Cyclists advocate for a New Monterey bike path; neighbors push back.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
When Tim Meehan and Mindy Surratt were looking to buy a home, they took topography into account. Their Hawthorne Street house in New Monterey is three blocks uphill from the Rec Trail, but even that can feel like a haul when they’re towing two kids or groceries or a surfboard around on a bike.
In their daily bike commute, Meehan and Surratt drop down Reeside – on the sidewalk, because they go against traffic – then cut through a parking lot to Lighthouse Avenue, where they ride past the Presidio.
“The scenic route would be the Rec Trail,” Meehan says. “But the problem is, you’ve got to cross Lighthouse.”
City planners say avoiding that dangerous crossing is a high priority in their efforts to encourage walking and bicycling. But there’s still no guarantee they can pay for a proposed Hawthorne Street bike ramp.
The ramp would link Hawthorne’s dead end to a bike/pedestrian path on the lower Presidio. To make space for it, Pvt. Bolio Road leading to the Defense Language Institute would move about 10 feet south.
“This is a really important piece of connecting New Monterey with downtown,” Monterey City Planner Elizabeth Caraker says. “If there was a direct, easy connection, hopefully there would be more cyclists going downtown.”
The path was first proposed in the city’s 2009 Bicycle Transportation Plan, along with 43 other projects. Since then, some striping has been added to Camino Aguajito and Mark Thomas Drive. But securing funding for larger improvements, like the Hawthorne-Bolio ramp, has been slow going.
New Monterey resident Todd Muck, who served on the advisory committee for the 2009 bike plan, nominated this $275,000 project to Monterey’s Neighborhood Improvement Program committee, which will decide how to divvy up $2.5 million among 91 proposed park improvements, sidewalk fixes and other projects at an April 26 meeting.
The U.S. Army, which leases the lower Presidio to the city, has indicated it might support improved biking access, which could help reduce parking stress on the base. A draft letter awaiting Army signature, prepared by city planners and obtained by the Weekly, gushes over reduced carbon emissions and improved traffic flow. But Presidio spokesman Dan Carpenter hadn’t seen the letter and balks at the idea of moving Pvt. Bolio Road.
Insiders say it’s unlikely the NIP committee will go for it, because of opposition from the 100-block of Hawthorne. At an April 10 meeting, property owner Joe Favalora said more cycling behind driveways would be dangerous. “It’s a bad idea,” he said. “You’re going to get kids hurt.”
His daughter, Marietta Favalora, echoed his safety concerns. She wasn’t sure any fixes to the proposal could change her mind. “I oppose it. That’s all I really have to say,” she says.
Sharon Dwight says that seemingly intractable opposition makes the bike path an unlikely contender for NIP support.
Dwight has been representing New Monterey on the NIP committee since 1986, and says she’s never seen a project get 100 percent consensus, but prefers projects that at least come close.
“It’s only an improvement if the majority of people want it,” she says. “We’d like it not to be controversial.”
She adds that the path still might happen, with different funding. “There is probably grant money out there. NIP is not the only funding source.”
Meehan’s confident the ramp will eventually get built. But without NIP support, “It just could be 20 years.”