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.