• a cross street with spikes near a median

      Grand and Hermosa (Photo – Marina Khubesria)

      The issue that brought the most residents out was the potential removal of a bicycle lane on Grand Avenue.

      By News Desk

      South Pasadena City Hall was a packed house on Wednesday, June 7, spilling onto the courtyard and sidewalks of Mission Street as residents came to speak on a variety of Council agenda items, from a 6-unit development to a resolution on the situation in Gaza. However the subject that brought the most residents out was the removal of a bicycle lane on Grand Avenue.

      Grand Avenue bike lane

      The Grand Avenue bike lane, created in 2023, using funds from a Metro grant, runs North/South for three-quarters of a mile from Mission Street to the Southern border of Pasadena at Columbia Street. During the March 20th meeting, the City Council voted unanimously to remove the bike lanes, after hearing from some residents living on Grand who opposed them.

      Since that meeting, multiple residents on Grand and throughout the immediate area began to attend council meetings to give general public comments at their dismay of the removal.  Angela Kerwin, an Arroyo Vista Elementary parent of two, who began to attend those meetings, collected signatures from over 100 families in the area who wanted to keep the bike lanes.  She presented the list to council.

      This support from families prompted the council to agendize a reconsideration of the March 20th vote during the June 5th’s meeting.

      Public comments

      “I didn’t understand the full utilization of the bikes back in March,” said Councilmember Jon Primuth. “I hadn’t heard from all the property owners that I thought I had […] I hadn’t heard about the children using the bike lanes. I hadn’t cast my net wide enough to understand.”

      84% of the commenters in chamber and on Zoom professed their support to keep the bike lanes.  Cindy Kang, a mother of three boys in South Pasadena summed up the sentiment from most of the families that spoke, “(The bike lane) has made such a huge difference in our lives in terms of (my 8 year old son’s) independence, he jumps out of bed because he looks forward to riding his bike to school.”

      Meanwhile, some of the residents who had attended the March 20th meeting were discouraged that Council could overturn their original vote.

      “I think this is a terrible precedent,” said Steve Koch. “There aren’t dozens of kids living in the northwest corner of the city who have been using the bike lanes on Grand.”

      Arroyo Vista Elementary students Silvia Bessinger, Selah Kerwin, and Zachary Pham separately spoke of their use and need of the bike lanes.  South Pasadena Middle schooler Mack Shropshire added “It makes a difference for me because I use it all the time”.

      “The issue at hand is speeding cars,” countered Lisa Rowa, a Grand Ave resident for 20 years who wanted the council to remove the bike lanes. “There is no factual evidence that we are any more dangerous as long as people are following our speed limit.”

      “I think that’s just a horrible way to think of safety in terms of someone having to die to make something safer,” rebutted Ben Steele of South Pasadena, “We should have the ability to be proactive about that, and adding bike lanes is one way to do that.”

      Thomas Neuberger added in his comments that, “Anecdotal evidence and isolated incidents are weak arguments against numerous professional studies indicating that street modifications […]  result in safer behavior.”

      Nancy Anderson, another resident on Grand, however, did not feel that was the case. “A few painted lines – we feel they are giving people a sense of entitlement. We’ve noticed they are paying less attention than they did before, because they believe the bike lanes are magic.”

      Kim Hughes, current Chair of the city’s Mobility and Transportation Infrastructure Commission challenged that type of thinking when explaining her support, “At almost every meeting a resident will voice concerns about speeding cars and public safety. On Fremont we’ve had fatal accidents, Orange Grove fatal accidents, residents brought up concerns about Meridian, Marengo, Oak, Garfield and of course Grand [… ] It is very important that we look at these opportunities to keep our residents safe.”

      The vote

      When it came time to vote, Councilmember Janet Braun was the first to speak. “My rationale remains the same (from the March meeting)” Braun stated. “I believe in the safety of children, I just think the process on this one was a temporary grant […] I don’t think it was a well-thought through plan for bikes.”

      Primuth, however, was moved by the parents and their children’s experiences. “I am going to change my vote to keep the bike lanes.”

      When it became clear the council was ready to reverse their previous decision and keep the bike lanes, Mayor Evelyn Zneimer stated, “We are a progressive city, we have adopted a climate action plan, we want walkability which is why our quality of life is very good here in South Pas.  This really is the legacy that we leave for our future generation, we are the first green city, we should honor that and live by our words.”

      3-2 was the final count to keep the Grand Avenue Bike Lane, with Councilmembers Jon Primuth, Michael Cacciotti and Mayor Evelyn Zneimer in support, while Councilmembers Janet Braun and Jack Donovan voted to remove. Upon the verdict, the parents and children in the audience erupted into applause.

      “It’s just four lines on the street” summed up Grand Avenue resident Rion Nakaya, “and with that, we are prioritizing families and kids.”


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      Contributor

      Comments

      1. The Kelly Family says:

        As a Grand Avenue resident, I appreciate the City Council’s reconsideration and ultimate decision to keep the lanes. My children and I use the lanes all the time as we are avid cyclists and since both of my boys are young the lanes provide guidelines to safely get us up and down our street which is (as my neighbor noted) a thoroughfare.

