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City pedals ahead on bike lanes

Longtime plans to designate a cross-town path for bicycle traffic are taking a giant step forward this month with the striping of 3.5 miles of bike lane stretching from Verdugo Boulevard to the city’s east end.

La Cañada Flintridge officials herald the effort as a push to improve public safety, with the new bike lanes intended to separate motor vehicles and pedal-powered travelers along roadways and to divert bicyclists from traffic-heavy Foothill Boulevard.

Concurrently, the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station plans to launch a bicycle-safety education campaign in the coming weeks. The move comes in part to alleviate concerns that the new lanes could draw increased recreational bicycle traffic to the route, which runs along portions of Chevy Chase Drive, Descanso Drive and Berkshire Avenue all the way to Hahamongna Watershed Park.

Descanso Drive resident Gisella Rumohr raised a strenuous objection to bike-lane striping on her street during last week’s City Council meeting, claiming bicyclists were already complicating traffic flow there and that new bike lanes would only attract more riders. Rumohr also complained that she wasn’t aware of the city’s plans until construction crews appeared on her street.

“They’re going to be encouraging every Tom, Dick and Harry to take their bikes down this street,” said Rumohr. “Obviously, residents have no say on their own streets. I can’t tell you how disappointed I am in them for not asking us”

City officials countered that the new bike lanes would instead help calm and manage traffic flow, and objected to Rumohr’s claim that residents were left in the dark.

“This has been publicized over 13 times in the past 16 years, and it is a public-safety issue,” said Mayor Donald Voss, citing the proposal’s 1995 inclusion in the general plan.

The city also plans to install a bikeway next year along western portions of Foothill Boulevard and down Alta Canyada Boulevard to the Descanso Drive bike lanes, creating a single bicycle route that traverses the city.

City Manager Mark Alexander said council members have directed city staff to make contact with residents as early as this week in order to discover and address lingering concerns, though City Hall has received complaints only from Rumohr and one other Descanso Drive resident.

Also at the meeting, Sheriff’s Capt. Dave Silversparre said deputies had on Feb. 5 issued tickets and warnings to bicyclists who ignored stop signs and other traffic laws along the new bike route. He said the Crescenta Valley Station would also increase its efforts to patrol the route on weekends, when bicycle traffic is at its peak.

Rather than unleash an avalanche of citations, though, “What the Captain wants to see is a little more education for bicyclists to obey the rules of the road,” said Sgt. Mark Slater, who said bicyclists often ignore stop signs and ride two- or three-wide in lanes, illegally impeding traffic flow.

“All of these are moving violations regardless of whether it’s a bike or a car. If you get a ticket on your bike, it goes on your driving record just like it would with a car,” he said, adding that bicyclists are required to keep to bike lanes where provided.

City Traffic Engineer Erik Zandvliet said bike routes are intended to make a positive impact on traffic safety and quality of life for drivers, bicyclists and residents alike.

“The primary reason is the safety of bicyclists, but one [positive] side-effect will likely be some traffic calming on Descanso Drive because travel lanes will be narrower. This has been in our bicycle transportation plan for 15 years, and we’ve given general public notice every step of the way,” he said.

City Council candidate Robert Richter, who like Rumohr was also a critic of the city’s sewer assessments campaign, also criticized bike-lane striping last week, citing concerns about pedestrians who choose to walk along the curb because there is no sidewalk.

Zandvliet countered that in addition to separating bicyclists from motorists, bike lanes also leave more room for pedestrians along the side of the road.

The cost of engineering and striping bike lanes along Chevy Chase, Descanso and Berkshire was $48,900.