Hermosa Ave. ‘sharrows’ renamed to honor Julian Katz
by Ryan McDonald
Julian Katz was known to Hermosans for his love of cycling and calm temperament, so the community found it fitting that a large slice of Hermosa Beach infrastructure devoted to gently nudging motorists to share the road should be named in his honor.
Hermosa’s City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to rename the Hermosa Avenue “sharrows” — sets of painted arrows and cyclist icons that run along the number two lanes of Hermosa Avenue between 24th Street and the border with Redondo — the Julian Katz Memorial Bike Route. Katz, a former Public Works Commissioner and devoted rider, died last summer.
Mike Don, who served on the board of the South Bay Bicycle Coalition with Katz, said that the decision to name the route after him was proof that Katz’s legacy continued to influence the streets and residents.
“He’s an inspirational person. You doing this means a huge amount to a lot of people, so I want to thank you. He lives every time I ride my bike. I commute to work. And every time I see an older person, usually wearing a bright green coat, and I get really excited. I know he’s in all of us,” Don said.
The decision means that the city will erect signage reading “The Julian Katz Memorial Bike Route” at four locations: the entrance to Hermosa near the border with Redondo, at the two downtown bike, corrals on 10th and 13th streets, and at the beginning of the sharrow lanes on 24th Street. Signage will feature an image of a bristled, handlebar mustache, a Katz trademark.
Thanks in part to the urging of Katz and other members of the Bicycle Coalition, Hermosa approved the South Bay Bicycle Master Plan in 2009. The agreement, which would eventually join together seven cities, was intended to allow for cooperation in the design of bike-friendly infrastructure, including bike routes, dedicated lanes, and “sharrows.”
The Hermosa Avenue sharrows, completed in January 2010, were a pilot project for the master plan, and they proved the viability of the concept for other parts of the South Bay. Jim Hannon, a friend of Katz and the president of the Beach Cities Cycling Club, said that studies by traffic engineers had indicated that the sharrows had contributed to “huge-reductions” in life-threatening accidents.
Councils in the area have responded by continuing to add sharrows in other areas. In 2015, Hermosa voted to add sharrows on Monterey Boulevard and Longfellow Avenue. At the time, a consulting engineer said that the projects were good for both motorists and riders.
“Sharrows channel bicyclists to those areas. And there is a traffic calming effect,” the consultant said.
Convincing motorists of this has been harder. Residents have periodically objected to new bike infrastructure, claiming that it would increase travel times. This was the case for a recent Beach Cities effort to plan improvements on Aviation Boulevard. One possible rendering featured a bike lane on a segment of Aviation in Hermosa, drawing resident outrage.
Ironically, the decision to honor Katz came the same night that several residents during public comment brought up two recent pedestrian deaths on Aviation, just over the border in Redondo Beach, urging the council to find ways to improve safety.