Do you know that road you always complain about, the one where the lack of sidewalks forces people to walk on the street?
Or that bike path that doesn’t exist, but would really add a lot of value to the neighborhood?
Well, the city of Bakersfield wants to hear about it. It is currently taking suggestions from residents on bicycle and roadway improvements that could be made around town.
Those suggestions could potentially become reality as part of a new bicycle and pedestrian safety plan under development by city engineers.
The city has set up a website designed to get public input on Bakersfield’s bike and pedestrian pathways.
Until July 15, residents can leave comments on bakersfield.altaplanning.cloud/#/step- one/ about things they like about the city’s transportation grid, or improvements that could be made by Bakersfield officials.
“We want the input. It would be nice to have a couple hundred comments,” said Bakersfield Civil Engineer Ed Murphy. “”It’s probably not going to solve all problems in Bakersfield, but it’ll give us a little bit of an outline to look at.”
Bakersfield embarked on its latest quest to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety early last year.
Reports have identified Bakersfield as being one of the most dangerous cities for pedestrians.
From 2014 to 2017 the city averaged 15.3 pedestrian deaths per year, and during a three-year period ending in mid-2018, 47 pedestrians died.
In a study released in late January, a national group called Smart Growth America identified Bakersfield as the seventh-worst metropolitan area in the nation for pedestrian safety.
The city received a $177,000 grant from Caltrans to come up with a plan for pedestrian and bicycle safety.
Murphy said the city will use the plan to identify eight priority areas with the most need for improvement.
“This is a tool, a starting point to move forward,” he said, noting the plan should be complete by the beginning of 2020.
Of particular interest to city planners will be identifying areas that need crosswalks and bike lanes.
“I think it’s an opportunity for people who are thinking about getting their voices heard,” said Glenn Hammett, president of the Bike Bakersfield Board of Directors. “Any input they get from the community is valuable.”
He said he had been biking five to 10 miles to work for the past 30 years, and hoped the new plan would lead to more protected bike lanes in the city, potentially encouraging more people to bike.
“It’s a ride-able community if you’re careful, obey the laws and ride defensively,” he said of Bakersfield, adding that the lack of protected bike lanes kept people from riding city streets.
As of Wednesday afternoon, only 15 comments had been left on the city’s website, which are helpful, but not nearly as much as city officials hope.
Murphy said he believed the new plan could lead to some real changes.
“We’re not Portland, Oregon, and we’re not Long Beach,” he said. “But there’s always room for improvement, so we’ll see what we come up with.”