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Bike-lane ‘ambush’ surprises drivers

Posted: August 18, 2009 9:14 p.m.
Updated: August 19, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Gene Gonzalez, left, holds a bike-path stencil on the ground as co-worker Efrain Martinez fills it with hot thermal material on the corner of Blueridge Drive and Decoro Drive on Tuesday.

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Santa Clarita’s most recent effort to become more bicycle friendly has put the squeeze on motorists who navigate Decoro Drive in Valencia.

“The lane now is so narrow, my minivan won’t fit,” said Heide Prinsze, 52, who drives along the street daily to shuttle her kids to and from school. “It’s a nightmarish road as is. We don’t need bike lanes that no one would use.”

The city is cutting a car lane from each side of four-lane Decoro Drive, replacing them with bicycle lanes and adding turn pockets.

The changes to Decoro between McBean Parkway and Seco Canyon Road are meant to make the street more bicycle friendly and ease traffic congestion. But it has caught many residents by surprise.

City officials didn’t inform residents or homeowners associations in the area they were going to reconfigure Decoro.

“I feel like I’ve been ambushed,” said Prinsze, who has lived in Valencia for 12 years.

City spokeswoman Gail Ortiz described the decision to go ahead with the plans as part of a quest to become a more bike-friendly community.

“In hindsight, we should’ve probably let them know we were reconfiguring the road,” she said. “Once the job is done, our intentions and our goals will be clear.”

Despite the frustrations of several homeowners living in the neighborhoods adjacent to Decoro, Ortiz said the project represents a net positive for Santa Clarita by improving traffic flow and making bicyclists safer.

“We’ve had two horrible accidents on roads without bike lanes,” she said. “We will continue with the addition of bike lanes wherever we can.”

The plans call for putting a bike lane on each side of the street and placing left- and right-hand turn pockets at key intersections to alleviate traffic, she said.

But Prinsze’s husband, 60-year-old Glenn Prinsze, said the plans show the city isn’t pedaling with both feet when it comes to traffic engineering.

He said swapping an automobile lane for one dedicated to bicycles will just squeeze the car traffic into one lane and add to congestion.

“The city has taken a road that is a collector street and turned it into a local street,” he said. “We take the same amount of traffic and cut the amount of lanes in half.”

The city expects to complete the work on Decoro by the end of the week.   

The news of additional bike lanes in Santa Clarita sounded great to bike enthusiast Maria Gutzeit, 41, of Newhall. She said the city needs to continue to put more bike lanes on its streets.

Gutzeit said while the paseos can carry some bike traffic between the respective communities of Canyon Country, Saugus, Newhall and Valencia, it is the bike lanes that promote travel to specific locations like supermarkets.  

“If we really want to get people out of their cars,” she said, “we need to add bike lanes.”



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