Council was right on path lights

The City Council has prudently agreed with staff recommendations not to install lights along the Central Ashland Bike Path. Lighting the path had been one of several suggestions from residents after the murder of David Grubbs.

We call the decision prudent because it's better to say no than than to agree to do something that would give the public a false sense of security or, worse, actually make residents less safe.

Most of the rest of the suggestions either already have been done or are already part of established city anti-crime efforts.

Grubbs, 23, was attacked and killed on the bike path by an unknown assailant wielding a large, bladed weapon on the night of Nov. 19. Investigators have yet to identify a suspect in the case.

The brutality and apparent randomness of the crime unnerved many Ashlanders. In the face of an unexplained atrocity, it's perfectly normal to want to take action. The reality is that there is little that can be done.

The most ambituous suggestion was to install electric lighting on the bike path as a safety measure, but Police Chief Terry Holderness recommended against the idea.

Installing a light every 150 feet — the standard for street lights — would cost $385,000 and would create more problems than it would solve, Holderness said.

He told the council that lighting creates shadows that could make it easier for an assailant to hide from a passing pedestrian. In addition, the design of the bike path creates areas where there are no clear sight lines for a person looking at the path to see what is happening in lighted areas. Also, light pollution is a common complaint from residents, and 2 miles of lights would add to that problem.

Residents also asked that the city conduct an analysis of crime on the bike path, but Holderness explained that there is so little crime reported there that there is insufficient data for a meaningful analysis. Grubbs' murder is virtually the only violent crime that has occurred on the path.

There is little the city or the police department can do to prevent a random attack such as the one that killed Grubbs, beyond what the department already does — conduct community safety seminars and neighborhood meetings on request and promote the police volunteer program to increase a uniformed presence around town and in city parks.

Installing lights might make some residents feel better, but would be a misuse of public funds that could make the path more dangerous.

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