Could the city of Pasadena finally be close to adopting an ambitious mobility plan? This week, my friends at the Pasadena Complete Streets Coalition (PasCSC) attended meetings with city officials to provide feedback on elements of a new mobility plan that, if implemented, will make getting around Pasadena on foot and by bike much easier and safer. The first of those meetings was a preview of potential new bikeways in Pasadena.
A year ago, in the wake of the tragic death of cyclist Phillip O’Neill in the city, a group of local advocates met and formed PasCSC to lobby for safer streets for all road users (“complete streets”). As part of that effort, the group was critical of the Pasadena DOT’s draft mobility plan as not going far enough to make Pasadena bike and pedestrian friendly. Several members of the City Council, including Mayor Bill Bogaard and Councilmember Terry Tornek, called on DOT to revise its bike plan and “be bold.”
On June 24, community members got a sneak peek at a “Bikeway Analysis and Feasibility Study” that assessed the feasibility of major street redesign on up to seven east-west corridors and four north-south corridors in Pasadena. The study was conducted by KOA Corporation, a transportation planning and engineering firm that has designed, among other things, the highly regarded 3rd Street and Broadway Cycle Track in Long Beach and the new Rosemead Cycle Track in Temple City, the first of its kind in the San Gabriel Valley.
Cycle tracks are essentially bike lanes protected by a physical buffer, such as a curb, landscape planters, or parked cars. They are common in Europe and have just begun to be used here in the US. They are, if you’ll excuse the automobile metaphor, the Cadillac of bike lanes. Rich Dilluvio, senior transportation planner for Pasadena’s DOT (see photo, top), asked the advocates for feedback and to prioritize the proposed routes that would be most valuable to cyclists as the initial backbones of a bike-friendly Pasadena. Planners wanted to know, in other words, in case they’re not all funded at once, which ones did bicyclists want to be completed first? I confess, I want them all—now, but I know that it will take time to work its way through the political process, the community outreach process, the funding process, and finally, the construction process. I also realize they may not all be funded immediately. The sooner we get them, though, the better for active mobility and traffic safety in Pasadena.
Readers will know that I’ve been critical of Pasadena’s previous bike plan, but my initial response to these new proposed bikeways is cautious optimism. The east-west routes are especially ambitious, including plans for separated, bi-directional bike lanes on Green and Union, as well as proposed cycle tracks or buffered bike lanes on other routes. The north-south routes are a bit more difficult because they need to be routes that cross the 210 freeway (the huge concrete traffic sewer that cuts through the heart of Pasadena like a jagged gouge carved out of the city’s midsection) and don’t have high traffic volumes. These constraints limit north-south routes, and they tend to be narrower streets. For these north-south corridors, KOA Corporation engineers have proposed four “bike boulevards” that will be designed to minimize automobile volume and speed, and prioritize bicycle travel. Similar treatments have been done on streets in Portland and Minneapolis, two of the most bike-friendly cities in the US. A pilot for such treatment has also been implemented on Pasadena’s North Marengo Ave. between Orange Grove and Washington. In addition, DOT director Dilluvio indicated that several existing streets with bike lanes are slated to be repainted with buffered bike lanes when they’re up for resurfacing. Buffered bike lanes increase a cyclist’s comfort and safety by providing a painted “buffer zone” between the bike lanes and other traffic lanes.
This proposed network of bikeways is not perfect. Several advocates noted that the planners seem to have paid little attention to modifying intersections. Most collisions take place at intersections, and less experienced bike riders who feel comfortable in a protected bike lane mid-block will find themselves unprotected when they get to busy intersections. This may reduce potential ridership, and hence the purpose of the protected bike lane. Also, there was apparently little effort to choose key corridors that would directly connect with any of the city’s six Metro Gold Line stations, meaning commuters, shoppers, or visitors who take the Gold Line won’t be right next to the best bike routes to and from Gold Line stations. There are still gaps: Northwest Pasadena and East Pasadena get little attention, though these bikeways are only part of the larger bike plan. Finally there has, as yet, been little thought given to a system of wayfinding signage to help bicyclists navigate the proposed bike-friendly network of routes through town. I am hopeful that there will be opportunity to address these issues when the entire bike plan comes up for public comment.
I have to say that these proposed bikeways, if they are funded and constructed, have the potential to be a significant step in the right direction for Pasadena, making the city a leader in active transportation in the San Gabriel Valley. Soon it will be time for Pasadena’s elected officials to resist the inevitable boo-birds and anti-bike lane NIMBYs who will oppose any change in the current car-centric design of Pasadena’s streets and approve these proposed bikeways. PasCSC will have to mobilize its supporters to provide support for the plan. A healthier, safer, greener, even happier city awaits this pending test of community mobilization and city leadership.