2011-09-08 / Health & Wellness

Lynn bike lane receives safety grant despite critics’ claims it’s unsafe

Some residents have requested a bike path instead
By Michelle Knight


ON THE LINE—Bicyclists will soon have a dedicated bike lane on Lynn Road between Hillcrest and Arboles, although many residents feel such a lane will be unsafe. The city has received grants for the project and plans to start construction this year. 
FILE PHOTO ON THE LINE—Bicyclists will soon have a dedicated bike lane on Lynn Road between Hillcrest and Arboles, although many residents feel such a lane will be unsafe. The city has received grants for the project and plans to start construction this year. FILE PHOTO Bolstered by a $450,000 state grant the city received last month, Thousand Oaks will press ahead this year with plans to start building a $1.9-million bike lane along parts of Lynn Road, despite some criticism that it will be unsafe.

The city announced in August that the Lynn Road bike lane project was awarded a Bicycle Transportation Account grant from Caltrans. The grant was part of $7.2 million Caltrans awarded for 24 projects statewide.

Kathy Lowry, T.O.’s bicycle coordinator, said the grant came as a pleasant surprise.

“I’m ecstatic that we were awarded this BTA grant. It was . . . very competitive,” Lowry said, likening the grant to winning the lotto.

“You fill out paperwork and you cross your fingers and you hope that it’s a good project, but you don’t know what other projects are going to be out there competing,” she said.

The 2.5- mile Lynn Road bike lane will run from Hillcrest Drive to Avenida de Los Arboles.

T.O. was one of only four cities in Southern California to receive the grant. In all, the city has received four federal and state grants totaling $1.3 million to build the bike lane. The city will contribute $213,000 from money it’s collected in developer fees and set aside for the past three years, Lowry said.

Grant criteria required city matching funds.

As for the remaining $ 400,000, Lowry said other construction bids have come in at less than expected and the same could be true for the bike lane project. If not, money from developer fees will cover the balance, she said.

The City Council could award a construction bid for the project this month. Construction could start in November and finish by September 2012.

Among the criteria for the Bicycle Transportation Account grant is that the project be designed and developed for the physical safety of all bicyclists, the Caltrans website states.

But the Lynn Road bike lane has drawn criticism from residents that it is dangerous. Critics, many of whom live in an unincorporated enclave bordered by Lynn Road called Lynn Ranch, say a bike path would be safer.

A bike lane is a travel section 4 to 6 feet wide separated from vehicle traffic by a striped line. Bike-lane cyclists must obey all traffic laws.

A bike path is a two-directional travel area 10 to 12 feet wide located away from vehicle traffic.

Paul Schmeer, among the Lynn Ranch residents critical of a bike lane, has asked the city to construct a bike path on Lynn Road on a slightly elevated section next to the sidewalk that would be safer for casual cyclists and children rather than having them travel in a narrow space separated from vehicles traveling 45 mph by only a striped line.

“(The bike lane) was designed for (expert bike riders) and not the basic bicyclists . . . or children,” Schmeer said. “I think it’s beyond unsettling—it’s dangerous.”

He said city officials have agreed a bike lane on Lynn Road would not be safe for children and basic cyclists, recommending they use the sidewalk.

Schmeer added that the Caltrans grant award to T.O. for a safe design is unjustified.

Other bike-lane detractors have pointed to numerous vehicle accidents on the hightrafficked thoroughfare as proof that cyclists in a bike lane could be in danger.

Lowry said a city study conducted last spring of accident data for the past five years found the accident rate for Lynn Road is not high for the amount of traffic it conveys.

A May city staff report to the council rejected recommendations for a bike path next to the sidewalk, saying it could cause collisions between cyclists and pedestrians and create confusion for drivers at intersections expecting to see cyclists on the street and not the sidewalk.

That same report said that to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists in a bike lane on Lynn Road, the design will call for replacement of the street’s rolled curb with a standard curb 2 inches higher than normal.

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