An Easier Way Around
The tourists are gone, and summer can finally freaking begin. More hot, dry weather. Better sunsets. And less noise, with only the din of a dozen council candidates filling the air.
Like Hollywood, our summer is crowded with big-budget, mainstream fare. But fall is our Indy season, the down-low stuff for those in the know.
Like the Aquathon non-event, which is not just around the corner. Or the stunning Laguna Dance Festival in early October, or Halloween on Oak Street.
Three days after Halloween is this year’s epic Art In Nature, when Elizabeth Turk will convene 1,000 volunteers with illuminated umbrellas onto Main Beach. Previous installations were some of the grooviest things Laguna has produced—magical, mysterious assemblages and lasers that played with light, dark and movement, and brought the community together in collective awe over the transformative power of art—in nature.
Then it’s Thanksgiving and on to Hospitality Night, our annual reminder of how much friendlier, vital and better our town would be if we made Forest a permanent pedestrian plaza.
And, with any luck, we’ll get that rogue weekend swell that enables our epic Brooks Street Surf Classic.
I’m sure I’ve left a few things out, but all of this is a vivid reminder that, despite our differences, what makes this town great is our people. Especially the ones who make this stuff happen.
But alas, spring will roll around, the tourists will descend again, traffic will get bolloxed up, and all this goodwill will be forgotten. In fact, many of us will turn quite nasty, unless and until we do something that could make getting around town easy, no matter how snarled town is.
Ladies and gents, electric bike and moped shares are ready for their close-ups. What in the world could we be waiting for? This is a simple, proven traffic solution that could make commuting our 7 miles healthy, convenient and fun again. Can you imagine zipping around silently on our back roads, sun dappled and Eucalyptus fragrant, passing each other with a smile and a wave. Oh, there’s Toni Iseman, once a fierce critic of biking, tooting around on her electric bike, smiling and waving while looking for smokers. And Rob Zur Schmiede, with a pile of code ordinances on his saddle. There’s Ann Christoph, with some shears to trim offending brush. And Lorene Laguna and Judy Mancuso, with their dogs. And there’s the mod man himself, Peter Blake, on a vintage black and white Vespa to match his political ideas. How fun!
We’ve all heard the negative nellies who are addicted to their cars and don’t want anything that would obstruct their flow. “Laguna’s not a biking town. We’re too hilly,” they tell us. Well, electric technology is now optimized, making it easy to zip up hills on long charges. “Our roads are too narrow, it’s too dangerous.” That’s why electric technology is so crucial. So we can easily keep pace with traffic. And traveling our north/south arterials (with the exception of Coast Highway) would be so easy and fun. Cars rarely travel over 40 mph on Glenneyre, Catalina, Monterey, Cliff, Cypress and Hillcrest. If anything, our 5-year-old sharrows and bike route experiment (with not a single fatality) proves that bikes can safely coexist with cars, even without dedicated bike lanes.
We have the real estate for kiosks in our neighborhoods. Put them at every park, or just replace a few parking spots. Install them downtown, at Main Beach, the Arts District, by the bus station, at the future Park Plaza, and certainly at LCAD.
Install them adjacent to trolley and bus stops, creating a contiguous transportation network that obviates the need for a car. So even visitors might park and ride. Coastal Commission will approve the parking reduction as part of the Complete Streets mandate.
Honestly, all but the very oldest of us can navigate electric bikes and mopeds with grace. You’re never too old to learn a new skill. Then no matter how egregious the traffic is, there will be a transportation alternative that will have you addicted to commuting, while simultaneously reducing carbon emissions and cleaning the air. After all, our Council signed the Mayors Pledge on Climate Action. Here’s the first action they could take.
Shared bikes and moped systems can happen right now. They’re everywhere, as cities wean themselves from cars. The companies that make them can finance, install and maintain them for a profit. Or cities can own and operate them.
This should be the start of our renewable energy pledge. A future when we aren’t isolated behind windshields and computer screens, and are instead waving to one another and saying “hello.” In the process, we’ll clean this town of soot, noise and congestion.
Maybe we’ll even celebrate with a fall event and bike parade through our neighborhoods. Or maybe Art in Nature expands all over town and we have an official “Art Ride in Nature.” To borrow a phrase from our president, “That’s a good thing. Not a bad thing.”
Billy Fried hosts “Laguna Talks” on Thursday nights at 8 p.m. on KX93.5 and can be reached at [email protected].