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Bike lane part of bigger plan

Santa Clarita's nonmotorized transportation plan calls for more re-striping

Posted: August 30, 2009 10:35 p.m.
Updated: August 31, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Collin Tiegs, 23, of Valencia, makes his way up Decoro Drive on Friday afternoon. "It's marvelous," said Tiegs regarding the new bike lane recently added on the street.

 
Decoro Drive bike lanes that drew a firestorm of criticism upon their sudden appearance two weeks ago are part of a plan to make the Santa Clarita Valley more bicycle friendly - a plan approved last year.

The addition of Decoro bike lanes - which meant reducing that stretch of Decoro from two vehicle lanes to one in each direction - was part of the city's nonmotorized transportation plan approved by the City Council in spring 2008.

The transportation plan, which was hailed by cyclists throughout the valley, won approval after several public scoping meetings, laying out $14 million in bicycling improvements, including 11 miles of new bike paths, 13 miles of new bike lanes and nine miles of bike routes, which are shared with motorists.

The plan calls for dedicated bicycle lanes on local streets including Dockweiler Drive, Copper Hill Drive, Plum Canyon Road and The Old Road.

Several hundred complaints were logged at City Hall after Decoro Drive was re-striped to include two bicycle lanes between Seco Canyon Road and McBean Parkway, city spokeswoman Gail Ortiz said.

Common to complaints about the Decoro change is that traffic - particularly during morning and evening rush hours - has increased on Decoro, motorists are coming close to collisions and that few bicyclists are seen using the route.

"It's turned into a nightmare. I find it completely absurd," resident Barbara Lewis told the City Council on Tuesday.

In response, City Manager Ken Pulskamp is hosting a community meeting Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Helmers Elementary School to field questions and feedback.

"Seventy-five percent (of the immediate residents) want it back the way it was," Mayor Frank Ferry said. "This was a huge outpouring of people upset."

On the flip side of the debate, the new lanes have been met with approval by the cycling community.

"The more bike lanes the better," said Brian Howard, an avid cyclist and father of four who lives off Decoro Drive. "It's hard for me to imagine how more bike lanes wouldn't be good, because this town hasn't been set up to ride a bike."

Maria Gutzeit, a member of the Santa Clarita Velo cycling club, is waiting to see how Wednesday's meeting goes.

"I'm hopeful that we end up with some kind of compromise," she said. "We worked so hard on the bicycle master plan, and we're just really concerned that everything that's done is going to be a battle or subject to being reversed.

"The city needs to advocate for why they did it. These aren't people's private streets."

The groundwork for the nonmotorized plan was laid over the last several years.

In 2006 the city conducted a survey of local residents, sending out postcards, holding open houses and doing Web-based surveys, City Traffic Engineer Andrew Yi said. Those surveys netted 352 responses. Fifteen percent of the people who responded reportedly said they used a bicycle to get to work or to go shopping.

In developing the plan, Yi said software-based traffic studies were done, comparing current traffic volumes with projected volumes, looking as far out as 10 to 20 years.

The studies also take into account the types of collisions that occur on a street, signal timing and any previous motorist or resident complaints, he said.

"We look at all that very comprehensively," he said. "We didn't expect this kind of reaction from the community."

Decoro Drive is not the only street to which bike lanes have been added recently, it's just apparently the most controversial.

Yi said lanes have also been added to Rockwell Canyon Road, Tournament Road and 16th Street.

The feedback regarding those lanes has been mostly positive, he said.

Rockwell Canyon is the main access road for College of the Canyons, and spokesman John McElwain said so far, there have been no negative impacts on traffic.

"It has slowed people down a bit," he said.

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