A panel discussion, hosted last week by the Urban Land Institute, revealed several initiatives and ideas aimed at making Orange County a better place for bicycle transportation and commuting.

COSTA MESA, CA—The Orange County Transportation Authority is working to develop and promote a regional bicycling network that would help ease automobile congestion and enhance community connections in places like Garden Grove and Costa Mesa.

That plan was part of a discussion program, Planning for Bikes in the City, that was hosted recently by the Urban Land Institute in Costa Mesa.

About 70 people attended the discussion, which was led by a group of local officials and planning experts. One of them arrived by bicycle from Irvine.

Older communities, like Garden Grove and Santa Ana, are overcoming a constrained built infrastructure as they look to serve vulnerable bicycle users, said Garden Grove city council member Steve Jones.

Jones revealed plans for an “open streets” festival to enliven the downtown, blocking off automobile traffic to create pedestrian and bike districts. The city has hired Aaron Paley, co-founder of CicLAvia to help plan re:imagine Garden Grove, which is scheduled for Sept. 12, and should give residents an idea of how biking can be an integral part of their daily mobility.

Emile Haddad of FivePoint Communities is hoping to boost the power of the bike as a social tool that connects people. She want to give every home in the Great Park Neighborhoods a trademark orange bike that will help neighbors identify each other, a measure that she hopes would lead to a bike share program.  “Bikes connect ages, genders, ethnicities,” said Haddad.  “Unfortunately, we don’t have the safety aspect figured out yet and that is what we need to focus on.”

Charles Larwood of OCTA expanded upon the agency’s goals of funding and promoting an OC regional bike network. For each of the five districts in the county, regional corridors have been identified and $4.5 million of Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) funds, have been earmarked to fill the gaps in these corridors. OCTA Bikeshare has begun a pilot project in Fullerton with 11 docking stations that costs as low as $45/year, $12/week, or $5/day.

Making cyclist feel more safe and comfortable was a major theme of last week’s discussion.

“Only when safety and comfort level have improved, will we begin to see increased female ridership and more families in bike lanes,” said Brett Hondorp of Alta Planning + Design.