Harnessing pedal power
The county’s winding, narrow roads, with little to no shoulders, inhibit a number of would-be bicyclists from taking to the street, but state funding now could provide relief.
Supervisors adopted an updated version of the county’s bicycle master plan at their meeting this week, making the county eligible for some of the $5 million from the state’s bicycle transportation account.
“This is what we’ve been waiting for,” said Janelle Black, who belongs to Alliance for People Powered Transportation, a group that promotes bicycling.
Black helped rally the 144 bicyclists who filled out a survey for the plan.
More than one-third of the people surveyed use a bicycle to commute to work. Most of them cited concerns about limited paths and bike lanes as the main reason for not riding.
The other major concern was “driver-related safety associated with traffic volumes, speeds and failure to yield or share the road.”
The state money is earmarked for three types of bicycle projects, including bike pathways, striped lanes in existing roadways to separate bicycles from cars, and signs alerting motorists to share the road with bicyclists.
“When there is no shoulder, it can get super scary,” said Brian Mendiola, who works at the bike shop Xtreme Outfitters in Grass Valley and competes in mountain bike races nationally. He knows some bicyclists who have been hit by cars and others who won’t ride because of the limited bike lanes.
“It’s a big reason why a majority of people don’t ride,” Mendiola said.
“One issue is maintenance and keeping glass and debris out of the routes we have,” said Dan Landon, executive director of the county’s transportation commission, who starting riding a year and a half ago and rode in the Death Ride this summer.
The transportation commission has identified several priority areas for improved bicycle passage.
They include extending the Litton Trail, building a new trail on Old Tunnel Road, extending the Penn Valley pathway, constructing a path between Brunswick and Loma Rica and enhancing another near Magnolia School on Combie Road.
Existing and newly striped bike lanes include East Main Street, Hughes Road, Idaho-Maryland to Ridge Road, Sierra College Drive, West Main Street, Broad Street in Nevada City, Nevada City Highway, Sacramento Street and Zion Street.
Signs on East and West Main Street, Mill Street and Broad Street would alert drivers they are sharing the road with bicyclists.
Funds are also needed for education and infrastructure, such as supplying more bike racks at schools and in front of businesses.
Sierra college student Zoli Bassoff said he rides to class when he can but adds that few others make the effort. The college has two ladder-style bicycle racks.
“I just don’t think there’s awareness. There’s also no facilities,” Bassoff said.
To see the bicycle master plan, visit the transportation commission Web site at http://www.nctc.ca.gov/reports.htm.
To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4231.
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