Bike Friendly Fridays: Pasadena

5_1_09_pcm.jpgCyclists head to the Bike Expo during Bike Week Pasadena last year.

As we approach Bike to Work Day and the corresponding Bike Week Pasadena, let’s take a look at how our neighbor to the east views and treats its cycling community.

When doing research for this week’s installment for Bike Friendly Fridays, I found one statement in a press release that shows the difference between how Pasadena views cyclists and its large car-loving neighbors.  From a press release on announcing an update to the city’s Bike Master Plan:

The existing master plan, titled “Century of Bikes,” was adopted in 2000. It encourages bicycle riding and proposes improved conditions for those already riding.

Most of the projects in the 2000 plan have been completed, with 60 lane miles identified with signage and stripes. A bike map, bike parking and promotion of bike safety were also integral to the plan.

By comparison, the City of Los Angeles is planning "18 miles of new bike lanes" in the next couple of years.  Also, while Pasadena is aggressively pursuing the creation of a new Bike Master Plan because it wishes to expand on the nearly completed BMP done in 2000, the City of Los Angeles has missed at least three dates where the draft of the BMP for which it held hearings in January of 2008.

The other difference in planning styles is what’s being discussed to be part of the new BMP’s.  For Los Angeles, we’ve been told the new plan will hope to fill in the gaps in the network that create dangerous conditions for cyclists when bike lanes suddenly end near a freeway entrance and earned one lane in Westwood the distinction of being named the Dumbest Bike Lane in America.

By comparison, Pasadena is moving forward by examining the road treatments that could make it the top bike-town in LA County.

The update, which will examine the full range of actions that could be taken to qualify for related state and federal funds, is expected to require more innovation as the city of Pasadena considers bicycle boulevards, traffic calming devices and other treatments.

An initial needs analysis will determine the visibility, safety and connectivity of Pasadena’s bicycle network for beginning and experienced cyclists.

Of course to be a friendly town for cyclists, it’s not just about designing the best streets, it’s also about showing support for cyclists.  Enter Bike Week Pasadena.


While the City of Pasadena has certainly benefited from its close relationship with Cyclists Inciting Change through Live Exchange (CICLE), the City has celebrated Bike to Work Day going back to 2001 before CICLE was fully organized.

Since allowing CICLE to take the lead, Bike Day has grown to "Bike Week Pasadena," and the week long bike celebration compares favorably to any bike program in Southern California.  Not to say there’s anything wrong with the Bike Week celebrations put together by Metro and the City of Los Angeles (more on that next week), but for a town of 146,000 people to more than compete with the second largest city in America is a credit to both Pasadena and CICLE.

For a full list of the events scheduled in this year’s Bike Week Pasadena you can scroll through the Streetsblog calendar on the left, or head over to the official website at

  • As far as I can tell Pasadena is mostly happytalk when it comes to bike infrastructure and planning. The head of the DoT here said pretty explicitly at the first BMP meeting that the city was not considering using any of its own money for bike improvements, and seemed to be relying entirely on the CalTrans bike fund (which, even if it were *all* spent in Pasadena, could only build a couple of miles of bike boulevard per year). Additionally, they are unwilling to cede any roadspace to bikes – they are unwilling to remove any on-street parking to make way for bike lanes, and have gone so far as to spend taxpayer money to *remove* stripes put in on “enhanced” class-III bike routes at the insistence of residents (on Paloma Ave) who felt it negatively impacted the aesthetics of their vastly overwide street. I have a very hard time believing that they are sincere when they talk about putting in bike boulevards, which would be both expensive (compared to striping) and fairly impactful to drivers, who would no longer be able to speed unimpeded on residential roads where the speed limits cannot be enforced because of that 85th percentile rule, and everybody’s unwillingness to put in traffic calming measures (which cost $$ and inconvenience dangerous drivers).

    Yes, I’m being a little cynical here, but having seen their intransigence with respect to parking regulations, and the results of the integrated resource plan deliberations (where we will get our electricity for the next 20 years), I find it hard to consider Pasadena ‘Green’ in any sense other than money.

    But CICLE does an awesome job with BWP! Hopefully they’re actually going to get *paid* by Pasadena for all their work this year. Also, given the weather the last couple of years, and our climate here in general, I think it would really be nice if we could move bike-week back to say, mid-March. By May it’s often already sweltering – I think the date was picked for the northeast, or the midwest, when May is just thawing out. Bike to Work day/week is in part meant to be a reminder to folks that they can bike to work, now that the winter is over – an excuse to make the change in habits. That happens at different times in different places. This is a big country…

  • Ah, how quickly we all forget.

