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EDITORIAL:The city is on the correct bike path

September 30, 2006

Residents should always be aware and involved with what is going on in their neighborhoods. So Sparks Street and surrounding residents are right to get involved in the debate about extending a bike path that runs through their neighborhood.

But we have to respectfully disagree with those who oppose it, or have raised concerns, based on the potential for increased crime and traffic.

Criminals are not known to travel en masse via cycling or jogging down bike paths. If anything, the bike route proposed to run through their street, connecting the Chandler Bikeway to the route along the Los Angeles River, should be a welcome offering, connecting neighboring cities and helping to create a network of paths on which people can commute through neighboring cities. It's the kind of commute that will be good for the environment while promoting healthier lifestyles and more efficient modes of travel.

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That's something to tout, not back away from in a city where traffic congestion and parking are big concerns.

Crime is also a concern, but do residents really expect bicycle bandits to infiltrate their street on their way to or from Los Angeles?

Burbank Police Chief Thomas Hoefel said that the Chandler Bikeway has not brought increased crime to the area, and we don't expect that to change as it weaves through Sparks.

As for traffic, City Councilman Jef Vander Borght said its level would be "absolutely minuscule" with the addition of path, which, if true, suggests that safety concerns are also going too far.

Residents are also concerned with vehicle traffic in the area, and worry that bicyclists would only compound traffic and create new hazards.

But again, such a path would promote fewer motorists along city streets, perhaps decreasing the amount of vehicle traffic and reducing public safety hazards. And if a path is put in, why can't there be additional traffic-calming or enforcement in the area to ensure that hazards are dealt with? If traffic is already an issue on the street, that should be dealt with, but it shouldn't come at the expense of a bike path that officials already say would not cause a large increase in congestion.

Alternatives to the proposal seem worse. One option was to divert the path so that it goes through Downtown Burbank, where perhaps business could benefit from cyclists riding through the city. But that seems untenable, because downtown is already as busy as you can get, with vehicles coming and going at all times, and where, in the hustle and bustle of shopping, drivers are much less likely to react quickly enough to a nearby cyclist.

And how would these cyclists carry home what they bought from local businesses? A bike route shouldn't be about business anyway. It should also be a logical way to move people and connect them to where they need to go, while also being an outlet for recreation.

Maybe there should be a study that looks at the likelihood of crime and safety hazards in the area if a bike path were put in.

But we would venture to predict it won't conclude anything new.

The city is on the right path on this one.

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