        In the process of discussing the lanes with the City Council, our children (the group that rides consistently throughout the school year on Grand Ave) were videotaped without our parental permission by adults opposing the lanes. They sent out the videos to document the kids “not staying in the lines at all times.” It was distressing to say the least to us parents as using video of small children without permission to “prove your point” forgets that our children are just that – children, not “argument points”.

        We also seem to often forget in South Pasadena that the significant value to our homes is due to our excellent public schools. It only makes sense to embrace the families with school-aged children who go to our public schools and support their access and enjoyment of our neighborhood….. cause its good for property value!

        This topic on Grand has been intense but ultimately it was the safety of the riders and runners Grand Avenue hosts each day that helped keep the lanes.

      2. Casey law says:

        Great to see the Council reconsider this removal. The first decision was based on a lot of misinformation from people fearful of change. The lane installation clearly motivated by engineering research, the need to build a network, and the environmental imperative. The year 2023 was the warmest in recorded human history: change is coming whether people like it or not. We should take the initiative to make the change that helps us live better lives.

        Thanks to all the people who called in and argued for safer, healthier, more sustainable streets in South Pasadena!

      3. Granville and Dianne Thurman says:

        It is clear that “He who yells the loudest gets the vote” with the South Pasadena City Council. We have lived on Grand Avenue for 58 years and have enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere. Many of the pro bike lanes persons live in other areas of South Pasadena and seldom even use Grand Avenue for transiting the city. And many bicyclists do not stay in the designated lanes or make the stop at the Grand Avenue/Hermosa Avenue stop sign as it is. We have yet to see any of the alleged children riding bicycles at 8 a.m., and we have been observing! This was a concerted, organized effort of people completely unrelated to our street to circumvent a policy already voted upon. We regret that our council members cannot withstand the pleas of persons completely uninvolved.

      4. Steve Koch says:

        There’s a lot more to this story than what has been mentioned here:

        Bike lanes were installed without Grand Ave residents notification or input. The city got a grant to put in bike lanes and they notified residents after they approved the project. We were told that this was a “temporary demonstration project”, with temporary paint and tape, – but the lines ended up being painted with permanent paint. Grand isn’t on the city’s Bicycle Master Plan, yet we got these bike lanes anyway. No traffic data was used to support the project – originally, bike lanes were proposed as a way to slow traffic – but no speed data was collected before or after the installation to judge it’s effectiveness.

        After the vote to remove the bike lanes on March 20th, parent bike-activists objected saying that the lanes were necessary for their children to bike safely to Arroyo Vista Elementary in their Bike Bus. The problem is that the majority of the 12 or so children who use the Tuesday morning Bike Bus don’t live at the north end of Grand Ave where the route starts. Instead most of these children ride up Grand Ave or up Arroyo Drive, away from the school for about a half mile before they turn around and ride back down Grand Ave to the school. Some are dropped off by car near the start of the route.

        For most of these children it is an unnecessary detour to even be on Grand Ave. It’s fine if they want to do that, but it’s misleading argue to our City Council that Grand Ave is a vital route for their children to get to school. It’s not. I won’t even get into the issue of whether unpredictable 6 – 8 year olds biking on busy streets at rush hour is a good idea or not, you have to see that for yourself. And these are very young children doing this at rush hour, 8AM.

        Aside from the Bike Bus children, kids biking on the street is an extremely rare occurrence. The street is primarily used by adult recreational cyclists who have been cycling safely on Grand for decades. According to CalTrans, Bike lanes are intended to help cyclists navigate corridors where insufficient room exists for cars and bicycles to share the road. That’s not the case on Grand Ave, which is straight and wide and has an excellent safety record with all modes of transportation.

        Yes, some residents don’t like the look of the painted bike lanes, but the real issue is that this is the first step in transforming Grand Ave from a residential street to a thoroughfare. The Transportation Commissioners in the city (MTIC) have discussed adding a yellow center line to Grand as well as possibly removing parking on Grand to allow for a separated bike lane. Grand has plenty of cut-through traffic as it is and we don’t want to encourage more by changing the appearance of the street to that of a thoroughfare.

        In a grass-roots petition, taken door to door on Grand and Hermosa St. last year (yes there’s a isolated 500 foot bike lane on Hermosa as part of the same project), 90 of the 104 properties were petitioned and 77 of them disprove of the bike lanes and want them removed. 4 residences said they wanted the bike lanes.

        But it looks like now we have bike lanes for good. Council Member Jon Primuth was apparently swayed by the parent’s misleading story of needing the Grand Ave bike lanes to bike to school, and he flipped his vote. Bike lanes are appropriate for some streets but Grand Ave isn’t one of them. The “process” of how the city went about implementing this project is outrageous, and they’ve admitted that they’ve learned a lot and that they’ll do things differently in the future, it’s just a shame that those lessons were learned at the expense of the residents of Grand Ave and Hermosa Street.

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