Cyclists organize ‘Tour de Ballona’ to promote Ballona bike path; say safety is in numbers

0
Posted October 30, 2008 by vinceechavaria in News - Features
Cyclists who regularly use the Ballona Creek Bicycle Path want people to know that they are not going to be hindered by acts of crime occurring near their favorite local trail.

They enjoy using the bike path to view the wildlife species of the Ballona Wetlands during an afternoon ride or to commute to work away from clogged roadways, and they say some incidents of crime are not going to take that away.

Ballona path users hit the pavement with their bicycles Saturday, October 25th, to help promote increased usage of what they call a community resource during an organized group ride. A group known as the Concerned Bicyclists of the Ballona Creek Bike Path hosted the first “Tour de Ballona,” which took over 60 riders along a four-mile stretch of the path from the Culver Drive entrance to the Ballona Creek bridge near Playa del Rey.

In addition to supporting the path, the group ride was intended to draw attention to some incidents of violence that have occurred near the trail and promote safety for riders.

“The idea is that the more people you have on the trail the safer it’ll be,” said Damien Newton, who helped promote the ride.

The path has experienced some recent crimes, as one man reportedly had his bike stolen during an attack near McConnell Avenue this month and a Loyola Marymount University professor was attacked during a ride earlier this year, residents noted. Residents who live near the path’s entrance on Culver Drive, between Purdue Avenue and Sawtelle Boulevard in Del Rey, claim that the site has been a loitering point for gang and other criminal activity.

The entrance, which has a lockable gate, has been the site of drug deals, fights and attacks on residents, and nearby homes have been burglarized, residents say.

While neighbors have voiced their concerns that the path provides an easy getaway point for those committing crimes and have called for a temporary closure of the Culver Drive gate, cyclists are taking action to help improve safety. Avid cyclist and Del Rey resident Howard Hackett said he continues to feel safe riding the path and he took part in the Tour de Ballona to show his support for the community resource.

“We wanted to show off Ballona Creek and the bike path,” said Hackett, who added that he has not encountered a problem on the trail. “This is the only east-west Class 1 bike path in the whole area, and therefore it is great for people who commute and it’s great for families. It’s a good place to ride and there’s beauty out there.”

Ride organizers said they were surprised at the number of cyclists who came to support the event, but noted that having more people use the path will make it safer.

“It always helps to have numbers,” said cyclist Sheldon Cohen, a Culver City resident who lives near the path.

Some neighbors of the path said they wanted to clear up any claims that residents were calling for a closure of the bike path, noting that residents have only supported closing the Purdue Avenue gate to improve the situation.

“This has nothing to do with closing the bike path — no one wants the bike path closed,” Del Rey resident Stephanie White said. “It’s not about the bike path, it’s about keeping random people from wandering the neighborhood.”

Some Purdue Avenue residents have said the cyclists who want to keep the gate open don’t live in the neighborhood and don’t have to deal with the crime. White said the groups need to work together to come up with a workable solution.

Del Rey community leaders, including members of the Neighborhood Council, have proposed installing security cameras at the Purdue Avenue entrance instead of closing off the gate. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) is currently looking at the potential cost of the cameras and where they might be placed.

At the end of Tour de Ballona October 25th, tables were set up near the Ballona Creek bridge, where representatives of the LAPD and City Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s office addressed efforts to deter crime. Police told cyclists that they increased patrols along the path and are considering other potential enhancements, including additional lighting and signage.

Ride organizers said they are planning other group events to promote the trail, starting with a ride November 8th.

“In the end what will make the trail safer is more people using the trail and keeping more patrols there,” Newton said.