Tag Archive for George Wolfberg

Bike and civic giant George Wolfberg dies at 82, Mariah Kandise Banks prelim a bust, and anti-bike bias in CA Senate

Happy International Winter Bike to Work Day.

Oh, and Valentines Day, too. 

And sorry if I leave a tear or two on your screen today.

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Giants are usually invisible.

You seldom notice them hiding among the rest of us, doing the same things we do.

Until one falls. And it’s felt all over the city.

Like my friend George Wolfberg, an invisible giant of the Los Angeles bicycling community.

And virtually every other community in the City of Angels.

It was just yesterday, flipping the pages of the LA Times, that I recognized Wolfberg’s face looking back at me from the obituary pages, and learned he’d passed away last week after an extended illness at the age of 82.

His death did not go unnoticed in Pacific Palisades, where he was a longtime resident, chair emeritus of the community council, and the former leader of the Santa Monica Canyon Civic Association.

I first met the longtime bicycle and community advocate nearly a dozen years ago, when he was fighting a battle to extend the beachfront Marvin Braude bike path to Malibu.

One he ultimately lost to a group of fellow advocates who preferred the danger of keeping bicyclists on deadly PCH to the optics of such an expensive bikeway project.

But George quickly got me involved in other projects, from joining the PCH Task Force to represent the needs on bike riders on the dangerous corridor, to connecting me with just the right people in the city and county governments to get finally piles of sand swept off the beachfront path months after a storm.

Which wouldn’t have happened without Wolfberg’s help.

Because George Wolfberg knew almost everyone at every level of the city, county and state governments. And even set up meetings with state Assembly Members and Senators to present my approach to halting hit-and-runs.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to convince them at the time that hit-and-run was that big a problem.

I wonder if they get it now.

For years, I could count on finding links to some bicycling story or another from the Wall Street Journal or New York Times popping up in my inbox on a regular basis, with the email address invariably leading back to him.

And he never missed contributing to this site’s holiday fundraiser every year; it breaks my heart to think this last one was, in fact, the last one.

But that’s the funny thing about giants.

They don’t always tell you they are one. Or why.

I’d known for some time that George Wolfberg was one of the first members of the Los Angeles Bicycle Advocacy Committee.

But it wasn’t until yesterday that I learned he’d also served on the LA County BAC. Or that there even was an LACBAC.

I was familiar with the late LA bike legend Alex Baum’s work to bring the ’84 Olympic Games to Los Angeles, and that he was instrumental in bringing women’s cycling to the Games for the first time.

But I never knew Wolfberg had worked hand-in-glove with him, writing the original proposal for the Games that forced the International Olympic Committee’s hand by including women’s cycling as a demonstration sport.

Or that he was instrumental in bringing the World Cup to Los Angeles in ’94. Let alone that he fought the horrific South African apartheid by working to get the city to divest from the racially divided county, later earning thanks from Nelson Mandela himself.

And worked just as hard for the residents of South LA, setting up a meals program for soccer playing kids who didn’t get enough to eat at home.

George never told me any of that. Or the countless other civic and athletic accomplishments on his resume that have made this city a better place for all of us.

Because that’s not what giants do.

I am poorer today, because I lost a friend and ally.

But more importantly, this city is poorer because it lost a true giant of a community leader. A man who did everything Los Angeles asked of him, then kept on doing more.

We will all miss George Wolfberg, even if most of us will never know it.

May his memory be a blessing for all of us.

Photo from Pacifica Palisades Community Council

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Our anonymous courtroom correspondent attended yesterday’s hearing for Mariah Kandise Banks in the hit-and-run death of fallen bicyclist Frederick “Woon” Frazier, which turned out to be a prelim, rather than the actual trial.

But for no apparent reason, as it turned out.

Banks’ public defender couldn’t get herself extricated from another case that’s currently at trial (these things happen), so today’s preliminary hearing was delayed until March 17th, and I’ll be there.

A film crew from USC was there to cover the proceedings, which were brief. Bogart was there, Spencer was there. I met a budding activist, new to LA from Chicago, who had lost his fiancee of 8 years, and another activist fresh from Corvallis.

