A comprehensive bike safety program may be in the cards for Santa Ana. This follows Saturday's bike safety forum at the Santa Ana Public Library that culled together ideas from the community on developing a customized plan to ensure cyclists and commuters a safer means to coexist on the road, and how to improve the experience of cycling in the city.
Brought together by intern and UCI undergrad student Michelle Yonemoto, along with the Santa Ana Parks and Rec and Santa Ana councilwoman Michelle Martinez, participants were greeted with snacks, while Health Care Agency workers Ana Merk and Jennifer Lee gave away free helmets to cyclists under 18.
Nestled together in the library's Meeting Room A, cyclists, teenagers and concerned parents all gathered to discuss their views and experiences of riding in the city. Executive Director of the City's Parks and Recreation Gerardo Mouet led the meeting and went over statistics of bicycle-related injuries in Orange County, citing over 1,187 in 2010 alone (with 3 deaths overall) caused by collisions with cars. "In Orange County, the car is king," Mouet said. "So while we need to educate pedestrians and cyclists on bike safety, we also need to educate drivers."
Councilwoman Michelle Martinez spoke a bit about how she was inspired to take on bike issues after having her bike stolen twice. "There hasn't really been a push from the public before," when asked why she hadn't pushed on the issue before. "And this isn't something my fellow council members are concerned over either. So it's going to take a lot more public involvement at council meetings to get this issue noticed."
Yonemoto expressed a similar personal experience that inspired her Urban Planning studies. "I've always been interested in bike safety. My mother was in an accident six years ago," Yonemoto stated.
To curb the discussion into specific focus points, the audience dispersed into groups where volunteers moderated comments and ideas on five different topics: bike lanes, bike trails, bike security, streets, and sidewalks. After reconvening, the volunteers each shared some of the overlying points made: the installation of more bike lanes would allow for youth and adult cyclists a means to get to work or school safer. Designating bike lanes by painting them a different color would make commuters aware, and more careful, of the cyclist's space.
Cyclists also discussed the need for more rest stops along bike trails and more lighting in the streets so riding at night would be safer. Principle streets, where the most traffic occurs, should consider having a bike trail added on the sidewalk to ensure more diverse forms of transportation. Lastly, several people piped up near the end of the meeting to suggest a citizens' commission to review projects in the city to make sure they keep cyclists in mind. Mouet explained that such a commission would exist with the 2014 Bike Safety Task Force, a new program where people could volunteer to oversee the planning of the bike safety program to ensure it meets their needs, and to continue to give ideas on bike safety.
The meeting, generally relaxed, lasted two hours. Moving forward with the feedback given, Martinez stated the next step was to present the information to engineers and urban planners to develop a thorough bike master plan, which would then be shown to Santa Ana City Council and Orange County Transportation Authority for approval. An engineering consultant was already reviewing the city for the next month, Martinez added. Bridging the gap between cars and cyclists would take some time, but at least the city's commitment to ensuring bike safety for its community is underway, with positive changes to look forward to in the months to come.
To take Michelle Yonemoto's survey on bike safety, find it on Santa Ana's city website here.