Battle over Griffith Park bridge pits bikes against horses

The 7-foot wide Mariposa Street Bridge was built in 1939, connecting stables in Burbank with Griffith Park.
The 7-foot wide Mariposa Street Bridge was built in 1939, connecting stables in Burbank with Griffith Park. Don Barrett via Flickr

Concern over car traffic in Griffith Park has sparked much debate recently, but now even bikes and horses are fighting for space in Los Angeles' biggest natural escape.

Cycling and equestrian advocates are sparring over access to a bridge that spans the Los Angeles River from Burbank to the park. Its location near stables in Burbank has made it a prime route for horseback riders, but it has been open to pedestrians and cyclists, too, until now.

Last week, the Burbank City Council voted to ban bikes from the bridge after what Councilman David Gordon called an "outcry"  in recent months from the equestrian community.

"I think there’s certain incompatibilities with bikes and horses particularly on the bridge or a confined space," said Gordon.

About 40 people showed up at meetings in December and January to protest bikes on the bridge, called the Mariposa Street Bridge, saying the span is too narrow to safely accommodate both horses and cyclists. The horse riders said bikes could spook the horses and cause injuries.

The council rejected an earlier plan to allow cyclists to walk their bikes across the bridge, which many equestrian advocates said would be equally disruptive. 

Councilwoman Emily Gabel-Luddy said it was important to create clear rules to allow horse riders to use the bridge unimpeded.

Biking is not allowed on trails within Griffith Park, although cyclists are allowed to walk their bikes in those areas.

Cycling advocates like Patrick Dickson said the bridge serves as an important connection to the Los Angeles River Bike Path.

"It’s a dangerous thing that Burbank is doing," he said. "You know, it's leading to that anyone can just say bicycles are dangerous and undesirable."

Dickson said the fight is bigger than just one bridge. He said it is also about who should control access to the park. He expects tensions to increase when Los Angeles opens a longer span of the L.A. River Bike Path, which will run from Burbank to Studio City later this year.

The Burbank City Council will hear public comment on the issue again on Feb. 23, when it considers the draft ordinance to ban bikes on the bridge.

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