By Victor Merina | January 19, 2011
Locals gathered at the Clark Building to discuss proposed regional bike paths during a South Bay Bicycle Master Plan open house Tuesday night.
With a gathering of bicycle enthusiasts around her, Marissa Christiansen waved her hand toward the surrounding exhibit of maps, posters and charts, urging the Hermosa Beach crowd to step up with its suggestions or concerns.
“What you tell us will be the cornerstone of what we will consider for our proposed master plan,” said Christiansen, director of the South Bay Initiative for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.
Christiansen is spearheading efforts to create aSouth Bay Bicycle Master Plan that intends to link existing networks and expand bike paths in seven local cities: El Segundo, Gardena, Hermosa Beach, Lawndale, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach and Torrance.
After holding similar workshops last week in El Segundo, Lawndale and Gardena, Christiansen called Tuesday’s workshop at the Clark Building “the first step” for residents of the Beach Cities to make their voices heard.
The open house sessions in Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach will be followed by a second round of workshops in the spring and will culminate in a proposal that will go to all the municipalities for approval.
“August is what we’re aiming for, and how quickly it’s adopted is based on comments we get back from City Council, commissioners, and the public,” Christiansen told Patch on Wednesday.
Her group’s aim is to look at existing bicycle plans in the region, meet with city staffers and come up with a workable proposal.
Hermosa Beach is among the cities that have already adopted a master bicycle plan, but instead of clashing with local efforts the regional plan “will supplement and provide linkages” to other bicycle networks, Christiansen said.
“What we are doing is filling the gaps in between the various plans and finding links,” she said. “If you look at all these different bike plans there’s not a lot of interconnection between the cities.”
Here in Hermosa Beach, more than 60 people followed Christiansen’s invitation and fanned out along the wooden floors at the Clark Building (where a jazzercise class had been only an hour before) and studied charts, marked maps, compiled lists and discussed bicycle needs Tuesday night.
Dick Pio, who at 83 has lived more than half of his life in Hermosa Beach, said he rides a tandem bike with his wife, Lois, and is concerned about the safety of one particular stretch of road where the bike path enters Manhattan Beach along the Strand.
“We have ridden thousands of miles and hundreds of hours so we know every bump, every crack, every hazard,” he said after using a marker to show the portion of the bike path that he believes should be fixed.
Tony Leal, 41, was also busy marking up the map as he outlined the bike routes he takes and the danger spots he has seen.
Leal, an aircraft mechanic at LAX, routinely bicycles to work from his Hermosa Beach home, he said, and stressed the need for more bike lanes and accessible roads to bicyclists as their numbers increase in this era of rising gas prices. He added that the Strand has become a difficult place to bike.
“I won’t even let my 9-year-old daughter get on the bike path,” he said. “It’s so packed and so dangerous. It’s already so crowded.”
Local runners and walkers were also interested in the bike master plan developments.
Eileen Kadowaki, 53, hopes to incorporate cycling into her physical regimen and favored more bike lanes on the streets, she said. But for now, her primary interest is how a bicycle master plan would affect her own routine.
“When I’m not running I like to walk so I want to see what plans are for changing walking routes in the city,” she said.
Dency Nelson put a sticker on the map to show where he lives in the city. Nelson, who’s known around town for driving an electric car and using solar panels at home, said he views the South Bay Bicycle Master Plan as a boon for the environment.
“My interest in this is not so much as a recreational bicyclist but to encourage bicycling as an alternative clean vehicle and a way to get around,” said the 59-year-old Nelson.
Plans for a regional network of bike paths and routes in the South Bay date back to November 2009 when the South Bay Bicycle Coalition was formed. The nonprofit group was awarded a $240,000 grant last year by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to draw up a regional bike plan.
In addition to the coalition, the Vitality City program is sponsoring the bike master plan workshops. The preventative health project is working with the Beach Cities Health District as part of a three-year “community-wide well being improvement initiative.”
Frank Senteno, Hermosa Beach’s interim public works director, was encouraged by what he heard at Tuesday’s meeting and looks forward to meeting again with members of the local bicycle coalition to view their findings and learn more about the regional network, he told Patch.
“Our next step is to see what other agencies are doing and see what we have to plan for in taking the next steps,” Senteno said.
Similar workshops are scheduled for Wednesday at the Joslyn Center on Valley Drive in Manhattan Beach and Thursday at the Alta Vista Community Center at 715 Julia Ave. in Redondo Beach—both sessions begin at 7 p.m.