Laguna Beach has no accommodation for cyclists except for a few random bike racks, and a quarter-mile stretch of striped lane on Monterey Street that might be mistaken for a bike lane — even though it is not marked in any way. The city just spent $1.6M to resurface streets and paint new lines, without adding a single accommodation for bicycles. This action not only ignores Complete Streets state legislation, but also demonstrates a complete lack of concern for the safety of cyclists in our city.
Laguna should establish a designated bike route that would create a safe environment for all cyclists and raise awareness throughout the city that bikes belong. The route could safely navigate from Crescent Bay Park to Nyes Place, while only crossing PCH twice, and could also connect downtown with the Sawdust Festival. The route would have a positive effect on existing traffic patterns by following side streets with less traffic flow than PCH, and by using streets that provide multiple lanes like Cypress and Glenneyre.
Because space is the primary argument against providing traditional bike lanes, the route should utilize a painted "sharrow" indicating that cars and bikes should share the lane. These "sharrows" are painted on the road surface, and are being successfully adopted in Long Beach, Santa Monica and many other cities around the world. Creating a designated bike route will only require that drivers, cyclists, skateboarders, etc. obey posted speed limits, stop signs and traffic signals, pay attention, and respect the safety of all users.
I know there are many locals and tourists who would like to ride bikes in town, for both recreation and utility, but with no provisions for cyclists, most don't feel confident enough on our car-dominated streets. I regularly commute by bike in Laguna, and by avoiding PCH I am able to limit my exposure to the most dangerous high-speed traffic. Still, even on the side streets, I'm disappointed by how many drivers roll stop signs, exceed speed limits, talk on cell phones, and generally drive carelessly, with seemingly little recognition of the damage that they can inflict with their 2-ton vehicles.
The Laguna Beach School District recently proclaimed that they could not recognize Walk-and-Roll-to-School Week, citing the fact that the streets are not safe enough to encourage children to walk or ride their bikes to school. Are these the conditions that we want to continue to accept in our city? It's time to embrace the concept that our streets should be a SAFE part of the community, open to all responsible users, and not just a network of speeding cars. A designated bike route through our city would be an excellent step in the right direction.
Justin Gresh lives in Laguna Beach.