by Winston Chua
San Marino residents voiced their opposition to the Bicycle and Pedestrian Improvement Plan Monday night in front of the City’s Traffic Advisory Commission at the San Marino Center. Around 200 people showed up to the meeting, with many attending to protest the consideration of part or all of the Plan.
The crux of Monday’s meeting was largely filled with public comments as residents received the opportunity to make sure their voices were heard. In the end the Traffic Commission unanimously decided to send the issue back to City Staff who will work to examine how the Plan enhances safety, look for more data and consider highlighting specific pedestrian improvements before giving the issue back to the Traffic Commission in June.
Consultant Ryan Snyder made a brief presentation before the crowd, urging the audience to consider the kind of community they would want San Marino to be, asking them to consider the livability of the city and enhance the small town atmosphere of where they live. He indicated that federal and state funding would be available to cities interested in making their cities more bike and pedestrian friendly.
It was clear from the outset, however, that those who showed up to the San Marino Center had very definitive ideas for how San Marino ought to be. Many have spent their whole lives in the City; one woman was part of four generations of family members in her beloved community. The general tenor of the crowd, from this reporter’s perspective, appeared to not be be very pleased with Snyder’s presentation, which suggested San Marino make more changes than they were comfortable with.
Carol Herman, the first speaker, told the audience and the Commission that the city should in no way feel obligated to apply for federal funds, especially if applying for said funds is not in the city’s best interests.
Dale Pederson read a quote that said “installing bike lanes next to parked cars is equal to at best a bad practice.”
Mary Ulin, Safe Routes to Schools Grant Coordinator, spoke in favor of the Plan and stressed that a majority of parents interviewed in a survey of about 900 families are concerned about the safety of intersections and crossings, the speed of traffic and the amount of traffic.
But Susan Aldore said the Plan was not truly about public safety, but perhaps about a networking of neighboring cities. She criticized the cost of the plan, a $4-million figure that is equivalent to what the city pays for its fire services in a given year.
“We are not Santa Barbara,” said Aldore. “You can’t compare us to them.” She also noted that cost approximations do not include the ongoing maintenance, liability insurance, reduced parking and even entertaining CicLAvia in the city.
The audience also took notice of Snyder’s comparisons of San Marino to cities like Palo Alto, Eugene, Seville, Spain, and Davis, cities that are more like college towns than San Marino is.
Many speakers, and there were many, said that what San Marino needed was greater education and not more bike lanes. Wayne Jett argued that more bike paths would not necessarily move students away from greater danger.
“We are not a resort community,” Jett said. “We are a working community in the middle of a metropolitan area.”
Caroline Howell said there should be more education and more enforcement and stressed the importance of making major intersections safer for pedestrians. She expressed concern that we are living in a time when there are more motorists who are texting while driving and paying less attention to pedestrians and cyclists.
Others in the audience made points to the effect that the bike master plan would provide a false sense of security for children.
One major concern for parents in the audience was the proposal in the Plan that is currently considering installing showers at Lacy Park. A handful or speakers said that this idea was highly inappropriate, no matter what type of rationale went into the proposal of the idea. One woman said “Jerry Sandusky!” when this idea was first mentioned.
Robert Almanza and Ken Riley also voiced their opposition to the Plan, saying they felt it wouldn’t necessarily reduce speeds and wouldn’t want the City of San Marino to become like the cities discussed in the Plan. Steve Talt said the Plan is counterintuitive to the safety of the children and that much of it would create a nuisance to the City.
San Marino Alum Wesley Reutimann stressed that bike infrastructure lowers injuries and noted that other small communities have bike master plans that help promote separation between cars and vulnerable bikers.
The Traffic Commission meets on the third Monday of each month typically in City Hall, but with larger turnouts expected in the future, meeting places designed to accommodate a greater number of people will likely be considered. The Commission may vote to send to the City Council recommendations of portions of the Plan for their approval next month.