Mack Town unfriendly to bicycles?

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.



Filed under bicycles, development, Hammond Trail, Mid-Town Trail, planning, School Road, trail, Uncategorized

18 responses to “Mack Town unfriendly to bicycles?

  1. McKinleyvillan

    The Hammond trail is great, but have you ever tried to ride a bike along School Road? or watched a kid try to do it? Someone’s going to get killed one of these days, and the county’s idea of handling the 600+ cars that will be added by the Furtado + Santos subdivisions is to widen School Rd. and put in a bike lane JUST IN FRONT OF THE SUBDIVISIONS. I guess we’ll have to wait for the church to sell their land to a developer for that bike land/sidewalk to connect up to the Hammond Trail!

    P.S. the McKinleyville Community Plan was approved in 2002, but I don’t think it has been implemented yet–Jill Geist told me that the county has been waiting for MCSD to form an advisory committee to the planning department.

  2. jackdurham

    School Road is clearly a problem. I live off School Road on the west side of the highway, so I know what you’re talking about. Because of the dangers, I usually pedal to the Hammond Trail, go north and then take Hiller Road to get into town.

    It would be a lot shorter to go up School Road. It would have been a lot smarter to deal with the situation 10 or 20 years ago. But, that’s now how our screwed up system works.

    At least some progress will be made. I wouldn’t mind seeing some speed humps on School Road west of U.S. Highway 101.

    As for your PS, there’s some truth to that. Portions of the plan are being carried out, but there are some matters that have not been dealt with. More on that in a coming issue….

  3. I wouldn’t disagree that McKinleyville has some good bike infrastructure. It has the only substantial length of Class I bike route (The Hammond Trail) and some pretty good bike lanes elsewhere. Eco-groovy Arcata, with no Class I and maintenance issues on many of it’s Class II lanes, can’t make the same claim as easily.

    My article in the Community Wheel has more to do with land use than infrastructure. You’ll note in the pictures in the article above of various bike lanes, there are no bicyclists. I don’t know if this is representative of typical activity on these facilities, but if there are relatively few people biking to run their errands or commute to work, it may be because 1 to 2 miles is too far for many people. And I don’t mean too far for them to be able to bike, but too far for them to be likely to choose to bike or walk.

    Anyway, thanks for reading the Community Wheel, and thanks for calling attention to the good bike infrastructure that McKinleyville should indeed be proud of. And thanks for riding!

  4. jackdurham

    Thanks Chris!

    You’re right about people not riding. Today’s Little League Opening Day was a great example. The place was packed. Not only was the parking lot full, but there was overflow parking provided in a nearby field.

    Everyone, except for myself and a couple kids, arrived in cars. Keep in mind that a good portion of these people live in town and the sports complex is located adjacent to the Hammond Trail.

    Seems like the situation would result in at least a small percentage arriving on bicycles, but I doubt that even one percent used bikes.

    I’ve heard it said that if we provide the bicycle infrastructure, people will ride. But today’s event makes me question that.

  5. Hi guys,

    Just wanted to let you know that I created a page for the “What does good planning look like to you?” article that sparked this response. I have linked to this discussion, because it will be valuable for our readers. Not all the articles in the Spring 08 Community Wheel PDF are their own HTML pages yet on the Green Wheels website, but we usually try to do this.

  6. Just wanted to let everyone know that I created a page for the “What does good planning look like to you?” article that sparked this response. I have linked to this discussion, because it will be valuable for our readers. Not all the articles in the Spring 08 Community Wheel PDF are their own HTML pages yet on the Green Wheels website, but we usually try to do this.

  7. jackdurham

    A bicycle “unfriendly” aspect of McKinleyville that no one ever talks about is the lack of regular street sweeping. We’re lucky to get our streets swept quarterly, compared to Arcata which gets its streets swept weekly or every couple of weeks.

    That leaves us with more glass and nails to get flat tires. Also, some shoulders and bike lanes become clogged with debris, making them useless and forcing cyclists into traffic.

    There is also a lack of bike racks. But that’s not a big deal because there are ways to adapt.

  8. Ben

    Because of our very slow growth rate, .3% a year, the next 20 years of this new plan will not change signicantly the look of our communities. Remember that this new plan is focused on infill within existing community footprints. All of our communities have established patterns that will not be significantly changed.

