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Christmas in July: Griffith’s Park Controversy Starts Early

The Entrance to the Festival of Lights, 2007 

The Griffith Park's annual Festival of Lights is supposed to be one of the highlights of the holiday season for thousands of Angelenos.  The park is festively lit up by the Department of Public Works in an effort to make the park visible from the moon an outpouring of Holiday Spirit.

What's also becoming a bit of a tradition is the battle over the city's illegal exclusion of cyclists from the event.  With the exception of a "cyclists night" that occurs in mid-November before Thanksgiving, bike riders are banned from the event in violation of state law that clearly states that municipalities cannot ban bikes from roads except for freeways.  Naturally, bike activists find this ban an affront to their rights and engage in a yearly battle with the city.  Last year, even the Times joined bike blogs such as Illuminate LA in decrying the festival's ban.

This year cyclists are off to an early start.  On June 9th, a group of cyclists, the Sierra Club, local
Neighborhood Councils, homeowner associations and equestrians attended a public meeting on the festival to ask the DWP to lift the ban on bikes.  Some went so far as to suggest a festival wide ban on cars.  Thus, instead of 100,000 cars idling through stop and go traffic; pedestrians, cyclists and
even equestrians could enjoy the nation's largest urban park and its unique light festival.  DWP hasn't announced either a lifting of the bike ban or imposing a car ban.

The cyclists efforts don't end with bureaucratic committee meetings, Illuminate LA has also written to Councilman Tom LaBonge, asking him to help lift the ban because it is against state law.  The full text of their letter is available after the jump.

July 1, 2008
The Honorable Tom LaBonge
City Council District 4
200 North Main Street
Los Angeles, CA

Dear Councilmember LaBonge:

The 2008 Griffith Park Holiday Light Festival is upon us and discussions are already underway
between the DWP and the community on the elements of the Festival. However, before any
decisions can be made as to the form and function of the Festival, it is imperative that the DWP
and the Festival cease to violate State law by excluding cyclists from the same streets that are
open to the motoring public.

I contend that the current ban on cycling in the LADWP Festival of Lights at Griffith Park is a
violation of California Vehicle Code because the city does not have the express authority (per CVC
21) to regulate bicycling on non-freeway roads. An outline of this position is attached.
Suggestions by DWP reps that the ban on cyclists is for safety purposes are simply absurd and
irrelevant. Festival auto traffic is typically so congested that riding the Festival by bike is safer that
the access streets used by a cyclist to get the Festival.

Regardless of the DWP’s well-intended perception of safety issues, keep in mind that cyclists not
only ride the 6500 miles of LA streets but also ride over 1000 miles of Freeway & Highway
throughout the State of California. This access is guaranteed and protected by State Law.

Ultimately, it is State Law that trumps any desire to restrict cyclists to a “special” night. I ask you to
remedy this situation by intervening on our behalf and by acting to prevent the DWP and its
Festival Partners from violating the cycling community’s right to enjoy access to our streets.

I do not intend to discount your commitment to the Holiday Light Festival nor to our community but
instead simply urge you to support cycling as a legal and viable transportation choice on the
streets of Los Angeles, all of them!

Image: beastandbean/Flickr 

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