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Monrovia’s Bike Plan

Monrovia Bike Plan

Monrovia Bike Plan

Tuesday night, toward the end of a loooooong Monrovia City Council meeting, agenda item AR-4: “Monrovia Bicycle Master Plan” finally came before the Council.  After a brief summary of the proposed bike master plan by the city’s public works manager, Sean Sullivan, the floor was opened for comments.  I had hoped there wouldn’t be too much NIMBY opposition to the plan’s proposed bike lanes and in fact all the public comments were positive.  A number of members of “Move Monrovia,” the local bike advocacy group, attended and spoke in support of the plan.  Monrovia cyclist Robert Lewis, for example, eloquently discussed the need for better bike infrastructure in town.  “The fact is, people like me will ride regardless,” he told the Mayor and Councilmembers.  “What we need to do is lower the barriers for the rest of the community to ride to the grocery store once a week or to leave their car at home and ride with their children to Monroe Elementary once a week.”  After several other speakers praised the plan, the council members voted unanimously to adopt the new bike plan.  After such a long struggle to get this plan going, there is a tremendous sense of achievement.

The new plan, drafted by Alta Planning, is a huge step for this community.  It addresses a number of critical transportation issues in Monrovia.  It extends Class II bike lanes to Monrovia High School and along Chestnut in the western half of the city, as well as Central Ave between Mayflower and Myrtle and Duarte Ave between Montain and California.  Existing bike lanes on Olive Ave. by Monroe Elementary will be upgraded to buffered bike lanes, offering added protection for students and their families.  The plan also proposes more bike racks and end of trip facilities (such as repair and hydration stations) and promotes bike safety education programs and community rides as a way of encouraging a shift away from the automobile monoculture.  In all, there is much to like about this plan.

I do have some concerns, however.  First, the plan relies heavily on Class III “bicycle routes” which may or may not mean anything more than sharrows and increased signage.  This is especially the case on the area around the new Gold Line station on Mayflower, California, and Pomona streets.  If the city makes these “bike routes” real neighborhood greenways, with infrastructure designed to lower speeds and divert cars to other streets, then it will be an major improvement and encourage the “interested but concerned” majority to venture out on their bikes.  Otherwise, the improvement will be negligible.

On a number of important streets the plan recommends only “study” of either Class II bike lanes or Class IV separated bike lanes, but no timetable for study, let alone implementation.  On a number of these streets, the only way to fit bike lanes would be to remove on-street parking or a “road diet.”  Indeed, a number of city officials have remarked about the city’s “narrow” streets being a barrier to bike infrastructure.  I fear that, instead of seeing the streets of this old streetcar suburb as perfect for a rethinking of the primacy of the automobile, the needs of people on foot and on bikes will be sacrificed to the continued domination of the most inefficient transportation mode–cars.  In other words, the plan puts off the hard choices for a later date (which may be why there was no opposition at the Council meeting).  As we learned in Temple City recently, once you start asking motorists to park a little further away, or take 30 seconds longer to get through town, they will scream bloody murder.  Inconvenience them just a little, call into question their God-given right to drive everywhere and park wherever they want and they’re ready to string up those awful bikers.

In sum, Monrovia has taken an important step toward the creation of a city grid that works for all road users.  The task of organizing and lobbying remains, however, and the hard work of growing and mobilizing a constituency for more ambitious transformation must also commence in earnest.  Fortunately, the advocates are in place, and have a victory under their belt.

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Pardon the Interruption

Much has been happening lately, which is one reason I haven’t been posting as regularly as I’d like.  For one, the resumption of the academic year has filled my plate to overflowing with things-to-do.  Second, I’ve been tweeting many of my bike-related thoughts lately, which does not substitute for the longer prose enabled by blogging, but does sometimes allow me to vent, which I have noticed sometimes leaves me less-compelled to vent on my blog.  For example, a recent anti-bike op-ed in the Los Angeles Times that might have sent me a-blogging in frustration, sent me instead to the twitter-verse, where I commiserated with other like-minded tweeters and shared my thoughts there.  The ability to quickly share my thoughts in a time-stressed day and engage in a conversation with others about such issues has its advantages too.  Moreover, the ability of twitter to direct my comments toward a party (in this case to the newspaper) has an advantage over the blog, which, I fear, sometimes goes out into the ether where no one hears it.

All of which is my elaborate way of apologizing for having been absent from the blog for the last few weeks.  It probably won’t be the last time.

