It’s Bike Week in Santa Clarita, and there’s a little bit of bike fever for everyone. It’s also a good example of how the city and county continue to evolve on the bike friendliness scale.
When I first moved to Santa Clarita nearly 30 years ago, we had no bike trails. Of course, there was also no mall and far fewer high-speed roads. My goal during those years, when I competed nationally in road and track cycling, was to log over 200 miles a week.
Fast forward to today, and my goal is to get my 7 ½-year-old to complete a few 25-mile charity rides with her parents – and without whining. She actually holds up pretty well. Within the year she should be tall enough to fit on the back of the two-person tandem bicycle we own, which will make longer trips a lot easier.
Multi-day bike tours will be in our future, I’m sure. Times change, but riders keep riding.
Bike Week details can be found at http://bikesantaclarita.com/. There’s bike-to-work and bike-to-school event, and several fun evening social rides. We also have the Amgen Tour of California coming through town.
Southern California is a hotbed of year-round charity rides, bike races, triathlons and more. Information can be found at sites like active.com, socalcycling.com or scnca.org.
Many weekly group rides occur at every ability level. Ask a bike shop or cyclist you know for more information.
How times have changed. Two-wheeled advocates like John Lukes and Michele Hoffman started the push for better cycling planning as the city grew. During my tenure, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition became involved and pressed both the city and the county for Bicycle Master Plans.
These documents lay out priorities and standards for bicycle infrastructure and safety programs. And over time, plans are being implemented.
The city now has 30 miles of bike lanes/bike routes and 38 miles of paved trails, along with 47 natural paths geared toward walking. The county has worked on changes like adding paving shoulders where possible, such as on Bouquet north of the city limits.
Now new faces like Nina Moskol of the Santa Clarita Valley Bicycle Coalition and Kieran Wong, our bike-riding Parks and Recreation commissioner, are working to keep the change going.
Our area is so unique and attractive to current and future residents and businesses. Anyone who cycles walks, or runs, or who has kids who cycle, has to appreciate the network that is being developed.
People in outlying areas ask for trail connections when projects are built. Caltrans backs a program called “Complete Streets” so that every new road appropriately considers mobility for all users, including pedestrians and cyclists. And because our area is still building, there are lots of opportunities to improve when compared to built-out, constrained communities.
What are some of my wishes as we keep evolving? Safer connections to surrounding areas like Castaic, the San Fernando Valley and the National Forest.
Measures to allow riders from areas like Saugus and Fair Oaks Ranch better access to the trail network. Safe routes to all Metrolink stations and schools.
Better maintained road surfaces to minimize potholes and crash risks (Hello, Measure M transportation funding!); an off-road mountain bike/gravel bike trail network, well mapped and graded by skill level, so we can escape into the natural areas around us.
Maybe even a mini-mountain bike skills park (similar to what they have at Mammoth Mountain and Big Bear.) Restrooms, water, and shade at main trailheads.
Speaking from experience, especially when you have kids with you, if you are on foot, or if you are not familiar with the area, facilities on a trail make the day much more enjoyable.
Not every improvement means construction. We need education and enforcement on rules of the road, including the mandatory 3-foot passing distance. Bike Week is a great example of the ultimate goal, a bike friendly culture.
I lived in Redondo Beach for a few years. Because people there had such a sports-friendly attitude and there were so many bikes, for the most part car drivers just viewed “slowing and going around” as normal.
Similarly, in Canada for a bike tour, we noticed so many bikes in downtown Calgary. Every restaurant, park, and street had racks full of bikes. It was part of their culture.
No doubt it will be part of ours, too. Here’s hoping the spirit of Bike Week spreads throughout the year!
Maria Gutzeit is a former amateur bike racer who competed across the county and at the Olympic Trials. Having toured Canada, the Great Lakes, the Southwest, and New Zealand by bike, she now just tries to keep her family rolling. She is a local resident, business owner and serves as an elected water official.