Who’s getting shut out of Peters Canyon?

Families with kids, casual cruisers, recreational riders from other communities are effectively denied access today.

Families with kids, casual cruisers, recreational riders from other communities are effectively denied access today.

While we hear a lot of fervent language about marauding mountain bikers– a subset of the larger mountain biking community– what’s lost on the Anti Crowd is the fact that the vast majority of bicyclists are neither marauders nor mountain bikers. They are average OC citizens who use bicycles of all types for affordable recreation, health, and transportation.

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This lady look dangerous to you? She’s just looking for a quiet place to ride.

The long awaited Class 1 trail through the Canyon is intended to link the Park with other communities, other parks, and other useful destinations. It will connect Santiago Canyon College with UCI for instance, Santiago Canyon Rd. to the Tustin Metrolink, Anaheim Hills to Newport’s Back Bay. Kids, couples, retirees, friends out for a day’s adventure, all are attracted to a safe, engineered, well paved path away from car traffic and noise.

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He’s not into rutted dirt and the mud that comes after it rains. Not to mention the dust that gets thrown into Junior’s face off his back tire.

Until the 1980s what bicyclists sought was a predictable solid surface to ride on. Then came mountain bikes, and guess what? They like to ride in the dirt. And we hear from mountain bikers in the Anti crowd who prefer to share Peters’ well worn trails with walkers, runners, and horseback riders.

But how do the majority of Antis feel about that? Apparently not too good. The comments we read talk about an overcrowded park and the “danger” of “high speed” bicyclists– by which they mean mountain bikers– whizzing by on Peters’ busy trails.

Why then, we wonder, would the Anti’s oppose a paved trail which would attract many, if not most of those very same mountain bikers? Because here’s something we’re convinced of: the majority of mountain bikers on the main trail today are just passin’ through. And if it means getting to the real trails, the single track, the hidden “toys,” the gnarly downhills some place else (say, Santiago Oaks) faster, a lot of them will hop on the pavement.

Peters Canyon Progress? – maybe

We owe readers an update on the effort to save the long-planned Class 1 trail through the Peters Canyon drainage. Here’s a synopsis to date:

While road cyclists have been traversing the Irvine Ranch roads through the canyon since the 1960s– before the advent of mountain bikes– there was no mention of official access until Orange County Flood Control included the main dirt road and path in its plans to provide a paved Class 1 mult-use trail in the 1980s.

Pavement Ends, lower Peters Canyon.

Pavement Ends, lower Peters Canyon.

A few years ago Orange County Beaches and Parks took over most Class 1 trails, existing and planned, from Flood Control. And the plan for the Class 1 was included in that agency’s development of Peters Canyon Regional Park.

From the bicyclist perspective everything was fine until this spring when those plans came to light at public input meetings held by Parks. Immediately inflamatory articles appeared in neighborhood newpapers around the Park reflecting the fears of local walkers and equestrians that hoards of “high speed bicyclists” would be hurtling down the pavement “at 35 mph.”

“Don’t pave Peters Canyon,” and “let them ride on Jamboree” seemed the sentiment of those opposing the multi-use trail.

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Private park access for a privileged few.

While such statements are NIMBY and bigoted, Peters Canyon’s value as an island of undeveloped land in a sea of suburbia cannot be denied. While a Regional Park, the majority of users come from the surrounding communities, many walking in from public parking areas or via private trails from adjacent gated neighborhoods.

The Park’s dusty trails are well trampled, some quite eroded by heavy use. And while the whine of gardeners’ leaf blowers and mowers, the coming and going of residents’ cars on the adjacent road belies any “wilderness” claims, the Park is for the most part tranquil. The northern reservoir fosters a willow and sycamore nesting habitat for a variety of birds, spring and fall it provides stop-over for migrating waterfowl.

The southern end of the canyon is dominated by a catch basin bounded on the east by a paved service road. A dirt road continues north from there over the upper dam where it once connected with Jamboree Rd.

The plans Flood Control originally proposed amounted to rolling asphalt over that main service road/ foot path. Today that would not be acceptable. Whatever plan is ultimately adopted, the rural experience of the Park for pedestrians and equestrians has to be respected.

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Viewshed encroachment and invasion of non-native plants betray claims of “wilderness” in Peters Canyon.

Until three weeks ago the only voices weighing in were from those groups. And it’s understandable that they don’t want to share. But mid July we attended the OCTA Board Meeting and spoke in defense of the Class 1 trail, which is part of that agency’s Master Plan of Commuter Bikeways. Supervisor Todd Spitzer seemed surprised that anyone would choose that time and place to defend county plans to connect the Mountains to the Sea Trail, but there we were.

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Plenty of room for a Class 1 trail separated from pedestrians and equestrians, and screened by vegetation.

As a result on July 28 a small delegation representing voters and park users from outside this community got 40 minutes from Supervisor Todd Spitzer’s Policy Advisor, Carrie O’Malley. Bruce Bauer, attorney representing the “Heart of OC” bicycle loop, OCBC Board Member Brian Cox, and well known transportation advocate, Brenda Miller made a rational case for promoting non-motorized transportation alternatives, the value of connectivity to existing segments of the Peters Canyon Trail, and equity and access for diverse user groups of our Regional Parks.