    Also, McKinleyville is the only community that has land to develop that has available infrastructure. No matter what plan is adopted, the market popular, activist hated, rural character of McKinleyville will not see major changes. The only large undeveloped residential parcel is Central Estates and the other parcels are scattered throughout the community.

    It is interesting how times change. During the 1984 plan update, the discussion was to keep lot sizes at a minimum of 10,000 square feet!

    The expectations for our new plan are not realistic.

  9. jackdurham

    Oddly enough, improved bicycle infrastructure will actually come about as a result of new development.

    Take the Mid-Town Trail. It runs from near Murray Road to Railroad Drive. Once the Pierson and Miller properties are developed, it will extend to near School Road.

    So in order to get first-rate, dedicated bike paths, we need to hope that those fields get paved over ASAP!

    Also important for cycling are all the little connector streets. I’m looking forward to Heartwood Drive being punched through all the way to McKinleyville Avenue. That, along with the Santos subdivision, will greatly improve bicycle transportation – at least for me.

  10. Anonymous

    If the 1 – 2 mile ride in McKinleyville keeps people from riding their bikes despite having the infrastructure, what does that say about the bay trail?

  11. Loves McK

    The Google Maps photo you zoomed in to the maximum is a little disingenuous, calling the area in the designated town center “20 years of mcsprawl”. The bulk of McKinleyville growth has been infill. I find it odd people need to beat up on McKinleyville to prove their point. The same photo zoomed in to show the bikes lanes our out to show it is in the middle of town would be a little more accurate. A photo at 100 ft scale could be taken in the best “smart growth” cities in the world and make them look pedestrian unfriendly.

  12. Ben

    I must agree with Loves McK. We can not forget the history of how a commnity developed. Arcata and Eureka were developed as a city with “developers” laying out the area in a grid pattern. McKinleyville was a rural area that developed along the roads of the time. Central Avenue was the main road when Minor started what he thought was to be the “town center” with the Minor Building, now A&L Feed. It started with a general store and a creamery. As time went on development began along the roads of the time.
    Now to say that McKinleyville is expanding outside its current areas is wrong. Every development plan that I know of is infill.

  13. TimH

    Jack is correct, much of these amenities are dependent upon development. It should be noted that although the McKinleyville Plan was not adopted until 2002 large parts (or maybe all?) of the Mid-Town corrider were constructed prior to that as part of the Central Terrace, Silverbrook, and Fernwood subdivisions. All infill, by the way. To truly see sprawl, you need to travel away from Humboldt County.

  14. Jason

    “There is also a lack of bike racks. But that’s not a big deal because there are ways to adapt.”

    I agree. FYI – Hiller Park (west) and Hiller Sports Complex will have bike racks installed sometime next week…

  15. Grade 8 person

    hey what land use changes would result if many people within a community chose to use bicycles instead of cars? please tell me as soon as possible cause i have a test tomorrow and i need to know what the answer is. thanxs

  16. Grade 8 person

    i need to know now so i can finish studying. so if anyone knows the right answer please tell me.

  17. Karol

    Hi Grade 8 Person, I’m sorry I didn’t see this until now and it’s probably too late for your test.

    If you just think of all the ways cities and counties set aside land for cars, then think of why and how that works, you’ll probably be able to imagine lots of changes that would be necessary. And things that would become unnecessary.

    Right now we require roads to have certain characteristics (fast lanes, slow lanes, bike lanes, on/off ramps, speed bumps, shoulders, turnouts, weigh-stations, overpasses, roundabouts, frontage roads…). And we need parking lots, parking garages (short and long term).

    But if we all rode bikes, what would we need then? How would our needs change?

    Of course it raise the question, how do people travel great distances? Would there be more public transportation? And what kinds of land use would that require. Different roads?

    Google Green Wheels, a local bike advocacy group. I’ll bet they’ve thought this out well.


    Good points above.

    Jack is correct on street sweeping. The county only has one street sweeper. The funds apparantly do not exist to purchase the necessary equipment that keeps our roads and bike lanes safe. Some people do not ride in certain stretches because of the debris in the bike lane. I witnessed a child go over on his bike because Davey Tree did their limbing duties and then left the street much more hazardous with limbs, rocks, foliage, etc… from the tools of the trade. Other companies that cut grass around utility pools kick rocks onto the roadway and do not clean up the mess. Sometimes, a restaurant or even the blood mobile will put their signs in the bike lane or in the middle of the sidewalk. Respect eliminates most of these concerns.

    Jeffrey Lytle
    McKinleyville – 5th District

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