Saturday morning members of Pasadena Complete Streets Coalition were joined by Noreen Sullivan, field representative for Pasadena City Councilmember Gene Masuda, on an exploratory ride around Masuda’s District 4 in east Pasadena. PasCSC has been hosting exploratory rides for council members and their staff around Pasadena in order to raise awareness of the need for better bike infrastructure and build support for a citywide bike plan that addresses these needs. The rides are an excellent opportunity for city council members to get a first hand idea of the importance of a bike plan and the need for specific improvements. Nothing does this better than getting on a bicycle and experiencing it for yourself.
Our ride was organized by Candace Seu, an energetic volunteer for PasCSC, and took place on a gorgeous January day. The ride started off from the Sierra Madre Villa Gold Line Station, and the group discussed the need for better bike access to the station, especially the need for bike lanes on Halstead, the safest bike approach to the station from the north and east.
From Halstead, our group turned left on Rosemead Blvd, which has relatively new bike lanes for one block between Halstead and Sierra Madre Villa. We proceeded to the corner of Rosemead/Orange Grove and Sierra Madre Villa, which is a dangerous intersection for bicyclists because of design features that encourage high motor vehicle speed and have insufficient protection for cyclists. I’ve complained about this intersection before. This intersection includes a right-turn merge lane from north(west)-bound Rosemead Blvd to northbound Sierra Madre Villa. The traffic was too fast for bicyclists to feel safe because of the road design that prioritizes automobile speed over safety. Indeed, while discussing the problems of the intersection, we witnessed a cyclist riding in the bike lane get cut off by a right-turning motorist who couldn’t be bothered to slow down for the cyclist. We suggested to Sullivan that DOT redesign the right turn lane of that intersection and add green paint to the bike lane and signage to enhance motorists’ awareness of the bike lane. She seemed concerned about the problems of this intersection and promised to share those concerns with Councilmember Masuda.
From there, the group rode west on Paloma street to Craig, Craig to Villa, and Villa back to Sierra Madre Blvd. This part of the ride went mostly through quiet residential streets that are very pleasant to bike. People in this neighborhood could easily bike to schools, parks, shops, and the Gold Line, but we stressed that the major streets surrounding the neighborhood connecting to these destinations need better bike infrastructure, otherwise most people won’t feel comfortable or safe bicycling them.
The group subsequently turned left on Sierra Madre Blvd and followed it past the farmers’ market at Victory Park and Pasadena High School then east as it climbs from Eaton wash to Hastings Ranch. This portion of Sierra Madre Blvd has bike lanes, but as I’ve written before, they are narrow gutter or door zone bike lanes on a street with very fast traffic and wide traffic lanes. By narrowing those traffic lanes just a bit the city would have space for wider, buffered bike lanes, which would make this stretch of roadway much safer and more comfortable for cyclists. Since Sierra Madre Blvd is the main route to two high schools (Pasadena H.S. and LaSalle H.S.) and a major city park (Victory Park), safety for young people and families bicycling on this road is a crying need. We also raised the possibility of a multi use path in the wide median on the boulevard, and this might be a good long-term project, but the buffered bike lanes are something that can and should be done right away.
From Sierra Madre Blvd., we glided down Hastings Ranch Road from and stopped at Rosemead Blvd, where we pointed out that there was room for bike lanes, and perhaps even protected bike lanes (sometimes called “cycle tracks”) on Rosemead Blvd. We pointed out that Temple City has installed protected bike lanes on the section of Rosemead that runs through it. Wouldn’t it be great, we said, to have those protected lanes continue into Pasadena? Yes!
We concluded our tour back to the Gold Line station. I was pleased that someone from the city council member’s office was able to hear our concerns, and see for herself some of the problems related to car-centric road design in this part of Pasadena. I was also very pleased that the young people on the ride spoke up and asked for safer bike lanes for cyclists. At the end of the ride Noreen thanked us for an enjoyable and informative experience and said she would report her observations to Councilmember Masuda.
The draft bike plan for Pasadena has many positive elements–especially for downtown—but east Pasadena is relatively neglected in the plan and I hope Councilmember Masuda will insist on the Pasadena DOT addressing key problem spots in east Pasadena as part of the bike plan. Among these, the most pressing are the Halstead approach to the Gold Line station, buffered bike lanes on Sierra Madre Blvd, bike lanes on Rosemead Blvd., and the seriously dangerous intersection at Rosemead/Orange Grove and Sierra Madre Villa.
These exploratory bike rides are a wonderful way for city leaders to get out and explore their districts in a way that driving can’t. In so doing, PasCSC hopes they see the need for prioritizing an ambitious new bike plan and—most importantly—implementing it sooner rather than later. In so doing, Pasadena would move closer to its potential as a healthy, green, multimodal city.