The Arroyo Seco Parkway was busy in both directions on Sunday morning — without a car in sight.
For four glorious hours, cyclists and pedestrians had a chance to safely explore six miles of the 110 Freeway between Los Angeles and Pasadena, a stretch of roadway that opened in 1940 and typically carries more 100,000 daily motorists who brave its winding turns and scary entrance ramps.
Aside from events such as Sunday's 626 Golden Streets ArroyoFest and other bike celebrations, such as CicLAvia, cycling in L.A. County is not for the faint of heart. The road network was built for automobiles. Bicyclists are often left to vie for space alongside cars on congested, poorly maintained streets. Fatal bike crashes are an intractable problem in the county, and efforts to build dedicated bike lanes have been spotty.
A recent report from advocacy group BikeLA, found that 85% of L.A.’s bicycle fatalities happened on roads that didn’t have dedicated bike lanes. “Our infrastructure is failing bicyclists" across the county, said Eli Akira Kaufman, executive director of BikeLA.
This was the reality for the cyclists who joined the crowd of thousands in Northeast L.A. on Sunday. A Times reporter and photographer spoke with bike riders and asked two questions: What do you love about cycling in L.A. and what would you change about it?
Here’s what they told us.
Lawrence Sanchez, 41, of Highland Park is a civil engineer who often rides through Griffith Park and Angeles Crest.
"If biking was safer, more people would be encouraged to do it. Most people I know avoid cycling here because they don't feel safe."
Alex Trepanier, 35, of Alhambra rode the same antique bike — called a pennyfarthing — to ArroyoFest 20 years ago. He said he has more than 600 bikes in his collection, including a bike built by the Wright brothers.
"I don't think there's anywhere else in the country where you can ride your bike 350 days a year without getting wet. I wish more people would do it to lower our traffic and keep our emissions down."
Rachel and Manny Wong, of Glendale, cruised the 110 Freeway on Sunday on e-bikes with their daughters Joey, 5, and Frankie, 3. Rachel, 45, commutes by bike to her job as a fifth-grade teacher at Marengo Elementary School in South Pasadena.
"It's just fun to go different places and be outside. But sometimes it is a little scary when there's a lot of cars. And that makes me a little nervous, especially with the girls."
John Engelke, 54, and his son, Liam, 12, of Silver Lake enjoy riding together along the L.A. River bike path.
"I love that L.A. River bike trail. I think that's the best bike trail in the whole region. It's peaceful, it's quiet. It gets you away from the vehicles. I wish that bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in Los Angeles was better."
Nathalie Winiarksi, 58, of Glendale teaches bicycle safety courses at the L.A. Unified School District and BikeLA.
"L.A. is beautiful and so diverse — we have it all. Biking around just makes it fun. It would be great if people knew the rules of the road better and that goes for not only cyclists, but all road users."
Jorge Aviles, 37, of Los Angeles began riding regularly during the pandemic and has had friends killed or injured in bike crashes.
"The beauty of having a bike is that you can go to multiple cities, neighborhoods and experience different cultures. One of the things that I pride myself on is safety, and I don't ride by myself because I've had friends die. So for me ... I would love more bike lanes, more biking communities and more maps that just show where the safe routes are."
Michelle Benn, 59, and Alicia Benn, 54, of Altadena would like to more bike lanes built in their neighborhood.
"When you're in a car you don't get a chance to see the beautiful homes out here and different trails."
Diego Chavez, 39, of Wilmington is a data analyst who enjoys riding in Long Beach, where there are separated bike lanes with barriers between car lanes and cyclists.
"I wish there were more isolated bike lanes versus when you're riding with traffic — that would be a lot safer. You still got to be cautious and look over your shoulder often when you're riding with traffic."
Raul Salinas, 63, of Pasadena rode the first ArroyoFest in 2003 with his twin boys and returned to participate in its sequel two decades later.
"Biking brings you back to nature. It gets you in tune with, you know, what Los Angeles might have been like years ago when it was slower. If they could make it where people are not afraid to get out of the car, that would be great."
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.