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Lighting Up Ten-Lane Bristol Street

4:00 PM PST on December 28, 2017

Walking group makes a stop on Bristol Street to talk about vacant lots created by widening the street. Image: Santa Ana Active Streets

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More than 45 people came out to a busy street in Santa Ana on December 14 to walk together and talk about the history and future of the surrounding area.

The event was organized by Santa Ana Active Streets, a local organization that advocates for active transportation and equitable transportation policies in the city. Over the past two years, SAAS has hosted evening winter bike rides to bring awareness to riding safely and being visible at night. This year, instead of leading a group ride, the organizers hosted a walk along a busy thoroughfare, and talked about efforts to make the area safer and better for people walking.

The walk began with a gathering at the intersection of Edinger and Bristol, one of the widest streets in the city. At intersections, Bristol stretches as wide as ten travel lanes. Though the street has a posted speed limit of 40 to 45 mph, cars regularly go as fast as 50 or 60 mph. Sidewalks along Bristol are also very wide, but are not usually inviting places to walk.

On this pre-holiday evening, participants gathered along Bristol's southwest corner sidewalk and greenway, adjacent to a strip mall and across the street from Mater Dei High School. SAAS members and volunteers gave out reflective armbands, bike jerseys, tamales, champurrado, and café de olla to walk participants and passersby.

Bristol Street's wide expanse is an example of the city's controversial history of trying to relieve congestion by widening roads and displacing businesses and residents. Grand Avenue on Santa Ana's east side has also removed businesses to widen the street, and Warner Avenue is expected to lose more than forty homes as a result of its widening.

But Bristol was a trendsetter in the city. In 1992, the L.A. Times reported that "the plan targets about 783 acres along a 3.9-mile stretch of Bristol Street between Warner Avenue and Memory Lane. More than 100 businesses and 236 housing units will be relocated."

While the city is finally nearing the end of the widening project, many lots along Bristol remain vacant. One of those lots is next to Martin Luther King Jr Elementary School, where SAAS walk leaders stopped to talk to participants about the Community Lands in Community Hands campaign, in which SAAS is a partner. The campaign is in the midst of creating a community land trust to give residents a say in how to develop some of the now publicly owned land along Bristol.

Here are some photos from the event:

From left, SAAS members Charis Galeas, Lynnete Guzman, Karen Galindo take a selfie before the start of the Walk of Lights. Image: Santa Ana Active Streets
Rosario Galeas (from left), SAAS member and LHA community engagement and advocacy program coordinator, Lynnete Guzman, SAAS member, and Karen Galindo, Santa Ana resident, take a selfie before the start of the Walk of Lights. Image: Santa Ana Active Streets
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The Bicycle Tree donated bike jerseys to SAAS to be given for free during the Walk of Lights. Image: Santa Ana Active Streets
The Bicycle Tree donated bike jerseys to SAAS to be given out for free during the Walk of Lights. Image: Santa Ana Active Streets
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One of the walking groups listen to a speaker during the Dec. 14 Walk of Lights. Image: Santa Ana Active Streets
One of the walking groups listen to a speaker during the Dec. 14 Walk of Lights. Image: Santa Ana Active Streets
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One of the walking groups on Bristol Street during the Walk of Lights. The 45 participants broke up into 3 groups during the walk. Image: Santa Ana Active Streets
One of the walking groups on Bristol Street during the Walk of Lights. The 45 participants broke up into three groups during the walk. Image: Santa Ana Active Streets
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