HANFORD — Is Hanford about to become a more bicycle-friendly place?
Kings Count Velo Club president Lisa Munoz hopes so.
"I think if people want a better quality of life in Kings County, cycling is part of it, just like walking and running," she said. "Are we going to be a city that, when you come to Hanford and Kings County, people are active?"
Munoz and others have been encouraged by some recent developments this year.
In particular, they've been buoyed by the June 30 opening of Fulton Cycle Works in the rebuilt Vendome building on Irwin Street in downtown Hanford.
It's the first time since 2007 that Hanford has has a dedicated bike shop.
Club members are also encouraged by the Hanford City Council approved a pedestrian and bicycle master plan in February.
The lengthy document lays out a number of ambitious objectives such as developing a "comprehensive pedestrian and bikeway network," getting cycling to the point where it plays a "significant role as a local alternative mode of transportation" and requiring that "routine maintenance of local roads consider pedestrian and bicycle safety."
It's the first plan of its kind specifically developed for the city, according to Senior Hanford Planner Melody Haigh.
Club member John Semas said he likes the plan, but is skeptical it will be carried out.
"I think it's wonderful if they do it," he said. "It's another thing if it's just words."
Semas said there are lot of designated bike routes in Kings, but they are on the shoulders of existing roadways. In many cases, those shoulders are degrading to the point where it's difficult to ride a bike over them.
Semas pointed in particular to a section of 12th Avenue between Excelsior and Fargo avenues. 12th has been used by cyclists as a way to get out of town on longer rides.
"The edge, it's got all those ridges in it," he said.
Other roads, such as 11th Avenue, narrow to the point where bicycle riders have to pedal directly in the path of vehicles coming up behind them.
Semas and Munoz said they'd like to see more designated bike lanes. Those are lanes painted into the roadway, with two white lines on either side, between the roadway and the shoulder.
There are some in town, but according to Semas, they don't really connect south Hanford with north Hanford.
Semas pointed out that the new 12th Avenue overpass over Highway 198 doesn't have bike lanes and is particularly dangerous for bicycle riders to negotiate.
Semas said the 19th Avenue overpass in Lemoore does have bicycle lanes painted onto it.
Munoz highlighted the fact that there are no major grocery stores in Hanford south of Highway 198 anymore.
"What they need to do is connect the dots," she said. "Everything is split up."
Semans said the club is doing well right now.
Munoz said it seems to be recovering from two accidents last year involving cars that left two local cyclists seriously injured.
"You saw everybody take a deep breath, and everybody came together," she said. "I think with the bike shop coming in, and us starting to do some rides from downtown, that it's going to come back. It's going to come back with a different appreciation and a new passion."
Munoz said the club welcomes all types of riders, from commuters and casual beach cruiser riders to the longer-distance riders who wear spandex.
Munoz said that to make riding safer in Hanford and the rest of Kings, automobile drivers who don't bicycle need to be more aware of and tolerant toward bicycle riders.
"They need to embrace cycling," she said. "It all intertwines."
Semas said the club is "fairly health in terms of ridership," but he thinks there's plenty of room for growth, especially with the new bike shop in town.
"We've reached a growth spurt," he said. "We're doing good. Overall, I think it's pretty healthy."
How confident is Semas that the pedestrian and bicycle master plan will be implemented?
"50/50," he said.