By KAREN VELIE
Grover Beach City Council members traded barbs with residents of a Grover Beach neighborhood on Monday over the city’s ongoing to construction of a protected bike path in their neighborhood.
Several weeks ago, construction workers began reconfiguring Newport Avenue to include bike paths that run next to the curb, separated by an asphalt berm from parking spots which line the roadway. While staff and residents supported standard bike lanes for Newport Avenue, the council opted for protected bike lanes, at an estimated cost of $250,000 more than standard.
Mayor Jeff Lee, Councilwoman Mariam Shah and several city employees attended the meeting organized by neighbors in the Newport Avenue area to discuss safety concerns and design issues. Neighbors asked city officials to reconsider their plan for protected bike lanes.
The current plan requires vehicles to back up or down an incline, through a bike lane, through parked cars and into traffic.
“Newport Avenue residents sent a very clear and overwhelming message to city leaders Monday night at the street safety meeting: stop construction on Newport Avenue in its current design,” said neighbor Dan Shannon. “The residents said that the design is flawed and dangerous for all who live and travel Newport Avenue.”
Neighbors accused the council of ignoring community input in favor of the whims of several council members. Multiple neighbors said they had not seen anyone, other than councilwoman Shah’s children, riding bicycles on the street in years.
Mayor Lee argued that the design was selected to help address neighbors’ concerns with speeding, an issue residents said was already addressed by the standard bike lane design.
Greg Rey, the city engineer, admitted the city had performed no analysis of pedestrian, bicycle or car traffic on Newport Avenue before selecting the protected bicycle lane design. Rey said he expects more people to begin traveling on bicycles, which will lead to fewer accidents as the public becomes accustomed to protected bike lanes
During the meeting several speakers accused Shah of smirking while they complained of trash left in the neighborhood by noisy construction workers. Following the meeting, a neighbor confronted Shah saying she did not appreciate her rude faces and disrespectful attitude.
Shah responded by asking the woman if she wanted to throw a water bottle at her like neighbors did at construction workers.
“There’s a water bottle in my pocket,” Shah said. “You want to throw it at me?”