Vital shortcut onto Marina del Rey bike path welded shut, angering bicyclists and prompting safety concerns

Out for a Saturday morning ride, John Rauschuber and 12-year-old son Weston maneuver their tandem bicycle through a hole cut in the fence near the shuttered bike trail access gate at Yvonne B. Burke Park Photo by Joe Piasecki

Out for a Saturday morning ride, John Rauschuber and 12-year-old son Weston maneuver their tandem bicycle through a hole cut in the fence near the shuttered bike trail access gate at Yvonne B. Burke Park
Photo by Joe Piasecki

By Gary Walker

To avoid a dicey rush-hour ride along congested Washington and Lincoln boulevards, bicycle commuter John Montgomery uses the segment of the Marvin Braude Bike Trail that wends through Marina del Rey to get from his Venice home to his visual effects office on Culver Boulevard in Del Rey.

“It’s a safer way to commute. I can cut through on Maxella [Avenue] and not get caught on Lincoln Boulevard, which is not the best street for someone on a bike,” he said.

Getting on the trail, however, just got a lot harder.

Those living east of the harbor found the only bike trail access point between Washington and either Bali or Mindanao ways — a gate through a chain-link fence that separated Yvonne B. Burke Park from a small alley behind the Ralphs grocery store near the intersection of Maxella and Lincoln — welded shut last month without notice or explanation.

“I was shocked. This is the main way to get on the trail for a lot of people. It keeps you off the streets,” said Mar Vista bicyclist John Blank, who discovered the gate about three years ago.

In an apparent fit of pique and defiance, someone has since cut a large hole in the fence about 50 feet from the gate.

“I don’t support the vandalism, but I do understand the frustration that some people must feel,” said Del Rey resident John Rauschuber, who’s used the gate for a decade.

The buzz among locals has been an assumption that Los Angeles County planning officials may have closed the gate as part of harbor redevelopment plans, but that isn’t the case.

In fact, Ralphs and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department offer conflicting accounts as to why the gate was sealed and at whose request.

According to Ralphs spokeswoman Kendra Doyel, deputies from the Marina del Rey Sheriff’s Station visited the 4311 Lincoln Blvd. store and asked the grocery chain if they could close the gate.

“There were a variety of reasons why they requested that we close the gate,” said Doyel, who confirmed that Ralphs “maintains” the property where the fence is located. “It’s been something that has been ongoing for a while and it took us a while to have it closed.”

But Sheriff’s Sgt. Tadashi Hiraoka said the property owner asked the Marina del Rey Sheriff’s Station to close the gate because it was not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

“I’ve been out there to the gate and it’s not ADA-compliant. It was closed in order to reduce liability,” Hiraoka said.

Doyel said she was unaware of any legal compliance issues with the gate.

To make matters more confusing, Hiraoka and other local officials weren’t readily able to identify who controls the park-adjoining land that Ralphs maintains but is also near an apartment building and a condominum complex.

Montgomery was puzzled by the notion that ADA compliance issues should prompt a sudden closure.

“If the gate has been open for so long and it wasn’t [ADA-compliant] for this long, why has it been open and why wasn’t that fixed sooner?” he said.

Doyel said Ralphs is aware that the gate has helped bring bicycle and foot traffic to their store for years.

“We never want anyone to bypass any of our stores, but we have to consider safety as one of our top priorities,” she said.

If the hole cut through the fence is repaired, “We’ll be forced to go down Mindanao Way and cross Lincoln Boulevard and the entrance to the 90 Freeway,” Rauschuber lamented. “I would encourage any politician to ride down Mindanao to Burton Chace Park during rush hour to see what that’s like.”

gary@argonautnews.com

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