Road diet: Strong objections challenge proposed bicycle project on Honolulu Avenue (graph)

A city proposal to make a portion of a street in Montrose safer for bicycles met with strong opposition among those who attended a series of public outreach meetings, officials reported.

The proposal would cut one lane from a one-mile stretch of Honolulu Avenue and use the space for dedicated bike lanes — a so-called “road diet” that proponents say will make cycling safer.

But of the 85 people who attended two outreach meetings in March and April, 80% were opposed to the project, according to a report to the City Council.

In January, the council approved the project on Honolulu Avenue between Sunset and La Crescenta avenues to test the new road design for six to nine months.

Community opposition to reducing the roadway from four lanes to three wasn’t expected to be a game changer unless the council takes action to shelve the $125,000-project. That could happen, with at least one council member on Monday saying that community opposition to the road diet has changed his mind.

“The evidence I’ve gotten so far sort of shows that maybe we shouldn’t be doing a road diet on Honolulu,” Councilman Ara Najarian said, noting that he’d be open to another option.

The City Council is slated to be briefed on the public feedback at its regular meeting on Tuesday.

Public Works Director Steve Zurn said the city has yet to begin construction on the project and that it wasn’t too late to change course should the council could vote to stop it.

“We haven’t gone past the point of no return,” Zurn said, adding that the city could begin construction as early as next month.

Meanwhile, the advocacy group Walk Bike Glendale collected 300 signatures from people who favored the project, said President Erik Yesayan.

“What this project aims to do is make [Honolulu Avenue] safe and make it a more pleasant space to walk, bike and drive on,” Yesayan said.

GRAPH: Scroll over the bar graph to see how many cars were counted along the one-mile stretch of Honolulu Avenue that may get a road diet. A city contractor conducted the counts over four days from Ramsdell to Sunset avenues.

Council members have said it was important that the first road diet in Glendale be successful to avoid community backlash.

If the council does chuck the Honolulu plan, Yesayan said he hopes they pick another street for the treatment.

In response to complaints about the road diet, city officials began a widespread outreach campaign, mailing out 3,500 fliers to residents, creating a special website and posting signs about the proposed project. 

Several opponents who flooded a new city email address created to receive comments about the road diet said turning the four-lane portion of Honolulu Avenue into a three-lane street with a middle turn lane would cause traffic congestion.

Proponents, on the other hand, have said the road diet will have a traffic-calming effect, reducing speeds and increasing safety.

About 13,000 vehicles a day currently use the one-mile stretch of road, which has a speed limit of 35 mph.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, streets with average traffic of less than 20,000 vehicles are good candidates for road diets. But a Michigan State University study found that road diets result in “significant delay when average daily traffic exceeds 10,000.”

The city plans to compare bicycle and car counts to those generated six to nine months after the change, and use those numbers to decide whether to make the lane reconfigurations permanent.

Originally, the road diet was to extend to Orangedale Avenue, but due to increased traffic at Trader Joe’s, the project area may be stopped one block away at Sunset Avenue.

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