EL CERRITO -- Open space advocates and bicyclists, as well as those who belong to both camps, came July 23 to make suggestions for city "urban greening" and bicycle routes master plans.

About 60 to 70 residents peppered consultants with suggestions about upgrading parks, building new parks and designing connectors between parks, along with other urban greening issues at the evening workshop.

They also weighed in with ideas the city can use to update a 2007 plan to make streets friendlier for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Some residents suggested the city make improvements to Fairmont Park and create a park and sports field out of the former Portola Middle School site and connect it to Cerrito Vista Park and the El Cerrito High School sports fields.

Others brought up the city's plan to purchase property to connect the two Hillside Natural Areas, and had ideas about installing attractive green landscaping at entry points to the city on San Pablo and Central avenues and creating small "pocket parks" and opportunities to plant vegetable gardens and small orchards in the middle of neighborhoods.

Discussion leader Mukul Malhotra of Berkeley consulting firm MIG said the city's goal is "reinforce community identity and a sense of place."

That aim contrasts with current conditions on San Pablo Avenue, for example, a wide street -- and state highway -- that hosts miles of vehicular traffic across several cities.


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The urban greening workshop was the first of three community events the city has set up to help prepare an urban greening plan. The second is scheduled for Oct. 19.

In the bicycling portion of the event, consultant Matthew Ridgway of Fehr and Peers in San Francisco asked residents to identify their favorite bicycling destinations, "hot spots" where it is dangerous to ride and walk, and challenges and opportunities to improve conditions for cyclists and pedestrians on San Pablo.

Residents suggested creating a connecting path for bicyclists on Central Avenue to the Bay shoreline and creating a mountain bike connector through the Hillside Area between the Bay Trail and the East Bay hills.

The city had previously identified Key Route Boulevard, San Pablo Avenue, Arlington Boulevard, Potrero Avenue and other main streets as key targets for measures that would encourage people to get out of their cars and ride.

In a poll taken at the event, many expressing an interest in bicycling said they were comfortable sharing the road with motor vehicles but preferred to ride in bike lanes and on wider boulevards rather than unimproved or narrower city streets.

The cycling strategies tie in with the city's climate action plan that calls for a 15 percent reduction in citywide emissions, including emissions from motor vehicles, from 2005 levels by 2020.

"About 2.5 percent of El Cerrito residents commute to work by bike compared with about 10 percent in Berkeley, so El Cerrito has a lot of catching up to do," said Dave Campbell, advocacy director for the East Bay Bicycle Coalition.

Ridgway said he will design a bicycle tour of the city so residents can see firsthand the opportunities and challenges for improving conditions for bicycling at critical sites.

The 2.5-hour tour will leave from City Hall at 1 p. m. on Aug. 18.

"The city's objective is to improve every street, but we're trying to determine the order," Ridgway said.