Bike-friendly road plan progressing

CITY HALL — Longtime Glendale resident and bicyclist Booth Hartley said he was startled this year when he began to see new bike markings appear around town.

After years of having few safe bike route options, Hartley said he was pleasantly surprised by the addition of sharrows — markings that indicate where cyclists should travel on the road — on Grandview Avenue and other city streets.

"It's made it clear to the cars that were passing me that I have a right here," he told the Planning and Transportation & Parking commissions during a joint meeting Monday.

Hartley was one of many residents who came out to City Hall to support the "Safe and Healthy Streets Plan" — a policy document aimed at making streets more inviting for bicyclists and safer for pedestrians.

The draft plan — which both commissions recommended for City Council approval — is the result of two years of community outreach and development under a $305,000 grant awarded to the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition in 2008.

Through the grant, coalition liaison Colin Bogart has been a fixture in Glendale, conducting community outreach to discuss ways to best improve conditions for bicyclists and pedestrians.

"There's substantial evidence that when you redesign streets to make them safe for cyclists and pedestrians, people actually will get out of their cars and walk and bike more," said Gayle Haberman, a policy analyst for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, which awarded the grant.

Many residents want to bike or walk, but are afraid to because of current conditions, said Glendale resident Nathalie Winiarski, who has spoken to people across the city as a volunteer for the plan.

"Walking and bicycling is very dangerous in our great city," she said.

The document focuses on five main areas — education, encouragement, enforcement, engineering and evaluation — in which Glendale can improve to the point that more residents may take to walking and biking. It also incorporates potential funding sources and implementation strategies.

Recommendations include: enlarging sidewalks, partnering with local schools to provide bicycle education; ramping up speed enforcement; and installing more bike-parking facilities throughout the city.

Some improvements, such as the striping of sharrows, have already begun.

The plan, advocates said Monday, can serve as an important first step to improving safety conditions in a city notorious for vehicular collisions and pedestrian accidents, including two fatalities last year.

"I have been through every street and neighborhood of Glendale on my bicycle, and I can tell you we have a long way to go to make the streets friendly and safe for bicyclists and pedestrians," said Glendale resident and ABC7 newscaster Gene Gleason. "It is a beginning, but it is very hopefully a beginning for all of us who have been watching."

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