The area around Pasadena’s Huntington Memorial Hospital (HMH) has a great deal of potential for bike-friendly infrastructure and transit-oriented development.
In previous posts, we’ve provided an overview of Pasadena’s proposed bike plan and offered suggestions for bike lanes to the north and south of the Sierra Madre Villa Gold Line station. Today we shift to the area around the Del Mar and Fillmore Gold Line stations near HMH. The Metro stations themselves provide ample bike parking, and there are numerous interesting destinations within a short bicycling distance from the stations, but the city must provide more bike lanes on key routes leading to the Del Mar and Fillmore stations if it is to meet its goals of increased bicycle mode share and decreased carbon emissions in this part of Pasadena.
The good news is that Pasadena currently has bike lanes on Marengo Avenue south of Del Mar and on Glenarm east of Marengo, and plans to add a bike lane on Pasadena Avenue (above), a crucial north-south route west of the Gold Line that will provide bicyclists with safe access to HMH and the west end of Old Town. The city is to be commended for these efforts at creating bike-friendly infrastructure on these streets, including a generous sprinkling of bike racks on sidewalks in the area, so there are plenty of places to lock up your bike when you ride these streets.
The bad news is that the city continues to rely too heavily on its “bike routes” and “enhanced bike routes” for much of its planned bike infrastructure expansion in the area. As we’ve seen, these routes usually allow automobile parking on the road’s shoulder or curb, creating a danger zone for cyclists as they are pinched between the parked cars and moving vehicles in the traffic lanes. Years ago I had a bad experience while riding on such a route, squeezed between a truck and a parked car, so perhaps I’m particularly sensitive to this problem, but it highlights the serious safety compromise that is made when parked cars are given priority over bike lanes. It also highlights a key problem for non-car mobility, namely, that the existing and proposed bike lanes in this part of Pasadena do not form a contiguous network and do not connect directly to and from the Metro stations.
Riding my bike in the area around HMH last week, despite my years of cycling experience, I had to be an aggressive urban street warrior when I was riding in the heavy weekday traffic on streets like Raymond Avenue or Del Mar (a “bike route,” above). Forget about Fair Oaks Ave. (see picture below) or California Blvd. (another “bike route” east of Marengo), where I opted for the relative safety of the sidewalks and had to crawl at low speed around pedestrians. These “bike routes” may be quite comfortable for cyclists on early Sunday mornings when there’s little traffic, but if people are to be expected to use them for commuting, they have got to feel safe to ride during normal weekday traffic, and, to me, they don’t.
Because “bike routes” and “enhanced bike routes” provide signage, but not protected space for cyclists, they will do little to entice less aggressive or experienced riders. The bottom line is, if cities don’t make riding safe and comfortable for a broad swath of people (not just experienced cyclists), and don’t make it safe, easy, and comfortable for this wider range of people to access transit stations by bicycle, they will not see significant increases in the number of people using bicycles for daily transportation in this part of the city. This is a shame, because the medical center surrounding HMH is filled with many young health-conscious doctors, nurses, and medical employees (see picture below) who could take advantage of a network of safe bike lanes connecting their workplaces with nearby transit stops.