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Is Extending South Bay Bike Path Worth a Debate? LADOT, NIMBY’s Say No.

Cruising down the Venice Beach Bike Path.  Photo:## Archer/Flickr##
Cruising down the Venice Beach Bike Path. Photo:## Archer/Flickr##

For Jim Kennedy, the matter is a simple one. The South Bay Beach Bicycle Path is a unique public resource, and cyclists shouldn't be forced to take a detour down Washington Boulevard in to Marina del Rey when they hit the Venice Pier to keep riding on it.

Kennedy at the Tour de Ballona II in 2009.
Kennedy at the Tour de Ballona II in 2009.

However, nothing is that simple when it comes to changing and improving infrastructure in Los Angeles, especially on the Westside.

Kennedy has been beating the drum for proposal for years and is pushing for an extension of the beach trail from Washington to the Marina north jetty to be included in the city's Bike Master Plan.  This extension would increase safety for trail users, they wouldn't have to enter and exit traffic on busy Washington Boulevard, and would make the ride down the beach a far more pleasant one.  In the past couple of weeks, his plan has gotten some significant endorsements: one from the Venice Neighborhood Council and another from Alex Thompson a Board Member of the neighboring Mar Vista Neighborhood Council and President of Bikeside.  It should be noted that Bikeside itself has taken no position on the matter.

However, the extension faces a number of major obstacles, not the least of which is that it is not included in the most recent draft of the Bike Plan and opposition from Senior Bike Coordinator Michelle Mowery.

In the December 9th meeting of the City Planning Commission, Kennedy attempted to get the proposed path extension added to the Draft Bike Plan.  LADOT Senior Bike Coordinator Michelle Mowery   Mowery objected to placing the extension in the plan because, as she stated, the project wasn't a high priority for the city, it would be expensive to build a bridge over the Venice canal (which isn't part of the plan), funding could be used elsewhere better, there is a lack of community support and a path extension doesn’t have to be a part of the Master Plan for it to be eventually constructed.

Addressing the last point, Kennedy notes that because the section of the path he hopes to extend is controlled by both the city and Los Angeles County, it does have to be in the Plan.  Actually, it has to be in both plans.  Most of the other points also don't carry a lot of weight in debating whether to include the Path in the plan.  After all, there are plenty of other expensive, low priority projects who's funds could be better spent elsewhere that are included in the Draft Bike Plan.

That leaves the issue of community support.  While the Venice Neighborhood Council may be on board, a group of local NIMBY's who don't like the idea of increasing access to "their" public beach have stated their opposition to the project.  From The Argonaut:

The neighborhood council's endorsement of the amendment came as disturbing news to Mark Winter, director of the Marina Peninsula Neighborhood Association, who said his neighbors have long opposed such a plan. Winter said communities where a bike path traverses through tend to have higher incidents of crime and graffiti, and cited other concerns including a lack of public parking and increased congestion.

In this case, the argument of the scofflaw cyclist holds even less merit than usual.  Let's put aside the national statistics that show that crime is lower in areas that have bike paths running through them.  While it is debatable whether or not the Ballona Creek Bike Path made it easier for groups of teenage hoodlums to terrorize West L.A. streets adjacent to the path then speed away, the beach bike path doesn't directly connect to other residential areas with higher crime rates.

As for the arguments about traffic, parking, and congestion, they also don't hold much water.  The Bike Path is a public resource, and the city should be finding more ways to make people access it.  And as much as I hate to point out the obvious, many of the people who choose to access it will do so by riding their bike to it.

All that being said, all Kennedy is looking for is the chance to debate and study the path extension.  The surrounding communities and bike advocates agree with him.  All we need now is for the city to listen to the people arguing for the best utilization of public resources rather than those arguing to keep access to the resource to the privileged few who live near it.

The next chance to alter the Bike Plan will be at a joint meeting of the City Council Transportation and Planning and Land Use (PLUM) Committees.  The meeting has not yet been scheduled.

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