The 22-mile Mountains to Sea Trail travels from the edge of the Cleveland National Forest to the Pacific Ocean. Considered the backbone of The Irvine Ranch open spaces, the trail begins in Weir Canyon and doesn’t stop until it reaches Upper Newport Bay. Located within minutes of bustling urban communities, the trail makes exploring the outdoors easy, fun and accessible. Irvine Company Chairman Donald Bren announced completion of the trail in 2005; the following year it was designated a “National Recreation Trail” by the National Recreation Trails Program.
Update from the Capitol: We need YOU on Aug 15!
A group of stakeholders, including the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, CalBike, California WALKS, PolicyLink, the Rails to Trails Conservancy and others met twice last month with the State Transportation Agency to discuss detailed recommendations for a potentially transformative new Active Transportation Program (ATP).
The Transportation Agency has made it clear throughout the first half of the year that they are committed to consolidating walking and biking programs into a larger competitive pot. The National Partnership and other advocates have consistently expressed concern about losing the benefits of the existing programs, but are also committed to reaching a compromise that is in the best interest of walking and biking Californians.
Our key recommendations to the Transportation Agency are:
- Maintain a dedicated funding commitment to Safe Routes to School projects, including 10% of the overall ATP funds to non-infrastructure programs to elevate walking and biking through education and encouragement.
- Ensure that no less than 35% of ATP funds directly benefit disadvantaged communities and lower-income schools
- Continue to fund a technical assistance resource center to support grantees and potential grantees, especially in disadvantaged communities
- Establish an open public process to evaluate and provide feedback on the successes, challenges, and improvements to the guidelines and project selection process, including an ongoing Advisory Committee of pedestrian and bicycle experts
Next up: a bill will be crafted in the next two weeks by Administration and Legislative staff to enact the Active Transportation Program. The members of the Legislature, who have been on recess for most of July, will return to the Capitol on Aug 12 to reconvene the remainder of the 2013 session.
The ATP bill will be drafted and under review by the Senate and Assembly during late August. The Legislature must pass the ATP bill by Aug 31, so August 15th will be the perfect time to tell the Legislature why Safe Routes to School projects are critical to California communities.
Sign up for the Safe Routes to School Advocacy Day on Aug 15
Add your voice in support of better walking, bicycling,
and Safe Routes to School at this critical time in the Capitol!
The city is planning to build a 1,000-square-foot nature center off Central Avenue near Lochmoor Drive using a $780,000 state grant. City officials have not yet set a date for completion of the center. The city parks department plans to partner with the Riverside Metropolitan Museum to offer science and nature programs at the facility.
That’s a great next step and will serve as an educational resource for Sycamore Canyon Park.
But what’s really wanted and urgently needed is a plan to develop access to Sycamore Canyon ParkÂ from Alessandro Blvd., Canyon Crest Drive and Cottonwood Ave. That would give convenient access to trails with parking. That would also open the park to greater exploration and enjoyment.
If other communities with well cared for and accessible natural amenities areany guide, surrounding property values will rise and property crime will decline.
By DUG BEGLEY
Video: Riverside exploring ‘downtown loop’ for cyclists, walkers
Two abandoned railroad bridges strewn with trash might be the missing links in a plan to circle downtown Riverside with bicycle paths, proponents of the trails said.
Standing on one of the bridges that spans University Avenue, two blocks east of Vine Street, Jane Block said the 30-year effort to bring a bike loop to downtown is nearing completion.
“This is as close as we’ve ever come,” Block said.
The plans don’t stop at the two bridges. Block, working with Riverside Councilman Mike Gardner and others, has devised a route using some existing bike lanes on city streets, little-used city alleys and paths through neighborhood parks to cobble together a loop.
Though she said it is subject to change depending on engineering, cost and available land, Block said the proposed path would allow cyclists and joggers to travel around most of the city’s downtown, from Fairmount Park to the Riverside City College campus and as far east as Kansas Avenue.
