BALDWIN PARK – With a generation of children regularly choosing television and computer screens over outdoor activities, contributing to a nationwide obesity epidemic, Baldwin Park officials say the first step in encouraging local families to get outside and moving is to create a safe environment for pedestrians and bicyclists.
The concerns prompted councilmembers in August to pass a Complete Streets policy, a comprehensive set of guidelines that ensure that all new construction and improvements to city streets are made to better accommodate those who bike and walk in Baldwin park. The policy was facilitated through a $240,000 federal grant.
Now local youths have are joining in on the effort.
The Baldwin Park Cycler Leadership Pilot (BPCLP) Program, funded by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, presented the City Council last week with results of a bike audit, which provided an assessment of unsafe biking conditions in the community.
As part of the assessment, the youths recommended various changes and upgrades to city streets that could be made in the implementation of the Complete Streets policy.
“In support of (the Complete Streets) policy, our goal was to have these kids get involved with a street assessment and street audit so they can provide their perspective on what should be upgraded, improved upon and how we can build upon the capacity of the streets,” said Javier Hernandez, who leads the program.
City staff and roughly a dozen youths embarked on an 8.5-mile route through city streets to evaluate signage, road conditions and traffic challenges in the area, stopping at four different locations in order to log their findings.
“These kids gained empowerment,” Hernandez said. “They now have an understanding of the process when a city takes into account community input. They also have a greater understanding of the rights of cyclists in general.”
Among their audit findings, the group discovered that several bicycle route signs were covered by trees and bushes, that Olive Street doesn’t have bike lanes, through it does have the space for them and Clark Street is much too narrow for bicycles to safely travel alongside traffic.
Vanessa Escalante, 15, participated in the bicycle audit and said she hopes that one day Baldwin Park can be as bike-friendly as communities such as Long Beach, where bicycle lanes are wider and safer than in Baldwin Park.
“I hold Baldwin Park to that same standard,” the Baldwin Park High School student said. “I enjoy going everywhere on my bike, but when there are no bike lanes, I’m kind of limited to where I can go.”
City officials hope that the improvement of city streets will help improve the overall health of residents, especially amid an obesity epidemic that now classifies 17 percent of the nation’s youth and 33 percent of the country’s adults as obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It’s all based on encouraging residents to walk more, use bicycles to get to different destinations and to create safer routes for them and children to feel safe to use the streets for a transportation mode,” said City Councilwoman Marlen Garcia.
The Complete Streets guidelines feature incorporating more landscaping, traffic signals, signage and shared-use pathways, which may provide recreational and transportation activities such as walking, biking and skating.
First up on the city’s priority list is creating a more pedestrian- and bike-friendly route on a stretch of Olive Street, officials said.
Through public meetings, the community has recommended constructing round-abouts to slow traffic and adding bike lanes, while narrowing car lanes on that street, Garcia said.
Baldwin Park Associate Planner Sal Lopez said he expects the city will hold a public a public hearing on the Olive Street project in the next couple of months, followed by a City Council vote.
“At that time, the council will allocate funds as appropriate from funding sources,” he said.
Contact Maritza via email or by phone at 626-962-8811, ext. 2236.
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