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Friday, March 11, 2011

Renovation Will End Panhandle's Status as Flood-Prone Bicycle Freeway

Posted By on Fri, Mar 11, 2011 at 8:55 AM

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Watch out the next time you're swooping through the Panhandle: Volunteers and city workers will be out in droves this year, working to spruce up the dilapidated midsection.

Cyclists may be tempted to think of the Panhandle as a no-stops-necessary freeway, but with renovations on the horizon there'll be plenty of reason to stop and enjoy the scenery. Look forward to new seating, new grassy areas, a new garden, new walkways -- and best of all, new bike racks so you can settle down and stay a while.

It's thanks in large part to an $89,000 collaboration between the Panhandle Park Stewards, the Recreation and Park Department, and North Panhandle Neighborhood Association (which, by the way, just endorsed the bike-friendly "Boulevard" design for Masonic).

A certain amount of the funding and labor has been promised by NOPNA, so Panhandle fans are being asked to contribute time and money. In fact, there's a volunteer day this weekend: "More progress in store for our paths, sheet mulching, and tree care. Join us at 9 am by playground," tweets the Panhandle Park Stewards.

But sheet mulching is only the beginning. As part of this year's renovations, the area near the playground and restrooms are getting a complete makeover.

A top priority: fixing the dreadful drainage problems that leave giant puddles along the paths when it rains. Cyclists are surely familiar with the muddy, bog-prone sections near Ashbury. Upgrades to the plumbing and paving should fix that.

There's also a nicer path planned around the playground, so don't be surprised if you see more kids out on bikes. Of course, the increased bike congestion on the path is just one more reason why the city needs to hurry along with installing separated bike lanes on Fell and Oak: Let speed-demon cyclists zoom on the street, while families take their own pace on the Panhandle path.

Now back to those bike racks. They'll be the first ones installed there. It's utterly bizarre that it took this long for a major bike thoroughfare and recreational destination to get racks, and nobody will be surprised if they immediately fill to capacity.

Then there's the improved grassy areas, the seating wall, the bollards to keep city vehicles out of sensitive areas. Oh, and also a community garden, with plants donated by HANC.

So get out there with a shovel this Saturday (at, ugh, 9 a.m.) or connect with NOPNA and slip 'em a few bucks. The Panhandle's well on its way from makeshift bike freeway median to a genuinely nice place to stop and spend some time.

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Matt Baume

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