Nobody’s bike was stolen during the hearing, but Bogart et al were in the elevator (with Courtroom 38’s bailiff!) when it jammed, so their arrival was delayed for 20 minutes.

Woon’s mama was there and holding it together as best she could, which of course meant rivers of tears. She wore a t-shirt with a picture of young Woon and his bike, from which his face beamed. She repeated the words he said to her as he walked out the door for the last time, and I could just about hear them in his voice. Then her body heaved with sobs. So many arms were there to comfort her, but there’ll never be enough.

After Banks accepted the motion for continuance, the Assistant DA spoke to us in the hallway, providing a basic overview of the prosecution process and a chronology of expected future events. Woon’s mama indicated that she’s unlikely to actually be in the same room with Ms. Banks.

God damn. I wish I could suffer her pain for her.

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No bias here.

Streetsblog reports that the Republican Vice-Chair of the California Senate Transportation Committee buys into the myth that bike lanes increase traffic emissions.

Bates has made it clear that she is hostile to taxing people to pay for transportation, and hates the idea of paying for transportation infrastructure that doesn’t involve cars. At the hearing, she said that active transportation projects–“translated as ‘road diets,’ which is the term used these days,” she said, further muddling the topic–contribute to higher emissions by causing “mounting congestion on some of the primary arterials.”

“I think [the Active Transportation Program] had more to do with moving people out of automobiles and onto bikes and things where you create less greenhouse gas and the emissions, but when you’ve got the other two lanes and people are sitting in their cars, running, you have the same problem,” she said.

The transportation site’s Melany Curry had this to say in response.

And a lot more.

This actual data is in sharp contrast with the kind of fearmongering promulgated by groups like Keep L.A. Moving and Keep Pasadena Moving, whose anti-bike advocacy has prevented safety measures in those cities, and resulted in the removal of a road diet in Playa Del Rey before data could even be collected. Those fears are also fed by awful click-bait headlines like the one on the recent story in the S.F. Chronicle blaming bike lanesvery wrongly — for congestion on the Richmond San Rafael Bridge.

Sure, it’s possible for a poorly designed road diet to increase congestion. But that’s not what happens, for the most part. And Senator Bates’ repeating the idea that they do is unhelpful, at best.

And blaming bike lanes for vehicle emissions is just gaslighting. Senator Bates is not alone in doing this, and she needs to stop. And she also needs to stop pushing that as a reason for the state to stop funding active transportation projects.

Seriously, give it a read.

Because we have to know who and what we’re up against out there.

And how to respond to made-up facts with real ones.

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This is who we share the roads with. And the airspace, apparently.

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It may not be romantic, but chances are, you’ll still love killing a little time this foggy downhill run.

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Local

Crosstown LA at USC crunched the numbers, and came up with a list of the most dangerous intersections in Los Angeles; surprisingly, all but three are in the San Fernando Valley, with the others in South LA. Hint: You might want to avoid Sepulveda and Sherman Way. 

Curbed looks at CD14 Councilmember Jose Huizar’s proposal to permanently prohibit cars from a 1.5-mile stretch of historic Broadway in DTLA.

Active SGV will host their first Emerald Necklace Bike Train of 2020 this Sunday.

The Santa Monica City Council voted to approve the bike and pedestrian friendly makeover of deadly Wilshire Blvd.

You can stop waiting for the other shoe to drop, as CiclaValley’s Zachary Rynew unveils his Karate Kid custom hand-painted bike shoe; he showed off the other one earlier this week.

 

State

New polls show San Diego residents want parking more than bike lanes, and stricter regulations on e-scooters — even though the current regs have already chased some providers out of town.

An 11-year old Ventura boy was seriously injured when he was hit by a driver while riding his bike on a private roadway in a condo complex; needless to say, the driver played the Universal Get Out of Jail Free card, claiming he just didn’t see the kid.

UC Santa Barbara’s HOPR bikeshare will be hopping off campus this spring.

The garlic capital of the world considers establishing bicycle parking minimums for apartments and commercial buildings, including both long and short term bike parking.

A Modesto paper welcomes a road diet and protected bikeway, as long as it’s accompanied by affordable housing.

