Plan pushes for cycling-friendly city

Huntington Beach has adopted its first Bicycle Master Plan to assist the city in creating a better cycling infrastructure.

The City Council on Monday largely expressed support for the plan, but it narrowly passed on a 4-3 vote after Councilman Jim Katapodis opted to amend it to exclude bike lanes on Beach Boulevard north of Ellis Avenue, saying the roadways aren't set up to accommodate bikes.

The plan would serve as a framework to aid city planners and public works engineers in developing safer routes for bicyclists as well as help in acquiring grants to fund these improvements, according to a presentation given by transportation manager Bob Stachelski.

Stachelski added that the Bicycle Master Plan will highlight goals for the city to accomplish but not mandate specific project deadlines or minimum funding for the street enhancements.

Alterations to the plan started when Mayor Pro Tem Matthew Harper said it wasn't realistic to add biking facilities along Beach Boulevard and expressed additional concerns regarding traffic on Palm Avenue and Orange Avenue. He wanted to see all three removed from the plan.

"They're much more narrow and there's also a lot more traffic along those streets," Harper said about Palm and Orange. "With the similar issue to Beach Boulevard, I think it presents more potential of conflict between pedestrians, vehicles and bicycles."

Councilman Joe Carchio said he was in favor of the plan but had concerns regarding enforcement of bicycle laws.

"If we don't start enforcing some bike laws in the city of Huntington Beach, it really doesn't make any difference how many bike lanes you make," he said. "The frame of mind of the people, especially in the downtown area, those bicyclists are just riding all over.

"It doesn't make any difference whether you put a lane on Palm or on Orange. They're going to ride anywhere."


Outgoing police chief gets key to the city

In other council news Monday, outgoing Huntington Beach Police Chief Ken Small received the Mayor's Award and the prestigious key to the city for his 11 years of service.

"From the moment I met you in 2002, I knew you were the right guy for the job," former Surf City Mayor Debbie Cook said. "Maybe you've been told this before, but you have a little bit of Andy Griffith about you. You brought a little bit of that hometown kind of common sense to Huntington Beach, and it's been greatly appreciated."

Small has more than 40 years of law enforcement experience, having also worked for the Los Angeles and Daytona, Fla., police departments.

"Whatever I've given to Huntington Beach, Huntington Beach has given me tenfold in return," Small said. "I can't think of any place I'd rather live. I can't think of any place I'd rather work."


Merrie Sager case

City Attorney Jennifer McGrath reported that Huntington Beach will be settling the case brought by former library employee Merrie Sager.

McGrath said the city will pay Sager, who is deaf and has cerebral palsy, $70,000 after she sued her former employer, accusing the city of disability discrimination and failure to provide her a qualified sign-language interpreter.

Sager claims she was forced to resign after working at the Central Library for 32 years.

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