets that account for where about two-thirds of pedestrian and cyclist injuries or deaths occur.
If the new Lakers star is less interested in squeezing his 6-foot-8 frame between parked cars and moving traffic, he might consider commuting by bike instead to the UCLA Health Training Center in El Segundo, where the Lakers practice.
A route to the facility crosses through Santa Monica and runs down the beach. Compared with the ride to Staples Center, James’ route to practice would be almost entirely on bikes paths or lanes. This alternative would protect James from cars, but put him at greater exposure to slow-moving beach traffic and curious Lakers fans.