Sometimes it is easy to forget the power of people to bring about change. But yesterday, the Pasadena Municipal Services Committee responded to pressure brought by the city’s new Complete Streets Coalition and brought the Crown city a step closer to real substantive change in its infrastructure. The committee rejected the DOT’s current proposed bike plan and called on the city’s DOT to come back with a “more ambitious” plan that relies more on protected bike lanes and cycle tracks than the current plan. As Council member Terry Tornek put it, “We need to grab a hold of this and not be timid.”
According to Wes Reutimann of the Downtown Pasadena Neighborhood Association (DPNA), Mayor Bogaard and City Council members Tornak and Margaret McAustin, who serve on the Municipal Services Committee were unanimous in support of a bolder plan that would put Pasadena at the forefront of bike-friendliness in Southern California. They also expressed a willingness to devote resources to getting a new bike plan implemented. This exciting news comes just a week after a complete streets forum in the city sharply critiqued the lack of safe bike infrastructure in Pasadena and the city’s relatively weak proposed bike plan, and represents, as Reutimann emailed the Complete Streets Coalition listserv, “a literal sea change insofar as bicycling planning/policy in Pasadena is concerned.”
This sea change is good news, and it may be due in part to the formation of the Pasadena Complete Streets Coalition (PasCSC), and certainly is a result of the advocates who showed up at the committee meeting and raised awareness about the need for better bike infrastructure in the city. Finally, credit is due to Mayor Bogaard and Council members Tornak and McAustin who recognized the shortcomings of the old plan and all of whom spoke strongly in favor of a bold step toward bike-friendliness.
It will be especially important for the CSC to remain vigilant and continue to organize, develop a clear set of priorities, outreach to the community, and develop a long-term communication strategy. Make no mistake, there will be push-back from some car-dependent sectors of the community, so the CSC will have to be prepared to mobilize people to continue to make the case when the revised plan comes before the City Council in the future. We’ll have to see the actual revised plan before judging how serious the city is about its commitment to bike-friendliness. The CSC must make sure the city’s revised plan does not overlook the less glamorous areas of the city, such as Northwest Pasadena and East Pasadena; it must make sure any network of bike lanes provides connectivity to transit nodes, business districts, shopping, parks, and schools; and it must be vigilant that the city is in fact providing sufficient resources to make the entire plan a reality over a reasonable amount of time.
With these caveats in mind, this development is a most welcome bit of news. I have renewed hope for Pasadena as a city that can take a leadership role in the region’s transportation revolution, in which living beyond the automobile is one step closer to reality for more people.