A debunking website says yes, Amazon’s first CFO really was killed by one of the company’s own delivery subcontractors while riding her bike in San Jose.

San Francisco’s shortest protected bike lane could be here to stay — assuming all goes well at a hearing next week, after it was already ripped out once.

 

National

Streetsblog says don’t hold your breath waiting for a Democratic presidential candidate who’s committed to breaking car culture.

Writing for Bicycling, a woman describes how her fellow mountain bike coaches got her through the darkest days of her divorce.

It’s 44 days into Oregon’s new Idaho Stop Law, and the sky hasn’t fallen.

There’s a special place in hell for the bike thief who stole a beautiful, $4,000 custom-made low rider bike from an Arizona barbershop.

Colorado Public Radio offers tips on how to keep riding in the snow. Which is not a problem you’re likely to encounter on International Winter Bike to Work Day here in Los Angeles.

A Michigan School got a visit from professional mountain biker Jeff Lenosky, and every 1st and 2nd grader got a new bike and helmet, thanks to Lenosky and a local nonprofit.

Over 2,000 safety-minded people signed a petition calling for protected bike lanes downtown Nashville TN.

A Boston TV station comes to the rescue of a college student, who got stuck with a $1275 bill when she was unable to dock a bikeshare bike after a $2.50 ride.

Singer and rapper Ray J discusses his Scoot e-bike/scooters on a Gotham morning talk show.

 

International

A red light-running London driver has been convicted in the hit-and-run death of a bike rider, who slipped away after 18 months in a coma; his father, cousin and younger brother were convicted of helping him coverup the crime.

The driver of a commercial skip loader got a well-deserved three and a half years for killing a bike rider while high on coke and cannabis.

A British woman refused to accept the diagnosis when doctors told her she’d never ride a bike again following brain surgery; now she rides a bike, runs, climbs mountains and jumps out of perfectly good airplanes.

A woman in the UK is furious after thieves stole her $1,000 bike, then came back to take her hot tub, too.

Forget CicLAvia. Paris will now ban cars from four arrondissements — aka districts — on the first Sunday of every month, opening the streets to the people.

German bicycle and trucking associations say the country has to do more to improve safety for bicyclists, with over 400 people dying while riding their bikes in Germany every year.

The hit-and-run epidemic has spread to Oman, where a driver was busted for fleeing the scene after running over a bicyclist; no word on the condition of the victim.

 

A Thanksgiving thank you, editing Google bike maps, and Zev says back to the drawing board

I’ll be honest.

This has been yet another rough year, in a string of rough years that has gone on way too long.

And yet, I have a lot to be thankful for. Not the least of which is the simple fact that I’m here, and have a loving home and family waiting for me at the end of a ride.

That’s a lot more than some people have.

I’m also very thankful for you. Because it doesn’t matter what I have to say if no one bothers to read it.

So much for that question about a tree falling in the forest.

Thank you for coming by, whether this is your first visit or you’ve been with me from the beginning.

Please accept my best wishes for a very happy Thanksgiving for you and your loved ones. And my hope that we’ll all have more to be thankful for next year.

But if you want to read some heartfelt thanks from someone who clearly means it, try this one.

And People for Bikes says be thankful for biking.

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Another thing I’m thankful for is all the people who send me links and contributions, and help me put this blog together on a regular basis.

Such as frequent contributor Eric Weinstein, who offers his thoughts on Santa Monica’s newly adopted Bike Action Plan.

The Santa Monica Bike Action Plan was enacted by the City Council last night. This means that Santa Monica will budget the expenditure of 2.5 Million dollars for the next two years, and has grants to bring the total up to about 8 Million dollars. That’s a big bunch of money to improve cycling!  I think this will change the entire experience of biking in Santa Monica to a level greater than Portland. Santa Monica is on it’s way to increasing the bike mode share – aiming for 30%!

Some of the items: lots of bike lanes, sharrows, bike boxes, and green lanes for major east-west and north south signature corridors. The largest bike garage in the country – oops it’s already here! Some bike education/encouragement for students, and a bunch of other useful items – some signage to improve the overcrowded beach bike path. And a bike share. There’s a 5- year and a 20 year wish plan for better facilities. These will include: taking some parking for wide (passing lane) bike lanes, even more lanes and sharrows, bike parking at the coming Expo stations, and my favorite: a recreational cycletrack around the Santa Monica Airport. Bring on the Tour of California.

