At its April 27 meeting, the City Council approved the designs of two major capital projects, which stand to drastically improve the City’s bikability.
The first project will give Ocean Park Boulevard an environmentally friendly, nine-block facelift between Lincoln Avenue and Neilson Way. The project attempts to make the street environmentally sustainable by widening sidewalks, adding enhanced crosswalks, and pedestrian lighting to encourage pedestrian traffic; creating wider and more visible bike lanes; implementing new trees and landscaping; and capturing storm water for reuse.
“We talk about this kind of thing in the hypothetical sense all the time…” said Planning Director Eileen Fogarty, “but here it is in reality.”
Although more than $4.4 million was allocated for this project, Fogarty said the cost of the project would only be $4.2 million thanks to funding from Proposition 1B ($1.3 Million) and Measure V ($1.1 million).
Along with adding painted bicycle lanes, the city’s first bike boxes will be introduced (see renderings) in some locations along Ocean Park Boulevard where there are conflicts of movement at intersections.
Bike Boxes are dedicated areas where cyclists can safely move ahead of vehicular traffic at an intersection. They have been implemented with success in many European and Asian cities, as well as San Francisco and Berkeley, Calif.; Eugene, Ore.; Madison, Wis.; Portland, Ore.; and Cambridge, Mass.
Another large component of this project is the beautification of the street, which in part calls for creating a canopy of trees both along the streets and in the medians. Other landscaping and added green spaces are also planned.
“We’ve only done a concept design at this point, we have not selected exact trees,” said John Kaliski, Principal at Urban Studio who developed design concepts on the project. “There have been a wide variety of ideas out there about introducing a diverse treescape.”
With all the added pedestrian and green spaces, the extensions and expansions of medians, sidewalks and curbs, only two parking spots will be lost on the street. There also isn’t going to be any reduction in the number of lanes.
The Council’s approval is a pivotal step, one of the last before actual construction, for an idea that began nearly 20 years ago. Efforts picked up heavily a couple of years ago when Lamont Ewell, the City’s former City Manager, gave the project renewed momentum.
“I just frankly thought we would never, ever see [this project’s fruition],” said Councilmember Richard Bloom.
The second project the City Council approved at its meeting is to refine the streetscape at 20th Street and Cloverfield Boulevard. Part of the project, which includes streetlight circuit upgrades and traffic signal modifications, will be a trial of bicycle Sharrows, which are symbols in the roadway indicating where bikers are likely to share the lanes with drivers. Sharrows are seen as an alternative to fully designating and allocating a bike lane.
“[These Sharrows] sends the message that bicycles have a right to be on the road,” said Councilmember Kevin McKeown. “I think that is forgotten by California Motorists.”
Both these projects are extensions of City’s sustainability goals for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, increasing CO2 capture, prioritizing non-motorized travel, and increasing the size and biodiversity of the urban forest. They are also seen as major steps in the path of developing a bicycle network.
Biking issues had prevalence in other items on the Council’s agenda throughout the meeting. The Council moved along a planned development agreement with Agensys, Inc. for its proposed project at 1800 Stewart Street, where the company hopes to build its new headquarters.
The City Council gave a number of directives on what the facility should look like in future drafts of its design – the most prominent of which was the inclusion of a public bicycle path through the facilities site.
“Everybody in the city owns a bicycle,” said Richard McKinnon, during public comment. “They just need it to be easy and safe and that is what these project do.”