By Marcus Ruiz Evans
On October 3, 2015, a very famous Fresnan named Edward Lund was participating in a well-known bicycle charity ride in the Bay Area, called Levis’ Granfondo. Mr. Lund was well known in Fresno and his death was widely reported in the Bay Area and Fresno news. Fast forward to June 1 2016 when his mother Judith Lund sends a letter to California officials mentioning that her son was a big bicycle rider in Fresno city and that “he frequently spoke to me of the dangers of cycling in the city of Fresno” and that he always believed that bicycle trails were “important”. On June 13 2016 – just shy of 2 weeks after this letter comes out, the mayors of Fresno City and Clovis City and all of the officials of the county come together in a major press event to announce with as much fanfare as possible that they thought of creating a major bike trail right through the center of Fresno.
Judith Lund and Edward Lund were not mentioned in this press event. Also not mentioned was a group called Shifting Gears Fresno. The bike trail that the officials announced that would connect the Clovis Old Town Trail along the canal that runs the length of McKinley avenue to Manchester Mall was highlighted as the key connection in a proposed bicycle network that had been advocated two years earlier by Shifting Gears.
As early as January 1, 2014, in the Community Alliance newspaper the idea for a bicycle network composed of bike trails along the many canals (including the one along McKinley avenue) that cover Fresno and Clovis was proposed. The group’s network of bike lanes on canals idea was also presented directly to City of Fresno officials on June 11, 2015, and then covered on KSEE 24 TV on July 8, 2015, and the Fresno Bee on May 25, 2015. Yet this group was never mentioned by local official recently.
Besides proposing a solution to the dangerous bicycle conditions in Fresno, Shifting Gears also highlighted the fact that Fresno has been rated as the deadliest city in all of California (as in #1) for bicycle riders and the third deadliest city in all of the American nation for bicyclist. But this information too was not covered in the recent press event by local officials.
It is also interesting to note that other experts in the Fresno area have also recently completely omitted this fact of how deadly Fresno is for bicycle riders. On June 6, 2015 – just a few days after Judith Lund’s letter went out, a Fresno Bicycling club leader was interviewed by Valley public radio (KVPR) in an article that completely omitted the statistics that showed that Fresno was #1 in dead bicyclists and instead went with the headline “Is Fresno Safe for Cyclists? The Data Say Yes—and No.” The article concluded that “there is no clear answer” to the question of whether Fresno is unsafe for bicyclists. In that article, Judith Lund and Edward Lund and Shifting Gears were also never mentioned – yet Edward Lund very clearly said that Fresno was not safe for bicyclist and so did Shifting Gears.
The point of all of this is to say that officials in our local area are just reacting to a tragedy and trying to keep their names in a good light – rather than thinking proactively about what will actually save lives of Fresno and Clovis people. It is not a coincidence that Judith, Edward, and Shifting Gears were never mentioned by officials or by bicycle experts or local media when interviewed on the subject of the dangerous conditions for bicyclist in our metropolitan region.
This is important to keep in mind because while the Mid-Town Trail along McKinley is a giant positive step forward by local officials it will not reduce the awesome death rate of bicyclists in Fresno. This is because only a network of Class 1 bike lanes or bike paths along canals can do that – and the local officials only announced an additional bike lane – not the creation of a bike network.
Allowing Fresno and Clovis residents to bicycle to almost any part of the metro area will dramatically reduce the conflict between cars and bicyclists – while an additional trail will not. People need to know they can get to most places on a bicycle completely isolated from cars before real safety improvements will happen.
Fresno desperately needs the bike network in the map. We cannot wait for local officials to react after each death of a Fresno bicyclists until the network is built – we need the network built now before any more people die. Please contact your officials and ask them for a bicycle network before more Fresno and Clovis people die.
Marcus Ruiz Evans was born and raised in Fresno. He has lived throughout California, spending years studying the infrastructure of the Bay Area, Sacramento capitol region, and Southern California. He is the author of the book “California’s Next Century 2.0”. His projects have been covered by columnist Tom Elias and The L.A. Times. For more info: www.Californiasnextcentury.com