Commentary: More Costa Mesa residents would bike or walk if they felt a little safer on the streets

When I pull out of my driveway in the morning and turn onto Fairview Road, I look for cars. But first I look for skateboarders, cyclists and pedestrians, many of whom are teenagers headed for Costa Mesa High School.

While there are few official numbers about how many of us often travel by non-vehicular means, I believe that even more Costa Mesans would bike or walk if only we felt just a little safer on our streets. And it looks like we might be about to take a big first step in that direction.

The Costa Mesa Bikeway and Walkability Committee, chaired by Cynthia McDonald, will bring an Active Transportation plan to the City Council for approval on Tuesday. The plan contains a comprehensive system of proposed bike paths of various classifications, as well as goals and objectives for future city focus and investment.

As a member of this committee during its initial creation, I saw firsthand how challenging it could be for a group of volunteers to even begin to propose to change the fundamental infrastructure of our city. Which roads should be a priority? What kind of bike path should be built? What are the most traveled routes in the city by cyclists already and what routes might be more traveled (and potentially safer) with some infrastructure improvements? How do we consider pedestrians and skateboarders in this plan? While several public meetings were held, most of the burden fell on the committee to decide priorities and goals.

Despite the size of their task, the committee has made exciting progress to date. Bike racks are being installed all over the city in public parks and the committee is now shifting its focus to engage with business owners about bike racks. Sharrows were recently installed on E. 19th Street; these brightly colored demarcations in the middle of the lane make clear that the road is intended to be shared with cyclists. And there’s more to come – the committee is evaluating options for a bike share program.

Admittedly, the Active Transportation Plan is not perfect. Goal 6 includes a monitoring plan to actually track the patterns and behaviors of active transportation users but provides no detail and no suggested budget to achieve that. This is important because as of now only commuters are included in our current estimates. Students biking to Orange Coast College or Vanguard University are not counted and neither are those of us who try to walk as much as possible, especially on weekends. How will we know if our plan is working unless we have that data?

But change isn’t easy, and I applaud the committee for its hard work. While most of these new bike paths will only get built when publicly funded grants become available, we need an approved plan that allows us to aggressively pursue any and all opportunities for funding. I encourage the City Council to support the new Active Transportation Plan. I, for one, can’t wait to feel safer on my bike in Costa Mesa.

ANDREA MARR is a U.S. Navy veteran and Costa Mesa City Council candidate.