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Commentary: Make Laguna a 'complete' town

December 12, 2012|By Billy Fried

Last Friday's Hospitality Night was an annual reminder of how much better our town would be if lower Forest Avenue was closed to cars and converted to a pedestrian plaza with planters, benches, lighting, and al fresco dining, making it a convivial town center in which to meet and greet friends and visitors. Really, was anyone inconvenienced by the lack of parking on Forest Avenue? Did retailers suffer? To the contrary, I heard that many flourished.

Making Forest Avenue more people-centric is relevant to another major proposal that was brought before the Planning Commission Dec. 5: the possibility of restriping Glenneyre Street, from Thalia Street to Calliope Street, from four lanes to three, creating a dedicated bike lane and increasing traffic flow with several roundabouts at high-traffic intersections. By providing a safe place for bikers to commute, we are making a powerful commitment to alternative, eco-friendly transport for bikers, skateboarders, rollerbladers and pedestrians. And Glenneyre commuters will not suffer in the bargain.

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It's amazing that a quaint resort town that wants to be seen as progressive is still burdened by a transportation infrastructure entirely built for the car — a system that was installed in the last century and is failing the needs of modern society. Which is why so many cities have committed substantial resources to creating complete streets that are safer and better for everybody — drivers, cyclists and walkers. It reduces traffic and parking. It's easier on the environment, and it's a great way to stay healthy. And yet, the idea has been met with extreme hostility. City officials have been receiving a significant volume of protest from residents of Glenneyre and neighboring Catalina, who fear more traffic will be diverted to them. Here are some of the criticisms:

Glenneyre is going from four lanes to two.

No, only one lane is being eliminated. There will be a center turning lane, much like Laguna Canyon Road. Unfortunately the local papers reported it this way and never retracted it. So it won't be much different than it is now, except bikers won't be in your lane and at risk. Also, no parking will be removed in the bargain.

It will create tremendous traffic jams.

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