Had a great conversation this afternoon with Dan Conaty, who works as the Principal Environmental Planner at Parsons. Conaty also mentioned that he had had a good conversation with John Teegarden, president of VV Bike Club, yesterday.

From what I gathered, Parsons has been retained by CalTrans to conduct (very) preliminary studies regarding adding a bike path to the High Desert Corridor (HDC) project, that is in the planning stages to connect Palmdale with Apple Valley. The bike path would join the planned freeway, and possibly a rail line.

Before our telephone conversation, Conaty sent me this information:

While the entire HDC freeway project is being planned to extend 63 miles between SR 18 in the Town of Apple Valley and SR 14 in the City of Palmdale, the bicycle facility as currently proposed would parallel the proposed freeway across only 41 miles of mostly open desert, between U.S. 395 on the east to the Palmdale Transportation Center (39000 Clock Tower Plaza Drive East) on the west. At both ends of the proposed bicycle facility, it is intended that connections would be made with either existing or planned bicycle facilities within the respective municipalities. Land uses in the project vicinity mostly consist of undeveloped/vacant properties, but there are also agriculture, residential, commercial, industrial, resource/utility, recreation, and government uses.

Because the project is only in the project approval/environmental document (PA/ED) phase, there is no available design for the proposed Bike Path. The following characteristics/features are proposed:

  • The facility would be a Class 1 Bikeway (Bike Path), as defined in Caltrans’ Highway Design Manual (HDM), Chapter 1000[1] as a “completely separated right-of-way for the exclusive use of bicycles and pedestrians with cross-flow by motorists minimized.”
  • The facility would be constructed parallel to and within right-of-way to be acquired as part of the HDC corridor. The Bike Path would be constructed at an appropriate separation from the motorized transportation uses; no closer than five linear feet from the freeway shoulder with an intervening fence/barrier.
  • The Bike Path would be designed as a bi-directional, shared-use (i.e., non-motorized uses) facility in accordance with the HDM, Chapter 1000 requirements.
  • Clear signage would be provided indicating: hours of operation; use restrictions (e.g., motor vehicles prohibited); safety protocol; and emergency contact information.
  • The facility would be designed to provide for the safety and security of all users.
  • The facility would provide for existing and future connections to the north and south, as well as links to local and regional transit connections.

The project is at a conceptual stage, and future construction of the actual project is uncertain pending funding approvals. Conaty gave the impression that he is well versed in the topic, and had given a lot of thought to the various issues surrounding this project.

As envisioned, the bike path would be mostly at grade, with bridge crossings for the bigger washes. The at-grade crossings would have some kind of markings, and he’s not anticipating a big problem with cross traffic in the foreseeable future.

The bike path itself would be 10 feet wide (two feet wider than the CalTrans minimum width for bike paths), with two feet of dirt shoulder on either side of the path. The path would be on the north side of the freeway, so the freeway could provide some shelter from the prevailing winds.

I recommended that with the popularity of trikes and velomobiles, the bike path be made as wide as possible to allow easy passing of opposing riders. Conaty told me that this echoed comments he had received from Richard Dennis, the District 8 bike coordinator.

I also recommended that Conaty contact Chuck and Pat Hanson for input.

Among other things we discussed:

  • Speed limits: I proposed no speed limit, or speed limits in areas where there might be rest stops or other local attractions.
  • Rest areas and point-of-interest markers along the way: I pointed out that unless there were lots of points of interest, people probably weren’t going to bicycle 41 miles just to get from one point-of-interest marker to another, and that installing dozens of point-of-interest markers could be a costly endeavor. We agreed that it would be best to combine point-of-interest markers with rest areas, if possible. The rest areas would offer water and shade at minimum, with other amenities depending on budget. We hoped that some businesses might spring up along the freeway that could serve as rest areas for cyclists.
  • Would cyclists use it? I thought they would, comparing it favorably to the SART, which I used to ride all the time. I pointed out that some local cyclists will do 70-mile rides that include Big Bear and Wrightwood, so the distance would not be an issue (especially with the HDC bike path being flatter), and that other local cyclists drive down to Corona to ride the SART to Huntington Beach and back. My opinion was that it would be nicer to ride to the HDC bike path from home, do your ride, and ride home, than it would be to have to cart yourself and your bike to and from Corona.
  • The Adelanto/Victorville terminus: Conaty said that the east end of the bike path would be at Hwy 395 and Air Express Loop, although the maps show it ending south of there. At any rate, there are future plans for a bike lane on Air Expressway Boulevard/Air Base Road at least to Village Drive, which takes you to Mojave Drive and then into Victorville. Going farther on Air Base Road, one reaches National Trails Highway, which might eventually connect to Adventure Cycling Association’s U.S. Bicycle Route System (USBRS). I pointed out that while National Trails Highway west of Air Base Road is a bit dodgy for cycling, west of that intersection it wasn’t so bad (with the exception of the bridge at the Mojave Narrows), so there would be access to Apple Valley through that corridor.

Even though there is no plan, no money, and perhaps even to hope that this path will ever come to fruition, it’s difficult not to get excited by the fact that CalTrans is even considering cyclists.