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Will downtown revival leave cyclists in the dust?

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Beth Winegarner
Daily News Staff Writer
July 13, 2005

As Redwood City moves ahead with plans that will draw thousands to the city, some bicyclists are wondering where those plans leave them.

This week, the City Council adopted a plan to re-stripe Jefferson Avenue between Middlefield Road and Marshall Street to make it safer for drivers and pedestrians, but some have said the plan ignores — or even endangers — bicyclists.

Proposed curb bulb-outs, which narrow the roadway and make it safer for pedestrians to cross, force bicyclists to swerve into traffic, resident David Minche said. Adding angled parking on the east side of Jefferson means cars will now be backing into traffic.

Although some have suggested that the city add a bike lane while Jefferson is being reconfigured, traffic engineer Rich Haygood insisted that won’t be necessary.

“Bicycles will be able to travel at a safe speed along with the traffic,” he said.

“I feel safer cycling in a bike lane — even on a four-lane road,” said resident Billy James.

At a June forum held by the Friends of Redwood City, traffic discussions lingered on the city’s bikeability. Many residents spoke in favor of adding more bike lanes and widening existing bike lanes.

Some pointed out that the Jefferson Avenue underpass connecting Sequoia Station and El Camino Real to the new retail-cinema complex doesn’t offer a bike route, making it difficult for residents to cycle to the movies.

However, a current map of suggested bike paths recommends Jefferson between El Camino Real and Alameda de las Pulgas.

“In reality, that’s terrifying,” said Kathy Schrenk, a member of the Redwood City Bicycle Coalition, an ad-hoc residents group consulting with the city on future general-plan amendments.

Although Redwood City does have some designated bike routes along Alameda de las Pulgas, Hopkins Avenue and Arguello Street, it suffers because those lanes aren’t connected to each other, Schrenk said.

“Things are pretty disjointed, especially if you want to get north or south on El Camino, which for some people can be pretty intimidating,” Schrenk said.

In addition to connecting the city’s bike routes, Schrenk said bicyclists need to come up with their own map of recommended routes.

Schrenk and others have been meeting regularly with city planner Gary Bonte to direct amendments to the city’s general plan, which is currently under review.

“We are trying to get more people out of their cars,” Bonte said.

Bonte and coalition members are working on ways to link Redwood City’s bike paths with each other, with routes in other cities and with the Bay Trail.

Eventually, the plan is to build a north-south commuter bikeway from San Francisco to San Jose that would connect with most of the Peninsula cities’ downtown areas, Bonte said.

Creating safe bike routes means striping the streets, erecting signs and making sure streets are in good repair. Potholes and grates that don’t pose a problem for cars are obstacles for cyclists.

It also means making tricky intersections, such as the one at Woodside and Middlefield roads, safer for bicyclists, and using traffic-calming measures to slow drivers down, Bonte said.

In Palo Alto, city officials have established a series of bicycle boulevards, striped city streets to make way for cyclists and even adapted bike-friendly signaling.

But those kinds of programs cost money, Bonte cautioned.

“We want to encourage more nonmotorized transportation. The question is, How do we get there?” Bonte said.

This article originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily News.

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Written by Beth Winegarner

July 13, 2005 at 8:56 PM

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