Hooray for progress! This is a major milestone in getting people out of cars and on bikes!

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County supervisor — and widely anticipated yet currently unannounced mayoral candidate — Zev Yaroslavsky says L.A. County should send the proposed county bike plan back to the drawing board.

The motion by Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky calls on the county Department of Public Works to create a bike plan that “will not just move us out of the 1970’s, but move Los Angeles County forward as a leader in 21st Century bicyclist safety and comfort.”

Specifically, the motion says that the plan should “promote the use of leading-edge designs such as those found in the Model Design Manual for Living Streets that was prepared by the Department of Public Health.” Those include “cycle tracks” that separate bike lanes from traffic with dividers such as a lane of parked cars, and experimental street design approaches—including the possibility of varied lane and sidewalk widths in some areas—that do not fall within current Caltrans standards.

The motion urges the county to take the lead in helping such street layouts receive state approval for broader implementation.

A longtime leader in L.A. politics, Yaroslavsky offers a surprisingly strong and influential voice in support of safer cycling in the county. And could soon join Austin Beutner and outgoing City Council President Eric Garcetti in a bike-friendly mayoral field.

Things are getting very interesting.

Thanks to Streetsblog’s Damien Newton for the heads-up.

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George Wolfberg, who I frequently rely on for some of our best links — as well as his incomparable behind the scenes contributions in reaching the right people and getting things — sends word of a rash of bike burglaries in the Brentwood area. He sends the following report from LAPD Senior Lead Officer Kirk.

  • 11/14/11 1500 Hrs – 11/21/11 1000 Hrs, 1300 Block of Wellesley Ave, Susp removed window to residence and entered the loc. Susp removed property and fled loc. Property taken was a bicycle.
  • 11/04/11 1800 Hrs – 11/08/11 0930 Hrs, 1800 Block of Stoner Ave, Susp cut bike lock and removed bicycle from parking lot.
  • 11/18/11 0400 – 0600 Hrs, 1400 Block of Barry Ave, Susp removed bicycles from apartment balcony.
  • 11/19/11 1200 Hrs – 11/21/11 0800 Hrs, Susp cut off lock and removed the bicycle from property.
  • 11/19/11 0900 Hrs- 11/21/11 0600 Hrs, 11300 Block of Wellesley Ave, Susp cut off lock and removed bicycle from carport area.
  • 11/20/11 1330 – 2130 Hrs, 1600 Block of Granville Ave, Susp cut cable lock off and removed bicycle from apartment courtyard.
  • 11/21/11 0645 – 0830 Hrs, 2000 Block of Colby Ave, Susp cut off lock and removed bicycle from property.

Officer Kirk suggests keeping your bike inside your residence, and writing down the serial number. I’d add that you should keep a current photo of your bike, register it, and lock it with a secure U-lock any time you have to leave it outside or in your garage.

Remember, weight doesn’t matter if you don’t have to carry it with you, so go for the biggest, strongest lock you can find to protect your bike at home.

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Another contribution comes from Alejandro Merulo, who calls our attention to Google Maps feature I was unaware of.

I wanted to let you know of a feature that readers of your blog may find useful. As you know in Los Angeles, a large number of bike lanes and sharrows have been added to our streets recently. These bike lanes should be added to Google Maps so that more people ride on them. Google has made it possible to do this for any user using Google Map Maker. It would be great to have other cyclists adding/reviewing these features. For example, today I added the Spring Street and 1st street bike lanes. But these additions need approval. There aren’t that many cyclists reviewing other people’s submission to Google Map Maker.

Sharing the ability of cyclists to add our routes to the roads will make them safer. If you could share this feature through your blog, many cyclists would appreciate it.

Not being familiar with this feature — and a little to dense to figure it out on my own — I asked Alejandro to explain the process.

