The spring edition of Green Wheel’s Community Wheel came out this week and, as usual, the publication is chock full of interesting reading. But I do take exception to its portrayal of McKinleyville as unfriendly to bicycles.
In a column about the general plan update, Chris Rall writes “Alternative D is the old plan that helped generate automobile dependent places like Central Avenue in McKinleyville. Minimum parking requirements, setbacks that prevent building entrances from opening directly to sidewalks, and a lack of constraint on urban land expansion encouraged development of a place that’s hard to enjoy being in. You must traverse large parking lots to walk between businesses, and most residents live far from the downtown and it just looks ugly.”
I’ll concede that downtown McKinleyville is developed in such a manner that it can be inefficient for pedestrians. The businesses are spread out so that it’s not always practical to walk from store to store. Then again, it depends where you need to go. You could easily walk from the Safeway to the Post Office, and then go across Central Avenue to visit the book store or get a sandwich.
Add a bicycle to the mix, and it’s downright pleasant. All the gripes about McKinleyville being a difficult place to hoof it disappear when you jump on a bike.
Keep in mind that the majority of the population lives between Airport Road and School Road. These two major roadways are about 2 miles apart. That means that most McKinleyville residents live within a mile and half or less from the downtown. That’s an extremely short distance on a bicycle, especially considering that the town is mostly flat.
But what bike lanes and pathways? McKinleyville has them and they’re pretty nice.
McKinleyville has its famous Hammond Trail, above, which runs the entire length of the town. Not mentioned in the Community Wheel is McKinleyville’s Mid-Town Trail, a dedicated pedestrian/bicycle path that extends from behind Mack High all the way to Railroad Drive. Eventually it will extend all the way to School Road – giving McKinleyville two major car-free, north-south thoroughfares.
These dedicated pathways are nice, but Central Avenue is also a bicycle-friendly street. It has bike lanes on both sides from School Road to Airport Road.
Here’s a photo I took while bicycling on Central Avenue today. I don’t see any problem here.
So there are ample north-south bicycle routes, but what about the east-west arterials?
Here’s a photo of Hiller Road. Look at that nice, wide, luxurious shoulder. Just west of Central Avenue the roadway is lacking, but there are already plans on the books to fix the problem. It’s just a matter of getting more transportation dollars.
Murray Road could use some improvements, but it’s perfectly safe for bicycles. School Road is another story – it’s extremely deficient and downright dangerous just east of U.S. Highway 101. The good news is that part of the problem will soon be fixed when the Santos subdivision is constructed.
It’s also worth noting that the McKinleyville Community Plan calls for all sorts of trails to be built around town. Most of these trails will get built in conjunction with new housing or commercial development.
Here’s an example. This is a lonely segment of trail located on Central Avenue just north of Murray Road. A similar path was also built on Murray Road east of Central. They were both a condition of development for the Hide Away Mini Storage.
I would argue that bicycle facilities are pretty darn good in Mack Town. And, under the already approved McKinleyville Community Plan, they’ll get even better. We’re ahead of the curve.
Rather than criticizing McKinleyville’s bicycle facilities, other communities may want to emulate them.