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Only as good as its weakest link: thoughts on Pasadena's Roseways

July 12, 2019

The City-branded sign used to mark a Roseway

Editor’s Note: Pasadena has designated a network of traffic-calmed streets, branded as “Roseways”, as official Class III bicycle routes. This program has been slowly emerging from its shell since ~2014, when it was born in response to our first campaign for a better bicycle network.

If you’re not aware of the Roseways program, don’t feel bad - we’ve been waiting for this critter to come out for a long time. CSC member John Lloyd shares his recent experiences riding the Wilson Ave. Roseway and on the bike lanes on Glenarm St., below.

This morning I had an opportunity to bike with my daughter to PCC from a home in southwest Pasadena where she is house-sitting. The ride gave me an opportunity to explore a part of Pasadena I don’t often ride, and I have some thoughts.

I always do a bit of research on Google Maps before riding an area I haven’t biked before to see what the safest routes are (something car drivers don’t need to worry about). I took the Gold Line to the Fillmore Station, rode my bike south on Raymond to Glenarm, and then took Glenarm east to Oakland, since Glenarm shows up as having bike lanes on Google Maps.

…Well, it does, but only for about 2 blocks and, during morning rush hour the rest of it is terrible. There’s no way anyone who’s not super confident is going to ride that street. The sharrows the city has painted on Glenarm do nothing to protect cyclists, and impatient drivers often pass too close. It was super stressful, and the thought that this was billed as a bike route had me thinking, seriously, Pasadena?

The Google Maps satellite view of Glenarm shows that while buffered bike lanes are present on Glenarm for two blocks east of Marengo, there are no bike facilities on the block between Marengo and Arroyo Parkway, and only sharrows between Arroyo and Fair Oaks. The portion of Glenarm between Fair Oaks to Marengo is adjacent to the 110 freeway terminus, and is usually busy as people rush to get on or off the freeway.

A photo of E. Glenarm St. just west of Marengo

A ground view of E. Glenarm St. between S. Marengo Ave. and Arroyo Parkway. Here, bicyclists are required to take the lane, which can be scary and stressful for most riders.

Once I turned south down Oakland, however, it was chill the rest of the way to my destination.

After I picked up my daughter, we avoided Glenarm and stayed on Oakland north to Fillmore. Much better. We then rode Fillmore east to Arden, and, while it was not bad, I was surprised at how fast much of the morning automobile traffic was on those narrow curves on Arden. The pavement on Arden is terrible, and it needs repaving. Speed humps, anyone?

We then turned north on Wilson because it is one of Pasadena’s much ballyhooed “Roseways”, which would have been a delight to bike on a quiet Sunday morning. On a weekday morning, however, parked cars force you into the travel lane, and my daughter felt uncomfortable as a couple of drivers, including one in an oversized pickup truck, roared past us too close for comfort.

If only we could use the space along the curb for a real bike lane. Hey, I get it, free street space for cars that sit empty all day trumps green mobility in Pasadena.

A bit stressed from the Wilson “Roseway”, we decided to ride through the Caltech campus rather than continuing north on Wilson to Cordova. From there, we took San Pasqual east to Sierra Bonita. This last part was very comfortable and low stress because of light traffic. We made it to PCC in a respectable 15 minutes. It is not too hilly and is easily doable for a confident cyclist. It could–and should–be doable for so many more, however.

The best parts of the ride were the low-traffic areas of Oakland, Fillmore, San Pasqual, and Sierra Bonita. These streets are wide, or have very low traffic volumes. However, the full route illustrates gaping holes in Pasadena’s bike plan. The unprotected door zone bike lanes on Glenarm and Wilson last for a couple of blocks, and the rest of the way leave people on bikes utterly at the mercy of the goodwill of drivers. Which means, zilch. Just because you call something a “Roseway” and paint a sharrow does not mean you’ve done anything to protect people on bikes.

A bike network is only as good as its weakest link. If 80% is "bike-friendly" but 20% is stressful, it doesn't matter.

Bottom line? This part of town is super close to the Metro and is easily connected to PCC, Art Center, and Caltech, as well as many other businesses and destinations. But a bike network is only as good as its weakest link, and this route has 2 or 3 weak links that will dissuade all but the most confident and experienced of cyclists. If 80 percent is “bike-friendly” but 20 percent is stressful, it doesn’t matter. People who don’t normally bike won’t do it, even if they’d like to.

My daughter is perfectly capable of riding by herself – if she feels comfortable. 80 percent of the way is not enough to make her comfortable enough to ride it alone during weekday rush hour. It’s a shame, too, because so much of Pasadena is potentially bike-friendly, but still falls short.