As I said, much has been happening lately.  I’m continuing to get to work daily by a multimodal bike-and-bus commute, 22 miles from my home.  As a result, it’s now been almost 5 1/2 months since I filled my car’s gas tank, and I still have about a quarter tank left.  Compared to how much I used to drive, that’s easily 2 tons of GHGs I haven’t pumped into the atmosphere, hundreds of dollars saved, and countless calories not added to my waistline.  I’ve adjusted my schedule to take the bus, and recently purchased a tablet so I can work online while I’m on the bus, making my longer commute time more productive and, since I have many of my books and most of my paperwork on it, lightening the load for the bike portion of my commute considerably.  I’ve become more convinced than ever that we need to promote transit as well as bicycling if we’re going to have a chance of reclaiming our cities and our lives from the tyranny of the automobile, and while these are both daunting challenges, they are definitely doable if we summon the political will.

I’ve been continuing to work in my community to make the streets more bike-friendly.  I recently received a generous mini-grant from my local Rotary club to host a bike safety event for kids with “Walk n’ Rollers” in my hometown next spring, and we’ll be promoting our second annual bike-to-school day as well.  I’ve been working with the PTA and other parents at my daughter’s middle school to purchase some quality new bike racks to make it easier for more kids who bike to school to lock up their bikes safely.  The Pasadena Complete Streets Coalition is up-and-running, and PasCSC is set to have a meeting in a couple of weeks to discuss strategies for getting the city’s DOT to put in more bike lanes, cycletracks and other bike-friendly street treatments.  The university where I teach is also making strides, announcing recently that at least one new bike path is under consideration after last year’s tragic death of a bicycling student on a campus roadway, and a new student bike advocacy group is under formation on the campus that shows lots of positive energy and promise.  Finally, some local advocates in the neighboring city of Monrovia are organizing with Bike SGV to advise the city to install some bike lanes around town as the city prepares to get its very own light rail transit line in 2015.  I’ve been heartened by this energy and enthusiasm to make our streets safer for bicyclists and it makes me hopeful for the future.  As these advocacy efforts begin to bear fruit, I’ll be blogging (and tweeting) about them, so stay tuned.

Greening Monrovia

Some time in 2015, foothill communities in the west San Gabriel Valley will get a light rail transit connection when phase 1 of the Gold Line extension opens from Pasadena to Azusa.  Stations have been designed and are being built, track is being laid, and in some cases, mixed-use condominium and apartment developments are being built nearby.  These developments, commonly referred to as “transit oriented development” (TOD), are designed to enable residents to commute by transit rather than automobile, reducing traffic, pollution, and GHG emissions.  In order for the Gold Line to effectively reduce traffic, pollution, and parking hassles, it must be designed in a way that enables people to access it by means other than the automobile.  To this end, cities along the Gold Line extension must begin to provide a network of safe pedestrian and bike access to the stations.

Chris shows me around the future Gold Line station in Monrovia where there are plans for bike lanes.

Chris shows me around the future Monrovia Gold Line station where the city could add bike lanes.

Recently I met with Chris, a local bicycle advocate from Monrovia, who took me around town to discuss the city’s bike plan and ride other streets where the city  could add bike lanes.

We rode from Colorado Blvd to Magnolia, then Magnolia south of the 210 freeway to Pomona Ave. where one of the new TODs is being built.  From there we rode to the site of the new Gold Line station, where Chris tells me there are plans for a new bike path running parallel to the Gold Line route east to the San Gabriel River bike path.  If this is true, it would provide a wonderful recreation and commuting route in this part of the San Gabriel Valley.

Monrovia Bike Plan

Monrovia’s bike plan (see map, above) shows bike lanes planned for installation on Colorado Blvd. (blue dotted line), while a class III “bike route” is planned around the Gold Line station for Mountain, Duarte, and Shamrock (solid purple line).  No bike path is shown anywhere in the plan.  As I’ve discussed in previous posts, the problem with class III bike routes is they usually do nothing to reconfigure traffic flow and provide no protected space for cyclists on the roadway.  This usually means a street gets signage indicating it is a “bike route” but little else.  On such streets, less experienced or less confident riders are unlikely to feel comfortable enough to make the switch to bike commuting.  Thus, they do little to increase bicycles as a mode share for transportation.

