A ride along the corridor

Imagining the new Esplanade

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The best way to visualize the many changes being proposed for The Esplanade is to imagine riding a bicycle from one end to the other, pretending that the recommended changes have been made.

Following along with the diagram on page 19, start at 11th Avenue and head toward downtown Chico. As we come off the bike path bridge over Lindo Channel, we pass over a short stretch of clearly marked bike path onto a Class IV two-way protected “cycle track” that runs along the old railroad right-of-way on the east side of the corridor.

At 10th Avenue we can stay on the cycle track or follow the “sharrow” signage designating a bike route over to Oleander, one block away, and then proceed south on that street. That street will be cleared of north-south stop signs except at Fifth Avenue and marked as a bike route. There will be a traffic signal at Oleander and East First Avenue.

Back on the cycle track: There’s no signal at 10th, but the bike path is clearly marked. Pedestrians who want to cross The Esplanade here can make use of the refuge island halfway across the street. There are similar refuge islands at all the intersections.

Better, however, to stay on the cycle track to Ninth Avenue, where we follow a curve in the path before coming to a signalized intersection that has a pedestrian countdown component. There’s also a separate light for bicyclists. This is true at all the signalized intersections on the odd-numbered avenues.

We notice that the left-turn lanes off The Esplanade on the even-numbered avenues are still in place, so we need to be on the lookout for cars turning across the bike path. Fortunately, the path is well marked and painted green, making it more visible to drivers.

At East First Avenue, we notice that the presence of improved marking and signage and a separate signal for the cycle track make it easier to cross. (The roundabout recommended by the consultant and city staff has not yet been approved.)

There’s a new signal at West Sacramento Avenue, making it easier to cross over to the high school. And there’s a new left-turn lane at Lincoln on the northbound Esplanade. Both changes are designed to make it easier for parents to drop off or pick up their kids in expanded loading zones on both streets (see sidebar, “The high school crunch” on page 17).

At Memorial Way, we notice that a left-turn lane has been installed on the southbound Esplanade, enabling motorists to get to Chico Junior High School and on to Mangrove and Vallombrosa avenues. (The roundabout recommended for the Esplanade-Memorial Way intersection is on hold, but the city has put in a roundabout at Memorial Way and Oleander, improving student safety.)

This is where The Esplanade corridor ends. If we bicyclists want to continue into downtown, we can cross The Esplanade at the Memorial Way light and take the bike path around Children’s Playground to Salem Street, which has a designated bike lane.

—Robert Speer