A t the turn of the 20th century, cycling was a way of life for many in Pasadena, with the City of Roses claiming more bicycles per capita than any other city in the United States.
Today, 110 years later, dreams of once again making everyday bicycle transportation a reality are rapidly coming true, with the city updating its decade-old Bicycle Master Plan, a process intended to solidify some of the city’s long-term goals and improve upon its already well-known, bicycle-friendly image, said Senior Transportation Planner Rich Dilluvio.
Cities like Seattle, Portland, Palo Alto, Davis and Santa Barbara — all with extensive bike routes — prove that it is feasible to make bicycling a regular transportation option. In order to be recognized among these cities for being bike savvy, Pasadena’s plan is a major step in further integrating bicycle use with other transportation methods, such as trains, buses and ride-sharing.
Most of the projects in the city’s previous plan, covering 60 lane-miles of on-street bicycle routes have been completed. Signage, striping, development of a bike map, increased bike parking and promotion of bike safety were big parts of that plan.
Los Angeles-based consultants Ryan Snyder Associates developed the new draft master plan, using input from two public meetings and a survey of 1,138 people, three-quarters of whom were between the ages of 20 and 49. The plan was approved in February by the city’s Bicycle Master Plan Advisory Committee, a collection of local cyclists, bicycle advocacy groups, bike shop owners, city commissioners and city staff.
If the council approves the plan, it could mean wider, safer streets, better signage and more secure places to park a bike in some of the city’s major shopping and tourist areas. However, most improvements would happen only incrementally, beginning later this year and extending into early 2011, Dilluvio said. Why? First, the plan must mesh with the mobility and transportation component of the city’s general plan, which itself is in the middle of its 10-year update. Second, funding for these improvements is granted on a project-by-project basis, and Pasadena is in competition with other communities for state and federal grants and other types of financing.
According to the survey, about two-thirds of the respondents said they rode a bike one to six times a week. Most people rode for fitness purposes, the second-largest group rode their bikes on errands and nearly half rode to work, according to the survey.
The most common reason people gave for riding a bike was to help the environment, with the second most popular reason — nearly 650 respondents — being to save gas. The third most popular reason was parking, or more accurately, avoiding associated costs.
Greg Schultz, a South Pasadena resident, fits into this group riding religiously throughout Pasadena, usually within a 10-mile radius to get coffee with friends, go to school at Pasadena City College or to complete errands. He rides his bike when he can to reduce his impact on the environment and to cut his driving costs, although he can’t ride everywhere he wants to because he relies on bike routes that have wide shoulder spaces for bikes and the speed limit for cars is no higher than 30 mph.
“Sometimes I feel like the competition for road space stops me from riding. I see drivers that drive too closely to me to show their discontent with my presence, or maybe it’s to show discontent with the lack of bike infrastructure,” said Schultz.
By far, the No. 1 reason people gave for not riding a bicycle was the lack of safe streets, followed by a dearth of secure parking. And by just as wide a margin, most people said they would prefer to see any major improvements made in the city’s overall bikeability take place along Colorado Boulevard.
When it came to improving bicycle parking priorities, most people wanted to see that happen first in Old Pasadena and Paseo Colorado, then at malls and shopping centers, along Colorado Boulevard and finally at Metro Gold Line stations.
A large component of the updated bike plan is to create more feasible ways for people to incorporate bicycling with transportation on existing bus and rail lines. Adding more bike storage space on Metro trains and buses can help bicyclers, like Schultz, bicycle more often and encourage them to use more public transit options.
Judi Masuda, New Mobility programs manager for the Pasadena Department of Transportation, is currently working on New Mobility Hubs — transportation networks that integrate bicycling, electrical vehicles, bus lines, Metro lines and ride sharing. The idea is to create a transportation system that eliminates the need for individual cars. Masuda is currently locating new bicycle parking facilities and is working on finding funding for a possible bike rental program.
According to the draft version of the Bicycle Master Plan, many efforts would be made to ensure bicycling is safer and more comfortable, such as altering traffic flow, widening lanes and adding more signage along roads. People who attended the advisory committee’s public workshops urged changing signs from the suggestive “share the road” to the more demanding “bikes have full use of lane.”
“Some of the tools that we can use are partial closures, or traffic circles instead of stop signs. Some of the tools we’ll be using for the bike plan are tools that would be implemented to help residents with traffic concerns. Traffic calming tools aren’t just for cyclists; they’re for making neighborhoods nicer to live in. The neighborhood that’s nice to bike in is one that’s good to live in too,” said Dilluvio.
Traffic circles and roundabouts allow a smoother flow of traffic because vehicles and cyclists yield to each other without always coming to a full stop. Roundabouts also make the exercise of bicycling easier for cyclists, since they can frequently keep their forward momentum while merging appropriately into traffic, Dilluvio explained.
Another traffic calming tool outlined in the bicycle plan is to create emphasized bike lanes, where part of a street is closed off to two-way car traffic. Through traffic of a major street would be re-routed to a parallel arterial road, making streets with less traffic more open to bicyclists.
An emphasized bike lane is proposed to run along Sierra Bonita Avenue between Washington Boulevard and the southern city limit. Car traffic would be re-routed to other major roads like Lake, Hill and Allen avenues, making Sierra Bonita a quieter north-south bike route. Although there are already existing emphasized bike lanes, such as the one on Marengo Avenue between Orange Grove and Washington boulevards, more are proposed in the plan.
To meet a the goal of decreasing bicycle accidents by 30 percent, the plan calls for a bicycle safety curriculum in schools, educating drivers and bicyclists on safe cycling.
Caltrans granted $250,000 to educate third-graders from 2010 to 2013 in Pasadena’s 18 elementary schools about cycling safety. As part of its previous bike plan in 2000, the city put together guidelines on safe bicycling and bicycle maps which can be found on the city’s Web site.
Although safety is a major factor in getting more people to bicycle, it’s only half the battle. The new plan calls to increase bicycle trips by 5 percent, creating a need for more bicycle amenities. Currently, the city has racks to accommodate 611 bicycles.
As the Bicycle Master Plan awaits review and approval by the city, all that’s left to do is bike. To that end, Pasadena will be sponsoring a Bike Week, from May 20 to 22, with a Bike to Work Day and public rides across Pasadena, along with bike-related talks and events. Visit cicle.org for more information on Bike Week and other events. The city’s Bicycle Master Plan can be found online at ci.pasadena.ca.us.