    Pasadena, in parts, can be a better place to bike. Credit is due the politicians and engineers who put in the Marengo bike path (which connects to … ?).

    Lest we forget, the Pasadena City Council recently tried to ban side-by-side cycling around the Ros Bowl, and had to be beaten back with a massive hammer of cycling activists, roadies, and media types running articles, blog posts, get-togethers, and videos – as well as a few threatened law suits!

    There is a long way to go with cycling in Pasadena, not quite as far as in L.A., but still lots of room to improve.

  • It is true… much work needs to be done to better accommodate cyclists in the City of Pasadena. Liz Elliott and I are currently serving on the Bicycle Advisory committee to the BMP update and we are very encouraged by what’s coming out of the Bicycle Master Plan update process. There’s A LOT of interest and support coming out of the community–and this is really important. Everyday people create the change–and it’s this high level of community involvement that will guide the City into implementing an already fabulous BMP. This is part of why C.I.C.L.E. takes the time to organize Bike Week Pasadena. Events like Bike Week Pasadena help to generate increased public support for critical issues related to cycling in general. We’re really thrilled to have the opportunity to directly engage existing cyclists and the bicycle curious and give them the essential skills and information to help get them out on their bikes and supporting pro-bicycle policy. Pasadena residents still have an opportunity to influence the Pasadena BMP update. We will have Bicycle Master Plan surveys at Bike Week Pasadena events, and you can also take the survey online at

  • After the initial e-mail about the online survey I never heard anything from Pasadena DoT again. In February they said there were going to be 4 public meetings/workshops prior to finalization of the plan in June, but now it’s May, and I haven’t heard anything about it since (and I see nothing about it in their Bike Master Plan update PDF posted online). Are they still going to have public input? Has the advisory committee been having productive meetings? Is there any kind of status update posted anywhere?

  • Pedal Power

    I wonder if my “green” city will ever bother to arrest the thug who stole my last three bicycles, instead of shrugging, telling us to have more “community meetings” and empathize with the hoodlums.

  • Zane,

    One thing you’ve got to remember is that there is a great intractable struggle that is just beginning to bubble up in cities where cyclists want better road facilities. Actually, there are two things to remember:

    (1) Except in a few extraordinary places, politicians get re-elected by propping up the socialist mechanisms that support auto-only roads and suburban real estate development and consumption patterns.

    (2) Transportation engineers, who typically have total dominion over road planning decisions in U.S. cities, do not count, nor care, about anything other than private automobiles. Their entire trade grew up with the 20th century’s oil-fueled “consumption = prosperity for all” mindset.

    Getting ’round the political hurdles is just one step in the right direction. Engineers need to be either marginalized politically and legally, or they need to have their findings watered down with good social science and political leg work. I have found that this is the only way to have streets re-designed and re-purposed for bicycling and other non-motorized modes of transportation.

  • Diane Trout

    We’re supposed to have the next public meeting May 19th from 6.30 to 8.30pm, though I’m not quite sure of the location. It’s supposed to be more of a workshop style where we work out what kinds of things we should be doing to support bicycling in Pasadena.

    Also the new Director of Transportation Fred Dock, certainly seems to care about more than just automobiles.

    Take a look at for instance. He was one of the two authors on a paper submitted to the congress for the new urbanism, arguing that the standard classification of streets is to crude and fails to account for non-auto auto uses.

  • It’s always interesting to me to see when people totally nail me in the comments section.

    I must admit to not being here when there was the Rose Bowl loop controversy. I’m aware of it and have read about it but my experience with it was the Car-Free Rose Bowl event they did last year I think in September? If they started off with bad intent, they came around and that’s the point of advocacy and blogs. To turn around bad stuff and make it good.

    As for the other points, I’ve biked in Pasadena maybe a half dozen times and always found it pleasant, and the drivers a lot less psycho than the folks I see in the Fairfax area where me and my wife are renting. The bike lane network actually connects to itself in a way that makes sense and traveling along the larger roads didn’t feel like I was taking a risk.

    It’s especially interesting to see what some of the Pasadena residents thought. I guess even if Pasadena is improving, there’s still a lot of people that want to see it improve more.

  • Pasadena knows what to say – on paper they sound great. But you can’t ride on a press release. Without safe road space dedicated to cyclists, and support from law enforcement, bikes will never be a significant portion of our transportation system.

    I gotta go for a ride.


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