Recently, a stretch of roadway near my home was repaved, and bike lanes were installed. As readers of this blog know, I’m a big fan of bike lanes and we have so few of them in this part of the San Gabriel Valley that I couldn’t wait to try this one out.
The lanes are on North Baldwin Avenue between Orange Grove Ave. and Foothill Blvd in Arcadia. Now, I’ve critiqued Arcadia before as one of the most bike-unfriendly cities in the region, so the addition of even a short stretch of bike lane should be most welcome.
I had the perfect opportunity to use them the other day, when I met a friend for lunch at Din Tai Fung restaurant on South Baldwin Avenue in Arcadia. As I headed down North Baldwin on the bike lanes, I was glad to have my own space on the road, and I didn’t feel forced into the “door zone.” So, the good news is, the bike lanes are fantastic … as far as they go.
The bad news is, the bike lanes abruptly end at the busy intersection of Baldwin and Foothill Blvd., which abuts busy on and off ramps to the westbound 210 freeway. It’s an odd intersection, because if you head straight, you’re going to be on the 210 freeway, so if you want to continue heading South on Baldwin, you’ve got to turn left at this busy intersection (an intimidating process for less experienced cyclists), and head east on Foothill about 200 yards until you can make a right turn and continue south on Baldwin again. Traffic on Foothill is heavy and fast (45 MPH), and there is little room and (of course) no bike lane. Once back on southbound Baldwin, the rest of which lacks bike lanes, you have to go under the 210 freeway and contend with the eastbound 210 on- and offramp traffic. If it sounds a little confusing and intimidating, it is.
Once past the 210 freeway, southbound Baldwin Avenue has a wide shoulder, which is a good thing, because traffic is heavy and traveling at a good 40-45 MPH, past the L.A. County Arboretum, the Santa Anita Racetrack, and the Santa Anita Mall. Baldwin is thus a major arterial route serving these three heavily trafficked sites. This stretch of Baldwin has plenty of room for bike lanes on the wide shoulder, but as yet there are none.
However, just as you head south of the Arboretum, the road narrows and the shoulder is taken by parked cars, forcing cyclists to either “take the lane” in 40 MPH traffic, or ride the sidewalk. Fortunately, midday traffic was not too heavy, though I was nearly “Jerry Browned” by a minivan that passed within inches of me so he could beat me by several seconds to a red light at Baldwin and Huntington Drive.
South of Huntington Drive, the road narrows further, and the shoulder disappears completely, and unless you’re very confident and ride in the middle of the lane, your best bet is to retreat to the sidewalk. However, you’ll find that Arcadia is no more friendly to pedestrians than it is to bicyclists, as there are no crosswalks between Fairview Ave and Duarte Road. And you can forget any bike racks anywhere in the vicinity.
This is a neighborhood that marginalizes anyone not wrapped in 2,000-lbs of steel. Which is a shame, because there are lots of small businesses and residences within walking and bicycling distance of this area, and making it more bike- and pedestrian-friendly would be good for business. The Baldwin Av./Duarte Rd. neighborhood could be much safer and much more appealing to young people who want to bike or stroll around. The city is also part of the emerging “626” cultural scene, including hosting the “626 Night Market.” City leaders need to understand that many of the young people who are part of this 626 scene are into bicycling, and develop a comprehensive bike plan. The challenge is how to get the blind mice leading the city of Arcadia to see.
Bottom line: I’m thrilled that North Baldwin has its short stretch of bike lanes, and the trip was well worth it for the delicious dumplings at DinTai Fung. But my guess is almost no one will use the new bike lanes on North Baldwin until and unless they connect with more bike and ped-friendly infrastructure that actually goes someplace. In order to make sure that bike lanes actually form a usable network, instead of suddenly appearing for half a mile, then disappearing, you need a bike plan. Unfortunately, Arcadia’s leaders voted against commissioning a bike plan last year, despite the fact that the city is going to get a new Gold Line station next year, and desperately needs
better bike infrastructure. Unfortunately, at the present time the city’s leaders seem stuck in the 1950s auto-only mentality.