Members of Remake Irvine Streets for Everyone spoke at the Irvine City Council on Tues. Oct. 24 to encourage city leaders to adopt plans for transit-oriented development, as the city prepares to add more than 20,000 housing units to the city’s master plan by 2029.
RISE is an Irvine-based organization formed by a group of cyclists on a mission to improve roadway safety through an environmental approach.
Given Irvine’s current goal to reach carbon neutrality by 2030, RISE has suggested that the addition of separated bike lanes throughout the city would encourage residents to utilize carbon-friendly modes of transportation, like walking and biking.
In 2019, Irvine’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions inventory report found that 51% of Irvine’s greenhouse gas emissions were attributed to on-road transportation.
Ultimately, according to RISE member Youssef Kaddeche, the hope is that by making cyclists and pedestrians feel safer, Irvine can reduce the number of cars on the road.
“The reason people don’t bike in Irvine is because of the high miles traveled, and number two is safety, and we want to tackle the safety issue,” he said. “People will not risk their lives just to go to Ralph’s. So we need to provide a very basic sense of comfort and security for people of all ages and abilities to get to any destination within Irvine with sustainable modes of transportation — without fear for their lives.”
While Irvine currently provides 286.42 miles of on-street bikeways, according to the city’s website, RISE members say many portions of roadways feel unsafe and expose cyclists and pedestrians to high-speed traffic with no barriers in between.
Recently, RISE shared videos on social media highlighting the dangers cyclists and pedestrians face on portions of roads in Irvine, due to the absence of a separated bike path.
On Culver Ave., at the 5 Freeway on-ramp and off-ramp, a painted bike lane and green striping are the only identifying separation between vehicles and cyclists. Local cyclists say the area is not safe.
Culver / 1-5 junction has seen some striping improvements and the addition of missing bike lanes. Progress! But the issue remains that this is not all-ages-and-abilities level of comfort. Paint doesn't protect you from 60 mph cars. @City_of_Irvine @CaltransOC pic.twitter.com/yO5NH9bdSQ
— RISE – Remake Irvine Streets for Everyone (@RISEIrvine) October 11, 2023
Kaddeche, 23, is a lifelong Irvine resident who lives in North Irvine and commutes to UC Irvine via an electric bike. Kaddeche explained that due to the closure of the Jeffrey Open Space Trail, he is forced to use the bike lane on Jeffrey Road.
“I bike from North Irvine going to UCI every day. I take mostly Jeffrey, which has the Jeffrey Trail, but it’s incomplete,” he said. “So a big portion of my journey going to UCI is on the bike lanes itself. So it’s not quite safe. And honestly, I do risk my life every day.”
While Kaddeche noted that bike lanes near freeway on-ramps and off-ramps fall under the jurisdiction of the California Department of Transportation, he said more should be done to improve pedestrian safety in Irvine.
“Anywhere with a painted bike lane that separates you from 50-60 MPH moving traffic with only a line of white paint – that’s an issue to me,” he said. “We need to be building more protected bike lanes to provide more separation to increase the comfort and hopefully, with the increased comfort, we might see shifts and modal share.”
Speaking on the creation of RISE, Kaddeche explained the idea to form a group came after he was inspired by other cyclists and community members speaking about climate advocacy issues in Irvine.
“I think we’re trying to make it more of a political issue in Irvine in the context of the climate crisis and we do see some signs that council members are receptive to that messaging,” he said. “But with more community pressure, we think that we can get some more meaningful work on that front.”
Kaddeche admits the group has been slow to post on social media, but he hopes the platform can be used to showcase these community issues in real time.
“It is a silent majority opinion in Irvine that it is not a safe place for anyone outside of a car. So that’s kind of, you know, it’s just a question of getting people in the same room together and going in front of a council meeting and saying, you know, this is what we want,” he said.
Historically speaking, navigating Irvine roadways safely is a challenging task.
In 2020, a study from Irvine’s Strategic Active Transportation Plan ranked the levels of traffic stress and comfort for bicyclists on Irvine roadways. Data inputs included daily traffic volumes, the number of lanes, roadway speed and the presence of bicycle facilities.
The study also ranked the roadway segments based on four types of cyclists in specific levels of traffic stress (LTS). The types of cyclists ranged from LTS 1, described as, “No Way, No How,” where a cyclist is unwilling to bicycle without infrastructure, to LTS 4, “Strong and Fearless,” where a cyclist was willing to bicycle with limited infrastructure.
The analysis developed by OCTA’s Master Plan of Arterial Highways found that many arterials in Irvine fell into the LTS 4 category, including Irvine Boulevard, Irvine Center Drive, Barranca Parkway, Alton Parkway, Culver Drive, Jeffrey Road and Sand Canyon Avenue.
The scoring matrix noted that LTS 4 is described as “not comfortable for most bicyclists.”
Currently, Irvine is working to add a “separated bikeway” to the South Yale Loop, as a part of Irvine’s South Yale Corridor Improvement Project.
Located on South Yale Ave, the project aims to make improvements between University Ave. and the I-405 Freeway near Rancho San Joaquin Middle School. It was approved as part of Irvine’s 2020 Strategic Active Transportation Plan.
Introduced via the Irvine Shares the Way program, upgrades within the South Yale Corridor Improvement Projects, like the separated bikeway concept, are being developed to improve safety and educate riders on traffic laws.
In July, the Irvine City Council approved a new e-bike ordinance after the Irvine Police Department reported a steep increase in collisions involving electric bicycles.
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