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In dispute over bridge access, council votes on compromise between equestrians, cyclists

In dispute over bridge access, council votes on compromise between equestrians, cyclists
Burbank City Council members agreed 5-0 to bar bicycle riding on the Mariposa Street bridge, though that means pedestrians will still be allowed to push bikes across. (Roger Wilson / Staff Photographer)

Equestrians said it's a "bridge to nowhere" for bicyclists and that they shouldn't be allowed to pedal their way across the Mariposa Street bridge into Los Angeles, where there's no outlet for them into Griffith Park. It should be reserved for pedestrians or horses, they said during a Burbank City Council meeting Monday.

Bike enthusiasts, on the other hand, said the bridge gives them access to a route along the Los Angeles River to connect to miles of bicycle paths. And, they said, the bridge has never been closed to bicyclists in its 70 years of existence, though some local ranchers and equestrians have tried to bully them out of using it.

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Equestrians said that they've been treated unkindly by unnamed bicyclists as well, and pointed to the fact that someone has painted over "no bicycles" signs with black spray paint on and near the bridge. Mixing cyclists and horses is unsafe, as well, several of them said.

To help take a step toward settling their differences, Burbank City Council members agreed 5-0 to bar bicycle riding on the bridge, though that means pedestrians will still be allowed to push bikes across. Equestrians had urged approval of the measure, and some bike enthusiasts said later they were happy with the compromise.

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Councilwoman Emily Gabel-Luddy said the ordinance is "the right step forward," but added that the council could choose to revisit the issue later when a bridge across the river at Bob Hope Drive opens. She also suggested cyclists could travel down Riverside Drive to Victory Boulevard and across the bridge there to the L.A. River bike path.

"Looking at the whole of Burbank, the bridge is unique," Gabel-Luddy said, arguing that the ordinance was about preserving the bridge for equestrian use. "Bike riders have many more opportunities."

Gabel-Luddy, along with Mayor Bob Frutos, supported an alternative measure that would have banned bicycles on the bridge altogether, but that proposal failed to gain the support of a majority of the council.

On the L.A. side of the bridge, Los Angeles Municipal Code prohibits riding bicycles on a dirt trail that leads to a tunnel under the Ventura (134) Freeway, which is marked as a bridle trail.

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City Manager Mark Scott said that city staff had recommended the ban on riding bikes across the bridge because there was no place immediately on the other side of the 140-foot span where cyclists can legally ride under L.A.'s laws. That doesn't mean cyclists can't walk their bikes across the bridge, he said.

Scott also said the "no bicycles" signs on the bridge were not authorized by the city and would normally have been taken down, but "in this case, it didn't get done."

Ken Johnson, the city's traffic engineer, said riders can walk their bikes about 300 feet to an area that's a Los Angeles County Flood Control District right-of-way, where he was not aware of a prohibition on bicycling, he said. Some of the equestrians, however, said that a paved trail in that area is also part of the bridle trail where bike riding is prohibited.

Councilman David Gordon said that if there's nothing for bicyclists to do on the other side of the bridge, that's up to the city of Los Angeles to enforce.

"I'm not going to surmise or try to figure out what purpose a bicyclist should have to traverse [the bridge]," Gordon said, but requiring them to walk the bike across, "I don't think that's overly burdensome."

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Chad Garland, chad.garland@latimes.com

Twitter: @chadgarland

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