Orange County Branch Newsletter
Development of A Class IV Bikeway
By Rock E. Miller, PE, TE
Much of the Pacific Coast from Palos Verdes to Pacific Palisades has a popular off-street Class I bicycle trail that is used by millions of beach visitors and residents annually. Bike access to the King Harbor in Redondo Beach was a significant gap in the facility for many years.
There was no beachfront to place a trail upon, so the route was served by traditional Class II bicycle lanes along Harbor Drive from the Redondo Beach Pier to Hermosa Beach, covering about ¾ mile. The on-street segment was discouraging to beach cruiser bicyclists, with many turning back to the north upon seeing the beachfront trail end at the Hermosa/Redondo city limit. Many others rode their bicycles northbound along the wrong side of the street to avoid crossing automobile traffic at each end of the gap. The disappointment in the design of the facility was shared by city and merchants in the pier commercial area.
CLOSING THE GAP-A HIGH PRIORITY
In 2011 a group of cities joined to conduct the South Bay Bicycle Master Plan. Improvements to the King Harbor gap were rated as the single most important and high priority new facility in this plan. The City of Redondo Beach responded by searching for funding to make improvements. The bicycle world and the State of California were beginning to talk about developing a new class of bicycle facility, which has come to be known as a Class IV bikeway, a separated bikeway, or a cycle track. This could be provided along Harbor Drive if space occupied by car lanes could be used to make space for a bikeway - a concept commonly referred to now as a ‘Road Diet’.
Before Photo at Herondo Street/N Harbor Drive
After Photo Concept at Herondo Street/N Harbor Drive
By 2013, Redondo Beach was awarded a modest amount of funding for the bikeway from a State program. Some additional funds were available from a development contribution. The City circulated a design RFP and retained Stantec to help deliver the project, including concept refinement, public outreach, and final design. Early in the process, it was determined that two of the four roadway travel lanes were not needed, and that a two-way bike facility along the water side of Harbor Drive would provide the best connection to existing trails, north and south. The next step was to obtain public approval and the blessing of the City Council.
PUBLIC PERCEPTION AND OUTREACH
The once-popular concept immediately became controversial. Potential users of the facility did not attend workshops and meetings because the project had been approved a few years before. But motorists and nearby business owners came to the meetings and argued that the travel lanes were needed and that the bikeway should be built along the waterside of the restaurants and businesses that line the harbor. The waterside concept had been dismissed as being very costly, disruptive to businesses, and undeliverable within a few years.
Based upon the filtered public input, the City Council considered abandoning the project due to controversy and lack of public support. Many council members were elected to their positions after the plan was initially approved and could not see that there was support. It became necessary to work with the South Bay Bicycle Coalition to get more supporters to public meetings, express support for the project as portrayed, and secure approval to construct. Graphics were prepared to illustrate various concepts and the project was ultimately refined and re-approved.
Preferred Concept with a 2-Way Cycle Track (Class IV Bikeway) on the South Side of N. Harbor Drive
FINDING OPPORTUNITIES TO IMPROVE
While funding was available only for an interim facility, City leaders decided that the design of the facility should be of high quality, consistent with efforts to revitalize the Harbor area north of the Pier. The project was transformed into a full complete streets/streetscape project, including full reconstruction of the roadway, using mostly new construction materials, rebuilt traffic signals and street lighting, access ramps, landscaping, aesthetic features, and amenities.
A small welcome park was added at the north end of the project where Redondo and Hermosa Beach meet and where users can relax and enjoy some shade. This park and adjacent reconstructed parking lot provided opportunities to incorporate additional sustainable features such as porous pavers and landscaping. The park area was formerly a parking lot but became available when back-in angle parking was introduced on Herondo Street, allowing the parking supply near the beach to remain. This back-in angled parking was a new concept for the city and its visitors, but the safety benefits of improved visibility of bicyclists was quickly recognized and embraced.
Welcoming City entry with reconstructed parking lot and pocket park
The total project costs escalated to over $5.3 million for this ¾ mile segment of the bike path with the decision to expand the project scope and include aesthetic treatments. Dedicated funding was less than $1 million, but the city decided that they would find a way to fund the project based upon its promise for the area.
Construction posed some challenges. Full reconstruction of the roadway required much of it to be closed to traffic for extended periods. Construction was scheduled to avoid the heavy summer months of beach usage, but there were still unique challenges. The City’s annual Superbowl 5K/10K run traditionally begins along Harbor Drive, but the street was not in shape to support the thousands of runners. The solution was to reverse the traditional direction of the course, so that runners completed their circuits along Harbor Drive and did not pour onto the street in crowds for the start of the event. There were other construction challenges due to the age of the existing infrastructure, shallow and undocumented sub-structures, and heavy use of the beach area, even during the off season.
The contractor was able to complete 99% of the work and open the street and bikeway to traffic on schedule, Memorial Day of 2015. Bicyclists discovered the new facility, embraced it, and began to use it in large numbers, especially on summer days and weekends. Many marveled at the distinctive green pavement coloring that ran for most of the length of the bikeway. Others greeted the new welcome park and quickly figured out how to use the new bicycle traffic signals, where the route crossed three heavily used streets leading to waterfront uses.
ENJOYED BY ALL
The Class IV bikeway is finishing its 4th summer season and continues to be heavily used. Summer day use has been estimated at well over 3000 bicyclists and annual usage approaches 1 million per year. Users include cyclists of all types, ages, and abilities. Even though the Class I bikeway on the sand in Hermosa Beach ends at the Redondo City Limit, bicyclists no longer stop and turn away from Redondo Beach. The increased traffic from the bikeway and the aesthetic improvement along the roadway have helped to revitalize businesses in the Harbor area, attracting a hotel and new restaurants. Summer weekend traffic has not been adversely affected, in fact local congestion at the Harbor/Herondo intersection has been eased through modernization of the traffic signals and construction of a pedestrian refuge island, resulting in improved operation for the heavily used crosswalks.
Truly a Complete Street where users of the Class IV bikeway include cyclists of all types, ages, and abilities