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Will Pasadena be bike-friendly when bike sharing arrives next summer?

Pedestrians take the diagonal crosswalk on Colorado Boulevard and Raymond Avenue in Old Town Pasadena.
Alana Rinicella
Old Town Pasadena is known as a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood, but the city lacks crucial bike infrastructure, according to the Pasadena Complete Streets Coalition.

Pasadena will be the next location to get bike sharing in Los Angeles County, but bike advocates say the city isn't fully ready.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has approved a contract to bring the short-term bike rentals to Pasadena by the summer next year.

The program will also expand to Venice and San Pedro in summer 2017.

Metro's bike sharing program will bring around 400 bikes to 34 stations to Pasadena, mostly clustered around Old Town. Bike sharing systems allow users to check out a bike for short trips and return it to another location, making them useful in bridging the so-called first or last mile gap between homes and work places and transit stops.

Pasadena is an ideal place for bike sharing in many ways  — it has pleasant tree-lined streets, Gold Line access and a thriving commercial center in Old Town, which attracts tourists and drives heavy foot traffic along Colorado Boulevard. The city also has among the highest share of bike commuters in the county at 4 percent, nearly double the average.

But advocates for safer streets say Pasadena needs better bike infrastructure if it hopes to welcome many more cyclists to its streets.

"The city is working towards a complete connected network, but we’re still a ways away from that," said Blair Miller, an organizer with the Pasadena Complete Streets Coalition, which pushes for better bike and pedestrian access in the city.

She noted that only one of six Pasadena Gold Line stations is connected by a bike lane, unlike the newly opened Expo Line section to Santa Monica where a protected bike lane was built with the train line.

She also said the bike lane network in Pasadena is disconnected, with too few north-south bike lanes that cross the 210 freeway, connecting Old Town with the residential neighborhoods to the north.

And crucially, she said, the city lacks a major east-west bikeway connector.

But that could change with a plan to add two-way protected bike lanes to Union Street, which runs parallel to Colorado Boulevard and would connect Old Town with Pasadena City College. The Pasadena City Council is set to advance the plan at its meeting this Monday, though officials are still seeking half the funding to undertake the $6 million project.

The city is also in the process of redrawing its network of sharrows, those chevron marks painted on street surfaces with signs that remind cars to share the road with bikes. The city is evaluating what it calls "low stress" streets that have calmer traffic with speeds below 35 miles per hour, and whether they should be designated a part of an official bike network.

But none of these plans to expand bike infrastructure will likely be finished by next summer when bike sharing is set to debut in Pasadena. Miller is hopeful, however, the program will spur faster change in the city.

"With all of these active transportation things, it's a little bit of a chicken and egg thing," she explained. "You need infrastructure to encourage riders, and you need politicians to see riders to understand that there's a demand for infrastructure."