Making Alhambra a bike-friendly city

Do you have a bike in the garage but never ride it because you think Alhambra’s streets are too dangerous? Recently, I dusted off my bike and decided to revisit biking. But I found that it was still a frightening experience. It made me wonder why the city does not try and make Alhambra more bike friendly. 

The question of making Alhambra safer for biking was put to Mayor Gary Yamauchi at his last town hall meeting.

“All of our sister cities have bike lanes and we have none,” Alhambra resident Bertha Rivera said at the meeting. “So with all of the redevelopment going on and the many families that will be moving into our city, what about us old folks that want to ride our bikes and want some safety?“

The mayor responded by saying that the issue has been presented to the city council on a number of occasions. Explaining why the use of bike lanes has not been pursued, Yamauchi said he and “several other council members” feel that bike-riders in Alhambra have not been observing basic traffic laws. “Until the bike riders themselves can follow the traffic laws, it would be difficult for us or at least for me to create bike lanes to serve their purpose,” Yamauchi said.

I thought the mayor might have more to say on the subject so I called him a couple of weeks later and asked if he would be open to meeting with Vincent Chang, president of the West San Gabriel Bike Coalition, and myself to discuss the possibility of a bike plan for Alhambra. The mayor said he was open-minded to the idea, but would need some facts to be convinced. So on May 2, Chang and I met with Yamauchi and gave him our pitch on the need for a bike plan in Alhambra.

Chang explained that a bike plan is the first step for a city to begin a process that would provide bike lanes and routes for the community to use to commute to work, go shopping, or just ride around and enjoy the neighborhoods. Times are changing and more people are turning to bike riding as a result of rising gas prices, the growing movement to buy locally, and the need to get in some healthy exercise.

In response, the mayor shared his recent thoughts on bike lanes. “Since this was brought up at the town hall meeting, I have been especially aware of watching bicycle riders, and every time I see something happen I think to myself, if there was a bike lane, would that have happened?”

Chang told the mayor that federal grant money is available to help with the process. He gave an example in which the City of Long Beach received $11 million in grants to provide new bicycle lanes, and training and education to the public and staff. Long Beach has also experimented with “sharrows,” lanes that are shared by both cars and bicycles, and has had great success bringing bicyclists to the downtown shopping areas.

“Putting in sharrows, signs and bike lanes is a relatively low cost to the city,” Chang said. “What we find is people become more aware and it helps educate both the riders and the drivers.”

The mayor took notes and seemed interested in moving the process forward. He suggested that we make a presentation to the Transportation Commission at the next meeting to be held on July 13 at the City Hall conference room at 7 pm. The Los Angeles County Bike Coalition will give a presentation along with local advocacy groups. Members of the public are welcome to come and participate. The Transportation Commission would then make a report to the council for further consideration.

The discussion of a bike plan comes at a timely moment, as there is a growing movement throughout Southern California to address the issue of alternative transportation. This March, the City of Los Angeles adopted the 2010 Los Angeles Bicycle Plan. The 2010 Bicycle Plan designates 1,680 miles of bikeway facilities and proposes three new bicycle networks. Meanwhile in Alhambra, James Rojas and Tina Zeng have recently formed Alhambra Beyond Cars.

City Manager Julio Fuentes, who has noticed the increase of bike riders in the city, said he is supportive of making Alhambra more bike friendly. “As we develop the visionary plans for the future involving mass transit, one of the components will be the bicycle,” Fuentes said. “I think a bike plan is great idea and I would like to sit down with the bike coalitions and work together to develop it for Alhambra.”

So don’t put that old bike on Craigslist yet. You just might find yourself deciding to go shopping or eating in Downtown Alhambra by riding your bike instead of driving your car. Time will tell.

14 thoughts on “Making Alhambra a bike-friendly city”

  1. I stumbled on this article while researching City of Alhambra Bike laws and bicycle rights online. I am curious about the status of your benevolent efforts to inspire our car-friendly city to consider those with less metal protection and whom use less gas and more calories.

    A little background I am mid-life mom who has been an avid bike rider for the past six years. My son joins in too. Recently he had started riding his bike to his new school in South Pasadena who has an awesome idea to keep the bikes secure until the end of the school day. He was in heaven and even started joining up with his like-minded new friends for after school gatherings.

