Two wheels work

DOWNTOWN — Bicyclists on the eve of national Bike to Work Day took to the streets of Burbank on Thursday, advocating for more dedicated routes and safer road conditions.

Burbank is among the latest cities in the region to approve a collection of bikeway improvements that would make it easier to navigate from one area to the next. About 1,000 of the 100,000 people who work in Burbank regularly commute to their jobs by bicycle, city officials said.

City planners are setting their sights on a 5% target.

“At this point it’s about getting people out there and comfortable,” said Cory Wilkerson, the city’s assistant transportation planner. “Our goals are lofty, but we believe they’re reasonable.”

The recently endorsed Bicycle Master Plan should accommodate an estimated 12,000 residents who work locally but often cannot traverse areas because bike lanes end abruptly, officials said.

The 14 top-tier projects planned for the area include a 15.7-mile citywide bicycle boulevard, a San Fernando Path that picks up in Los Angeles and leads to the Downtown Burbank Metrolink Station and a southern channel from that station to Alameda Avenue.

Los Angeles County, Glendale and Pasadena are all working on their own improvement projects and master plans, with the goal to eventually forge a network of street markings and bicycle lanes to create a more livable infrastructure.

Ernie Seiler, senior recreation leader and coordinator of Friends of the Chandler Bikeway, manned one of several pit stops for riders Thursday. Volunteers and city workers at each of the stops reported more people biking to work this year than last.

“The whole idea behind Bike to Work Day is getting people to try it — even if it’s just once,” Wilkerson said. “Maybe they start riding on Fridays and then they work their way up to where they’re doing it two, three days a week.”

John Rupkalvis, of Burbank, commutes the 10 minutes from his home to work at Stereoscopic 3-D Digital Cinema. Along with other riders, he identified a recurring dilemma: While those critical of sacrificing street parking and traffic lanes point to paltry ridership, while riders argue that ridership would be higher if the streets were safer.

In particular, critics have pointed to Verdugo Avenue as a prime example of sustainability measures gone too far. The city reduced the number of lanes in each direction, added a center turn lane as well as bike lanes as part of scheduled resurfacing. Traffic officials are compiling vehicle, cyclist and pedestrian counts, as well as looking at the time it takes to travel on the resurfaced road from Olive Avenue to Hollywood Way.

“I am 100% convinced that the catch-22 we describe is one of the biggest problems we face,” Rupkalvis said. “The thing of it is most of the projects cut down on traffic and make the areas more livable.”

The highest priority project should be .7-mile route that connects the Chandler Bikeway at Mariposa Street to the downtown Metrolink Station, Rupkalvis said.

“I think we dream of a day when every other street crisscrossing the city is for bicycles and the others for cars,” he said.

Glendale officials this week allocated about $100,000 to fund a series of bicycle and pedestrian improvements, while in La Crescenta, county crews recently installed dedicated bike lanes along Foothill Boulevard.

La Cañada Flintridge officials are studying an extension of the lanes from Briggs Avenue to Alta Canyada Road, providing access to Descanso Gardens via Verdugo Boulevard.

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