My daughter does not currently own a car. She’d like to ride to school. If she and other students like her need to get to school, should they essentially be forced to buy a car and drive? Is this how we should “keep Pasadena moving” in the 21st century?

Until people like my daughter feel comfortable riding to school, we still have much work to do.

Have you ridden the city's bike network and found it lacking? We've been talking to the city about the need for improvements, and part of that conversation is getting them to understand what problems people face while biking. You can share your feedback by weighing in here.

Tags: criticism, infrastructure, Pasadena, Roseways

2019: Remembering Aidan Tam and Phillip O'Neill

May 27, 2019

Editor’s Note: The following pieces were originally written for our May 28, 2019 newsletter. You can subscribe to that newsletter here.

Remembering Aidan Tam

A flyer asking people to enjoy a boba drink on May 31, 2019 in memory of Aidan Tam. #Boba4Aidan

Five years ago this month, a turning driver hit and killed 7 year old Aidan Tam in Pasadena. His family was forever changed. Aidan loved boba, and today, #Boba4Aidan honors his life and everyone impacted by preventable traffic deaths.

To raise awareness, SoCal Families for Safe Streets and Los Angeles Walks ask you to enjoy a boba drink this Friday, May 31, and post it on social media with the hashtags #Boba4Aidan, #Stop4Aidan, and #CrashNotAccident.

PasCSC plans to leave a commemoration in Aidan’s honor at the intersection of Hill Ave & Colorado Blvd on the evening of May 31. (Please see our Facebook page for additional details when they are posted). All are welcome.

Remembering Phillip O’Neill

Phillip O’ Neill would have been 31 this year. His death on Pasadena’s streets six years ago this June 15 ripped a hole in the lives of his family and friends that has never completely healed. Like so many families of the tens of thousands of victims of traffic violence in America every year, their lives go on, but they bear witness to the pain of loss.

Phillip’s death—like that of so many victims of traffic violence—was unnecessary and most likely preventable with safer road design that lowers motor vehicle speed and creates safe space for people on bikes and on foot. The stretch of Del Mar where he died remains unimproved and dangerous for bike riders and pedestrians, as do many other streets in Pasadena.

The death of Phillip O’Neill and others in Pasadena was a major motivation behind the formation of the Pasadena Complete Streets Coalition, and every June 15 we rededicate ourselves to the task of making Pasadena’s streets safer and healthier for all. We will not forget and we will not be silent. Join with us as we continue the fight for safe streets for all.

-tribute written by John Lloyd

Tags: memorials, stop4aidan, why we work

Success for Safer Streets in NW Pasadena!

May 9, 2017

Yesterday (Monday, May 8th) was a great example of how organizing in Pasadena can lead to real progress for people’s safety and well-being.

About a year ago, the Pasadena Complete Streets Coalition was approached by a group of residents, business owners, and churches on Fair Oaks Ave. between Washington Blvd. and Woodbury Rd., who are working together as the North Fair Oaks Empowerment Initiative to transform their community. In the process of surveying community residents’ hopes and dreams, they found that many of their concerns revolved around the street itself - safety, speeding, not enough pedestrian customers for businesses - and the group reached out to PasCSC for assistance.

PasCSC volunteers then worked with the North Fair Oaks team to develop a one-day training on Complete Streets, which happened on July 23, 2016.  The training featured speakers from the City of Pasadena and the County of LA, and included a hands-on exercise to look for placemaking opportunities (adapted from the Project for Public Spaces). The small but successful event spurred further action by the community.  The North Fair Oaks team, led by Janet Randolph and Jill Shook, followed up with all of the community organizing to identify and rally support for improvements, including co-hosting a walking tour in the fall with District 1 Council Member Tyron Hampton.

In November, the North Fair Oaks team made requests through Pasadena’s public Capital Improvement Program (CIP) process. They followed their requests with presentations to the Northwest Commission and to the Transportation Advisory Commission in February and March, both of which voted to include the group’s requests to make the N. Fair Oaks safer for everyone in City staff’s list of projects.

On Monday, May 8th, some of those requests were included on the recommended final CIP budget that was adopted by the Pasadena City Council. There was a lot of testimony at the meeting (and at a previous meeting on April 24th) in support of the projects, both praising the actions that were recommended, but also saying they didn’t go far enough. Council Member Kennedy proposed an amendment to fully fund one of the crosswalks that had been approved, but not funded, for FY 2017-18. It passed unanimously and will be built this fiscal year!

Tags: community, NFO

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