    I start all my ride’s from my home in Alhambra because I think that’s the point of riding …. to save gas. I ride “Legally” and therefore dangerously across three lanes of eastbound Main Street at the west end of the CIty.

    My son unfortunately was choosing what seemed to him a safer route a couple of weeks ago. He rode across a crosswalk. He was hit and dragged twenty feet. He was wearing his helmut – luckily. Happily, and miraculously, he is still alive and escaped relatively unscathed. On the police report it was identified he was in violation of the City’s vehicular code. My son was astonished. He was doubly upset that the fact he was dragged and that the driver didn’t immediately stop. The noise of his bike being sucked under the vehicle and into the wheel-well (along with my son) and the resultant sound of metal-on-pavement was probably what saved his life. That and the fact that with only three wheels hitting the pavement the driver perhaps could not accelerate? I don’t know for sure as I was not at the scene.

    Although I feel like it is a miracle that my son is still alive and relatively well I am upset too. Naturally he is hesitant to even consider riding again. I am curious about any progress in the City Master Bike Plan. Let me know?

    1. @Toby: I’m glad to hear that your son is relatively unscathed after his accident.

      The City is set to release a draft of its bike plan this week and city staff are officially presenting it to the City Council next Monday @530 pm in the Library meeting room. Join us at that meeting. The City Council needs to see that Alhambrans care, otherwise the bicycle plan may very well die and the city will not spend additional city resources on it. A lack of interest would send a message that we do not prioritize bicycling as a viable mode of transportation and would rather see scarce city resources spent on other programs.

      http://www.alhambrasource.org/announcements/what-bicycle-master-plan

      I’m not giving legal advice here, but my understanding is that bicycles are vehicles and required to follow the same rules of the road as cars. Generally speaking, we are supposed to ride on the road (not the sidewalk), stop at stop signs and stop lights along with cars, and signal when turning. We’re not supposed to ride in the crosswalks, although we can ride alongside them, as we cross intersections.

      Alhambra has a title dedicated to bicycles in its municipal code: http://www.amlegal.com/nxt/gateway.dll/California/alhambra/titlexbicycles?f=templates$fn=altmain-nf.htm$3.0

  2. Maria Eugenia Saez

    Vincent Chang has been very effective in promoting this bike-lifestyle as a healthy alternative; this is my gift for him
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLtl-dc_wbs

  3. As a longtime Alhambra resident, I am happy to see this issue being put before our mayor and city council. If Alhambra put in bike lanes, my family and I would love to get out to explore our city on two wheels instead of four. Bicycling brings such a different perspective than just whizzing by in a car. I’m sure many local establishments would benefit from being noticed by a new customer base. I fail to see how this wouldn’t be a win-win for the whole community, as it has been in numerous other cities throughout southern California who have installed bike-friendly measures.

  4. Thanks for taking a lead on making Alhambra a bike-friendly city Michael. This is very timely. The Federal government is heavily promoting bike transportation now and is funding a U.S. Bicycle Route System (bike highways). Perhaps Alhambra can get some federal grants.

    I’ll readily admit that I usually end up riding on some sidewalks when I ride my bike around. Some spots are a bit too dangerous for my liking such as where Glendon crosses Atlantic. And Ramona can be frightening along the stretch that goes by Ramona Convent.

    I suggest that the bicycle plan connect the schools. Most neighborhoods have a school so connecting the schools will go a long way of connecting the neighborhoods. The bike routes will also have a built-in population of users.

    Also, long-term I think the plan should be to grade separate bicycles from autos to make the routes even safer.

  5. I’m glad that Mayor Yamauchi has an open mind regarding bike lanes in Alhambra, but dissapointed that he and other city council members blames bike riders for not following traffic rules, but the reality is with city-government resistance to bikers, bikers end up having to do whatever they can to survive traffic – traffic that in large part was created by over development & forgetting bikers & pedestrains (Alhambra is DEFINATELY NOT A PEDESTRAIN FRIENDLY CITY, I would say it is “ANTI-PEDETRAIN, ANTI-BIKE). But wait, does’nt our Constitution provide “by the people, for the people?” So why should we be held hostages by an antipedestrain, anti-bike City Council; maybe it’s time to elect officials that support pedestrain & bike communities.

    1. I don’t think you are making a legit argument when you say that this city is not pedestrian friendly and is somehow ANTI-pedestrian and ANTI-biking.

