Residents of Elysian Valley are calling on city officials to ban cyclists from a section of the Los Angeles River Path where an elderly woman was struck by a biker earlier this month. The narrow path runs along the left bank of the Los Angeles River in Elysian Valley, also known as Frogtown. 

The Elysian Valley Neighborhood Watch posted on its website a photo of the woman, whose name was listed only as Mrs. Yu, intubated in a hospital bed in the intensive care unit of USC Medical Center. She was taken there after the accident, which occurred during her regular morning walk. The author of the post, David De La Torre, told L.A. Weekly that collisions and near-collisions between bikers and pedestrians on the path have been a recurring problem. De La Torre faulted the city for the path's design, which was originally an unpaved trail and no longer provides ample room for pedestrians, he said. 

The neighborhood watch has called on District 13's City Council member Mitch O'Farrell to immediately ban cyclists from the path pending improvements that guarantee pedestrian safety.  In a statement issued on Wednesday, O'Farrell urged cyclists to exercise greater caution on the path but reminded residents that, under California law, access to cyclists is irrevocable. 

O'Farrell pledged to have signs posted that notify cyclists of reduced-speed areas where pedestrian foot traffic is heaviest and to ramp up LAPD presence in those areas. “If you are a competitive cyclist in training, the Elysian Valley shared path is not for you,” the statement adds.

De La Torre referred to such an approach as “Band-Aid measures.”

Credit: Jason McGahan

Credit: Jason McGahan

In 2014, the neighborhood watch presented city officials with three possible options for a redesign of the path: Widen it to provide more walking space for pedestrians; reroute it to nearby Riverside Drive; or move cyclists to a separate path on the opposite riverbank, parallel to the railway tracks. Last year, the neighborhood watch organized a Share the Path walk to call attention to the safety hazard. De La Torre said that private efforts to post “share the path” stencil signs and banners have had no public agency support. When signs have been posted by others, the city has removed them every time. 

On Wednesday, a red sign announcing “Bike Path Closed” was chained at the entrance to the path at Riverdale Avenue. The sign didn't come from the city, and it didn't appear to be having much of an effect on the cyclists. The weather was clear and warm, and several of them pedaled past in either direction in a matter of minutes. One walked his bike right by the sign. 

Ted Rogers, editor of the blog BikinginLA, told L.A. Weekly that closing a section of the L.A. River Path to cyclists because of a collision would be just as impractical as closing Wilshire Boulevard because a motorist hit a cyclist. The highest rule of biking, Rogers wrote in an email, is to never ride in a way that poses a risk to yourself or those around you. 

“That means slow down when you’re around pedestrians, give others the same passing distance you’d expect a driver to give you, and only pass when it’s safe to do so,” Rogers wrote. “And give pedestrians and slower cyclists an audible warning before you pass, whether that’s a bike bell, politely saying 'passing on your left,' or giving them a cheery 'Good morning!'

“It may annoy some people, but I’d much rather annoy them than see either of us in the ER.”

LA Weekly