When It Comes to Safety on Bike Trails, Cyclists Are “Not on the Map”

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Last week, when Streetsblog reported on a cyclist being attacked on the Ballona Creek Bike Trail, one commenter noted that the attack wasn’t being shown on the LAPD’s online Crime Maps.  Yesterday, a commenter wrote that the attack still didn’t appear.  Well, it turns out that when it comes to crimes on a bike path, cyclists danger is "off the map."

Back in July, the LAPD testified in front of the LA City Council Transportation Committee, about the  proposed closure of one entrance to the bike path.  One exchange between the LADOT and LAPD revealed that because the Crime Map uses addresses to map where crimes crimes are committed; attacks on bike paths such as the Ballona Creek Trail aren’t as easy to track as those that happen off of it.  Streetsblog wrote:

In response, the LAPD’s representatives admitted that crime in the area
has gone down 46% in the first two months of 2008 compared to the same
time period in 2007.  Statistics for crime for the bike trail weren’t
available because the LAPD Crime Maps
system has trouble keeping records for crimes without a street
address.  Three years ago LADOT tried to get a list of crimes on the
bike path, but LAPD could only provide statistics "for the area."

Apparently this isn’t a new problem.  Longtime Ballona Creek activist Bobbi Gold, replying to the email that was the basis for last week’s post opined:

In 1990, I started working (as a volunteer) on the problems
of crime on the Ballona Creek bikepath, as there was an upswing of attacks at
that time. One of the problems of dealing with these attacks is that whenever
someone called LAPD about an incident on the bikepath, the person taking a
report wanted to know the street address (not merely the nearest cross
streets). I was told that this was because Ballona Creek was not on LAPDs map.
Supposedly the problem got corrected at that time, but from xxx’s reports
below and originally, the same problems apparently exist today in that LAPD
wants to know street names and numbers.

This state of affairs is especially frustrating for the victim of last week’s attach.  In an email to Streetsblog, he writes,

The omission is especially galling in that the LAPD, though
sympathetic and helpful, seems resigned to crime along the BC path and expects
cyclists to “be aware” and apparently stop using the path
altogether, all the while depriving the cycling public of the information that
would make them aware.

Cyclists and other trail users are discussing ideas on how best to improve the trail to make it more safe for everyone.  Feel free to leave any of your suggestions in the comments section.

  • Someone should introduce the LAPD’s IT department to GPS coordinates, and the folks who are in charge of incident reports need to add a little box for police to geo-code the exact location of an incident (if it is known precisely).

    Second, along with being bureaucratically invisible to the police, this separated bike path is not subject to the same laws that govern a “normal” road or right of way. Gaping potholes? Destroyed blacktop? Hazardous road debris? Incorrect or unsafe signage? Cyclists sued to hold the City of L.A. liable for problems like this with its “off-road” bike paths (“trails”, specifically). They lost in the California Supreme Court. Prokoff vs City of L.A.

    Pretty messed up, huh?

  • This might be a good time to create another Google Maps overlay that is publicy managed.

    I realize that this does not lend the same legitimacy with the LAPD name, but it would still be helpful information. At least the public can discern for themselves their own safety if other people are making reports.

  • Peter McFerrin

    Brayj, why not just designate the Bike Path as a public thoroughfare–Ballona Creek Way, maybe–mark it as closed to motor vehicles (no legal problems: the city of Los Angeles already maintains numerous pedestrian-only streets), and put in a reflector sign with an address block number every eighth of a mile? Might be easier and cheaper than dealing with GPS.

  • Not the original A.T.

    This goes beyond crime. The same problem exists when detailing accidents (injuries or fatalities) on any bike trail or multi-use path.

    Peter has a great suggestion. It could be address block numbers or mile markers like on the freeways (except denoted in fractions of a mile). It’s not a difficult thing to do.

  • Here is a better legal change: expand the definition of “street” to be any public right-of-way that is used for the movement of goods or people. Make sure that “transportation” is defined to include cycling, walking , and transit use.

    That would send them all through a loop.

    But with these changes, you’d have more liability for the City:

    (1) they’d have to divert precious money from car-only roads to ped- or bike-only roads
    (2) they’d be liable for injuries due to no maintenance, etc.

    Find 7 council people who agree with the idea after the LADOT and Public Works “report” on it, and you, my friend, will have a solution.

    Beneath the assault and petty crime on this bike path, there are deeper crimes that are built into this city’s DNA. Our definition of “street” is one of those crimes.


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