      We have miles of sidewalks, good crossing guards near schools and lots of safety features. Bicycles are prohibited from ALL sidewalks in the city. The reality is that if you want to ride a bicycle in Alhambra you can very easily do it in a safe and fun manner. You can also walk to many cool places quite easily and many of us do.

      Unless you back up your claims with some real-world examples it is hard to take your argument seriously.

      Parts of Alhambra are not well planned in my view of development. I do not feel safe riding a bicycle to the giant Kohls store, the Main street corridor is very dangerous to ride bicycles due to the curb cuts and lack of cycling space. But the idea here is to find a way to improve this.

  6. Mike Lawrence, you really are a community contributer. That’s great that you are not just writing about but actually doing something. I have a bike that has been sitting in the garage for two years. I think I will take it for a spin and see the city. Thanks for getting involved and taking action.

  7. To keep updated on the Alhambra Transportation Committee presentation on July 13, join the West San Gabriel Valley Bicycle Coalition on Google Groups. The link is: http://groups.google.com/group/wsgvbc

    Would you like to see better biking opportunities in other cities in the west San Gabriel Valley such as Temple City, Rosemead, El Monte, Monterey Park? Chime in! On Facebook? Friend WSGVBC at http://www.facebook.com/bikeSGV.

  8. Thank you Mike and Vincent.
    My name is Carlos Morales, Founder of the EASTSIDE BIKE CLUB, a community bike club that host two bike rides a week. Very often during our rides our trek travels to and often times thru the City of Alhambra. We have been doing so for the past three years now and have rarely seen bike riders not following traffic laws…. Im not saying it does not happen however, there are far to many motorist not following the traffic laws. “Shouldn’t the City of Alhambra curtail the use of automobiles an makes everyone walk?”

    Many people think we are crazy riding to Alhambra. It is no secret that this city has a reputation or stigma of having bad drivers. Our club has been blessed not to have accidents, we credit this to “Safe and Defensive Bike Riding Skills.” Im not saying it’s never going to happen but we do everthing we can to prevent it from happening. The STREETS are Public streets and cyclist have the same rights as motorist to use these streets PERIOD!

    The City of Alhambra has taken a partial step in the right direction when they passed an ordinance to prohibit bike riders on the sidewalk of busy business corridors and have posted several signs along those busy corridors alerting cyclist of the ordinance and warn cyclist of a traffic citation. What Alhambra COMPLETLY MISSED is posting signage in the same busy business corridors inwhich cyclist are now part of traffic – Simple signs stating “Share the Road” and “Give Cyclist 3 Feet” will be a step in the right direction to educating motorist.

    Alhambra Police as well as many other Law Enforcement agencies should have a Bike sensitive training module within their departments. As more and more cyclist take to the streets, they need to know the law! There has been times when officers in this and other cities get on their public address system on their cars and make an announcement to ride in single file or ask us to ride in the gutter. This is completely wrong and places cyclist in a greater danger.

    Be on the lookout for us on the July 4th as we travel to Alhambra once again for our Annual ride to Almansor Park. As all of you know the streets are congested all around the park. We will ride safely thru traffic to and from the Fireworks Spectacular.

    If anyone wants to join our rides look us up on FACEBOOK “EASTSIDE BIKE CLUB” or call us at 323/572-8211.

    it would be difficult for us or at least for me to create bike lanes to serve their purpose,” Yamauchi said.

  9. Our elected officials ought to get out or maybe read more. I was in Barcelona, Sevilla, and Paris and they clearly had dedicated bike lanes with traffic lights as well as pedestrian lights (in Barcelona). Alhambra is not the size of these cities, but wouldn’t be easier then to develop a plan given the more simple street layout?

  10. So if we have cyclists following all rules then we get bike paths? Sounds like a great trade to me!

  11. Great article, Mike! I applaud the development of a comprehensive bike plan for the City of Alhambra, including the creation of clearly marked, on-street bicycle lanes. The health and environmental benefits of bicycling are already well-documented. Other cities throughout the U.S. have found that well-designed bike lanes encourage bicycling as a means of transportation, promote a safer and more orderly flow of traffic, encourage bicyclists to ride in the lawful direction (with the flow of traffic), and reduce the chance that motorists will stray into cyclists’ path of travel. The benefit-to-cost ratio is something like 5 to 1. Let’s make it happen in Alhambra!

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