Manhattan Beach nixes proposed bike path through Polliwog Park
by Ryan McDonald
The Manhattan Beach City Council approved a variety of pedestrian safety projects at its Tuesday night meeting, but passed on a plan to add a bike lane that would cut through a portion of a popular local park.
In addition to enhanced crosswalks at various locations along Highland Avenue, the adopted plan provides for safety mechanisms, including flashing beacons on stop signs, along common routes to local schools. Improvements were unanimously approved for all five public elementary schools, American Martyrs Catholic School, and Manhattan Beach Middle Middle School. Funding for the projects will come from state and federal grants, as well as local money allocated to municipalities under previous ballot measures.
But a proposal to add a bike lane to a stretch of Polliwog Park, running just east of Redondo Avenue between the south edge of the middle school to Manhattan Beach Boulevard, ran into stiff resident opposition. In emails and electronic comments submitted for Tuesday’s meeting, residents questioned the wisdom of putting an additional stretch of cement in the city’s largest park.
“The city has become a ‘concrete junkie,’ addicted to paving every surface it can find,” said a member of the group Friends of Polliwog Park.
The bike path plan came about through discussions with administration at the middle school, who said that the sidewalk in that area becomes choked with kids in the hours before and after school, city public works staff said. Students on bikes, a staff report said, frequently cut through the grass of Polliwog to get to campus. Mayor David Lesser said that conversations with the previous MBMS principal had indicated that the area was a potential safety hazard, and noted that the city’s Parking and Public Improvements Commission had approved the plan.
But this rationale was not universally accepted by the rest of the council. Councilman Mark Burton questioned the need for the path, emerging as the strongest voice against the Polliwog plan. He said that it was “incumbent on us as a council to protect green space,” and argued that the project would have limited effectiveness.
“This bike path makes no sense to me whatsoever. Kids are still going to take the grass route,” Burton said.
In addition to the routes to school, the council also improved the installation of a crosswalk at 38th Street and Highland Avenue. The area has significant problems with pedestrians attempting to cross the unmarked intersection, issues that have grown in recent years with the opening of a renovated building at the northwest corner of Rosecrans Avenue and Highland and the growing popularity of Fishbar restaurant. Planned for the area is a high-visibility crosswalk and a “median refuge island,” intended to calm traffic and give street-crossers a better vantage point for assessing the avenue’s two directional traffic.