City of Monterey’s bike/pedestrian plan heads to City Council with fierce support – and opposition.
Thursday, February 28, 2013
Nine bike enthusiasts pedaled miles of Monterey’s hilly and flat neighborhoods, and took six long walks around the city over the past year, with particular attention to the areas most pedestrians and cyclists avoid – those with treacherous street crossings or lacking sidewalks.
The Monterey On The Move Advisory Committee’s field work guided a new mobility plan for the city, with proposals for dozens of new bike lanes, traffic-light improvements and sidewalk repairs.
The new plan replaces a 2009 city bike plan and accounts for multiple transportation mechanisms in one trip. Some 800 cyclists now use bikes for their daily commute, an 80-percent increase from 2000 to 2010, according to the draft plan. Over that period, public-transit commuters increased by 30 percent, while drivers declined by about 20 percent.
“Especially in this area, where there’s a lot of land area, for that last mile, having a bike is really important for a bus rider,” committee member Megan Tolbert says. “This plan is broader. It includes pedestrians and transit connections.”
The plan, completed with a $35,000 grant from the California Department of Transportation, was released in draft form in February. Both the Parks and Recreation Commission and the Planning Commission recommend adopting the bike plan. The council is expected to vote March 19.
But adopting the plan doesn’t mean it will be implemented. Each proposed project would still be subject to public discussion, and need a funding source.
Alex Cappelli, vice president of the Velo Club of Monterey and member of the advisory committee, doesn’t hold out much hope that some of the more substantial aspects of the plan will actually get implemented.
“It’s frustrating when none of this stuff gets done,” Cappelli says.
He cites financing and vocal neighborhood opposition as blocks to some key projects, such as a connector from New Monterey to downtown.
The proposed bike/pedestrian ramp would link a dead end on Hawthorne Street to an existing path on the lower Presidio that hooks up with Pacific Street. To make room for the ramp, Pvt. Bolio Road leading to the Defense Language Institute would be moved by about 10 feet.
Last year, a cyclist nominated that $275,000 project to the city’s Neighborhood Improvement Program committee, which distributed more than $2 million to various projects. But after Hawthorne Street property owners complained, the NIP committee backed off.
“It’s easy for people to put a stop to these bicycle projects,” Cappelli says. “The neighbors [on Hawthorne] don’t want it, and their voices are heard more than the bicyclists, because we’re too diverse to be speaking with one voice.”
Approving the plan could allow the city to apply for grants on some of the more costly projects and move forward with the more straightforward ones, like painting bike lanes onto streets. Principal Planner Elizabeth Caraker expects striping projects to be integrated into regular street repaving projects.
Caraker isn’t sure what it would cost to complete the entire plan, but she says the Hawthorne Street project is the priciest. Improved pedestrian and biking access is expected to boost business downtown, she adds.
“Whether or not it’s worth it as far as the amount of money spent, I don’t know how to quantify the benefits of a plan like that,” Cappelli says. “You can’t really put a dollar amount on it.”