Glendale approves $5.8-million plan to improve streets for cyclists

The Glendale City Council on Tuesday approved a sweeping plan that calls for roughly $5.8 million in bicycle improvements that officials vowed to implement sooner rather than later.

“That’s going to be the next important step,” said Councilwoman Laura Friedman, who often rides her bicycle around Glendale.

About 40 miles of new bike lanes and routes — just under half delineated in the plan and twice as many as the city currently has — can be constructed within a year due to $680,000 in available grant funding, said Traffic and Safety Administrator Jano Baghdanian.

Officials can also begin work on striping bicycle lanes along East Glenoaks Boulevard from Verdugo Road to the Glendale (2) Freeway, while marking shared bike lanes — known as sharrows — along the remainder of the street to Scholl Canyon.

But while the sharrows are cheaper to install, some cyclists, including on the City Council, say they’re no substitute for striped lanes or paths separate from the street.

“I’m very weary when I’m on the road, even when there are sharrows,” said Councilman Rafi Manoukian, who recently began riding his bike once a week to work.

But cost is a factor since Glendale’s bicycle improvements will mostly rely on grant funding. And officials can only stripe lanes on streets where room allows. .

The Bicycle Transportation Plan, last updated in 1996, also calls for the slimming down of driving lanes in each direction on some streets to make room for bicycle lanes — known as road diets. But the concept has been met with controversy in the past. A proposed one-mile road diet on Honolulu Avenue in Montrose was shot down last month after amid push back from residents who feared traffic jams.

Officials plan to select three new possibilities for road diets with the help of city commissioners. The choices will be vetted by residents and business owners at outreach meetings before going to the City Council for review.

The City Council on Tuesday also greenlighted a $659,000-state grant application for bicycle amenities that requires a 10% local match. As funding becomes available, the council will vote on individual components of the 225-page plan. City officials plan to increase the percentage of commuters riding bicycles to work to 5% — up from less than 1% currently.

According to the report, bicycle-involved crashes in Glendale have been on the rise. Between September 2006 and November 2010, there were 155 bicycle-involved crashes, resulting in 143 injuries. In September 2008, a woman driving a Mercedes Benz struck a bicyclist who never regained consciousness and died nearly a year later.

The car-centric nature of the region had one council member — Dave Weaver — raising the lone flag of dissent for the plan Tuesday.

“I just don’t see how we’re going to get people out of their cars…to ride bicycles,” he said.

But supporters said if Glendale builds it, bicyclists will come.

“This plan is not really for people riding bikes today,” said Colin Bogart of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. “No, this plan is for people who might ride bikes if the facilities were present."

-- Brittany Levine, Times Community News

Follow Brittany on Google+ or Twitter @brittanylevine.

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