Former councilman Efren Moreno, on 626 Golden Streets and how Alhambra could become a bike-friendly city

18 miles of streets from Azusa to Pasadena were shut down Sunday for the 626 Golden Streets in celebration of the Metro Gold Line extension, which about 100,000 people attended, the SGV Tribune reported. Alhambra resident Efren Moreno served as the hub captain at the Irwindale station and notified community members about the specific street closures prior to the event.

The longtime bicycle advocate Moreno, 51, planted the seeds for a ciclovia-style event in the San Gabriel Valley when he was an Alhambra city councilmember from 2000 to 2004. He faced pushback when he put forth a plan to shut down a few streets near Almansor Park for families and kids to ride their bikes safely for a day. The route would have followed along a trail and creek behind the golf course, through the public works, and back onto the streets.

“I was the odd man out. [Other councilmembers] said it was too long of a route for little kids,” Moreno told the Alhambra Source. He settled for a bike rodeo event, in partnership with the Alhambra Firefighters Association, to give out more than 300 kids’ bicycle helmets for free every year during his time on City Council.

Moreno, who co-founded BikeSGV, ran into Paul Talbot, then-City Manager of Monterey Park, years later at the city's Earth Day bike ride in Monterey Park. Although Talbot had served in the Alhambra City Council at the same time as Moreno and opposed the open streets proposal, he later recognized that it was a popular idea. 

“[Talbot] came up to me and said, hey Efren, I saw this ciclovia, where they shut down the streets and everyone comes out to ride their bike. He said, I remember what you wanted to do. You're just a man ahead of his time," Moreno said.  

The vision for an open streets event in the San Gabriel Valley came to fruition when Wes Reutimann, lead organizer of the 626 Golden Streets, approached South Pasadena Mayor and then-Councilmember Michael Cacciotti with a proposal to shut down part of the 110 freeway. Cacciotti suggested that the ciclovia event could follow along the Gold Line extension instead. 

With Cacciotti's initiative, BikeSGV organizers started planning the event about two years ago in a partnership with Metro. The event, originally planned on June 26, had to be rescheduled to March 5, 2017, because of the San Gabriel fires

Connecting to the Gold Line may become easier with a proposed ACT shuttle that would take people to the South Pasadena station. A poll conducted by the Source found that over 90 percent of respondents favored the additional line.

The City Council will decide who performs a transit audit that will determine “the feasibility and expected use of an ACT shuttle to the Gold Line,” Administrative Services Director Chris Paulson said. The date has yet to be set because the Public Works Department is in the process of securing proposals from consultants, Paulson said.

Although Alhambra does not have a Gold Line stop, Moreno benefits from this transit option because he bikes to stations like South Pasadena and the East LA Civic Center to get to his final destination, such as a Dodgers Game or a meeting in downtown LA. But he wishes that Alhambra could have protected bikes lanes that connect to surrounding cities’ bike lanes, and destinations like schools and the shopping district.

He is disappointed in city leadership for not moving forward with a 2013 master plan that intended to improve cyclist safety in Alhambra. “They didn't have the desire to put forth a good plan that would bring about a safer network of bike lanes through the city. They didn't want to sacrifice anything, you know, parking or vehicle usage,” Moreno said.

Despite this challenge, Moreno encourages people to bike at any level of ability and visit BikeSGV.org to sign up for classes on bike safety. “Learn from others who are experienced and trained. It's just like learning how to drive a car. If you want to be a good safe bicyclist, do the same thing,” Moreno said. 

Moreno will keep advocating for people to coexist with each other on the streets, whether they are driving, walking, or biking.

Correction: The story was updated to attribute a quote that referred to former Alhambra City Councilman Paul Talbot. 

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