Some time in 2015, foothill communities in the west San Gabriel Valley will get a light rail transit connection when phase 1 of the Gold Line extension opens from Pasadena to Azusa. Stations have been designed and are being built, track is being laid, and in some cases, mixed-use condominium and apartment developments are being built nearby. These developments, commonly referred to as “transit oriented development” (TOD), are designed to enable residents to commute by transit rather than automobile, reducing traffic, pollution, and GHG emissions. In order for the Gold Line to effectively reduce traffic, pollution, and parking hassles, it must be designed in a way that enables people to access it by means other than the automobile. To this end, cities along the Gold Line extension must begin to provide a network of safe pedestrian and bike access to the stations.
Recently I met with Chris, a local bicycle advocate from Monrovia, who took me around town to discuss the city’s bike plan and ride other streets where the city could add bike lanes.
We rode from Colorado Blvd to Magnolia, then Magnolia south of the 210 freeway to Pomona Ave. where one of the new TODs is being built. From there we rode to the site of the new Gold Line station, where Chris tells me there are plans for a new bike path running parallel to the Gold Line route east to the San Gabriel River bike path. If this is true, it would provide a wonderful recreation and commuting route in this part of the San Gabriel Valley.
Monrovia’s bike plan (see map, above) shows bike lanes planned for installation on Colorado Blvd. (blue dotted line), while a class III “bike route” is planned around the Gold Line station for Mountain, Duarte, and Shamrock (solid purple line). No bike path is shown anywhere in the plan. As I’ve discussed in previous posts, the problem with class III bike routes is they usually do nothing to reconfigure traffic flow and provide no protected space for cyclists on the roadway. This usually means a street gets signage indicating it is a “bike route” but little else. On such streets, less experienced or less confident riders are unlikely to feel comfortable enough to make the switch to bike commuting. Thus, they do little to increase bicycles as a mode share for transportation.
Chris and I next rode to Myrtle Avenue, the major north-south artery leading from the future Gold Line station to Old Town Monrovia, the city’s main shopping and entertainment district. Chris thinks there are discussions in city hall about bike lanes on Myrtle, and, if so, this would provide the most direct route between the Gold Line and Old Town. Chris wasn’t sure how far north the bike lanes would extend, and there are bottlenecks at several points on Myrtle, so the logistics might be tricky. Moreover, this isn’t shown on the city’s bike plan, and it would be easy for the city to backslide and not provide bike lanes.
Even with bike lanes on Myrtle, riders would also have to negotiate the area around the on- and off-ramps to the 210 freeway and the heavy traffic around those freeway ramps. Chris thinks a better alternative might be for the city to forego the Myrtle bike lanes, and instead reconfigure traffic on two adjacent north-south streets, turning them into one-way streets with wide bike lanes on both. Magnolia, (just to the west of Myrtle) he argues, could be reconfigured as a southbound one-way and California (just to the east of Myrtle) a northbound one-way. there would be enough room for buffered bike lanes on both, perhaps even double-wide bike lanes running both ways on each street. This essentially would convert Magnolia and California into “bike boulevards” that would enable commuters to easily and safely ride their bikes to the Gold Line, reducing automobile trips and spreading the benefit of the Gold Line beyond the nearby TOD. It would also enable residents of the TOD to bike to Old Town for entertainment, dining, and shopping. Thus bike friendly infrastructure will also benefit Monrovia’s local businesses without adding to Old Town’s parking and traffic.
Another important link in a bike-friendly transportation network is connectivity to schools. Currently there are no bike lanes on Colorado Blvd near the high school in Monrovia, despite the fact that there is plenty of room for them. Narrowing traffic lanes and adding bike lanes would slow traffic speeds and increase safety in the neighborhood). Well-marked class II bike lanes leading to Monrovia High School would encourage more young people to ride to school, and active transportation like bicycling and walking is much needed in our communities to combat the high levels of childhood obesity that is partly the result of a sedentary lifestyle.
Both of us agreed that Monrovia has great potential to be a more bike-friendly, and greener, city, but bold leadership will be needed. Those who want safer and greener streets in Monrovia will need to organize to press the city to do the right thing. If members of the the local community can come together and make their voices heard for bike-friendly streets, we could see some positive changes with the coming of the Gold Line to the San Gabriel Valley. Monrovia, how much do you want safer streets? How much do you want a greener, healthier city?