Friday evening, BikeSGV, the local bike advocacy organization in the San Gabriel Valley, celebrated the grand opening of its new headquarters in El Monte and gave an update on the area’s regional bike master plan. About 60 people attended the event despite Friday’s heavy rain. The event offered an opportunity to celebrate progress on the SGV’s regional bike master plan and provide the community with an opportunity to hear about the ambitious plans for the new headquarters.
The open house included food, music, and a silent auction to raise money for the new headquarters. BikeSGV director Javier Hernandez touted plans for the new headquarters, housed at the former site of Mulhall elementary in El Monte, for bike safety classes, bike maintenance workshops, a new bike co-op at Fletcher Park, as well as the continuation of BikeSGV’s regular Bike Train community rides and its Women on Wheels (WoW) group rides. The superintendent of the El Monte school district was on hand, as well as staff representatives from the office of County Supervisor Hilda Solis. The new headquarters, located less than a block from the Rio Hondo Bikeway, has the potential to be a center of bike culture in the region.
Hernandez also reported on the progress of the regional bike master plan for the San Gabriel Valley. The bike master plan is absolutely crucial to the efforts to build safer streets in the region and make bicycle transportation a more realistic possibility for more people. Central to this effort has been a push by BikeSGV to get city governments to support the first phase of this plan. I attended the Baldwin Park city council meeting where the bike plan was approved last month and I was impressed with BikeSGV’s ability to bring people from the community—especially youth—to attend the meeting and speak on behalf of the plan. Four of the five cities involved in phase 1 of the plan have officially signed on (Baldwin Park, Monterey Park, San Gabriel, and El Monte), and the remaining city (South El Monte) will vote on whether to support the plan in early 2015. I hope they do.
There are also plans for a “Phase 2” of the regional bike plan that includes five cities along the corridor of the Gold Line extension from Pasadena to Azusa. In addition, BikeSGV is working with Metro to schedule two CicLAvia-style open streets events for 2015 and 2016 in the San Gabriel Valley.
Let’s face it, the San Gabriel Valley has been a backwater when it comes to bike-friendly infrastructure. As someone who lives and bikes in this mostly bike-unfriendly zone, I look with envy on what other SoCal communities are doing. Despite opposition from anti-bike troglodytes like LA council member Gil Cedillo, LA is making strides toward multimodal transportation, Santa Monica has seen its bike mode share grow by leaps and bounds, and Long Beach aspires to be America’s most bike-friendly city with its impressive network of bike lanes. By comparison, it has been frustrating to see the San Gabriel Valley, with a few small exceptions, lag behind these other areas of the Southland in making the streets safer for people on bikes. But Friday’s event is an indication that things may be changing.
I’ll admit I’m impatient for change. We need more bike infrastructure, better bike infrastructure, and we needed it yesterday. But it’s gratifying to see that after so many years of inaction, the San Gabriel Valley may finally become more accommodating for people on bikes. Getting the various cities to sign on to a regional bike plan has been no small feat, and BikeSGV activists are to be congratulated for their hard work. I’m hopeful that this new headquarters will enable the group to build on this foundation and grow the bike culture of the region. Is it too much to hold out hope that we may be on the cusp of real infrastructure changes in the San Gabriel Valley? As far as I’m concerned, these positive steps BikeSGV is taking to make the region a better, safer place to ride are very good news, indeed.