The position of Ride Coordinator for a cycling club involves no small amount of time and labor. And If you hold that position for a large organization such as the 400-plus member Bicycle Club of Irvine, you're going end up constantly juggling, tweaking and finessing routes. In summer there's a clamor for beach rides. In the winter no one wants to go near the ocean. And there's a pretty constant stream of emails and phone calls about the state of the roads around Orange County.
For BCI's Randy Profeta the grumbling has recently gone from a dull roar to a symphony of criticism. But this time it's a cacophony of complaints about riding in Irvine.
"The emails alone have been overwhelming," Profeta observed. "Our club rides start in Irvine, and either leaving or returning we seem to find ourselves on main roads or side streets that are torn up. And it seems like it's been going on for weeks."
An email he received from one club member pointed out that:
The medium and long inbound routes include Alton and Barranca. The bike lanes on both those streets are torn up for resurfacing, and riding in the lane is not a great idea: Alton has a 50 mph speed limit, on Barranca it's 60 mph. I drive those streets every day and, from a car, you can't see that the bike lane surface is torn up; it looks like cyclists are simply riding in the lane for no reason. Note that the Jeronimo and Toledo bike lanes are also torn up.
Randy is not the only one getting complaints. The City has also been getting an earful, as it's not just affecting recreational riders but also commuters. Officially, according to a response from the Department of Public Works:
The City of Irvine Public Works Department has started several street pavement improvement projects that will be slurry sealing a wide variety of streets, including a number of arterial roadways in the east end of the City. Prior to placing the new seal coating, the outer edges of the roadway have been roughened or cold milled which has impacted the surface of the bike lanes on these roadways.
Although this process does make for a rough bike ride in the interim, it is essential in helping to eliminate the gradual buildup of asphalt and seal coatings that has occurred over the years.
We certainly apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause and very much appreciate your patience during this important street improvement project.
The slurry seal coating of the bike lanes is expected to commence this coming Saturday, August 24th on Muirlands Blvd. and Barranca Parkway, between Bake Parkway and the I-5 freeway. Seal coating of the bike lanes on Alton Parkway (Irvine Blvd. – Barranca Pkwy.) and Irvine Blvd. (Alton Pkwy. – City Limit) will then commence in the week that follows beginning Wednesday, August 28.
Seal coating of the bike lanes on Alton Parkway and Barranca Parkway (Sand Canyon to Jeffrey) will be performed September 3-8.
Bike lanes on these streets will be smooth again once these projects have been completed.
However, this response still left some open questions, among them why did it take so long to move from cold milling Alton and Barrance to finishing the slurry coating, and what's the schedule for finishing the many secondary roads that are also affected?
Representatives from the City's Public Affairs team and Public Works Departments were contacted to dive into this a little deeper. Craig Reem the City's Director for Public Affairs, and Joe Dillman and Reza Jafari from the Public Works Department stepped up to answer questions.
To summarize a fairly lengthy conference call:
- The project was planned in two phases, as noted above: cold milling and then slurry coating. For economic reasons it made no sense to start slurry coasting before Alton, Barranca and all the secondary roads were cold milled.
- While the slurry coating on the main arteries should be completed by the second week of September, the work on the secondary roads (with and without marked bike lanes) is not scheduled to be completed until mid-to-late October.
Aside from specific questions about the work, there was a more philosophical discussion regarding if a City that puts up signs applauding its status as a "Bicycle Friendly Community" should be held to a high standard of expectations. Specifically, should it be more discerning about what it labels an "inconvenience," especially when it becomes a seemingly endless nuisance at best, and at worst a safety issue?
"Ironically," Dillman said, "one of the main reasons for the project was to make the bike lanes safer and more rideable." He added that over the course of several slurry coats being applied on the main arteries transecting Irvine a lip had formed between the pavement and the concrete gutter. In some places it was tall enough to affect a cyclist's wheel.
"The public response is something we take very seriously," Dillman noted, "and it will have an effect on how we evaluate and plan future projects."
And, addressing the notion about cyclists expecting Irvine to both talk the talk and walk the walk in terms of touting being bike friendly, Dillman added, "We hold ourselves to an even higher standard."