Will it impress the Supervisor? Time will tell, but we are at last being heard. At this point that’s progress, indeed.

 

Cycling Savvy Training in Irvine, June 19th/20th

Register Here

OCBC is proud to announce our second CyclingSavvy course of 2015 on June 19th and June 20th in Irvine.

CyclingSavvy is a program of American Bicycling Education Association, Inc. (ABEA). The course teaches the principles of Mindful Bicycling:

  • empowerment to act as confident, equal road users;
  • strategies for safe, stress-free integrated cycling;
  • tools to read and problem-solve any traffic situation or road configuration.

The course is offered in three 3-hour components: a bike-handling session, a classroom session and an on-road tour. The classroom and bike-handling sessions may be taken individually, the road tour requires the other two as a pre-requisite.

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From Fat to Fatlete

Zavala_Best_Cropped_Bike_Photo_smallMy name is Ramon Zavala. I bike for transportation with exercise being a really nice perk of that transportation. I’ve never been in a bike race and I don’t wear skin-tight cycling clothes. My one and only bike is made of steel and weighs 30 lbs. with just the rear cargo rack. I ride to work with big red bike bags. This is my story of going from a fat non-bicyclist to a soft, but very healthy, bike commuter while expending very little conscious effort to do so.

 

 A Slow, Fat Realization

A couple years back, I was rummaging through a display of one of the now-defunct Borders bookstores. And while seeking out that $1 diamond in the rough, I found Jayne Williams’ Slow Fat Triathlete.

The title hooked me. “Raw, self-deprecating honesty? That’s me! “

At the time, I was only a year or so into bike commuting, but it was enough time to notice that a substantial amount of fat had disappeared from my body and I had grown some very powerful leg muscles. I felt “healthy” for the first time in years. I was still 230 lbs., but for a 6’1” male with new, hulkishly muscular legs, that’s not so bad.

I handed the book to my partner almost as a joke. You see, my partner used to be the type of person who, on a whim, would decide that she will have six-pack abs in one month. She would make extreme changes to her after life and then, a week later, give in to physical fatigue and for love of the couch. She used to be this “all-or-nothing” person when it came to her own fitness and she would always burn out before she met any of her goals.

She bought the book. 

The more she read, the more she began to understand that physical change in a busy life is possible with small, incremental changes. She told me about what she had read I began to think about my own physical change that had been happening without any explicit intention of my own.

Flabtastic!

My physical change came as a result of committing to bike commuting. At the time, I had a 4-ish mile round-trip commute down steep hills in the morning and a work out climbing back up those hills in the afternoon. That 20-minute commute was the only change for quite a while. No diet change whatsoever!

Then I started going on Tuesday night rides. No, not for fitness- but for food. My weekly 20 miles of commuting had 10-25 miles added to it by virtue of attending the Taco Tuesday Social Ride on the UCI campus. Over the following months, I continued to eat as I had, but the change in physical activity meant I had more energy through the work day and more energy when I got home. I slept better, I lost fat, and I put on muscle. I felt happier in my skin. I was happier and healthier.

As someone in the place to influence others and convince them to try out bike commuting, I often tell them this story and they invariably ask, “So when are you going to change your diet and fully slim down?” I always respond, “Meh…”

Unlike proper “athletes”, I like having random weekends dominated by beer, wine, cheese, and pastries. I like going out to eat and not having to count how many ounces of sour cream I’ve had this month.

Don’t let all my biking confuse you. I’m a fatlete, not an athlete.

I think it would be cool to be ripped, but I just don’t have the willpower to work out for the sake of my looks. Moreover, I like beer. I like wine. I like cheese and pastries. And that’s OK!

Every Day Since

Today, having integrated biking as my main form of transportation, I’m healthier and so much more fit than I thought I would be a couple years ago. In such a short time of casual riding, I’ve been able to turn my health from “mediocre” to “Today I rode 30 miles round-trip to pick something up in Lake Forest.”

My commute is now 8 miles round-trip, but only minimal inclines. I no longer attend those Tuesday night rides due to other time commitments, but I still bike commute and, more notably, I bike pretty much everywhere else I need to go. For longer trips that require a trip on the Metrolink or Amtrak, I ride to the station and bring my bike with me.

Since realizing that biking to a healthier self and being a foodie aren’t diametrically opposed, I’ve begun seeing others who scoff at the “get thin” compulsion. I’m a big fan of FLAB (Fat Lads At the Back) in the UK and the Clydesdale/Athena discussion group at Bikeforums.net. Check them out if you think you and I may be in the same proverbial boat.

Healthier, happier, and slightly less heavy,

Ramon Zavala

Ramon Zavala serves on the board of directors for the Orange County Bicycle Coalition and is a certified cycling instructor with League of American Bicyclists. He also leads the Sustainable Transportation program at UC Irvine while also serving as the campus’ Senior Bicycle Coordinator. If you liked what you read here, Ramon would like to hear from you. Contact him at zavalar@gmail.com.