Linking places where people might want to bike has numerous benefits, Block said. It encourages cycling, which can improve the health of a community, she noted. It also gives downtown residents a safe recreation route between city parks and helps meet goals of reducing traffic congestion in Riverside.
“This is all doable,” Gardner said on a recent tour.
Bicyclists eager to hit the roads don’t have to wait for the loop, Gardner said. Magnolia Avenue and many other city streets have bike lanes.
What’s different about the proposed loop, Block said, is it allows for greater separation from cars and trucks — and with the two bridges allows cyclists not to compete with cross-traffic. The route would also add a continuous path for cyclists that the city could denote with signs.
“We want to have Class A bikeways,” Block said, meaning cyclists have enough space to ride along the side of vehicles, and not worry when someone opens a door on a parked car.
“It is not very safe to have parking and bike lanes,” Gardner said, explaining how putting cyclists close to parked cars put added pressures on both riders and drivers. “So if you have bike lanes, maybe you don’t have parking.”
He said city planners are examining the proposed bike path but no decisions about removing on-street parking has been made.
Early drafts have the route going from Fairmount Park along Spruce Street, then southwest along a route on or near Kansas Avenue.
From there, provided the city can acquire some right of way from the railroads, cyclists could ride across Mission Inn Avenue, University Avenue and Fourteenth Street, then cruise down Commerce Street. The loop would then go around or through the Riverside City College campus and across Brockton Avenue.
Gardner said the final pieces include a trail through the planned Tequesquite Park and a connection to the Santa Ana River Trail, which runs along the west of the park.
Because much of the route relies on streets, Gardner said the cost isn’t daunting.
“It’s more planning than it is cost,” he said. “It’s restriping some places and putting in some trails through Tequesquite Park.”
Nationally studies suggest adding bike lanes costs about $5,000 per mile, according to the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials.
If officials can chart a course for the loop and acquire small tracts to connect the sections, Gardner said much of the trail could be in place by spring.
Block said path supporters will consider outside fundraising if needed.
“I have learned that if you have an idea and it is a good idea,” Block said, “you don’t hesitate to execute it because of money.”
Work and Play
Cyclists said a loop around downtown Riverside would be a welcome addition, both for recreation and commuting.
Drew Scott, 26, already commutes from Colton to Riverside along the Santa Ana River Trail, a 120-mile bike path from San Bernardino to Orange County.
Block said the Santa Ana River Trail, which connects Highland at the foot of the San Bernardino Mountains to Huntington Beach along the Pacific Ocean, is “the freeway” for cyclists interested in longer rides or inter-city commutes.
What’s missing, she said, is the local link to shops, restaurants, schools and workplaces.
Adding a downtown route that’s safer would make it much easier, he said.
“It’s not me I’m worried about,” Scott said. “It’s the cars. Some people act like the bike lanes aren’t there.”
The loop also links three key places that officials would like to connect for safe bicycling, Gardner said. When built, the path will allow someone to ride from the UC Riverside campus to the city college campus and downtown seamlessly.
Alternative ways to travel to the city college campus south of downtown are important, said Edward Bush, vice president of student services at RCC’s Riverside campus. Construction of two buildings decreased the number of parking spaces on campus, Bush said.
But putting a trail across the campus, as some loop supporters have suggested, might not be likely.
“At first blush, that would be somewhat difficult,” Bush said. “Students are allowed to ride their bikes to the bike racks but cannot ride around campus because of pedestrian safety.”
A dedicated route might be different, Bush said, but charting through a maze of sidewalks and small access streets could be tough.
But Bush stressed that the college is interested in hearing loop proposals. The city’s bicycle advisory council, formed last year, has members with ties to the college, Bush said.
Scott said Inland cities have made progress in encouraging cycling by putting bike trails in parks and adding bike lanes to streets.
“I see people riding on them all the time,” he said.