The following article was originally published May 16, 2020, and republished through a collaboration with KPCC and LAist.
L.A. County's beaches reopened for visitors on Wednesday for "active use." Walking, running and swimming are all on the list of acceptable activities. But biking is on both the county's and city's not permitted lists, if we're going by the information that the county and mayor posted on twitter.
The L.A. County Beaches website says "bike paths (on the sand)" are closed. Does that mean bike paths not on the sand are open? And why are walking and running allowed but not biking? Should be a pretty simple question to answer, right?
LA County beaches are now open w/ restrictions to keep everyone safe. ACTIVE RECREATION only. Face coverings required when outside the water AND around others, & 6+ feet physical distancing. See rules @ https://t.co/fkK1HvnLRW. Pls follow the rules so the beaches can remain open. pic.twitter.com/g6SVMk8ed7— LA Beaches & Harbors (@lacdbh) May 16, 2020
The bike path question is especially confusing, given that some Orange County cities are allowing biking, while others aren't, even though the same bike path passes through several of them. Plus, if L.A. County officials say biking isn't allowed, why are the bike paths in Long Beach, which is a part of L.A. County, open?
Then there's the Strand in Manhattan Beach (also in L.A. County), which merges into a beach-front path for both pedestrians and bicyclists close to the pier. It's still closed for bicyclists, but has reopened for just runners and walkers.
LAist's resident bike expert Leo Duran looked into this conundrum on Thursday, which proved to be a more difficult task than anticipated.
"The answer on biking is getting complicated ... and weird," he wrote on Friday, after a spokesperson at the Los Angeles Public Health Department sent him this response to the question of whether or not the beach bike paths are open right now and why biking isn't allowed: "Public Health is worried about congestion."
"The real answer is that the beach bike paths are closed," Leo wrote in our Slack conversation Friday, "so not sure why they can't just say that."
Two other L.A. County officials did not respond to Leo's emails.
After multiple follow-up requests, we received this fairly vague statement attributed to L.A. County Public Health Director, Dr. Barbara Ferrer. Note: it doesn't include the words "bike" or "beaches." And it still didn't really answer our question...
"We are being guided by science and data that will safely move us forward along the road to recovery in a measured way—one that allows us to ensure that effective distancing and infection control measures are in place. We're counting on the public's continued compliance with the orders to enable us to relax restrictions, and we are committed to making sure that L.A. County is in the best position to provide its 10 million residents with the highest levelof wellness possible as we progressively get back to normal."
The lack of clarity on the bike issue is confusing not only to us, but to cyclists all over L.A.
We learned that prolonged exposure to coronavirus is more likely to cause infection, which is why sunbathing on the beach is not allowed, as opposed to walking and running, which only exposes people for a few seconds, in passing, and is therefore low risk. Shouldn't biking then, also be a low risk activity?
"Bikes are moving, too. It's not like people are just going to be crowding on the bike path," Ted Rogers, who runs Biking in LA, told Leo. "I've reached out to try and get clarification on this stuff and never gotten a response."
This is just the latest frustration for cyclists who, weeks into stay-at-home orders, are still struggling to figure out which paths are open or closed to them.
"I tell people to check before you go, but who do you check with?" Rogers said. "I keep seeing notices that the bike paths are closed, and I see [posts] from somebody else that [they] rode it an hour ago."