Is This Really an Issue?

Prominent in the LA Times “Burbank Leader” edition this morning was an article describing an apparently hard-fought compromise allowing cyclists to continue using a seventy-year-old bridge to cross the LA River between Burbank and Griffith Park. The issue? Horseriders preferred to ban cyclists altogether, claiming they “scared the horses.” And cyclists wanted to be able to pedal over the bridge, claiming…well, “I just wanna!”

Burbank’s city council made a mostly good decision: cyclists can use the Mariposa Bridge so long as they walk their bikes across.

Sound oppressive? Well, the bridge is narrow, covered with a layer of soft dirt, and shared with powerful 1500-pound animals. Waling your bike for all o f a hundred and forty feet under those conditions makes sense to me.

I am no apologist for equestrians, though I rode horses a fair bit in the distant past. I suggest that a horse that is afraid of cyclists is a badly-trained horse. Let us look at the history of this precursor to the bicycle: for about 7,000 years, horses have been used in war, including the shooting wars of the last four hundred years. This means that the average horse can be trained to go calmly into a battlefield where guns are blasting, bayonets flashing, bombs exploding, and people screaming in rage and pain. If they can be trained to endure that, they can certainly be trained to see a bicyclists without suffering an immediate and total nervous breakdown. I suspect that equestrians use the “horses are nervous” argument to arrogate trails and other facilites to their personal use. I’ve been told that I shouldn’t be walking on some trails, because it “makes horses nervous”! If that’s the case, your horse needs an animal psychiatrist. And anyway, how do you walk up to it to get on and ride?

But cyclists were asking too much here as well. It’s a narrow dirt-covered bridge; judging from the photo in the article, two cyclists would have difficulty crossing paths on it. It makes sense to walk. Especially as there’s not bikeway on the other side, at least not for several hundred yards. A shared-use trail—even if it’s shared only with hikers—is no place to shred.

This should not have been contested territory. The bridge is a public facility with a peculiar configuration that requires some compromises by all users. (Indeed, many hikers are made nervous by gigantic horses on the trails….)

A waste of time and organizational energy. With people dying in the streets, there are more important matters to attend to.

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One Comment

  1. yawfle
    Posted December 24, 2015 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    The Burbank Leader article, while doing a decent job of trying to provide a balanced summary of what turned out to be a fairly complex city council disscussion, makes some reasonable assumptions that turn out to not actually reflect reality. Bikers weren’t actually arguing for the right to ride across the bridge – it’s soft surface is (deliberately?) impossible to ride across already. They were upset about being harassed by equestrians who insisted (including posting illegal signage on the bridge itself) that they were not allowed to even walk a bike on the bridge.

    I became aware of just how over-the-top this situation was after being accosted by one of the perpetrators while not even using the bridge; I had merely ducked under the Riverside bridge from the existing bikeway to take some sunset pictures along the access road that everyone acknowledges is soon to be developed bikeway. As someone who has always had pleasant interractions involving mutual consideration with other equestrians, I was astonished to have someone ride up to where I was stopped by the edge of the river off the asphalt utility road (there had been no horses around prior), speaking dramatically on their phone as if they were calling the police, then firing the phone camera flash in my face point blank, all from atop a large horse. When I tried to understand what this absurd display was all about, my questions were met with snarky responses like “you just need to stop breaking the law!”. I eventually realized that I had stumbled into the middle of an ugly little war, and subsequently became interested enough to look into the issue, including watching the recent Burbank council meeting.

    For anyone else with a grim curiousity, video of the meetings can be viewed online here:

    http://burbank.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=6&clip_id=7103
    (public comment starts at 00:59:45)

    http://burbank.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=6&clip_id=7104
    (bridge discussion starts at 02:30:00, lasts for an hour)

    The complexity of the land division on the south side of the river is particularly interesting.

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