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Santa Ana’s First Protected Bike Lane! . . . Is the Result of a Street Widening

Edgar Arellano, Anaheim resident, rides on the City of Santa Ana’s first protected bike lane on Bristol Street. Kristopher Fortin/Streetsblog CA

One good does not cancel out a bad. And in the case of the freshly installed (and almost completed) protected bike lane on Bristol Street in Santa Ana, a lot of bad preceded this hallmark moment.

The city started installing the Bristol Street protected bike lane over the weekend between Seventeenth Street and Washington Boulevard. It comes complete with a six-foot-wide bike lane, a concrete curb with plantings separating the bike lane from general traffic lanes, and a greenway separating the bike lane from the sidewalk.  The section stretches less than half a mile, just two city blocks, and is currently installed only on Bristol's eastern side; once this portion is complete construction will begin on the street's western side.

The project cost $5 million to construct, and was funded by OCTA's Measure M sales tax and state transportation funding.

"Bristol street is becoming an iconic street for public works and we want to do the best that we can there," said Cory Wilkerson, active transportation coordinator for the City of Santa Ana. "If we're gonna widen a street, we want street improvements we put in to be top notch."

The evolution of the various bike lane types the city has built parallels those installed on Bristol throughout the years. North of Warner Avenue, sidewalks are wide and grassy, and tree-lined greenways are just as wide, but bike lanes initially were only given five feet of space. In the past couple of years, bike lanes between First Street and Civic Center Drive included a painted buffer along the edge of the lane to give more space to cyclists, and green paint to make the lane more visible.

Another reason for building a six-foot-wide lane was to be able to clean it. The city's contracted street sweeping company would provide a street sweeper that would fit in the lane, Wilkerson said.

0425.SA.Protected Bike Lane2
Looking north on Bristol Street toward Seventeenth Street.
Looking north on Bristol Street toward Seventeenth Street.

While the new protected bike lane is the first of its kind in the city, it comes as part of the 3.9-mile Bristol Street widening project, which has vastly altered the area between Warner Avenue and Memory Lane. Hundreds of businesses and housing units were displaced to accommodate the wider road, and the project has resulted in intersections that are up to ten lanes wide. Although the businesses between Seventeenth and Washington organized against the widening, all them have since been demolished, except for one optometrist office. One of the businesses that was removed was the dojo where actor Pat Morita of Karate Kid trained for the film.

It's unclear whether the businesses ended up leaving willingly or were forced out by eminent domain, but given the current trend of what happens to empty lots in the city, it's hard to argue that they will be filled up anytime soon.

The site of a former McDonald's on Bristol Street. The street widening has displaced multiple businesses along Bristol to widen the right of way.
The site of a demolished McDonald's on Bristol Street, adjacent to the protected bike lane. McDonald's plans to rebuild on the site.
The site of a former McDonald's on Bristol Street. The street widening has displaced multiple businesses along Bristol to widen the right of way.

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