Burbank City Council OKs early step in bicycle path across L.A. River

Equestrians have been seeking to block bicycles from the Mariposa Bridge for months, arguing bikes and horses don’t mix.

Equestrians have been seeking to block bicycles from the Mariposa Bridge for months, arguing bikes and horses don’t mix.

(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

A disagreement between equestrians and cyclists over a Los Angeles River crossing in Burbank’s Rancho area has sharply divided some groups in the Media City, but bicycle groups and elected officials are now turning to bridge-building — literally.

Nearly 80 years after residents of Burbank, Glendale and other communities successfully campaigned for a safe, auto-free crossing over the Los Angeles River into Griffith Park at Mariposa Street in Burbank, cyclists are losing access to that crossing — an initiative that’s been in the offing for months now, at the request of the horse-riding community.

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At the same time, the Burbank City Council moved forward with planning for a new bike-and-pedestrian bridge nearby at Bob Hope Drive. Bicycling proponents speaking for Walk Bike Burbank have said they are turning their focus from fighting over the old bridge to pushing for the new one.

This week, council members voted unanimously, a third time, to ban people from biking, or even walking or carrying bikes across the Mariposa span, siding with equestrians who fear bikes would spook their horses and doubt cyclists would obey rules against riding bikes on the bridge or on horse trails on the L.A. side.

Minutes later, council members voted 4-0 to approve a letter of agreement with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority for federal funding to help pay for the design and construction of a bicycle and pedestrian path in the Media District with a bridge from Bob Hope Drive across the river to the intersection of Forest Lawn and Memorial drives.

Councilwoman Emily Gabel-Luddy, who lives in the Rancho and advocated for restrictions against bicycles at the Mariposa Street Bridge, was absent.

The agreement does not provide any funding, but it allows the city to begin the process of securing federal grant money, which was awarded by Metro in 2011 and is now available, according to a staff report.

About $680,000 in federal grant funds will be matched with roughly $170,000 from Burbank transportation-development impact fees.

There was little council discussion about either bridge though several members of the public — cyclists and equestrians — voiced their positions of support, some advocating for both crossings.

Echoing the concerns of those who called for the Mariposa Street Bridge in the late 1930s, biking and walking advocates said existing crossings at Riverside Drive and at Olive Avenue and Barham Boulevard are dangerous. They also voiced disappointment with the bike ban at Mariposa and made last-ditch pleas to delay it until the new crossing opens.

City staff estimates that design and environmental review for the Bob Hope Drive bridge could begin this fall, with construction expected to be completed in 2020. It will eventually connect to a planned extension of the L.A. River Bike Path, which Michelle Mowery, L.A. Department of Transportation Bicycle Coordinator, said last week might go to bid in 2017.

The extension, which will pass near the Mariposa Street Bridge, will be designed in a way that does not encourage cyclists to use the nearly 80-year-old crossing, she said.

Some equestrians, for their part, expressed support for the new bridge project, which is not expected to accommodate horses, though some also expressed concerns about cyclists they have characterized in recent meetings as lawless and rude.

“I support the safety request of the bikers, but not at the expense of the equestrians,” said horse-riding supporter Dave Bauer. “I wish that they had the same respect for our safety.”

Cyclists have said they understand the horse riders’ safety concerns and have called for shared use of the bridge that would not compromise safety, including giving priority of use to equestrians.

However, equestrians said no shared use is possible, and the council has declined such ideas.

Despite the council’s unanimous support for proposed restrictions at the Mariposa Street Bridge each time equestrians have advocated for them since Dec. 14, the horse enthusiasts did not let up on their advocacy Tuesday night.

“I’m actually shocked to hear of the bicyclists requesting to use our bridge,” said Lisa Stege, adding that council members had made “the right decision for us” and asking them to “stand firm to keep bicyclists off the bridge in any way, shape or form.”

Councilman Will Rogers — who has supported the bike-banning, but has drawn the ire of some equestrians for comments challenging their arguments and claiming that Rancho residents have a reputation for their sense of entitlement — responded to Stege’s comment by reminding her that the Mariposa Street Bridge is “everyone’s bridge.”

Lynn Brown, vice president of the Los Angeles Equine Advisory Committee, had opposed allowing bike use of the Mariposa Street Bridge, but said she supports the new bridge project.

“We each need our own safe places,” Brown said. “They need a place to be safe; we need a place to be safe.”


Chad Garland,

Twitter: @chadgarland