The link for Google map maker is http://www.google.com/mapmaker. If you are in normal Google maps with the biking layers on, there is some small text on the bottom right that says “Edit in Google Map Maker.” Using a Google account, you can then draw lines along roads. Clicking next, you can then edit road attributes and add bike lanes. Once you have gotten this far, I found it intuitive to figure out other features. However, if you try these steps and still have trouble, let me know and I’ll be happy to assist you. You can see some of the work I’ve added if you type in “Spring Street and 9th Street, Los Angeles, CA” in the text box at the top. You can also see Community Edits like mine by clicking on “Community Edits.”

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Santa Monica’s Bike Effect hosts a trunk show of women’s cycling apparel from New York designer Nona Varnado this Saturday. L.A. wants your ideas on how to keep the city moving, including a suggestion to make motorists pay the true cost of driving. KCET Departures features Flying Pigeon’s always informative, entertaining and elucidating Josef Bray-Ali. Damien Newton unveils this year’s Streetsie Award winners, including a much deserved nod to the LACBC’s Colin Bogart as Advocate of the Year. Curbed takes you on a ride down the new Spring Street bike lane, which has bike parking, too. The Beverly Hills Bicycle Ad Hoc Committee considers the biking black hole’s first pilot projects. Cyclists make their case for a safer PCH while Malibu officials consider becoming bike friendly. Former Burbank city council candidate Garen Yegparian offers a spot-on look at the state of cycling in the Los Angeles area, and finds drivers in his own Armenian community among the worst offenders; definitely worth reading. This is what 10 years of L.A. traffic fatalities looks like, based on the Guardian’s map of U.S. casualties from the last decade; thanks to Simon for the link.

A San Diego cyclist thanks the life guards who saved his life. A San Francisco cyclist pleads not guilty in the death of a pedestrian; he’s accused of running a red light and hitting the 68-year old woman as she walked in the crosswalk with her husband. In a heartwarming story, an S.F. cyclist rescues a puppy while riding. San Jose cyclists pitch in to fix up a derelict bike path. A new bike rack keeps a Los Altos bike safe on a public street for four months. San Rafael cyclists celebrate Cranksgiving. A San Anselmo cyclist is in a coma after being found unconscious on the side of a fire road.

New Mexico cyclists install a ghost bike for a six-year old boy killed 21 years ago. In a classic chicken or egg equation, St. Louis County doesn’t build bikeways because not enough people bike; the current leadership in Ohio doesn’t seem much better. A Huntsville radio station helps ensure 2800 children will receive a new bike for Christmas. A Florida cyclist was drunk when he was hit and killed by an unmarked police car while carrying a case of beer in each hand. Dunedin FL officials turn down nearly $450,000 in Safe Routes to School funding because they’re afraid residents might object.

Nine-and-a-half years for on Oxford driver who deliberately ran down a cyclist; turns out he knew the rider if that makes it any better. A video guide to wearing tweed while you ride. Then again, if you really want to be seen, this should do the trick. Seven people face up to 2 years in prison each in the Operation Puerto bike doping scandal. A New Zealand driver is found guilty of killing a cyclist, despite claiming she just didn’t see him — which is usually the universal Get Out of Jail Free card for careless drivers.

Finally, North Carolina police kill a disabled, partially deaf cyclist by shooting him with a stun gun while he was riding. For any law enforcement personnel unclear on the concept, never, ever knock anyone off a bike while their riding unless you actually intend to kill them.

Because you just might.

True Grit: clearing a path for beachfront bicyclists

See the sand on the bike path? Me neither.

Notice anything different lately?

As you may recall, a couple weeks ago I wrote about the long-standing problem of sand on the Marvin Braude Bike Path along the beach in Santa Monica and Venice.

Then last week, I shared an email that I sent to County Bicycle Coordinator Abu Yusuf, after discovering that the county is responsible for maintaining the bikeway.

Or most of it, any way.

And I promised to let you know when I received a response. Then again, if you’ve ridden the bike path over the last few days, I probably don’t have to tell you what that response was.

To be honest, I didn’t think they were taking me seriously at first.

This is what local cyclists have had to deal with in recent months.

Mr. Yusuf emailed back, explaining that the bike path gets cleared three times a week, and inspected on a regular basis. And their records showed the maintenance was up to date and it was clear of sand.

