Park leaders give OK to bike underpass

Sure, it’s not the Holland Tunnel, but on a Chico scale it could be a big deal.

The Bidwell Park and Playground Commission unanimously voted July 26 to endorse the idea of constructing a bike path under Pine Street, as well as a bridge over the creek in the middle of Annie’s Glen.

They referred the matter back to the Bike Advisory Committee, which had asked for the commission’s advice and would eventually request government funding for the project.

The goal, said Commissioner Ann Schwab, is “making sure people can use the park in the safest way possible.”

The Parks Department has been wanting for years to create a path that would allow people on foot and on bicycles to travel from Annie’s Glen through Lower Park all the way to Upper Park without ever crossing a public street. Meanwhile, residents have suggested that encouraging more people to pass through Annie’s Glen could discourage drug sales and other illegal activities that go on there.

The commission also debated the idea of officially allowing two-way bike traffic on South Park Drive. Many cyclists already choose to go west on the drive, which is technically illegal, but the two-way, Class 1 bike path under Pine Street would give them no choice but to break the law once they emerged heading westward. Parks staff will look into how South Park Drive could be marked for two-way passage.

Commissioner David Wood, who also chairs the Trail/ Safety Committee, said that even though he supports the new path and bridge, he’s bothered by the idea of adding more paving and infrastructure that might not be necessary. “It’s kind of like trying to fix a problem that’s not there right now,” he said. “I would hate to see anything that adds more concrete or asphalt to the park.”

Jim Walker, who grew up in Chico and rode his bike to and from Chico Junior High School, said that even if it doesn’t look like there’s a traffic circulation problem now, the city has to plan for the future.

Just a few years from now, he speculated, alternative transportation will be the norm. “We can do it right and limit the impacts to the park at the same time.”

The first task would be to do the Pine Street undercrossing, followed by a bike and foot bridge in the vicinity of Camellia and Memorial ways—near Morning Thunder Cafà.

Parks Director Dennis Beardsley said later he expects there will be money available to complete both projects, but the soonest they could start is a couple of years from now.