Grant goes toward bicycle safety

Faced with an increase in bicycle-related crashes, Burbank officials say they plan to use a $100,000 state grant to educate the public on the rules of the road.

Spending the money on safety classes aimed primarily at cyclists is seen at City Hall as a way to get more bang for the buck, especially as more people give up their car keys in favor of bikes, officials said.

“The No. 1 priority for the project is the educational programs; it's not even infrastructure,” said Cory Wilkerson, an assistant transportation planner for the city. “We can go a long way with a little money for education.”

The regional safety classes will be held monthly for 10 months and consist of time in a classroom as well as on the road with a bike. This month's class is already full, Wilkerson said.

Officials are also tapping the more than $3 million in state and federal funding for the city's Safe Routes to School program to help pay for a bike co-op for teens, bike and pedestrian safety classes and presentations to middle school students by BMX riders.

A trailer operated by the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition will also be set up near City Hall, Wilkerson said.

The program could start in January, Wilkerson said, although the hours still need to be worked out.

David Kriske, senior transportation planner, said the city has done other outreach, “but not to the scale as we're doing now.”

The campaign will also include advertising on the city's website and government access TV channel, as well as online social media.

The push comes as Burbank police say they're concerned about an uptick in injury accidents involving cyclists, which now average four a month.

Through October, there have been 32 reported bike collisions and accidents, more than in all of 2007, when there were 24, according to Burbank police.

Burbank Police Lt. J.J Puglisi said officers want to make it clear to cyclists that they must obey the rules of the road, but that motorists need to understand they share the road.

Cyclists younger than 14 who receive a violation are required to attend safety school.

Enforcement is not always popular, Puglisi said, but police are focusing some of their efforts on cyclists when they are out in the field.

Rob Stotts, owner of H&S Bicycles on Victory Boulevard, said he has seen the frustration between motorists and cyclists.

“When it comes right down to it, I feel that personally, people are angry, stressed, upset, and if their schedule gets slowed down in any way, they get upset,” he said. “It's a real stressful time for everyone, financially.”

He pointed to incidents over the summer while riding with employees, and one in particular that landed a motorist in jail for an alleged assault with a deadly weapon after an altercation with a cyclist.

“I don't think it's people being stupid. I think it's people being angry,” Stotts said.

Charles Gandy, of Livable Communities Consulting who works as a consultant for Long Beach and other cities, called Burbank's public outreach a “significant step” toward making streets safer.

Burbank and state transportation officials on Monday also heralded the debut of a so-called
BikeStop at the Metrolink station downtown.

The building was converted with the help of a state grant to offer commuters 40 bike stalls so they don't have to lug their equipment from station to station.

The building, which bikers can use for free with advanced registration, includes a video surveillance system, a repair stand and small classroom.

“Cities, I think, have an obligation to respond to constituents and make the streets as safe as possible for all users,” Gandy said.


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