So I picked up the phone, and said, as politely as possible, maybe you should take another look at those photos.

I explained that I’ve been riding that bike path for nearly 20 years. And this was the first time it had looked more like a sand trap at Riviera than southern California’s most heavily used bikeway — and stayed that way for over two months.

I was prepared for an argument. But his response surprised me.

As late as Monday, the bike path in Santa Monica looked like this.

Yusuf took my complaints seriously — even though they contradicted what he believed — and offered to meet me in Venice to take a first hand look.

Meanwhile, my original email, which had been circulated through the county maintenance department, seemed to be having an effect.

When I rode the bike path last week, it seemed a little cleaner than it had anytime since the storms of last May. Not yet free from sand, but clearly efforts had been made to clean the sand off in a number of places.

Then I rode it again this past Monday. And it showed even more improvement, though it still had a long way to go.

This is how the same section looked on Tuesday.

So Tuesday morning, I rode out to Venice, this time as a representative of the LACBC, to meet with Yusuf and the county’s other Bicycle Coordinator, Kristofor Norberg. I also asked my friend George Wolfberg to join us, since he’s involved in a number of local and regional community groups and bicycle advisory committees.

What we saw surprised us.

Overnight, following the regularly scheduled Tuesday morning maintenance, the bike path had gone from a sea of sand to an actual, ridable bike path. There were still problems, but the cement was cleaner than it had been in months.

It may not be perfect yet, but the bike path hasn't been this clear in months.

Of course, no pathway along the beach will ever be completely free of sand. Daily ocean breezes blow it onto the path, and every beachgoer who tramps across it drags a little sand with them.

But the difference was night and day.

So the first thing we did when Yusuf and Norberg arrived was to say thank you. Then we took them on a little walk to point out some problems that still remained.

They surprised us, too. Instead of the sterotypical SoCal bureaucrats hell bent on defending their department, we found two very polite and friendly men who were clearly committed to solving problems and finding a way to get things done.

In other words, exactly the kind of public servants our city and county so desperately need these days.

Kristofor Norberg and George Wolfberg examine how much of the bike path has been lost to sand.

We showed them places where a malfunctioning sprinkler system washed out the sand bordering the path, sending it streaming across the bikeway in inch-deep deposits. Along with areas where sand had been allowed to overtake the edges of the path, reducing its usable surface by as much as a foot and a half in places.

We pointed out places where pedestrians walk across the bike path, often without looking — and they showed us where warning signs had been removed or covered with graffiti, and where sweeping equipment had worn off the markings that indicated portions of the path were for bikes only.

And we talked about the problems presented by the odd combination of cyclists, skaters, skateboarders, joggers, pedestrians and Segway jockeys who traverse the path on a daily basis. In fact, we watched as a bike rider nearly had to be restrained after colliding with a skateboarder.

And after a tour that lasted well over an hour, our meeting felt more like four friends working together to solve a problem than a couple of cyclists butting heads against the usual brick wall of local government.

This sign used to say something; now it's just bike parking.

In the end, they committed to follow up with the county maintenance staff to make sure the path stays as clear of sand as possible, and to see what can be done about the problem areas and the streaks of sand the sweepers sometimes leave behind.

They offered to look into additional signage and striping to identify the bike-only portions of the path and warn pedestrians to look out for bikes when they cross the path. They also agreed to ask for bike cops to patrol the path from time to time to try to prevent conflicts before they happen.

And finally, they asked for your help.

If you notice any problems on the bike path or areas where the signage could be improved, Yusuf wants to hear from you; you can email him at ayusuf@dpw.lacounty.gov. Or just send them to me or the LACBC, and we’’ll forward it to him for you.

On the other hand, he also made it clear that there are limits to what he can do.

For instance, the county has responsibility for everything on the bike path itself — but anything on either side falls under the jurisdiction of other city or state agencies.

And their jurisdiction ends just north of the new Annenberg Community Beach House, where the city takes over.

Which means we face a whole different set of problems to get that section cleaned.

But at least, this is one clear victory for cyclists.

Clearly, we still have work to do; this is where the city maintained portion of the bike path begins.

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