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Council Puts Wheels in Motion for Bike Safety

By Jennifer Erickson | LB Indy

Just three weeks after about 200 cyclists and pedestrians rallied at City Hall advocating safer passage through town, city officials seem poised to act. At their meeting last week, Council members approved new bike racks and signage at the Pepper Tree parking lot and also agreed to officially endorse Senate Resolution No. 17, which encourages bicycle and pedestrian safety instruction in schools and at home.

This interest comes none too soon, with two pedestrian injuries on Coast Highway just this past week, following in the aftermath of three fatalities so far this year, cyclist John Colvin, student Nina Fitzpatrick and homeless local Regan Hess.

Resident Rita Conn of Let Laguna Vote, who lobbied the Council to support the Senate resolution, called the vote a “tremendous endorsement.” The resolution pushes for educating children about safety precautions in traffic, whether on foot, bike or skateboard, and the dangers of using electronic devices and headphones while on the streets.

Some Council members even put their feet to the pedals to demonstrate their interest. Following the bike rally, Max Isles, co-founder of Livable Streets Laguna with Billy Fried and Tamara Hlava, issued a challenge: “Come ride with me on Coast Highway,” he said. “Then maybe you’ll be willing to speed up the change.”

His words hit home.

Council members Steve Dicterow and Toni Iseman and Mayor Pro Tem Bob Whalen climbed on bicycles to pedal alternative routes to get from the town’s north end to the center without using Coast Highway. The ideas suggested by their guides were “very helpful and probably things we ought to be implementing,” said Dicterow. “It was a productive morning,” agreed Whalen.

And it was Council member Kelly Boyd who put the endorsement of the senate resolution on the agenda last week.

“I’m in total support of this,” said Boyd, urging the revival of a bike and skateboarding safety program for children.

Lamenting that the state-level resolution, which lacks funding is little more than encouragement, Dicterow pushed for more local-level action.

“I think the whole town is interested in slowing things down,” said Iseman, noting that in many areas speed limits are not clearly marked.

Whalen said he liked the idea of a safe ride to school program, which should be explored with the school district.

“I think this sets a tone,” said City Manager John Pietig, adding that Assistant City Manager Christa Johnson convened an informal bike route task force to develop measures to improve the pedaling experience in town.

The first gathering, chaired by Pietig, included Public Works Director Steve May, Principal Planner Scott Drapkin and complete streets advocates Chris Prelitz, Billy Fried and Max Isles. Another meeting is planned for Monday, Aug. 18.

In the meantime, staff prepared a map and Prelitz, Fried and Isles will identify the best bike routes. Other objectives include working with the police, the school district and PTAs to revive safety programs, and painting existing road sharrows green to give them higher visibility.

Whalen asked to be included on the task force, and Boyd said he’d be an alternate, while Mayor Elizabeth Pearson said she knew another community member interested in joining.

“I’m so excited to hear you talking like this,” said Conn.

The growing public concern for safer streets dovetails with a number of other city initiatives, including an assessment of mobility along Laguna Canyon Road that will be presented to the public at the Tuesday, Aug. 19 City Council meeting, and a draft plan to bring the city into compliance with the state’s “complete streets” mandate to make streets accessible to more than cars, for which the next public workshop will be held at 6 p.m. on Aug. 26 at the Susi Q Center.

As Iseman said at the last Council meeting, “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

 

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