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Council U-Turns on Bike Lane Decision

By Eric Licas

The Review

The South Pasadena Council voted 3-2 to keep bike lanes on Grand Avenue and Hermosa Street on June 5, reversing course on a previous decision to remove them following an outpouring of public comments.

More than 30 people signed up to speak on the matter during council’s meeting earlier this month, and only six wanted to remove the bike lanes. The majority of speakers were cyclists who said they’ve made frequent use of the safety measures since they were installed in August 2023.

“There’s a group of us who are actually so inspired and supported by what’s built there on Grand Avenue that they ride every day to Arroyo Vista Elementary,” said resident Casey Law, referring to a “bike bus,” of students and parents who get together to cycle to campus each morning.

Many proponents of the bike lanes brought their children with them to the meeting. Most speakers pointed out that Grand is a popular route for people riding to the Rose Bowl and other local destinations. They believed the community would be safer if the bike lanes there and on Hermosa are left in place.

Meanwhile, opponents of the bike lanes identified themselves as residents along Grand, and said they felt that officials did not adequately consult with the community before the lanes were installed. That complaint is partly why the City Council had previously voted unanimously to remove the lanes in March.

“I don’t think it was a well-thought through plan for bikes,” Councilwoman Janet Braun said. “… We’ve been trying to get together with Active Streets to try to really put something together where we can come up with a bike plan for the city. I think it really needs much more strategy and planning as opposed to putting down a temporary project because we got a grant.”

Funding for the bike lanes came from an L.A. Metro grant initially meant to pay for the 626 Golden Streets Arroyo Fest in 2020, when an event promoting cycling, walking and public transit was cancelled due to the pandemic. As a result, that money was repurposed for projects to make the city more accessible by foot and bike travel, as well as improvements for outdoor dining arrangements.

The bike lanes up for debate at the meeting were part of a temporary pilot program. Residents who want to remove them said pedestrian-bike collisions are rare in those areas, and questioned whether there is any real benefit to having them.

“I just think that’s a horrible way to think about safety, in terms of if somebody has to die or there has to be a crash for us to make things safer,” resident Ben Steele countered. “We should absolutely be proactive about that.”

Mayor Evelyn Zneimer, as well as Councilmen Jon Primuth and Michael Cacciotti, voted in favor of a motion keep and maintain the bike lanes. Braun and Mayor Pro Tem Jack Donovan, whose district includes the portion of Grand Avenue with the bike lanes, voted against it.

“I didn’t really understand the full utilization of the bikes back in March,” said Primuth regarding the change in his stance. “I hadn’t heard from all the property owners. I thought I had. And as I have biked on Grand, I felt safe, safer with the bike lanes. That was my subjective experience.”

First published in the June 21 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

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