The Huntington Beach bike path that runs for more than eight miles — starting at one end at Warner Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway — is, I think, one of the city's great assets.
This summer I was riding round-trips every several days, and each time, whether it was on a crowded weekend or quiet weekday, I felt that the path provided a glimpse of the true Huntington Beach. Snaking along, it never ceased to reveal the great cross-section of locals, tourists, surfers, families and businesses. Our beloved fire pits were clear to see and, of course, the ocean, which I find indescribably appealing.
But all that said, let me share a couple complaints.
First, parts of the bikeway need repair. Many sections are scarred, bumpy and ravaged by heat and traffic. Then there is the matter of striping, or lack thereof. Many riders and pedestrians do not seem to grasp the lined-road concept, wavering all over the place with little reason. I think some fresh yellow stripes down the middle, as well some bright white borders indicating where people should walk, would be a huge help.
With the off-season approaching, it seems that now would be a good time to give the entire pathway a total refresh. Who will pay? Fair question. It seems that the first thing to do is convince the City Council to find some money in the budget for it.
I'll send this column to each council member as a sort of open letter and let you know what I hear back. If there is no money in the budget, there are still other ways to get the work done. What if the city went to an asphalt repair company and allowed it to advertise there on the pavement in exchange for service?
Many garbage pails line the route. How about selling ad space on those? Or letting local businesses sponsor miles like they do on the freeway?
Some proper signage might also help correct problems on the path, cluing in bike riders and pedestrians.
While most bike riders seem to operate with a basic sense of the rules of the road regarding speed and safety, a percentage still demonstrate a recklessness that creates more near-accidents than I can document here.
Part of it is speeding, combined with a general arrogance, the same sort of problems that create so much havoc in automobile traffic. Watching some of these cyclists, I genuinely wonder what their driving habits are like, but I think I know. And for the seemingly expert cyclists all tricked out on thousand dollar bikes, might PCH not be a better option rather than creating some ad hoc "Tour de HB" along a general use pathway?
And, like motorists who insist on listening to music over headphones while they drive, many wired-up bikers have become oblivious to almost every auditory cue, thus making them even more dangerous. We know you like your own little world. The trouble is that many of us have to encounter you.
(By the way, wearing headsets or earplugs in both ears is illegal while driving or operating a bicycle.)
Of course, my same gripe applies to pedestrians who decide to zone-out with ear buds in. Hey, I love music as much as anyone, but I also like to hear bike traffic and other sounds of the road. We need to be aware to act like responsible adults.
It's hard to chart how many times on a busy weekend I'll say "excuse me" to a group of pedestrians stretched across the path and blissfully unaware that bikes are even allowed, only to have them get upset that they have to move an inch. Add to that the parents who let their young children wander into bike traffic and adults who aimlessly walk out in front of bikes, and you've got the potential for some serious trouble.
In a way, a lot of this mirrors the problems we have on roads today: sensory shutdowns and dangerously self-entitled habits. You have to be aware of the world around when you are out in public, especially on any sort of moving vehicle, just as you have to be if you are on foot.
Like most societal problems, a good chunk of these things could be solved with a simple mix of common sense and common courtesy. And maybe by giving the path a sparkling makeover, that would remind people that they need to be a little more careful, conscious and aware.
If you love the bike path as I do (or even if you don't), I'd like to know what you think about this. And if you'd like to help me try to get some of this work done, just say the word.
CHRIS EPTING is the author of 19 books, including the new "Baseball in Orange County," from Arcadia Publishing. You can chat with him on Twitter @chrisepting or follow his column at http://www.facebook.com/hbindependent.