2012-05-11 / Front Page
City Council says no to bike lane conversion
The City Council on Monday considered a proposal to reduce the lanes of traffic on Los Angeles Avenue, between Erringer and Madera roads, from six to four and add striped bike lanes.
However, with a great deal of concern expressed by the business community and only a few local cyclists calling for change, city leaders decided to keep the busy corridor as is.
“I’m an advocate for bike lanes but I’m also an advocate for business,” City Councilmember Steve Sojka said. “This is our major business district. It’s only going to cost us $50,000 to put a bike lane in but it will cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars in repercussions from lost business and lost revenue and especially sales tax revenue that we generate.”
Most of that section of Los Angeles Avenue has three lanes in each direction. The six-lane confi guration was installed in 1997 to accommodate increased traffic.
While the section of roadway is currently designated as a bike route and has “Bicycle Route” and “Share the Road” signs, no bike lane is striped on the street.
Los Angeles Avenue has bike lanes to the east and west of the portion of road in question, so a dedicated bike lane in the area would complete a direct east-west bike lane connection from one end of the city to the other.
“God love you, your bike lanes are a little spotty,” Simi cyclist Bill Clark told the council. “There’s more cyclists every day; let’s give them a straight shot through our city.”
Fellow Simi biker Richard Mason, the only other bicyclist to speak during the meeting, agreed. “There is no safe bike lane going into Moorpark from the east end of the valley,” said Mason, a member of a local bicycle club. “Many bicyclists do ride from one end of Simi Valley to the other and the stretch of road from Erringer to Madera is very dangerous. . . . I’ve had many close calls as have other people that I’ve talked to.”
A review of bike accidents along the corridor didn’t reveal a pattern that would likely be corrected with the installation of a striped bike lane, city staff said, as it appears there are four to five accidents annually, regardless of the number of lanes.
Councilmember Mike Judge said getting motorists to slow down is the real answer.
“We need to find a way to slow down the traffic on L.A. Avenue. Once that’s done, I don’t think the cyclists will have a problem,” he said. “People drive like they need to get somewhere yesterday . . . our speed limits are way too high.”
According to city staff, the Erringer-Madera section of Los Angeles Avenue serves 26,000 to 29,000 vehicles per day. Still, traffic generally moves freely along L.A. Avenue, staff said. The highest traffic volume occurs between First Street and Erringer Road, which has many driveways and several signalized intersections.
If L.A. Avenue were reduced to four lanes, an acceptable level of traffic flow would likely be maintained, staff said, though at peak hours drivers would likely notice more congestion and longer wait times at stop lights.
The cost to add bike lanes was estimated to be $50,000. But, as Sojka said, that cost wasn’t the council’s primary concern.
City staff surveyed the businesses along L.A. Avenue regarding the proposed change from six to four traffic lanes with bike lanes. Of the more than 450 businesses contacted, 60 responded: 37 were in favor and 23 were opposed.
However, a survey conducted by the Chamber of Commerce came up with different results.
Marybeth Jacobsen, government relations manager for the Chamber, presented the survey’s findings during the meeting. About 130 members answered the survey, including about 13 who own a business in the area and about 40 bicyclists.
Nearly all respondents—97 percent—said they frequently work, shop or travel on the section of roadway in question, and 80 percent of respondents said they opposed reducing the lanes from six to four. Those opposed included about one-third of the bicyclists.
In addition, 58 percent said narrowing the street would cause them to patronize businesses in the area less frequently.
“Small businesses are still struggling and we hope you would consider their needs,” Jacobsen said.
Art Jaeger, who opened Simi Valley Laundry in the area in January, agreed.
“I have a great concern that in this particular corridor, if this was to go ahead, it would be perceived as an anti-business decision by the council,” said Jaeger.
Sojka chaired the committee that helped update the Bicycle Master Plan in 2009. While cutting lanes and putting in bike lanes can work as a “ traffic calming measure” on roads like Long Canyon, he said, he doesn’t believe the same would hold true on L.A. Avenue. In light of the Chamber’s report, the rest of the council felt the same.
“It’s clear to me that the business community doesn’t want that area to have bike lanes,” Mayor Bob Huber said.
Mayor Pro Tem Barbra Williamson brought the issue forward after hearing from some Simi Valley bikers and was surprised more cyclists didn’t attend the meeting. Still, she felt the issue deserved to be addressed, and she was pleased with the Chamber’s report.
“I think this puts the issue to bed,” she said.