Map highlights safe bike routes

Billy Fried has had two epiphanies: One in 2002, when he decided to share his love of kayaking with paying customers, and another in 2010, when he was inspired to create safe and eco-friendly bicycle routes through town.

Now, his bike map is a reality.

Drawn by local artist Jesse Miller, the map includes bike routes but also highlights historic architecture, community gardens and examples of public art.

Fried vetted the highlights and conceptualized routes that would show off the natural and man-made glories of Laguna as well as encourage folks to get out of four-wheel vehicles and onto bicycles.

"About two years ago, it occurred to me that one way to galvanize our community to think of Laguna Beach as bike-friendly was to create a route through town that avoided major streets that put cyclists at risk," said Fried, an avid cyclist and Transition Laguna board member. "This is not for the spandex riders that clog major city streets; it is a sight-seeing experience. My hope is that it will also reduce our parking problems. I can serve the overnight [or vacation] visitors, but wouldn't it be great if the city set up bike rentals at peripheral parking lots for day-trippers?"

The map shows two routes: The shorter one at about 5.5 miles, the other at 7.5 miles. Both routes exclude Coast Highway and discourage riding on Laguna Canyon Road, Park Avenue, Thalia Street and most of Glenneyre Street.

Along the suggested 7.5-mile loop, cyclists will see 50 works of public art, 30 historic homes, Transition Laguna gardens, and eco-sites, all of them vetted by Fried.

The section of the routes on Cliff Drive shows off Laguna's coastline, a view sure to charm environmentalists, Fried said.

"I rode by and photographed the art sites and worked with [Cultural Arts Manager] Siân Poeschl," Fried said. "They aren't all included, just the ones within the parameters of the map."

He checked with the owners of the historic properties before including them on the map and obtained the permission of the Bluebird Canyon Farm to list it.

"I am close to Chris Prelitz, and he gave me permission to call out his home on the map," Fried said.

Prelitz, former chairman of the city's Environmental Committee, has one of the greenest houses in town.

Fried was also influenced by advocates of Complete Streets.

"Nothing will make drivers more aware that Laguna Beach is a cycling town than cyclists," Fried said. "The more cyclists they see, the safer cyclists will be."

The map is color-coded to show both routes, safe streets for cycling, streets with sharrows — symbols to warn vehicle drivers that they are expected to share the roadway with cyclists — streets that are unsafe for cycling, and points of interest.

Bike rack locations are also featured, but there are not enough of them, Fried said.

"There are only four small ones for two to four bikes downtown," Fried said. "There are none at Heisler Park and none at the top of the steps to the beach.

"I am [lobbying] the city, the Arts Commission and the business community to create artistic bike racks. I have examples of sculptural racks from other cities."

He suggested a competition could be held, similar to the program for artist-designed benches.

Bikes can be rented for $60 a day or $40 for a half day at La Vida Laguna, which is shown on the map. Delivery anywhere in town is free.

La Vida Laguna is the kayak lesson and rental business Fried started as a hobby two years after he moved to Laguna in 1999.

"I enjoyed kayaking, but I never thought of it as a career," Fried said.

As Laguna became more popular for corporate retreats and meetings, the company grew and this year is celebrating its 10th anniversary with the addition of bicycle rentals and tours.

The bike maps are available to the public at 673 N. Coast Hwy. or in area hotels.

For more information about bicycle rentals and tours, call (949) 275-7544.

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