Time to take a Slow Ride for safety on the L.A. River path

ELYSIAN VALLEY — Christine Mills is a fan of the L.A. River Path, having ridden her bike on it many times. But, as a pedestrian on the path, Mills has been frustrated and angered by what she describes as the rude and careless behavior of cyclists who race past. After an elderly neighbor was badly hurt after being hit by a bike on the path, Mills decided something had to be done. On Saturday, she was part of a group of 20 cyclists who pedaled down the path as part of the first Elysian Valley Slow Ride.

Mills,  who walks the path daily with her two dogs,  said she wants to raise awareness of the shared nature of the path to promote safety and build community.  The Slow Ride logo includes a sharrow, the arrow-like road markings used to alert motorists that they must share traffic lanes with cyclists. In this case, the sharrow and a symbol of a pedestrian are intended to remind cyclists that they must share the path, too.

“We believe that principle needs to be applied here, so that it’s absolutely clear the pedestrians have a legal right to use the path,” Mills said in an email. “I have also noticed increasing Us/Them tension between fast riders and people walking. My hope is that by cyclists taking an action ….we can begin to bridge that divide, and get to a safer speed, which we believe is our ONLY safe, though temporary solution, until an engineering fix comes into play.”

Councilman Mitch O’Farrell has announced the city is taking steps to increase enforcement of laws that prohibit reckless bike riding on the path. In addition, he’s called for competitive cyclists who train on the path to ride some place else.

“We have been cursed at, shouted at and had enough close calls that it doesn’t feel safe to take your little kid out there to learn to ride,” said Mills. “Ironically, the most hostile interaction I had was with a speed walker who told me in so many words that my kid and dog were in the way and to ‘clear the path.'”

The first Slow Ride attracted only about 20 persons, including a representative of the L.A. County Bike Coalition. But Mills said there was a “good community vibe” and participants were served homemade biscuits and coffee. She plans to repeat the Elysian Valley Slow Rideon the first Saturday of the month.

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