Pedestrians crossing the streets of the Sylmar community are sometimes puzzled to see the buttons on crosswalk posts placed higher than is normally seen.
They are there to make it easy for those on horseback to press the button. This lodge is a reflection of the great equine community in and around Sylmar.
The equine community is celebrating the recent passage of AB 974, written by Assembly Member Luz Rivas, which seeks to improve the visibility of those who ride horses or other animals on paved roads at night by requiring riders and their equines to wear gear. reflective or lights from sunset.
“The idea for this legislation came from my community after an unfortunate horse and vehicle accident occurred in my district,” Rivas said. “If we can prevent even one injury due to this new law, then our efforts will have paid off.”
Rivas was referring to an accident in October 2019 when a vehicle struck two people riding horses on Lake View Terrace. The collision killed both horses and left the riders in critical condition.
Neither the riders nor their equines were wearing reflective gear or lights at the time.
The accident sparked a community town hall meeting that served as an impetus to update passenger safety laws in the state, according to Rivas’s office.
Valley equine owners say they are pleased that state law has been enacted and it may be the first step in gaining more attention that could lead to enforcement of the law and additional safety measures.
During meetings with the local equine community, Rivas emphasized that it would be easier to pass this bill because it did not have a fiscal impact.
Along with the reflective gear or lights required for all riders and animals, the law also requires minors to wear helmets while riding on paved roads. Failure to comply can mean a $ 25 fine for the first time, the same amount imposed by the state Department of Motor Vehicles for those who ride their bikes without a helmet.
However, the fine may increase in the event of a repeat offense.
Safety gear is attached to the horse’s tail, chest plate, and horse’s legs to reflect light at night. Protection increases exponentially when the rider also wears reflective gear. So far it has not been necessary.
Many members of the local equine community in Sylmar and Lake View Terrace worked with the Rivas office to urge its approval.
“AB 974 is a huge victory for the equestrian communities in Assembly District 39 and the state, and a huge step in making our roads safer for bicyclists,” said Gina Cruz, Chair of the Ride Usage Committee. Foothill Trails District Land and member of his equine team. committee.
Also very involved was Cheri Blose, the equestrian representative of the Sylmar Neighborhood Council, Civic Affairs of ETI Corral 12 and a member of the Equine Coalition. She points to the vast community of Sylmar horses that can often be seen riding throughout the community.
“It is not unusual to see 60 horses riding through Roxford near Olive View as the day turns to dusk. It’s a way of life, a way of life, ”Blose described.
Blose said her late husband got up at 3 a.m., fed the horse, saddled the horse and was ready to ride before dawn.
“He would be back home when I woke up,” she said. “Many men go horseback riding very early in the morning before they go to work and when they come back from work, they ride again.”
It is a cherished lifestyle that becomes a family legacy. Blose said her daughter Leah started horseback riding when she was 3 years old.
The equine community in Sylmar and the surrounding communities also includes a large community of “Charros” who, from generation to generation, have passed down their love of horses and the historical “Charros” traditions.
Geronimo Bugarin is part of the Asociación de Charros de Sylmar, a member of the Sylmar Equine Coalition, Sylmar Neighborhood Equine Committee, and is a member of the Equine Advisory Board of LA Councilmember Mónica Rodríguez.
During the recent Mexican Independence Day Parade in Sylmar, there were 100 charros there, Bugarin said. “When you put on the Charro suit, you are wearing a country.”
Proud of his family history, Bugarin recounted that he grew up on a ranch with horses and that his father came to the United States during the Bracero program and worked on a ranch. He was able to work hard and then have a ranch of his own where Bugarin grew up.
He feels very positive about the new law, which Bugarin believes opens the door for more issues to be addressed, including the impact of aggressive development in Sylmar.
He also worked closely with the Rivas office.
“I’m getting older so I don’t run like I used to. But I hope that we can preserve this way of life and culture for another 100 years for my grandchildren, ”said Bugarin. “It is our heritage. Riding unites us all ”.
Bugarin said passengers should also be educated about the new law.
The news of an equine accident sends chills to everyone who is part of an equine community. They point out that more accidents happen than people realize.
Dark colored horses with riders wearing dark clothing are almost impossible to see. Leah and Blose still vividly recall a “terrible” accident on Bledsoe Street in Sylmar where riders were seriously injured and horses had to be euthanized.
“It was a long time ago, maybe 30 years ago,” Blose said. “An older gentleman was driving west on Bledsoe; It was just twilight and three horses were coming down the street. And hit the three horses. It was just gory.
“I think about it now and it makes me want to cry. And [the motorist] was devastated. He was a rider. His daughter, whom he visited, was an Amazon. But he did not see them. [The riders] were riding dark horses on a dark street. It was a recipe for disaster. “
As cautious and aware as Leah is, she nearly failed while driving her truck.
“When I was turning the corner on a surface street, I couldn’t see the horse or the rider,” he said.
Many accidents go unreported, Leah explained. Previously, when the police arrived, they didn’t even file a police report. They do not consider a horse a “vehicle” and insurance claims cannot be made.
“The police have said, ‘We’re sorry about your pet,’” Leah said. Horses, he points out, shouldn’t be in the same category as a “pet.”
He also said that motorists have little respect for horses or jockeys.
“Cars can drive against you. Drivers honk and yell at you, and they’ve even thrown things at passengers, ”Leah said.
Motorists also incorrectly believe that horses have no right to the road, Cruz said.
“Part of the nature of our communities here is that many of our horse properties do not have direct access to the trails. So we have a lot of cyclists on the streets to get to the trails, ”he said.
“One thing that a lot of people don’t realize is that a lot of the streets in these communities are designated as equestrian trails – the streets themselves. Therefore, people should expect to see horses in the streets. And you see that in our communities of Lake View Terrace, Shadow Hills, La Tuna Canyon and Sylmar. “
Cyclists add that the trails throughout the local area are not fully reserved or maintained, or have been blocked for cyclists.
“Ninety-five percent of the trails cannot be used. On Bledsoe Street, what should be part of a continuous path that passes in front of the houses, has parked cars and some residents have laid loose bricks as if it were their property, “Blose said.”
“Horses are dangerously forced out into the street,” he continued. “Many riders prefer to ride on the sidewalk rather than on the street when they can. Because trails start and stop, bicyclists detour onto the street until they can reconnect to a trail. We have all the trails at Stetson Ranch, Los Pintos Park, where you can ride up to Placerita Canyon, and then we have the wonderful Wilson Canyon trails. “
“Honestly, we don’t want to punish cyclists,” Cruz said. “We want to encourage them to wear reflective gear and for children to wear helmets when on the road. I don’t think we want to see a harsh penalty for cyclists, just encourage their use.
“We would like to see in the future, what has not yet been done, more severe penalties for drivers who are not careful and hit the horses. Obviously [cyclists] have a responsibility on our side to be visible and careful on the road as well. This is a first step “.
Blose added, “We live in a wonderful community” and that people “want to be able to ride horses [safely].”
“California has the second largest horse population in the entire country, and it is important that we take these steps to keep riders safe and protect our equestrian heritage,” he said.
“We want to save your life,” Leah repeated.
Part 2 of this story will appear next week and will cover the concern the Sylmar equestrian community has with the invasion of developers trying to buy land that could erode currently zoned areas for horses and change the lifestyle of the community.