When I see a street resurfaced, especially a street that desperately needs a bike lane, a glimmer of hope stirs within me that maybe, just maybe, the street will be restriped to accommodate bikes. This foolish glimmer of hope is usually dashed, as the local DOT simply returns the street to the same old, unsafe car-centric design it had before.
Case in point: the recent resurfacing of Sierra Madre Villa Blvd in East Pasadena between Rosemead Blvd and Sierra Madre Blvd.
The street is marked as a “bike route” with a couple of “share the road” signs, but hardly anybody rides it because automobile speeds average about 40 mph, and it’s designed for automobile speed, not bike or pedestrian safety. The street would require some minor re-design to accommodate bike lanes, as I’ll demonstrate below, but there is room for them and the street is a good candidate for bike lanes because it would close a gap between nearby streets that have bike lanes and it is the main route connecting the the neighborhood to the nearby Sierra Madre Villa Gold Line transit station.
This station is the major bus and light rail hub in the area, and is slated to be a bike share station when Metro eventually expands its bike share program to Pasadena. You would think Pasadena DOT would use the resurfacing as an ideal opportunity to redesign the street for multimodal commuting and safety at minimal cost. But you would be wrong.
Sierra Madre Villa Blvd is a north-south arterial that heads up the hill from the Gold Line station to New York Drive in Altadena (which has buffered bike lanes). As it heads north, it intersects with N. Rosemead Blvd (which has bike lanes) and Sierra Madre Blvd. (which also has bike lanes). Currently, the street has 2 travel lanes in each direction (one 10-foot and 1 12-foot), a 10-foot center turn lane, and 2 10-foot parking lanes on each side. The southbound side is residential with a library at Rosemead Bl. The northbound side has an LDS church and an apartment complex, both of which have ample off-street parking. The northbound side is the most critical for some kind of bike lane, because of the large speed differential between 40mph cars and bicycles heading up the hill.
Below I lay out the current configuration, then offer two alternatives: one that removes on-street parking from the northbound side and provides buffered bike lanes in both directions (option 1), and another that keeps on-street parking but narrows the parking lane and one of the 12-foot travel lanes to provide sharrows on the downhill side and a bike lane on the northbound side (option 2). Neither one of these options would have been cost prohibitive.
Why didn’t DOT consider more bike friendly alternatives for Sierra Madre Villa, especially considering their stated desire for Pasadena to rival Long Beach for bike friendliness? I have several theories, but one is that DOT staff tends to pay more attention to bike infrastructure in the gentrifying downtown area than in East Pasadena, a less glamorous part of town.
It’s a shame, because this was a real missed opportunity. DOT needs to know that people on bikes in East Pasadena deserve safer streets, too.