Retorts: Next wave will be on two wheels

BIKE PATHS, lanes and trails are moving forward in the Garden Grove-Huntington Beach-Westminster area.

Back before you got your driver’s license, and then your first car, the first wave of independence you rode was on your bicycle. In elementary school, and maybe even for a while in junior high, you could jump on your Schwinn or Raleigh, your beach cruiser or Sting Ray banana seat or 10-speed and go just about anywhere your young legs could take you.

You no longer had to wait or wheedle for a ride. You were mobile and – maybe for the first time ever – out of the skeptical glare of parents, teachers, parents of your friends, etc.

As I am fond of saying, if you wait long enough, everything comes back into style. Bikes are big again, but this time it’s not just for little kids too young to spread some carbon monoxide around.

A routine-looking item on Tuesday’s agenda of the Garden Grove City Council referred to a contract for professional engineering design services for a bicycle and pedestrian trail project which will run from Stanford Avenue to Brookhurst Street along the old Pacific Electric right-of-way.

It will essentially connect the soon-to-be growing downtown area to the city’s biggest retail district at Chapman Avenue and Brookhurst Street, a booming area with a movie complex, a WalMart, a dozen or so eateries, shops, gyms, and more.

Furthermore, a network of improved bike lanes and paths are on the way.

Garden Grove is not alone in this push for pedaling. Westminster has applied for two state grants to create biking and pedestrian paths: one along Hoover Street from Bolsa Avenue to Garden Grove Boulevard and another along an abandoned railroad easement from Chestnut to Edwards streets.

Huntington Beach, with its large park network and far-reaching beaches, is already a mecca for cyclists. It seems that the only retail business category in the downtown area there more prominent than bars and restaurants are places which sell, rent or repair bikes.

Ah, you may say, that’s fine for the twenty-something hardbodies and middle-age spandex velo fanatics, but what about the rest of us on the downside of 40 who might not be match-thin anymore?

Well, there’s help for that, too. Marilyn and I have old-style cruiser bikes on which we roll around town when the weather and our moods coincide. But that can be tiring and a little bit dangerous. Cars parked on the streets make biking a somewhat nerve-racking process … you have to really hammer on those pedals to move around that stationary Toyota, especially if you spot a car moving up behind you.

And while much of the Garden Grove-Huntington Beach-Westminster area is pretty flat, there are rises and hills and freeway overpasses to deal with. Riding to the beach on a regular bike is not a day at the beach for most of us.

However, riding to the rescue is the trend toward electric bikes. The most common ones assist your pedaling rather than replace it … flattening out inclines when you need that. It’s exercise and comfort for the youth-challenged.

Whether you are old school and need to sweat or require a little Edison medicine for your biking, a new era of independence from automobile gridlock and high gas prices will soon be upon us. The air will be cleaner and we will be leaner … just like it was back when we got our first bikes.

Jim Tortolano’s Retorts column appears on Wednesdays.

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