Off-road bike paths are bike routes for scenic rides that are generally alongside creeks and rivers, such as the Ballona Creek Bike Path in Los Angeles County. The BCBP runs over seven miles from National Blvd. all the way to the Pacific Ocean. It is a very scenic ride with a bird habitat in the wetlands surrounding it. As you can surmise, there is no vehicle traffic involved here, so there are no traffic lights or stop signs to worry about with just two lanes – one in each direction. Major surface streets and boulevards are crossed by underpasses which further removes the need for stopping.
On the many occasions that I frequent this beautiful ride to the beach, I have encountered numerous violations by other bike riders who think an off-road bike path is their own personal race track. These riders are mounted on fancy concoctions of carbon fiber and aerospace alloys, which are raced by them to attain some kind of imaginary ‘elapsed time’ on their runs to the beach. I have witnessed guys on a kind of death-defying mission as they run two, three and four abreast at peloton racing speed, totally oblivious, if not very blind to the fact that there are slower folks riding their bikes for the scenic pleasure, and entirely not interested in competing against anybody.
Like racing on the streets, racing on bike paths is also very dangerous as the bike paths are missing fencing and rails in stretches. This means that if a regular bike rider gets in the way of a ‘racer’ there is a possibility that the regular rider could be forced to swerve and lose control of his or her bike, and plunge into the steeply sloping concrete ravine down below the path. This would be a very serious situation for the hapless rider.
Racing a bike is no different than racing a car, and racing on public roads or bike paths is illegal. In addition to regular bike riders there are pedestrians walking their dogs on the bike path, who can also be just as dangerous themselves. A retracting dog leash that allows a dog to run up to thirty feet in any direction instantly – which is as good as the dog being unleashed – can run right into your bike wheels and knock you off.
If you must race your bike then do what thousands of other cyclists do, join a club. Many hold their meets on closed circuits that the races are held on. That means the use of a private track or a closed road event where no other vehicles are allowed to enter (See SCFS Race). This is much safer and you will actually face some real competition instead of blowing by a regular beach rider who is not in the least bit interested in your high speed exploits on a race bike.
If there is nobody on the bike path then there is no danger to anybody else but yourself. So in that case you are free to go as fast as you want – speed limits be damned! Just keep in mind if you do fly off your bike at high speed, road rash and skin grafts may be the least of your problems. Of course, my advice is to slow down when passing beach cruisers, joggers, and pedestrians walking their dogs. This is no different from advice I would give to cagers driving their cars; if they would just slow down when passing bicyclists they would have enough time to stop before hitting anybody.
Alas, some people just don’t care for being safe and drive/ride bikes like the proverbial Speed Demon that can’t be stopped. Riding at peloton speeds on a bike path requires riders to be conscious of their surroundings. If riding in a group, do not ride side by side taking up both lanes and not giving way to a slower rider/jogger/pedestrian. If you ride fast, then by all means ride in the street, taking the vehicle lane along with cagers in traffic. It will increase your heart rate for sure. It’s ‘common sense’ to be courteous to those around you, and bike paths are no different.