The La Verne Active Transportation Plan: Norm, not Event

The city Planning Commission may not have the authority of set policy, but their recommendations to the City Council carries a certain weight, so when I received notification of the Planning Commission meeting in the neighboring city of La Verne I was determined to take a seat on the public side of the lectern. Taking up the final slot on the evening agenda was a review and approval of the city's recent Active Transportation Workshop. That singular topic, so important to many of us, brought out a roomful of the cycling community's familiar faces - some La Verne residents, and others from surrounding communities, many of whom ride to, or through, the city on a daily basis. By their participation people such as Brent Feller, John Tarrant, Richard Mayo, Walt Farmer, and many others continue to push forward ideas that will make the streets more inviting and safer for all of us.

I should note that the meeting came on the heels of a ride earlier in the day, during which some of the Commission members accompanied local cyclists on a ride along many of the city's streets. As intended, the ride afforded those Commission members some firsthand experience of conditions, both good and bad, along the streets that make up a part of the Active Transportation plan. It sounded to me as though the ride was highly beneficial, and probably should be considered standard procedure where ever such plans are being considered.

A good ten to twelve people, both residents and non-residents, stood and spoke before the Commission sharing personal experiences of riding within and through the city. The overwhelming theme, in fact the one mentioned by each speaker in turn, was the need for a safe connection across town. For years La Verne has held the dishonor of being regarded as a cycling "black hole", a place were bike lanes from surrounding city's come to a sudden and, sometimes, severe end. The two most notable examples are Bonita Avenue and Baseline Avenue, the primary East-West cycling corridors through the city. Baseline is the least problematic and easiest to address. Unfortunately, Bonita (Citrus Regional Bikeway) which is much more significant from a commuting / active transportation standpoint, due to is proximity to the old town La Verne, and University areas is much more controversial. The city seems committed to shifting cyclists a couple blocks south to the parallel Arrow Highway with plans for a separated (Class I) corridor. Ostensibly there is sense to this since the future Gold Line station will be located on that road. As was pointed out, though, by everyone who spoke on the matter, that plan fails to adequately address the needs of through-riders, who would undoubtedly continue to prefer the more direct route along Bonita.

There are encouraging signs of a shift in thinking, the Active Transportation plan being prime among them. The city plans of increase its bike lane total from the current 1.5 miles to 12.6 miles, and is continuing to move forward with plans for an open streets event on April 22, 2018 in conjunction with other regional municipalities including Claremont and Pomona. The Gold Line extension will give added emphasis to active transportation and the need to address the "first and last miles" issue. City staff compiled a list of ten items from the AT workshop of special concern, which included making Bonita more bike-friendly, the possibility of a 3rd Street alternative to Bonita, closing gaps between existing bikeways through surrounding cities, making Arrow and Baseline safer, incorporating Safe Routes to School programs, updating the city General Plan to encourage, and make possible, more active transportation, increase the number of traffic signals with bicycle controls, and the potential of a bike share system in La Verne and Claremont.

As I mentioned above, all the public speakers mentioned the need to close gaps, make connections across town, while others including John Trendler of the PVBC, and a representative of the University of La Verne, offered their assistance in facilitating plans. Walt stressed the need to follow through with funding opportunities, and to not let them slip away as has happened in the past. I may very well have been most impressed with the number of young people from the SC Velo Junior Team who showed up, and who spoke their minds, participated in this public discourse; clearly progress in bicycle infrastructure improvement will continue to move forward because riders, like them, take an active role. Nor should we forget about the city - there is no question that the City of La Verne is responding, in a positive way, to a need that affects so many of us. How far they go, and what course they take will depend, to a great degree, on how willing the cycling community is to get involved.

Finally, and while he may laugh about it, I think Cycling Around La Verne's Doug Strange may very well have offered the most profound comment of the evening when he noted the need to regard "active transportation as a norm, not as an event."