By Ted AYALA
It’s often said that one can divide the world into two people: cat lovers and dog lovers. But up in the usually tranquil neighborhoods of the Crescenta Valley, a sharper divide has come to wedge itself between local residents and businesses as of late: the city’s proposed road diet along Honolulu Avenue.
With bicycle lanes coming to local neighborhoods in Glendale, some residents are beginning to voice their opposition – loudly. Both sides met face-to-face on Tuesday night at the Glendale City Council meeting. Taking up a massive portion of the meeting, representatives both pro and con came firing over an issue that has become an unusually incendiary one.
Running from Orangedale to La Crescenta avenues, the road diet would reconfigure the lanes on the street – reducing car lanes from four to two – and provide ample room and protection for the growing number of bicyclists in the community. With gas prices at all-time highs and shrinking budgets making cars a less attractive transportation choice for some, bicycling has surged as a viable – and increasingly popular – commuting option.
During community outreach meetings in March and April, many residents expressed their dislike of the diet in very direct terms. But despite the barely concealed anger of many residents who are opposed to the plan, there is also a very significant, and equally outspoken, contingent of residents in support of the plan.
The divide has become something of a generational one with older, some of them lifelong, residents of the area in opposition to a growing number of younger professionals who have been flocking to the area.
Citing reductions in accidents and only minimal delays in traffic, but also careful not to, in his words “over sell” the diet, Jano Baghdanian, Traffic and Transportation administrator for the city, assured that the benefits of the road diet would be enjoyed by both drivers and bicyclists. He also assured opponents of the diet that the matter was not closed and that their input is still needed and crucial in determining a final decision.
Their input, as city council learned, was not shy in coming.
“This proposal is in the wrong location altogether,” said Leann Warner. “[The diet] will be a disaster, in my opinion. This is simply the wrong plan for the area.”
“Please vote to terminate this project. I don’t see it helping my town,” spoke Tom Meehan. “Do no harm to this town.”
Input from supporters was no less forceful.
“I see no change to accommodate all these new bicyclists,” said Gene Gleason, who noted he drives and bikes in “equal measure.”
“What I see is a tangle. I support the road diet plan because it is a first step for the city and residents to layout, in a rational way, accommodations for bicyclists and pedestrians. It certainly won’t solve all problems bicyclists and motorists have in this city, but it‘s a beginning.”
Resident and bicyclist Ry Berg, who has been a strong supporter of the bike lanes at previous outreach meetings, also reaffirmed his position.
“My wife is very afraid to ride [her bike] on the street because of the cars,” he said. “So we think [the road diet] is an awesome project and we’re looking forward to it.”
But without councilmembers Rafi Manoukian and Laura Friedman present, the remaining three council members decided to wait until a full council can be convened in July to make a final decision.
“I have to commend that many of the speakers were thoughtful in their statements,” said City Manager Scott Ochoa. “But everything is relative to where you sit. If you’re at a stop and you have to wait another 30 seconds and you’re not in a hurry, then 30 seconds really isn’t a long time. But if you are in a hurry then it can feel like 30 minutes.”