Does A Bikeway Access Gate Closing Alone In Los Angeles Make Any Sound?

Maybe not, but this cyclist makes some noise about it.

My friend Stephen Box, tireless cyclist and cycling advocate and founder of the Bike Writers Collective (BWC), attended what he related the next day on the LAist blog to be something of a contentious March 18 meeting of the L.A. Transportation Committee regarding Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s motion to close a Ballona Creek Bikeway access gate at Culver Drive west of Sawtelle. Rosendahl put in the request in response to residents’ complaints that it made their adjacent neighborhood more vulnerable to crime.

When BWC member Eric Richardson brought the proprosal to the collective’s attention the day before the meeting, its members including myself, were decidedly put out by what we considered to be a short-sighted and ineffective solution that will remove the bikeway from its community far more than it will reduce crime. At the same time it was also understood that one gate is something of a little battle to pick. But as one gate’s closure can lead to another and another, I took immediate action the evening of March 17 to scope out the section of bikeway in question, with an eye towards identifying the various access points available and distances in between them.


Entering the bikeway eastbound at the entrance from Inglewood Avenue the first somewhat discreet access I found was a third of a mile away at Coolidge Avenue pictured below, where Culver Slauson Park is located. I then traveled under the 405 Freeway overpass to the gate Rosendahl wants closed at the meeting of Culver Drive and Purdue Avenue.


The distance from Coolidge Avenue to Purdue Avenue is a fifth of a mile. In other words, even if one subscribes to the belief that locking a gate will successfully eliminate any criminal element present from accessing or escaping the adjacent area, it is readily negated by the fact that there’s another opening just 1,000 feet away.

Next, let’s take a look at the Culver Drive gate and immediate fencing and see why even Rosendahl’s motion succeeds and the gate is shackled it will have little of its intended effect.


As pictured above, the material is simple chain link. On top of that the gate is about five feet all. The fencing that extends east and west of the gate is just as short but its built up from a concrete footing to give it a total height of about six feet. As a barrier this offers little in the way of security. Not only can the chain link be cut but with the concrete base serving as a boost step the fence is basically ready to be climbed over and quickly by any properly motivated hoodlums.

So what’s the solution? Do we close the Coolidge Avenue gate, too? Or perhaps do we spend money the city doesn’t have to increase the Culver Drive gate’s height? Surprisingly enough you can see in the following picture this has already happened on Culver Drive another fifth of a mile upstream beyond Sawtelle Boulevard at Beloit Avenue.


Beyond the noticeable difference in height between this fencing and gate along Culver Drive east of Sawtelle and the one seen in the previous image, it’s also very important to note that the gate is already closed and locked. This was not just a one-day occurrence. It was shackled shut when this picture was taken March 17, as well as when I rode by it on the 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st. While I’m not privy to the circumstances regarding its closure, it’s not hard to imagine the residents of these streets perhaps lobbying for it for the same reason as their neighbors on the other side of Sawtelle are doing now.

But wait, there’s more! A tenth of a mile eastward and one comes to the inexplicably locked gates of the bikeway exit into the southbound lanes of Sepulveda Boulevard.


Entering and exiting has been denied every day this week as well. So unless one is willing to risk clambering over the upended shopping cart seen at the left of the frame (placed there perhaps by some enterprising cyclist or pedestrian or gangmember), in order to exit the bikeway you’ll have to travel under the Sepulveda Boulevard overpass and double back to the street an additional third of a mile.

For the healthy walker, jogger or bike rider this is no big deal. But let’s take a look at the potential of a worst-case scenario that involves someone injured on the bikeway in the vicinity of Sawtelle. Whereas there should be two methods of egress available to the injured person – at Beloit Avenue and Purdue Avenue – Beloit isn’t and now an exit at Purdue is in danger of disappearing. Furthermore, the only options are for the injured person to somehow get all the way under Sepulveda, go under the overpass and double back to the entrance, or make it the other direction to Coolidge Avenue.

And what if it’s a matter of emergency personnel trying to assist an incapacitated person at that point on the bikeway. It isn’t hard to imagine the potential delays that could occur if paramedics are prevented from coming to someone’s aid because locked gates block there way and force them in opposite directions and greater distances to gain entry.

While that might seem overdramatic or an exaggeration, it all goes to the matter of accessibility and whether we want to allow this important resource to be further separated from the community it serves, under the false pretense of protecting it.

I certainly can empathize with the citizens that Stephen reported on who at the meeting expressed fear over the present conditions, and I think Councilman Rosendahl is absolutely obligated to find a way to protect them. But he should redirect his sights away from the easy target he’s focused on and instead explore proactive opportunities that can be used to reduce the level of crime purported to exist there.

With two access points already locked down, closing what would be a third in a row to the Ballona Creek Bikeway is not one of those opportunities.

UPDATED (03.25): Coincidence? I think not. On my way in to work after a doctor’s appointment yesterday afternoon I exited the bikepath accessway to the northbound lanes of Sepulveda Boulevard and found the previously locked gate to/from the southbound lanes open:


Not completely visible about a tenth of a mile beyond it is the still-shackled gate at Beloit Avenue and Culver Drive.