BY LAURA LIERA Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
A group of cyclists celebrated new bike lanes on Alta Vista Drive in northeast Bakersfield on Monday with an inaugural ride.
Eight cyclists from Bike Bakersfield rode together toward Panorama Drive and talked about the importance of the new lanes in improving safety and promoting a healthy mode of transportation.
"It's very exciting because we are always talking about safer routes to school for our children so this is one way to provide safety for cyclists," said Andrae Gonzales, a board member of both the Bakersfield City School District and Bike Bakersfield.
The bike lanes on both sides of Alta Vista Drive were painted two weeks ago. The county was reconstructing the street because of pavement issues, and because the street was wider than expected, wanted to find a way to slow traffic.
Enter bike lanes.
"It's a busy street and we knew that by having bikes and cars share the road, that would make cars slow down when they see bicyclists," said Patricia Ebel, engineering manager with Kern County Roads Department.
Because the street was already being reconstructed, Ebel said, no extra money was used to create the bike lanes.
Members of Bike Bakersfield were happy about the lanes. The nonprofit bicycle advocacy group promotes riding bikes as a safe, fun and environmentally friendly means of everyday transportation. Its more than 250 members have worked on bike projects for the past seven years.
Wearing a helmet, Executive Director Jason Carter led the pack of cyclists on the new lanes.
"Bike lanes are incredibly important," Carter said. "It gives people a sense of confidence and a separation from cars, which in turn makes them feel safer and encourages them to get out and ride."
Carter hopes the county and city come together soon to make a bike lane that connects northeast Bakersfield and downtown.
Cindy Parra, with Bike Bakersfield, has commuted to work by bike three times a week for 10 years
"Raising awareness between cyclists and drivers is important and it reduces car versus bike fatalities," Parra said.
Cyclist Javier Cruz, 24, said he finds sharing the road does not feel safe in some parts of the city. While there are bike lanes on major thoroughfares such as Ming Avenue and Stockdale Highway, Cruz thinks twice about riding in these congested areas.
"I'm always cautious because sometimes you can't avoid these areas, but I guess it's better to have bike lanes than not have them at all," he said.