Tip List: Cyclist frustrated by Atwater streets

09/01/2011 12:30 AM

08/31/2011 10:29 PM

ATWATER — Charles Pereira, who moved to Atwater about two years ago, thinks it's a potential deathtrap for bike riders and wheelchair-bound people.

Pereira, who has ridden his bike on Bellevue, Winton Way, Shaffer Road and Atwater Boulevard, said those streets "all have the same issues. There's nothing, no ramps on the sidewalks." He said he rides his bike on the sidewalks because there are no bike lanes in those areas.

"I think this issue is newsworthy, as it would shine a light on just how pedestrian-unfriendly Atwater is and how dangerous it is to ride a bike properly and to code in this town," he said in an e-mail to the Sun-Star. "It's scary when people don't realize the bike lane is the sidewalk and they almost hit you as you cross.

"Some of those sidewalks just drop off. I thought I was going to die. You get around the corner, there are telephone poles in the middle of the sidewalk," he said.

He said on some sidewalks, "you come off (the sidewalk). One side has a ramp and the other one dead ends into a curb."

"I think to myself 'If I was in a wheelchair, I don't know what I would do in this town.' "

Pereira said some of the sidewalks end in ramps while others don't. "It's real inconsistent," he said. "Somebody could get hurt."

He said the city is trying to fix the problem with automated crosswalks, but they're not everywhere.

David Church, director of Public Works for Atwater, said in the past several years, the city has installed 12 lighted crosswalks for pedestrian safety on streets such as Winton Way, Olive Avenue, Bellevue Road and Grove Avenue. Each year, it has a sidewalk replacement plan, which replaces damaged sidewalks. Every school crosswalk was painted, he added.

Church acknowledged there have been some problems with handicap accessibility on Bellevue Road, but said there will be some projects that would help that area once the city budget is passed.

And as for those telephone poles? Church said the Atwater City Council has taken action to work with Pacific Gas and Electric on the telephone poles in the sidewalk on Bellevue Road and place the wiring underground in the future.

"It's a high-traffic area. We have some handicapped people in wheelchairs who utilize that area," Church said.

The City Council approved a bike plan in 2004, but officials are looking for funding to implement it, he said. And officials are in the process of updating the bike plan with the Merced County Association of Governments.

"We're trying the best we can," he said.

What's the problem: Some areas in Atwater don't have enough bike lanes for cyclists, and sidewalks in some places are neither bike- or wheelchair-friendly.

Who's responsible: The city of Atwater.

What's being done: Lighted crosswalks are to be installed in certain areas, sidewalk replacement plans will address damaged sidewalks, and utility pole wiring on Bellevue Road will be relocated underground in the future.

Tip off the Tip List! If you see something broken or in need of repair in your neighborhood, call the Sun-Star's Tip List reporter, Ameera Butt, with your tips at (209) 385-2477 or e-mail abutt@mercedsun-star.com.

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