Chris and I next rode to Myrtle Avenue, the major north-south artery leading from the future Gold Line station to Old Town Monrovia, the city’s main shopping and entertainment district.  Chris thinks there are discussions in city hall about bike lanes on Myrtle, and, if so, this would provide the most direct route between the Gold Line and Old Town.  Chris wasn’t sure how far north the bike lanes would extend, and there are bottlenecks at several points on Myrtle, so the logistics might be tricky.  Moreover, this isn’t shown on the city’s bike plan, and it would be easy for the city to backslide and not provide bike lanes.

Even with bike lanes on Myrtle, riders would also have to negotiate the area around the on- and off-ramps to the 210 freeway and the heavy traffic around those freeway ramps.  Chris thinks a better alternative might be for the city to forego the Myrtle bike lanes, and instead reconfigure traffic on two adjacent north-south streets, turning them into one-way streets with wide bike lanes on both.  Magnolia, (just to the west of Myrtle) he argues, could be reconfigured as a southbound one-way and California (just to the east of Myrtle) a northbound one-way.  there would be enough room for buffered bike lanes on both, perhaps even double-wide bike lanes running both ways on each street.  This essentially would convert Magnolia and California into “bike boulevards” that would enable commuters to easily and safely ride their bikes to the Gold Line, reducing automobile trips and spreading the benefit of the Gold Line beyond the nearby TOD.  It would also enable residents of the TOD to bike to Old Town for entertainment, dining, and shopping.  Thus bike friendly infrastructure will also benefit Monrovia’s local businesses without adding to Old Town’s parking and traffic.

Plenty of room for bike lanes in front of Monrovia High School.

Plenty of room for bike lanes in front of Monrovia High School.

Another important link in a bike-friendly transportation network is connectivity to schools.  Currently there are no bike lanes on Colorado Blvd near the high school in Monrovia, despite the fact that there is plenty of room for them.  Narrowing traffic lanes and adding bike lanes would slow traffic speeds and increase safety in the neighborhood).  Well-marked class II bike lanes leading to Monrovia High School would encourage more young people to ride to school, and active transportation like bicycling and walking is much needed in our communities to combat the high levels of childhood obesity that is partly the result of a sedentary lifestyle.

Both of us agreed that Monrovia has great potential to be a more bike-friendly, and greener, city, but bold leadership will be needed.  Those who want safer and greener streets in Monrovia will need to organize to press the city to do the right thing.  If members of the the local community can come together and make their voices heard for bike-friendly streets, we could see some positive changes with the coming of the Gold Line to the San Gabriel Valley.  Monrovia, how much do you want safer streets?  How much do you want a greener, healthier city?

Stan’s Monrovia Bike Shop

Stan's Bike Shop openingI’ve long been a supporter of local bike shops.  They are part of the backbone of any healthy community.  A place to get your bike fixed, pick up that new light, lock, spare tube, or other accessory.  A place for riders to hang out.  And, of course, a place to buy that shiny new bike you’ve been wanting.  Local bike shop owners also contribute to their community in important ways: sponsoring rides, clubs, and other activities.  So, when a new bike shop opens, or an old one takes on a new life, as in the case of Stan’s, I think it’s cause for rejoicing.

Saturday, December 1, Stan’s Bike Shop held its grand opening under new ownership, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in front of a crowd of about 50 who gathered for the occasion.  Stan’s, a local institution on 880 N. Myrtle Ave in Monrovia, has changed owners, but didn’t change character.  New owner Carlos Morales hopes to maintain the shop’s traditional focus on local road riders, and expand the focus to include casual riders as well.   Morales promises to continue the service the shop’s old clients have come to expect, and expand his inventory to include a wider range of bikes for people of all ages.  He’s expanded the shop’s service department and added clothing, bikes, and other inventory for women.  Especially exciting to me is his commitment to reaching out to local youth, through bike safety workshops, bike rodeos, and other community events the shop will be involved in.  In short, he hopes to reach out and get more of the community on bikes.

I’m delighted to see Carlos taking ownership of Stan’s Monrovia Bike Shop.  His energy and vision have helped him start the Eastside Bike Club and helped him become an activist for the American Diabetes Association’s “Tour de Cure.”  These talents will help him in his new role as a bike shop owner.  If you’re in the Monrovia area, need a new bike, an old bike repaired, or want to find out about local bike events, stop by Stan’s on Myrtle Ave, or check out their facebook page.

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