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Tackling traffic, bike path issues not an easy task

Laguna's problems are not easily fixed, some say. Others believe making streets more bike- and pedestrian-friendly are the answer.

May 24, 2012|By Joanna Clay

Laguna Beach may be one of the "happiest seaside towns," but when bringing up issues like traffic, biking and public parking, the smiles on people's faces just might sour a bit.

"Parking and traffic have been a problem in Laguna since the beginning of time," Mayor Jane Egly said with a slight laugh.

According to the 2012 Citizen Survey, only 22% of respondents rated the city "excellent" or "good" in ease of car travel; 32% gave good marks for ease of bike travel; 21% were OK with traffic flow on major streets; and 28% were positive about the amount of public parking.

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"The more popular we are and the more people in town that have one car, two cars, three cars... it just intensifies," Egly said.

Laguna Beach is definitely popular, with 97% calling it a great place to live, according to the survey, which was conducted in January by National Research Center Inc. Questions were created by both the city and NRC.

Chris Prelitz, chairman of Complete Streets, which pushes for pedestrian and bike-friendly streets in the city, hopes the low marks will inspire the city and its citizens to make a change.

"I think it's really clear if you solved one of them, you'd solve all three of them," he said. "When you get local people safe bike-friendly streets, they'll ride bikes more. More folks on bikes [equals] less traffic, less parking problems."

Prelitz said the city only has a certain amount of space for parking and it can't accommodate more cars.

"No matter how we configure it, we're trapped on space," he said.

Businesses also benefit from bikers, whose slower pace makes them more likely to stop in a store, he added.

"We either stay bike unfriendly or move into the 21st century and add complete streets, which would literally double the ability to move people around," Prelitz said.

He pointed to Los Angeles County neighbors such as Long Beach and Santa Monica as examples.

"We're really behind. We have a lot of catching up to do," he said.

Egly said she hasn't yet seen cities with the same topography as Laguna, with its steep hills, face the issue yet.

It's not an easily fixed problem, according to Councilwoman Toni Iseman.

She noted Caltrans operates Coast Highway and Laguna Canyon Road, the only two roads in and out of the city — both of which she finds dangerous for cycling.

"I believe we cannot encourage cycling on Coast Highway," she said.

Congestion, parked cars, car doors opening and pedestrians crossing the street all create a hazardous situation, Iseman said, especially for out-of-town cyclists who are unfamiliar with the town's terrain.

Egly, who founded the Complete Streets Task Force, agrees there is no magic solution.


FOR THE RECORD:
An earlier version incorrectly reported that Egly founded Complete Streets.

She said the key is to take small steps, such as bike sharrows and bike racks, and expanding from there. In an idyllic future, she'd like to transform a street into a "complete street," such as Glenneyre Street.

Heavy traffic and more pedestrians in South Laguna wouldn't allow for such a change, Iseman said.

Instead, she'd like to see the city turn old Laguna Canyon Road into a bike path, but that would require working with the county.

"Sometimes a really small change can make a big improvement and we're always looking for ways to make this town work better," she said.

joanna.clay@latimes.com

Twitter: @joannaclay

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