By Ted AYALA
It’s the epic battle that has raged on through the ages. Or at least since the advent of the automobile. Motorists versus bicyclists. A seemingly innocuous enough debate – but one that can result in frayed tempers, flung insults, and other examples of unseemly behavior from usually well-behaved citizens.
The matter has been coming to a head in recent years with the growing amount of bicyclists ditching their car keys in favor of their 10-speed. With gas prices at all-time highs, bicycles have become an ever more attractive alternative to many commuters – and cities are reacting to them.
A growing number of municipalities are helping current bicyclists and encouraging those thinking about getting behind the handlebars by increasing the amount of bicycle lanes in their cities. Los Angeles swathed the streets of its downtown area with bright green in a project that unfurled bicycle lanes along Spring Street, promising more bicycle friendly streets in the future.
Glendale has been no slouch in the promoting the bicycling lifestyle thanks to its Bicycle Master Plan, which has touched communities across the city including the foothills. Among the first effects of the plan felt in the Crescenta Valley have been the bicycle racks installed in the Montrose Shopping Park.
Now the city intends to deepen its imprint further by designating a portion of Honolulu Avenue, with estimates for the lane to run from Orangedale Avenue and La Crescenta Avenue. Depending on whether the funds allotted for the project permit it, the lane my be extended to Whiting Woods Road.
During a public hearing discussing the issue at Sparr Heights Community Center on April 26, Jano Baghdanian, the city’s administrator for Traffic and Transportation fielded a lively group of community members all eager to voice their opinion on the diet.
Baghdanian said that the project would involve cutting the car lanes on the proposed road diet sector from four to two, keeping lanes for parking on the extreme sides of the road. Next to the parking lanes would be a 5-foot bicycle lane followed by a 2-foot buffer zone that would be clear of motorists and bicycles. The car lanes proper would be 12 feet on both sides and in the center would be a 10-foot two-way left turn lane. Speed limits will also be brought down from its current 35 mph to a lower amount determined later in the study.
Most of the contingent in attendance expressed their rejection of implementing the bicycle lane in very vehement terms.
“Just a suggestion for the future. It would be better to poll people in the area before you go around doing a project like this,” said one stentorian voiced dissenter of the road diet idea.
“I live along Honolulu – and I like it the way it is,” said another resident who was met with applause. “In the short term, you’re going to increase the congestion and pollution. In the long term, you’ll decrease the amount of business [to the Montrose Shopping Park]. [The road diet] will be miserable for the folks who live on that street.”
Though a bit outnumbered, the supporters of the bicycle lanes ensured that their opinions wouldn’t get drowned out.
“Cars do tend to hug the right side of the road – and we’ve had to take the middle of the road just to get space,” said resident Nick Berg. “We’re forced to take the whole road for our own safety.”
“The consensus we have gotten from local business is that the road diet would hurt business,” said Montrose-Verdugo City Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Melinda Clark. Though not speaking publicly at the event, she did explain the Chamber’s and area businesses’ point-of-view on the matter.
“We have a traffic and parking problem in Montrose, but I think it’s important that people come here to voice their concerns. Businesses’ concerns focus on the traffic at the beginning and end of the day. But I love that the city has reacted to some of the concerns and this meeting was positive.
“The hope is that it works for everyone.”